Grateful Robertson delights in the ‘irony’ of his honorary degree

The Toronto Star reported June 15 that music legend Robbie Robertson struck a chord with his York convocation audience when he described the irony of receiving a university degree after leaving formal schooling as a teenager to pursue a career in music. The Star said “talent, drive and sheer grit earned Robbie Robertson a degree – summa cum laude – from the School of Rock” but noted it was the Canadian music legend’s promotion of Aboriginal rights and culture that brought him undreamed-of honours Tuesday when he was presented with a doctor of laws degree from York University. “I’m completely grateful and honoured,” the 62-year-old said during his convocation address to about 1,000 graduates of York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies and Faculty of Education. “The irony of all of this is the path I took to get here.”

“I went from Six Nations to York University,” said Robertson. “The main thing is I got here and I’m proud of it.” And there’s still plenty of learning to do, he said, noting that every new project brings unique challenges and opportunities to soak up more knowledge. His message to the graduates as they ventured out into the brave new world beyond the convocation tent was, “congratulations to you for the important work you’ve done and the important work you’re going to do”. The article was accompanied by two photographs: one taken at the convocation ceremony held Monday morning; the other from York’s Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections showing Robertson and his mentor, rock musician Ronnie Hawkins, together during the 1960s.

  • Canadian Press circulated the Star report and photograph of Robertson’s honorary degree June 14, and the story was published in newspapers across the country the next day. The Prince George Citizen captioned Robertson holding his diploma as “The Weight”.
  • Radio and television newscasts included reports on honorary doctorates awarded to Robertson and environmental activist and broadcaster David Suzuki, including CBC radio (Metro Morning, Here and Now, The Arts Tonight), Global TV, CityPulse News and CP24. Broadcast News carried reports which were picked up by radio and television stations across the country.
  • CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” also interviewed Suzuki about an Ontario Medical Association report on smog-related deaths. Suzuki called for a ban on SUV use during smog alerts and said Toronto should be going into crisis mode.

Get tough with white-collar miscreants, York professor tells conference

Securities regulators should place greater emphasis on restitution for aggrieved investors and Canada should create specialized criminal courts specifically for white-collar crimes, according to a York-authored study cited in the National Post June 15. Poonam Puri, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, presented her findings to a gathering of 200 investigators, lawyers and regulators at the University of Toronto. According to her paper “How Effective is Capital Market Enforcement in Canada?”, the role of regulators needs to be re-evaluated because of a “disconnect” that exists between how they view their mandate and what investors expect. “Securities regulators have historically interpreted their mandate as forward-looking and deterrence based,” said Puri. “On the other hand, individual investors who have lost their savings due to the misconduct of regulated market participants are most concerned about being compensated or made whole.”

Not surprisingly, said the Post, her paper also reiterated the widely held view that when compared with their US counterparts, Canadian regulators do not engage in enough enforcement activity and are less effective when they do. To support her assertion, Puri cited statistics that showed Canadian securities regulators devote a smaller percentage of their total budget to enforcement than their US counterparts. As well, Puri found financial penalties are 10 times higher in the United States than the average Canadian fine.

Osgoode prof slams Tax Freedom Day ‘gimmick’

Tax Freedom Day, the day Canadians have paid all their taxes and can start working for themselves, arrives in late April, nearly two months earlier than has been widely reported, according to a study cited by CanWest News Service June 15. In fact, the analysis by the left-wing Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives trashes the right-wing Fraser Institute’s widely publicized annual Tax Freedom Day report as misleading – ignoring the benefits of taxation, while understating incomes and overstating the tax burden of Canadian families. “The concept of Tax Freedom Day is a gimmick designed to suggest that Canadians derive no benefit from the taxes they pay when nothing could be further from the truth,” said Neil Brooks, the author of the critical analysis and a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

“The institute is clearly trying to incite Canadians to anger, to encourage them to join with members of the financial elite in a kind of collective tax rage. With their taxes, Canadian citizens buy their most valued goods and services: high-quality public schools, world-class universities, excellent medical services, public parks and libraries, safe streets, and livable cities,” concluded Brooks, a taxation specialist at Osgoode. “Even if it were useful to inform Canadians how many days they had to work in order to earn enough to pay their taxes, the information the Fraser Institute presents about the tax system is flawed, misleading, seriously distorts public knowledge, and hinders rational debate about the tax system.’

Glendon philosophers see the humour in it all

The runner-up in a joke contest sponsored by the Canadian Philosophical Association publication, The Bulletin, was entered by a team from York’s Glendon College for their tale about “How Philosophers Do It”, reported The Ottawa Citizen on June 15. The writer said the joke would take about five minutes to tell but the punchline is: “Solipsists do it by themselves. In fact they do it of themselves and for themselves as well: They are the only democrats in the world!”

The champion joke-teller among Canadian philosophers for 2005 was Carleton University’s Andrew Brook. “This little joke contest has attracted more attention than anything else the Canadian Philosophical Association has ever done,” Brook said. His joke unfolds at a meeting of faculty heads, where a university president is deluged with requests for expensive equipment — a $100-million particle detector for the physicists, $50-million spectrometer for the chemists, $1 million for books for the literature department. “And so it went, until he got to the chairwoman of mathematics. To the president’s relief, she said that all they needed was a pile of notepads, lots of pencils and a big waste bin. Next up was philosophy: ‘We’ll have the same as them. Except we won’t need a waste bin.'”

Province will rethink funding for soccer stadium

Some $8 million in provincial funding for the FIFA soccer stadium project died when York University pulled out of the deal, a government spokesperson told the Toronto Star in a June 15 story. That means the Canadian Soccer Association must present a new pitch if it hopes to get provincial grants for a proposed stadium, which would have at least 20,000 seats, to host the 2007 FIFA under-20 soccer tournament. “This is a brand new project and a decision will be made on the merits of the new proposal,” said David Oved, spokesperson for tourism and recreation minister Jim Bradley. The story also noted the federal government also needs details on location and stadium cost before it can hand out any funding, which on the York project was $27 million. “We’re committed to the project, but it’s clearly still in an early stage,” said Carla Ventin, spokesperson for federal infrastructure and communities minister John Godfrey. “In order for us to move ahead, we need more details.”

Networking key for small business, says Schulich’s Fischer

“Small businesses often need to rely on word-of-mouth. You need to effectively leverage the networks that you have,” suggested Eileen Fischer, professor of marketing and director of entrepreneurial studies at York’s Schulich School of Business, in a June 15 Toronto Star story. Small businesses might lack the advertising budgets of their big-name competitors, but experts say the key is knowing how to spend what you have. “What’s different for a smaller company is you have to focus, focus, focus,” said Fischer. “You really have to get to know who your customer base is…. Smaller companies are nimble and flexible and they need to compete by stealth and speed.”

Volunteer pursues degree in social work at York

York graduate student Marvin Arthur, the subject of a feature story in a Toronto Sun supplement June 15, is determined to contribute to the world around him. Arthur is a social worker at Toronto Children’s Aid, who studied at Centennial College and Ryerson University and is now pursuing his master’s degree in social work in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies.

More advice on getting a job after university

The book A Practical Guide to Getting a Great Job After University (York University Press, 2003) by York professors John Dwyer and Thomas Klassen, was featured in a Toronto Sun business story on June 15. “In university, you are used to people establishing all the guidelines and an agenda for you, and you can get by if you’re not proactive and engaged,” said Dwyer. “In the workforce, nobody will put up with you trying to get by on charm and image. After a while, everybody knows who’s reliable and does the work.”

Aboriginal brothers in arms studied law at Osgoode

In a story June 15 about local Aboriginal war veterans, Peterborough Examiner columnist Peter Lillico recounted memories of a 1998 celebration by the Peterborough Law Association marking the Call to the Bar of John W. Corkery, Gordon H. T. Farquharson and James B. Lillico, all classmates at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School who graduated in 1948.

On Air

  • Brenda Zimmerman, professor of strategic management and director of the Health Industry Management Program at York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the cost of controlling asthma on CBC Radio’s Ottawa program “All in a Day” June 15.
  • Osgoode Hall Law School alumnus Leo Adler (LLB ’73) commented June 15 on the Michael Jackson trial for CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” in Toronto.