Holocaust lessons hard to learn

The standard 300-page Grade-10 history text used in classrooms across Ontario, which covers Canada and its role in the world from 1880 through the 1960s, devotes two pages to the Second World War genocide of Jews, reported the National Post Jan. 24. Part of the problem, says Myra Novogrodsky, a veteran educator who teaches a history pedagogy course in York University’s Faculty of Education, is that many teachers do not know much about the Holocaust themselves. Even when they do, they may fear that bringing up the issue could lead to an uncomfortable classroom discussion. Teachers also worry about how to respond if their students repeat anti-Semitic comments that they may have heard from their parents, or from the governments in countries where they lived before coming to Canada, she said. According to a 2000 study from B’nai B’rith, only two Canadian university faculties of education, at York and McGill, offer some course material on how to teach the Holocaust to aspiring teachers.

York and New York law schools team up

York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School is teaming with New York University School of Law to offer a joint degree program allowing graduates to practise in both countries, reported The Globe and Mail Jan. 25. The alliance will allow students to study two years in Toronto and two in New York. The program, to be announced Tuesday and launched in 2006, aims to satisfy the growing need for lawyers licensed to work on both sides of the border.

Protesters want apology and legal fees

In a rally on Monday, Jan. 24, protesters and student unionists demanded apologies and legal fees from York University after last week’s demonstration against the inauguration of US President George Bush turned ugly, reported The Toronto Sun Jan. 25. The Canadian Federation of Students “condemned” York for being too corporate-friendly, for trying to kill free speech and for calling police to break up the protest last Thursday. Asked why organizers believed it was okay for a protester to grab for Const. Eric Reimer’s handgun, which police allege, organizers said police should not have been on campus.

University spokesperson Nancy White dismissed Monday’s rally in the Vari Hall rotunda as “a smoke screen” by agitators, some from outside the University. She said police responded to York’s appeal to deal with trespassers after a noisy 50-minute demonstration was held without a campus rally permit. The Sun said a campus security film showed three officers standing calmly in a line as a uniformed sergeant, his hands held palm-outwards, slowly approached the chanting group, asking them to leave. Police allege punches were thrown by one man, whom they subsequently led away in handcuffs before other protesters became violent. “The public has no sympathy for individuals or violent protesters when police are just trying to go peacefully about their duties,” White said.

The Sun said Nick Birtig, 19, a political-science student, appeared at the rally sporting purplish facial bruises he says were caused by police during Thursday’s demonstration.

Toronto tycoon buys Grand Prix team

Alex Shnaider, the 36-year-old Toronto billionaire, has brought plans for Donald Trump’s landmark skyscraper to the corner of Bay and Adelaide and is now the proud new owner of the Jordan Formula One team, reported the Toronto Star in a story echoed in The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Sun and Canadian Press, Jan. 25. While studying economics at York University in the early 1990s, Shnaider watched as the Soviet Union collapsed. He started looking for business opportunities. After he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1992, he made a fortune selling cheap steel from mills in Ukraine and Russia through brokers in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and China. He is Chair of the Midland Group, a privately owned international trading and investment-holding organization.

First Canadian to win Hollywood screenwriting fellowship

Let’s say you’re a York University film school grad looking for a break, began a Toronto Star story Jan. 25. In 1998, you’re a finalist for the prestigious Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship (sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences) but don’t make the cut. However, the receptionist takes you aside. “I was listening [to the judges’ final discussions] and you were really close, you should enter again,” she says. So, you re-enter Bleeding, your story about two sisters and their secrets. Of course, you’ve implemented a noted director’s recommendations for changes, right? Not if you’re Annmarie Morais (BFA ’95). The Jamaica-born, Brantford-raised, Toronto-schooled screenwriter submitted the identical 116-page script – and won. When her script was one of five chosen from 4,500 entries, she became the first Canadian to win the Nicholl Fellowship and the US$25,000 prize.

Teenagers use T-shirts to shock

Internet mail order houses, custom shops in malls and do-it-yourself kits have spawned an unprecedented deluge of shock T-shirts, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 24 in a story also aired on local radio stations in Ontario. They can be racist, sexist or profane, sporting bloody hammers, rude gestures and gory photos from the news pages. “It’s getting very difficult to shock people now,” said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “Part of what young people are doing is using the shirts to establish themselves as different from the majority. The role of fashion has always been to create points of difference.” Once the “in your face” ghetto/crime fashion started to fade, with all its jailhouse references to pimps, whores, gangstas and bling, young people looked for something else with which to upset the older generation, said Middleton.

  • Middleton was also quoted in the National Post Jan. 25. The marketing expert sees the launch by a major Canadian ad agency of a sports division as the first of many such changes to come in the industry, said the Post. “Because of the relative decline of the 15-second television commercial [ad agencies] all going to be going into areas like this,” said Middleton. “The question will become, can they actually deliver big and rethink how advertising is received?”

Will that be cash or cattle?

Love and marriage are supposed to go together like a horse and carriage, but history would suggest that love is often replaced with a cow, cash or a diamond engagement ring. Before there can be wedlock, there must be an economic transaction, reported the Toronto Star in a Jan. 23 story in the Ideas section. “In Africa a bride price is paid in return for [the bride’s] labour,” said Vijay Agnew, social science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and director of York’s Centre for Feminist Research – that labour being the woman’s reproductive, sexual and household obligations. “In the bride price, the husband’s family gives the wife’s family something.”

Payday lenders step in where banks refuse to tread

York University Osgoode Hal Law School Professor Iain Ramsay, author of Access to Credit in the Alternative Consumer Credit Market, says the majority of payday lenders operating in Canada are doing so illegally, reported the National Post Jan. 22 in a story about such money lenders and their exorbitant interest rates. But “there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of interest [on the part of authorities] in prosecuting,” Ramsay said. “One reason for the hesitancy to prosecute is there is a general sense that if they prosecuted these companies – which are meeting a need – then lenders would go underground and there would be more loan sharking.”

Volunteerism is new backpacking

Call it the new backpacking – a record number of young Canadians are taking a break from their studies to help others around the world, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 22. In the lush jungle of Phuket, Thailand, York 2003 environmental studies graduate Josie Vayro is volunteering for a year at a shelter for orphaned gibbons, but is learning about more than just primates. “Because you live in the village, you experience the daily life; buying vegetables from the market, getting to know the women in the restaurants and their families, riding on motorbikes to the local swimming hole. It’s the opportunity to glimpse a life that you could never dream of living. But it is also a lesson in respect. Once you have done it, you will never be the same, assuming you travel with an open mind and the intention of learning.”

Boyd balances rights of religious and vulnerable

In her December 2004 report former attorney general Marion Boyd has balanced the rights of Muslims who wish to voluntarily resolve their private disputes using religious principles with the basic rights of vulnerable segments within the community, comments lawyer Faisal Kutty, general counsel for the Canadian-Muslim Civil Liberties Association and an LLM candidate at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in the Jan. 21 issue of The Lawyers Weekly. Alternative dispute resolution already exists within the community and people are abiding by decisions as if they were the word of God and therefore binding, he wrote. Formalizing the process will allow for greater transparency and accountability. Boyd has kept intact the integrity of the ADR system while protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that “back alley arbitrations and mediations” are minimized as much as possible.

Schulich maintains position in annual survey

In the Financial Times annual ranking of top global MBA programs, the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto remains in 21st place globally, while York’s Schulich School of Business is once again ranked in 22nd position, reported The Globe and Mail Jan. 24.

Free bus ride attracts art enthusiasts

The cold didn’t stop a group of 10 from taking a free ride on a yellow school bus from the Art Gallery of Ontario Sunday afternoon to the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre to visit Naomi London’s exhibit Hope followed by a trip, even further north, to the Art Gallery of York University to see Mike Hoolboom’s installation, The Invisible Man, reported Metroland Papers Jan. 23. In The Invisible Man, Canadian experimental filmmaker Hoolboom uses a montage of images taken from familiar Hollywood film, found images and home movies. Within the montage is the artist’s narrative expressing opposites such as life and death and remembering and forgetting. This is Hoolboom’s first solo exhibit in a public gallery. It was the free ride (and admission to the galleries) that attracted York University film grad Meridith Dault. “It’s a nice way to see two galleries that I would not otherwise make it to because I don’t have a car,” said Dault, who graduated from York in 2000.