Civil union is not real marriage, argues law dean

The Globe and Mail published a commentary Jan. 26 about same-sex marriage from Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. An excerpt: “Separate is not equal. That was the fundamental message Chief Justice Earl Warren of the US Supreme Court delivered in the historic 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The court ruled school boards could not send white students and black students to separate schools, because separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. The teachers, facilities and curriculums for black students were just as good as those for white students. Nevertheless, the court recognized that the legal institution of segregation told black students they were inferior, and that alone meant they were not being treated as equals.

“Long discredited, ‘separate but equal’ is rearing its head in the same-sex-marriage debate, in the form of a proposal to restrict gays and lesbians to civil unions. Under this scheme, same-sex couples would have the option of entering into a domestic partnership in which they would bear the obligations and receive the benefits of ‘married’ couples, but could not be ‘married.’ Some opponents of the government’s same-sex-marriage legislation propose civil unions for gays and lesbians as an alternative.

“Yet, at bottom, the flaw in the ‘separate but equal’ marriage proposal is the same as that identified by the US Supreme Court in the Brown case. Denying gays and lesbians the right to marry (while permitting them to enter into relationships that bear all the legal attributes of marriage) can only be based on the discriminatory assumption that gays and lesbians are unworthy to participate in the legal and social institution of marriage.”

Reborn to be wild

Longing for the melodies of their youth or tired of what’s on the radio, many 35-plus closet musicians are following their passion. Instead of simply fooling around with guitars or keyboards in basements, they are turning their pastime into weekly jam sessions. Some even go on to public gigs, reported Canadian Press and Broadcast News Jan. 26. The revolution that took place in the 60s accounts for the popularity of music as a hobby, said Rob Bowman, musicology professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. In the 1950s rock was seen as music for kids. By the time one entered university or the workforce, rock music was left behind as something juvenile – best left to a kid sister or brother, he said. “From the arrival of the Beatles in ’64 and forward, you’ve seen the gradual extension upwards in years of the demographic for the audience,” said Bowman. “Because of people like the Beatles and Bob Dylan, a lot more people started picking up instruments, and at some level or another attempted to form bands and make music.”

Anti-Bush protesters make court appearance

Three of five protesters charged with assaulting police during a melee at a demonstration against US President George W. Bush at York University last week have been ordered back to court on Feb. 15, reported the Toronto Star on Jan. 25. Police said three officers were injured in the brawl, during which they said a protester tried to grab one officer’s service pistol. York sociology doctoral student Gregory Bird, 26, York political science undergraduate Nicholas Birtig, 19, and Konstantine Kilibarda, 26, are each charged with assaulting police and obstructing police. Bird is also charged with attempting to disarm a police officer. They were remanded to Feb. 15 in a brief court appearance Jan. 24. York first-year theatre student Alissa Watt, 18, and fourth-year English student Erin Gray, 22, are also charged with assaulting police and obstructing police. Gray is also to appear in court again on Feb. 15. Watt’s next court date is March 1.

Accountants adopt new standards

New accounting standards being introduced next year will make financial reporting more transparent and close the gap between Canadian and international guidelines, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 26. “The real driving force is to get companies to get financial assets on the balance sheet at their fair value. That’s been a device for income manipulation for forever, really,” said Tom Beechy, professor emeritus of accounting at York’s Schulich School of Business. Critics of the fair-value model suggest that asset valuations can be difficult to pin down. “Estimation errors have always been a problem in accounting,” Beechy said. “It’s better to measure it and get it a little wrong than to not measure it at all.”

York offers joint law degree with NYU

Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan and Dean Richard Revesz of New York University School of Law signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday, creating a joint-degree program allowing students to spend two years at Osgoode and two years in New York, graduating with an LLB from Osgoode and a JD from NYU, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 26. “I’d love to go down to the States,” said Adil Goraya, 35, a second-year Osgoode student. The JD does “open a lot of doors on the job market,” Revesz acknowledged. But, more significantly, the deal recognizes that the practice of law involves dealing with legal systems outside one’s own country, he said.

Monahan assembled an all-star cast for the announcement, said the Star. Entering to the strains of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” were Paul Cellucci, the US ambassador to Canada, and Canada’s consul general in New York, Pamela Wallin. In an interview, Cellucci said he thinks the program may encourage more students to head north to learn about our legal system and correct a trade imbalance between Canadian and American law students. There are about 26,000 Canadian students in the US, versus 4,000 Americans here.

Wallenberg’s ‘heroism’ cited by justice minister

On Jan. 26, Canadian Jewish News included coverage of the following speakers at the Raoul Wallenberg Day International Human Rights Symposium held at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School last week. The two-day conference attracted a procession of legal scholars and professors, five chief justices of Canadian superior courts, overseas guests and a plethora of law students from across the country, reported CJN.

  • Raoul Wallenberg’s “unparalleled and unprecedented heroism” in Nazi-occupied Europe is an example of humanitarian relief and intervention that the world should emulate in the ongoing struggle for human rights, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said. In a passionate and powerful speech kicking off the high-powered human rights symposium, Cotler paid homage to the legendary and deceased Swedish diplomat who saved 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.
  • Allan Rock, the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, said Canada is in favour of using collective military means to respond to Rwanda-like cases of mass atrocities. But such force should be used only as a last resort, he added. Rock suggested the 2003 allied invasion of Iraq “muddied” the proposition that armed intervention on behalf of an oppressed population is justified.
  • Catherine Beagan Flood, an adjunct professor at Osgoode, warned national identification cards to thwart terrorism could backfire. Listing the race and ethnicity of its holders, such cards could lead to the discriminatory treatment of some citizens, she said, citing the misuse of ID schemes in Nazi Germany and Rwanda. And Canada’s plans to phase in biometric passports, based on facial recognition techniques, could be problematic because its database might be used for different purposes. This raises serious privacy concerns, and cards would not necessarily prevent terrorism, she said. Beagan Flood said better intelligence-gathering methods are more likely to have an impact on security than national identification cards.
  • Richard Goldstone, who was the chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s, acknowledged in an interview that the tribunals he headed were instrumental in creating the momentum and support for the creation of the International Criminal Court.

More financial planners opting to certify

A Jan. 26 Toronto Sun story about the growing trend among financial planners to seek certification focused on the experience of Peter Andreana. He graduated from York University in 1999 with a BA in economics, went on to complete a Canadian Securities course, which would allow him to sell mutual funds and stocks, then completed his Certified Financial Planner designation about a year ago. Certification is about more than just selling financial products but about developing lasting relationships with clients., helping them achieve their goals and prepare for whatever comes their way. “One of the biggest rewards is being able to work with families over a period of time and see the impact financial planning has on their lives,” said Andreana, a CFP with Freedom 55 Financial in Mississauga.

Staying alive risky business

Much of what is written about health today is dominated by information about risk factors, particularly the so-called “controllable” risk factors, said a Trail Daily Times editorial Jan. 26. Want to be healthy? Pay attention to what you eat, get plenty of exercise, lose weight, quit smoking, and, oh yes, try not to feel stressed. But independent of lifestyle factors, people who are poor are also more likely to succumb to diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. While low income isn’t thought of as controllable, says Dennis Raphael, a professor at York’s School of Health Policy & Management, social policies related to rent control, child benefits and similar issues can help a great deal.

On air

  • Saeed Rahnema, professor and coordinator of political science at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, was the guest on the call-in portion of CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” Jan. 25. The discussion question was “Will the elections lead to democracy in Iraq? If not, what will they lead to?”