Law student lobbies PM for aid to Tamils

The Globe and Mail interviewed third-year York law student Gary Anandasangaree for a Jan. 8 feature on getting aid to minority Tamils affected by the tsunami in Sri Lanka.

Anandasangaree is the media-savvy, BlackBerry-wielding spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress, reported The Globe. After the tsunamis, the group met with seven Liberal MPs. This week, when Prime Minister Paul Martin stopped by for a photo op in Toronto, Anandasangaree was part of an invitation-only meeting with the prime minister. “We do have an ability to mobilize on an issue,” said Anandasangaree, an affable, articulate 32-year-old, who arrived clutching copies of recent newspaper stories, with parts he objects to — rumours about the Tigers intercepting tsunami aid — highlighted in yellow. The Tamil Tigers administer their own territory in the north and east, with their own border controls, customs inspection, jails, passports, judicial and banking systems — and their own time zone (a half-hour difference from the rest of Sri Lanka). The day after the tsunamis hit, Anandasangaree issued a press release saying his group wanted Ottawa to send aid to Tiger-controlled regions. “When my tax dollars and your tax dollars go there, it should go in a responsible, equitable way,” he said, adding that Martin assured him it would. Anandasangaree acknowledges the “many allegations” linking the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization to the Tamil Tigers. “We’re living in an ultra-ultra-sensitive era when we’re linking a humanitarian organization to a terrorist organization,” he said, adding, “There hasn’t been a single case reported that links the TRO to any events that would be construed as terrorist.”

Anandasangaree arrived in Toronto in 1983 with his mother following the massacre of 4,000 Tamils in Colombo. He was 10 and the son of the president of the Tamil United Liberation Front, who was also a member of the Sri Lankan parliament. At Carleton University, Anandasangaree studied political science and was a vice-president of the student association. Today, he is finishing a law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School. According to the Globe, he has the potential to become the first Tamil-Canadian elected to Parliament.

Transit key to York vision

Rumours are swirling in transit circles that the provincial Liberals will make a subway announcement in support of York University in 2005, with the Spadina and Yonge lines extending into York Region, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 8. But even if subway expansion doesn’t happen, the region’s Viva program begins in less than a year, featuring 77 high-quality low-floor buses moving along Yonge Street and Highway 7. If York Region gets federal and provincial funding, the plan is to run light rail down the centres of Highway 7 and Yonge Street and a couple of offshoots, notably to York University and to Don Mills subway station, at a cost of $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.

Chief justice interested in rights, not politics

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin is emerging as a leader who will wade into battle when necessary to protect a vital right – yet who is far from keen to do so, reported The Globe and Mail Jan. 8 on her fifth anniversary as leader of the Supreme Court of Canada. “Her court exercises its power in a pragmatic, shrewd way,” said Jamie Cameron, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “Chief Justice McLachlin is highly protective of rights, but she also chooses her moments very, very carefully. You could say that her court is politically strategic. Politically, they are conscious of what they do and how it will play. To my mind, there is an attempt to get away from politics, to depoliticize their decisions.”

Allan Hutchinson, another York University professor, said McLachlin’s image as a warm individual in step with her times has rubbed off on the court. “She has been very good at presenting the Supreme Court as a modern, ‘cooler’ institution,” he said. Cameron agreed. “I do not give praise lightly, but I have great respect for her as a chief justice,” she said. “Chief Justice McLachlin has a strong sense of institutional pride. She is also very open-minded, down to earth and not stuffy at all.” Hutchinson argues that, like all courts, the McLachlin court is interventionist – it is just less overt about its meddling. Chief Justice McLachlin is simply “much more accommodating, informed and sophisticated in her responses,” he said.

Report says cuts hurt women most

Three years of cuts to the public service, wage freezes, rollbacks and weakened employment standards have left a disproportionate number of BC women teetering on the economic brink, says a York University researcher studying economic inequality, reported Victoria’s Times Colonist Jan. 9. Gender equity is not on the provincial government’s radar, which means Liberal policy changes often unwittingly hurt women, said Sylvia Fuller, co-author of a study produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “I wouldn’t say they are deliberately anti-women, but the cumulative effect of their policies tend to have that kind of result,” said Fuller, a post-doctoral fellow at York University. Fuller said that since 2002, spending cuts and privatization have resulted in the loss of 20,447 public-sector jobs, nearly three-quarters of them held by women.

File-sharing fans raise ire of musicians

“People who download music and swap files do not believe they are at risk,” says Markus Giesler, a professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business and an expert in entertainment marketing, reported the Markham Economist & Sun Jan. 8 in a story about how file sharing is hurting musicians. Giesler is a former successful music label owner who left the recording industry following the rise of music file sharing. “There is a growing sense of strength in numbers. The greater the number of people who engage in the practice, the less likely that are to feel at risk of being sued or prosecuted.” Many downloaders, typically teens and adults in their early 20s, do not believe it is unethical or illegal to download music, according to Giesler.

York a partner in virtual student exchange

In 2005, Kids from KA-NA-TA (KFK), a classroom-based program to link Aboriginal and mainstream students to share perspectives on ancestry, history and culture could get funding to give those students a chance to travel and meet each other, reported the Collingwood Connection Jan. 7. Set up 12 years ago, the program was supported financially by the Department of the Secretary of State and since 1997 has partnered with York’s Faculty of Education for Internet connections and technical support. Student teachers from York have also been involved in supporting online virtual classrooms.

York grad heads Kingston-area school board

Kingston educator Patricia Warren-Chaplin started the new year with a career change this week, becoming superintendent of education for the Limestone District School Board, reported The Kingston Whig-Standard Jan. 8. Warren-Chaplin graduated with an honours degree in history from York University in 1979.