Immigrants’ remittances help fuel economy back home

The flow of money from expatriates, called “remittance”, has become a key source of capital for many developing countries. It’s now surpassing aid from donor nations and multinational agencies, according to organizers of a conference held in Toronto this week, reported the Toronto Star June 3. “People in the community are closely attached to family members at home, and they are very generous,” said Alan Simmons, a sociology professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts, who surveyed remittances from Jamaican families in Toronto to their homeland. “The average Jamaican family household in Toronto sends about $1,700 to relatives abroad every year.” Simmons’ parallel study of Haitians in Montreal had similar results. About 350 were surveyed in each community.

“Support of family members abroad is a very important part of the lives of these people, and it has a considerable positive welfare impact on the family members who receive the support,” Simmons said. The money helps families abroad get better housing and clothing, and often helps them send their children to school, covering the cost of uniforms and books. Simmons said Jamaica – a country with a gross domestic product of just US$11.13 billion last year – received US$1.5 billion in remittances from around the world in 2002.

York has authority to issue parking notices

Aliza Libman is a York University student who’s won two academic awards, been elected to the University Senate and helped edit the campus newspaper. But up until this week, she wasn’t going to graduate, reported the Toronto Star June 3. The reason: $150 in unpaid University parking tickets that the city considers “illegal”.

Libman was among a number of York graduates who received letters from the University warning that if they didn’t pay their outstanding parking fines, they wouldn’t get their degrees or transcripts this month. The fines are considered illegal by the city, which passed a bylaw last summer stating private lot operators and institutions could only punish parking violators with City of Toronto tickets – meaning the city, and not the private company or institution, gets the money. The Star said Libman paid the fine so she could graduate and get her transcripts.

The University sees it as regular business, the newspaper said. York’s founding act, issued by the province in 1965, exempts it from the city’s bylaw, said Nancy White, York’s director of media relations. “It gives York authority in a variety of areas, including controlling University property,” White said, adding that the University has a long-held policy of withholding degrees from students for any outstanding fines, including library fees as well as parking. “We have the authority, by law, to issue parking notices.”

York University has its own parking services, which regulates parking on the campus’s 12,000 spots. Tickets average about $40, but can run as much as $250 in some cases. The University is willing to come up with a payment schedule for students who can’t afford the fines, White said. “We don’t want to prevent anyone from graduating,” she explained. “That’s clearly not our intention.”

Restoring linguistic rights for Aboriginals

The recently announced accord between the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government is truly a historic day, wrote Ian Martin, an English professor at York’s Glendon College, in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star June 3. By pledging to formally apologize to the First Nations for government complicity in the linguistic and cultural genocide of the original inhabitants of this land, and by agreeing to negotiate a global proposal leading to a path of healing and reconciliation, Ottawa has handed Frank Iacobucci, the jurist charged with crafting the details of the proposal, a task of immense proportions – but a necessary one, long overdue.