Expert doubts Al Qaeda will target Canada

Michael Dartnell, a political scientist at York University who extensively studied Islamic terrorists, says Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan does not seem to be a driving factor in Al Qaeda’s selection of targets, reported The Globe and Mail July 9. Prime Minister Paul Martin, and Jean Chrétien before him, “haven’t been engaging in a lot of posturing about [Afghanistan],” he said. “We’re there, we’re doing things, we’re supporting but we’re not taking a front-line political role in the way that Tony Blair and George Bush have.”

Dartnell does not believe Canada is a priority for Al Qaeda. “Europeans are always more vulnerable to these things because everything is close and the borders are more porous there,” he said. And “a group like Al Qaeda is making calculations about ‘what can we do that’s going to have a maximum impact.’ London, of course, is a great target for those things because it is a global city. Canada doesn’t really have global cities.”

The voice South Asians hope to Idolize

It wasn’t long ago that Devika Mathur was happily living the life of a hip young Mumbai woman – hosting her own radio show in India’s largest city, fronting a pop band and taking her boxer Chief for walks on Juhu Beach, reported the Toronto Star July 9. Little more than a year later, the petite dynamo with the sexy voice is married, living in Toronto, with her own fan club – and vying on television to be the next Canadian Idol. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen. It’s like, thank God, thank God, I’m here,” said Mathur, 27, the only South Asian to make it to the top 32 in the Canadian Idol competition. In Toronto, Mathur teaches a course in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts on the Bollywood music genre and hosts a daily 3-5pm radio show on 101.3 FM, featuring Hindi and Punjabi music.

Public spaces shouldn’t be for sale, critics say

Inspired by the fundraising success of universities and museums, parks are also increasingly seeking private money, reported the Toronto Star July 11. While donors should be recognized, acknowledgement may trivialize the public side of the partnership, said Janice Newson, a sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts who has studied corporate involvement in universities. “You begin to get an overwhelming presence that the local parks are being made available to you through the great kindness of such-and-such a company, when in fact they’re actually still fundamentally being funded by average folks who pay their taxes.”

The monsters inside us

Debra Pepler, a York University psychology professor and senior associate scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children, says that power is at the heart of the earliest aggression expressed by children, reported the Toronto Star July 10 in a feature on the phenomenon of middle-class violence. “All children test out the use of power, and they come to recognize as their mental capacities improve that they have power over others. Then they test what it feels like to use that power,” she said. In studies of children from grades one to 12, using remote microphones and cameras, Pepler found that only a small minority are bullies, but they become more vicious when others give them encouragement by watching their aggressive actions. For parents and teachers, recognizing bullying tendencies early is vital in stopping aggression. Children who go unchecked, transfer their playground aggression to “dating aggression.” And, Pepler said, that also lays the foundation for violence in later life.

Sporting brothers compete for Canada

York volleyball players Paul and Adam Podstawka will be carrying the Canadian colours to Brazil and France, reported the Hamilton Spectator July 9. The two brothers are part of Volleyball Canada’s development team competing on the international stage. Paul will play on Canada’s under-21 team at the world championships in Rio de Janeiro from Sept. 6 to 11. Adam will be playing for the under-19 team at the worlds Aug. 2 to 6 in Saint Quay Portieux, France. Their first game is Aug. 3. When they return from France, Adam Podstawka and Hall head to Regina for the Canada Games. Paul, who was part of York University’s Ontario University Association championship team, will be playing in the Ontario Volleyball Association and training until he leaves for Rio. Adam Podstawka joins his brother, Lions’ left side player Paul Podstawka, who was named to the OUA All-Rookie team this past season. Both brothers are studying kinesiology and health science at York.

Church punishes MP over same-sex

Joe Comartin, NDP member for Windsor-Tecumseh, who teaches marriage classes at his Windsor church, will be publicly barred from continuing in this role on the weekend when a letter from the Roman Catholic diocese of London is distributed to parishioners, outlining his views on same-sex marriage, reported the National Post July 9. Although the disciplining of Comartin does not constitute national Catholic policy, it reflects the difficulties faced by individual bishops throughout the country as they wrestle with how to respond to elected Catholic officials who support same-sex unions. “If this were the 19th century, the Church would have a hard-line, rigid position on this, and that might be excommunication,” said Roberto Perin, professor of history at York’s Glendon College and an expert on Catholic issues. “But this is the 21st century, and there is a recognition that the issue is extremely complex.”

On air

  • Michael Dartnell, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the treaty to combat cyber hate on the Internet, which Canada has signed, on “OMNI News: South Asian Edition” July 8.