Report clears York U in housing deal, says Star

York University acted appropriately in its sale of campus land to a new home builder, a retired judge has found, reported the Toronto Star June 21 in a front-page story about a review into its own reports questioning the propriety of the sale. Edward Saunders’ review also made news in The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Canadian Press and Broadcast News.

Under the headline “Report clears York U in housing deal,” the Star said Saunders, retained by York to review the land sale, found no conflict of interest in the sale and no problem with the University’s decision not to list the property on the open market. “The process was appropriate and there were no improprieties or conflicts in relation to the sale,” Saunders writes in his report, which was presented to York’s Board of Governors Monday. In a news release, York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden said she was pleased with the result. “We were confident that the University had acted appropriately in the sale of these lands.”

The Star noted that its stories in February suggested that York might have earned much more if it had been sold on the open market. Saunders, it reported, said the University did well on the sale to Tribute Homes, given its stated priority to develop a low-rise community rather than potentially more lucrative high-rises.

On the allegation of conflict, Saunders’ report absolves the University and Joseph Sorbara – who is volunteer chair of the York University Development Corporation, which handled the sale – saying that they did nothing wrong, said the Star. Sorbara was part of the negotiating team for York on the land sale and, as earlier reported by the Star, he was and is in partnership with Tribute on other housing deals outside of the University. Saunders states that while Sorbara was in business with Tribute – and negotiating on behalf of the University – it was not a conflict. Saunders said he found from his interviews that Sorbara “took a strong negotiating position” on the University’s behalf. He says he came across nothing to suggest that York was “not loyally served by Joseph Sorbara.”

Harris family gives $5 million for child development research

When he was six months old, doctors said Patricia Stacey’s autistic baby would never learn to walk, talk, hear or see and might have to be institutionalized. But a determined mother refused to accept the grim prognosis and turned to alternative therapy, reported The Toronto Sun June 21. Stacey, who lives in Massachusetts, was in Toronto Monday to help York University and psychology Professor Stuart Shanker launch the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative (MEHRI) at York. She worked with Shanker’s research cohort, Stanley Greenspan, who teaches in Washington, DC, and learned the techniques being studied at York that emphasize emotional bonding and interactive exchanges that changed her son’s life. Now, Stacey said, her son not only walks and talks, he’s a healthy eight-year-old who’s empathetic and full of life.

The Harris family donated $5 million to the project, the largest private research gift in York’s history. The project will examine how children’s minds develop and aims to set children with developmental disorders on the path to emotional and intellectual health. “We’re at the dawn of a new age to enhance and mobilize developmental processes in all children,” Shanker said at Mothercare daycare facility at Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue.

Shanker was shown interacting with children at the Mothercare daycare centre in a Sun photo accompanying the story. He and Stacey were also interviewed by Toronto’s broadcast media for items aired June 20 on

  • CBC Radio’s “Here and Now.”
  • “CTV News” at 6pm
  • CBC TV’s “Canada Now”
  • Toronto 1’s “Toronto Tonight”
  • The Cantonese edition of “OMNI News”

It’s not queer art. It’s just art

Tara Charbonneau would rather be known as “an artist” rather than a “queer” artist, reported the Toronto Star June 21. But the 22-year-old is still happy to be part of Artwherk!, the new event at Pride 2005 that kicked off Monday featuring young queer artists from across North America. “It would be nice if it was more about just the art,” she says. “But really, it’s just about getting exposed, so it’s cool that it’s during Pride.” The third-year arts student at York University says from an early age she used her drawings and paintings to express her feelings while growing up in an often unstable family environment.

Chilean professors found sanctuary in Canada

To mark World Refugee Day, the Toronto Star asked individuals who came to Canada as political refugees, each representing one of the past five decades, to talk about their experiences. June 21 they featured the story of Marcela and Claudio Duran, who found refuge in Canada with 7,000 other Chileans after the 1973 military coup by Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Former supporters of the leftist government, including intellectuals like the Durans, immediately became targets of the infamous Pinochet. The couple, along with their six-year-old daughter Francisca and 12-month-old son Andres, went into hiding at the Canadian consulate, spending 10 days crammed into the ambassador’s house with 20 others in similar straits. The Durans were among the first group of 25 Chilean refugees flown to Montreal on Oct. 6, 1973. They moved to Toronto later that month. Marcela, now 60, and Claudio, 65, never looked back. They relaunched their academic careers, she as an education professor, he in philosophy, the following year at York University, where they are still on faculty.

Just how competitive is garlic mustard?

Not everyone is so convinced that garlic mustard really does displace other native plant species, reported Ontario Farmer June 21. York University biologist Dawn Bazely has done work at Point Pelee National Park, where garlic mustard is firmly established, and at Rondeau Provincial Park, where its distribution is still fairly sparse. Bazely’s work at Rondeau has shown that garlic mustard is on the increase after deer were culled in the park, but at rates similar to other native plants, such as Jack-in-the-pulpit. Ironically, following the four deer culls from 1994/95 to 2000/2001, the re-colonization by native plants has actually been greater in plots where garlic mustard has been present for 10 years than in plots where it has never been found. That, Bazely says, makes you wonder just how competitive this fearsome weed really is.

On air

  • Saeed Rahnema, political scientist in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed statistics showing that Muslims in the country have a higher level of education then the majority of Canadians but not as high quality jobs, on the South Asian edition of “OMNI News” June 20.
  • York University held the annual Asian track games, reported the Cantonese edition of “OMNI News” June 20.