Pressing for an Aboriginal seat on the Supreme Court

Two of Canada’s pre-eminent constitutional scholars have called for a reserved Aboriginal seat to be created on the Supreme Court of Canada, reported CanWest News Service in a story printed in The Gazette and The Vancouver Sun in Montreal March 5. Peter Hogg, ex-dean of law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and Peter Russell, emeritus political science professor at the University of Toronto, added their voices to a growing debate over whether Ottawa should be actively seeking to appoint a qualified Aboriginal jurist to the nine-member high court. Both professors contended there are Aboriginal judges and lawyers who merit the appointment, echoing recent remarks by Ethel Blondin-Andrew, the minister of state for northern development.

YWCA honours Dianne Martin

The list of eight recipients of the YWCA’s Women of Distinction Award for 2005 includes, for the first time, a posthumous award to feminist lawyer Dianne Martin who died suddenly last year, reported the Toronto Star March 7. A criminal lawyer who graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1976 and later taught there, she was a feminist leader who successfully fought for the establishment of midwifery as a profession, reform of sexual assault laws, a citizens’ review of police and the defence of the wrongfully convicted. Martin joined Osgoode’s faculty in 1989. She was nominated by criminal lawyer and 1974 Osgoode grad Marlys Edwardh, for whom she articled.

Have women come a long way?

Ena Dua, professor in York’s School of Women’s Studies, says globalization and downsizing have disproportionately affected women because most of the world’s poor are female, reported The Toronto Sun March 6 in a story on the progress of the women’s movement. Many new jobs tend to be low-paying, “precarious” jobs that exacerbate women’s economic vulnerability, she said.

Letters defend land sale and welcome review

The Toronto Star printed two letters March 5 responding to a feature on York’s sale of land to Tribute Homes (Feb. 26) and to an opinion piece in response by President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden (York University opts for community over cash, March 3):

  • York alumnus Marshall Leslie, who has represented York University alumni on the main advisory council of the York University Development Corporation (YUDC) since 1986, wrote that while he is not privy to financial negotations, he had been able to observe the development process up close. “The Star implies that the University was either ignorant, derelict or both when establishing the value of the lands sold to Tribute. However, York first sold the property in question in 1989 for more than $2 million an acre and then repurchased it seven years later from a mortgage holder of the by-now bankrupt owner for $250,000 an acre – a significant gain,” wrote Leslie. “The University – having sold, bought and sold again the same property – is well aware of the changing landscape of developable land in Toronto, and its value.” Leslie continued: “The Star also implies that the planning and development process led by York’s administration, its board of governors and the YUDC is secretive. Beyond what is a commercial necessity, the planning process for this piece of property began in 1985; its current version – commencing in 1998 has included many consultations, the work of several more consulting firms than those credited in the article, as well as public town halls.”
  • Reader Brian C. McMurter welcomed York’s decision to conduct an independent review of the land sale. He wrote: “The board has an obligation to ensure that any disposition of such assets is done both in the best interest of the University and to ensure that the best possible price is obtained. The University was quite free to establish its goals when it sold the land. It is a simple matter to prepare a document that sets out those goals in detail, publish them where it will obtain maximum exposure and invite tenders from all interested parties.” He added: “While Tribute is a fine builder with a good reputation, I am certain there are at least a dozen others who are capable of building such a community if given the opportunity. I respectfully suggest that the members of the board who were involved in this matter resign immediately.”

Lions denied hoops final berth

The York University Lions men’s basketball team was upset 79-67 at home by the Ottawa Gee Gees in the Ontario University Athletics’ East Division semifinal recently, reported Metroland Papers March 6. Had they won, York would have qualified for the national championship for the second straight year. Head coach Tom Oliveri was disappointed but upbeat after the game. “We did what we could and we battled back. I’m extremely proud of their effort. We went with a rookie point guard and two guys who hadn’t started for a year,” he said. “We’ll return everybody except one player, so we’re happy about what the future holds.”

Formula One goes to Asia and former Soviet bloc

Formula One’s newest team owner, Alex Shnaider, says his team is going to have a Russian flair, but realizes that some people will consider Jordan Toyota to be Canada’s F-1 team, reported The Toronto Sun March 5 in news echoed in the National Post. Shnaider was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, settled in Toronto, became a Canadian citizen, and went to York University, where he earned a BA in economics in 1992. He still lives in Toronto. Since then he has become a billionaire by creating a variety of companies that deal in Russia and Eastern Europe. Part of his overall business strategy was to buy the Jordan F-1 team, which happened just over a month ago. “We said from Day 1 that we are going to position the team as a Russian team because of my roots, and because my business is based in Eastern Europe and a lot of it is based in Russia,” Shnaider said this week in Melbourne, Australia, where his team will compete in the circuit’s season opener. “I am Canadian,” he added. “I love Canada very much.”

On air

  • York University students Paul Cooper and Rabia Siddiqui discussed freedom of speech on the campuses of Canadian universities, along with representatives from the University of Toronto, McGill University and Concordia University, with Michael Enright on CBC Radio’s “Sunday Morning” March 6.
  • Nandita Sharma, professor in York’s School of Social Sciences, told the Sudbury Social Planning Council that racism has become a bigger problem in the post-9/11 era, reported CICI-TV’s “Evening News” in Sudbury and sister stations in North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie March 4.
  • York alumnus Paul Nguyen and his Web site, which features music videos downloaded around the world as well as community information, were featured on Global National news March 3. Nguyen, 24, earned a BA in film and video from York in 2004.