Finnish-Canadians became victims of Stalin’s purges

Roughly 2,800 Canadians of Finnish heritage set off for Karelia, an autonomous Soviet republic, beginning in 1931. Hoping to find work and a better life, they met with betrayal and, in many cases, death, reported Maclean’s Aug.1. About 600 Finnish-Canadians fell victim to the Stalinist purges of the mid-1930s, most ending up in mass graves throughout Karelia. It’s a little-known part of history that Varpu Lindström, a women’s studies professor at York, wished to shed further light on. She’s been researching the fate of the Karelian immigrants and wants to conduct a thorough comparison between records from the Finnish Organization of Canada, documenting those who left, and Russian archives containing files on the victims, including names and dates as well as the sentences meted out – invariably death or internment in a labour camp. “I would like to do an individual account,” said Lindström. “No one has looked at this from the perspective of Canadians.”

Despite shrinking populations, rich nations must help poor, says prof

If current trends continue, the global population will stabilize and even start to shrink by the close of the 21st century or earlier, reported Maclean’s Aug. 1. So-called depopulation poses its own problems. The average age of the nation rises, and the proportion of the elderly increases. This puts a strain on those still working and on the pension, health care and social security systems. York sociologist Alan Simmons, who is wrapping up seven years on the board of directors of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, is concerned. He agrees depopulation is serious. But it’s no excuse, he says, for rich countries like Canada to back away from their various commitments to help poor nations with their development goals, including gender equality, reproductive health rights for women and increased access to education. “These,” said Simmons, “are the big problems for the next 30 to 40 years.”

Air-crash witnesses fill out trauma survey

A research co-ordinator of a traumatic stress group based at the University of Regina said the group has received a lot of surveys from witnesses of the plane collision at the Saskatchewan Centennial Air Show July 10, reported Moose Jaw’s Times-Herald July 28. The stress research group includes the U of R, University of Manitoba, University of British Columbia, York University and the University of California-San Diego. It is studying whether people are predisposed or susceptible to traumatic reactions.

On air

  • Astronomer Paul Delaney, senior lecturer with York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, discussed how space shuttle Discovery docks in space, the take-off damage to its nose and possible cancellation of future space explorations, on CBC Newsworld’s “CBC News: Morning” July 28. He also talked about potential risks to the shuttle when re-entering the atmosphere, on CBC Radio’s “Daybreak” on CBTK in Kelowna July 28.
  • Biologist Bonnie Woolfenden commented on a York University study that shows whether male or female birds are more likely to cheat, on “CH Morning Live” on CHCH-TV in Hamilton July 28. Woolfenden, a post-doctoral fellow, is part of a team of researchers led by Bridget Stutchbury, York’s Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation, studying forest birds.