Labour Day book gets good reviews on Labour Day

On a holiday that’s become synonymous with “the day before the first day of school,” the authors of the newly published The Workers’ Festival: A History of Labour Day in Canada provide a reminder of how Canadians came to have the first Monday in September off, reported the Toronto Star, Sept. 5, in its review of the book co-authored by York history professor Craig Heron. “Workers were working six days a week, with no paid holiday and they wanted an extra day off in the summer,” explains Heron and co-author Steven Penfold, a professor at the University of Toronto. “It was an acknowledgement of labourers by the federal government that they wanted a worker’s holiday.” The House of Commons passed legislation for the statutory holiday in 1894. By the 1970s and 1980s, the parades “lost much of their carnival quality and became more overtly angry,” as issues such as wage and price controls, unemployment and free trade were raised. Public-sector and female employees had a greater presence in the parade; they represented a growing proportion of Canada’s labour force. 

The Montreal Gazette also published a review of the book on Sept. 3, picked up by The Vancouver Sun. One hundred years after Montreal’s archbishop invoked God to preserve the status quo, reported the Gazette, the two Toronto historians have crafted and published an illuminating – and sometimes provocative – retrospective of how Labour Day has been marked across Canada. They show how the labour movement has evolved since the 1880s, along with Canadian society as a whole. Their tone is not entirely bitter or sardonic, though. Heron and Penfold linger in loving detail over the floats, costumes, banners and placards that once made Labour Day parades a key event on community calendars. Even readers inclined to disagree with their hard-edged assessments will concede that Heron and Penfold have laid invaluable groundwork in an area that to date has been poorly documented. 

York set to open fine arts centre

A new state-of-the-art fine arts centre at York University featuring a recital hall, dance studios and a theatre with orchestra pit will be unveiled soon, reported The North York Mirror in its Sept. 4 edition. The Accolade Project, which has been in the works for more than three decades, consists of the East and West buildings at the University’s Keele campus. The 358,000-sq.-ft. project will include a 325-seat proscenium theatre with orchestra pit, a 325-seat recital hall and integrated recording studio, a 500-seat cinema/lecture hall, a performance halls lobby, a student-run art gallery, new dance studios and specialized music studios. The Art Gallery of York University will also have a new home there. Classrooms in the Accolade West building will open this fall. Studio, performance and exhibition facilities in Accolade East are slated to open in January 2006. 

“The Accolade Project will create 4,000 new spaces for students,” said Phillip Silver, dean of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “The department of music has been in temporary quarters for 30 years and now it will have a permanent home. These are fabulous facilities and will increase enrolment across the University. York has always been an innovative university,” he said. “We were the first university to create a Faculty of Fine arts in Canada. We led the way 40 years ago and I think this kind of facility really finishes off what we need to do.” York University recently launched a $10-million fundraising campaign for the Accolade Project.

Listen out for the Woodbridge accent

A column in the Sept. 6 Toronto Star took up a different kind of language debate. Yes, fellow northerners, there is a Canadian accent, wrote Star feature writer and York alumnus Oakland Ross (BA ‘74). In fact, there are several. They include, for example, a southern Ontario accent. There is even a Woodbridge accent. But Eric Armstrong, for one, isn’t sure that the Woodbridge sub-dialect of Canadian English is entirely a good thing, at least for those in the acting field. A professor of voice and speech in York’s Department of Theatre, Faculty of Fine Arts, Armstrong is one of about two dozen professional voice coaches who ply their trade in Toronto. Like other practitioners of the craft, he is keenly attuned to the infinite variety of the human voice. He also spends a lot of his time working with actors and aspiring actors.

“We definitely hear a Woodbridge sound,” he says, referring to the suburban community just north of Toronto. “They don’t sound like your typical Canadian. They sound like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky.” For one thing, Woodbridge speakers tend to put a hard “g” sound at the end of words such as “sing.” Among actors, this is not generally regarded as a plus, unless of course you happen to be Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. “Those are the students whose regional accents get them the most negative responses from casting agents,” says Armstrong. The good news is that Armstrong – or someone like him – can help. That’s what voice coaches do.

Comets show impresses Globe reviewer

A group show entitled small comets: a new class of interplanetary bodies confirmed is by recent graduates and students of the York’s MFA program in the visual arts (see story in the Sept. 6 issue of YFile). It’s really a brilliant little anthology (which announces, as a sort of quiet subtext, that York is turning out artists possessed of a wit and ambition that, say, OCAD’s teachers can’t seem to generate), reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 3. Wrote reviewer Gary Michael Gault: The students, I guess, are the small comets (and not so small either), and the Class of Interplanetary Bodies is, I guess, them again. And “confirmed” by this exhibition they certainly are. The work is astoundingly good, and here are some highlights: Laura Moore‘s wry soapstone carvings (soapstone!) of batteries, memory sticks, computer mouse and cellphone; Niall Donaghy‘s “Dirge to Daedalus” (a hotplate with a model airliner on its runway-like length – the symbolism of which is bountiful); Jennifer Lefort‘s astonishingly accomplished painting, “It’s Happening…” (and it sure is); Tamara Toledo‘s two, fine, little red-blue paintings, all bubbly and toxic-looking (Landscaping); and, Justina Gardiner‘s “Class of 2005”, a wall-mounted presentation of tiny, white diplomas tied with red ribbons, so small that they appear to be capsules – of some tranquilizer, maybe, or who knows what it takes to smooth your launching into this bizarro art world.

Jobs young people get tend to be in non-union sectors

A Statistics Canada report in August cited in the Toronto Star Sept. 5, found the union density – the number of employees who are union members compared to all employees – for youth between 15 and 24 was 14.1 per cent, compared to those 25 and 44 years old at 29.7 per cent, those 45 to 54 years old at 39.7 per cent and those over 55 years old at 35.1 per cent. “There are two competing reasons why youth are under-represented in unions,” explains Rafael Gomez, economics professor in York’s Glendon faculty. “One is youth are less interested in unions. And the other is they are less likely to work in a unionized environment.” Youth tend to be employed in the largely non-unionized service sector and “new economy” jobs, such as those in information technology, that don’t have unions in place. 

Making taxes work

Neil Brooks, director of the graduate program in taxation at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and editor of the Canadian Tax Journal from 2001 to 2004, has made the case that the tax burden has shifted from corporations and wealthier citizens to middle-income people, whose real incomes are lower today than in 1980, while the gap between rich and poor has widened, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 5 in a story about tax reform.

The secret of Exhibit 67 

The Supreme Court of Canada has emphasized the importance of an open court system in numerous judgments, according to the Toronto Star. “The courts don’t own the courts,” said Alan Young, a criminal law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a Sept. 5 story about the Star’s attempts to get access to Exhibit 67, a psychiatric report being kept secret in connection with the trial of an accused pedophile. “They are just renting space from us [the public],” said Young. “And we have a right to see what they are doing and that is the way it should be in a democratic country.” The Star said it was told the only way to see Exhibit 67 was to file a court motion, explain why it want to see it, inform the Crown and defence, then attend a court hearing “during which we would argue our case” before the judge. Young said the ministry has to revisit its policy. “In terms of what the user does with the information, no one should be monitored by the courts. There is something very disconcerting about having to justify your request. It could have a very chilling and negative impact.”

York student scored highest marks in Brant County

First-year York student Jessica Lubrick is excited but remains the picture of poise while sitting on the couch of the family’s comfortable home, reported The Expositor (Brantford) Sept. 6. At 18, Jessica’s future is filled with promise, driven by the accolades of academic, cultural and social success. Today, her parents Liann and Michael will contemplate with a proud eye her departure to begin the next phase of her life: an international studies program at York University’s Glendon College, a bilingual institution where she will take her place as the winner of a president’s scholarship for first-year students with the highest marks. That award is the latest jump in a hopscotch of distinction. Jessica is the secondary student who graduated with the highest marks in Brant County, with a stunning 97.17 per cent. Her straight A performance was capped with a 97 in Italian, 98 in French and 100 per cent in English.

Debating intense exercise

Scientists in a study released earlier this year suggest a mere six minutes of intense exercise a week can do as much to improve a person’s fitness as one-hour-a-day, reported The Expositor (Brantford) on Sept. 6. The research, which was published in the June edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology, found that people who undertook “modified interval training” that consisted of cycling at breakneck speeds for short bursts boosted their endurance just as much as those who spent hours a week biking at a moderate pace. But Norm Gledhill, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, said it’s highly unlikely most people would be willing to engage in the intense level of activity required, even for brief periods of time.

Warriors push York to the limit

If they’d scored one more touchdown, the York University Lions might have won in a romp over the University of Waterloo Warriors in Monday’s OUA football opener, reported The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) on Sept. 6. But after taking a 14-3 lead late in the first quarter, the Lions blew one scoring opportunity after another and were fortunate to gain a 20-16 verdict. Penalties also played a key role in the Lions’ inability to finish off the young and badly battered Warriors before an enthusiastic crowd of 2,026. The Lions took 17 penalties for a loss of 165 yards. The Warriors lost only 97 yards on 10 infractions. “We’ve lost games like that in the past,” said Lions head coach Tom Gretes. “But today, we toughed it out. We maybe thought the game was over; let them back in. In the end, like a prize fight, it was who was left standing.” Gretes praised third-year quarterback Bart Zemanek for “completing some big passes when he had to and for doing a great job of killing the clock. Andre Durie, a first-team all-Canadian who tied a national record with six rushing majors in a 55-33 thrashing of the Warriors in Waterloo last year, was held off the scoresheet this time. But he led both teams with 184 yards on 27 carries.

The benefits of grad school

Beth Palmer, 22, is starting graduate studies in history at York to focus on women’s and gender history and history of sexuality, reported the Toronto Star on Sept. 6 in a story about the pros and cons of graduate school. She’s already looking into PhD programs. “I found research areas that I really wanted to learn more about, and grad school seemed like the way to pursue these interests,” she says. And like most grad students, Palmer is prepared to defend the criticism that the more educated you get, the more out of touch with reality you become. To avoid getting lost in a bubble of theory, Palmer spent her undergrad volunteering at a feminist anti-violence organization and the on-campus sexual education centre. “It helped me keep focused and realize the practical applications of theory,” she says. The reporter who wrote the story, Nicole Cohen, is also beginning graduate studies, in political science, at York.

Saving and sacrificing for a university education

University is still a few years away for her two children but, after the mortgage, it is former York student Avril Kearney‘s biggest monthly expense, reported The Globe and Mail, Sept. 3. She has scaled back on vacations and opted not to buy a car, all in an effort to contribute as much as she can into registered education savings plans for 14-year-old Liam and Maeve, 12. “I certainly don’t save as much as I should for my retirement because my children’s postsecondary education is going to come up sooner,” Kearney, a computer programmer, said. A new study by the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation found that most parents have been saving, on average, for 11 years for their children’s university education – forgoing much along the way. Half the parents surveyed spent less on vacations and property, while others paid down mortgages quicker to free up cash, bought RESPs, worked more overtime or even took second jobs. Kearney’s first-year tuition at York almost 30 years ago cost a mere $736. Today, the average undergraduate tuition is $4,214. 

A champion for ‘little people’: Al Hollingworth

It’s not too often that a lawyer has a client walk into the office brandishing a handgun, reported the Toronto Star, Sept. 6. But Allan Hollingworth was faced with that very scenario, according to long-time friend and colleague, retired senator Richard Stanbury. The upset gunman strolled into Hollingworth’s office where the two remained for 15 minutes. They walked out together, with Hollingworth consoling the gunman, arms around his shoulders. Allan Henry Hollingworth, who went from being an intelligence officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force to the judicial bench, with stops as a lawyer and a parliamentarian, died Aug. 16. He was 86. “He always saw himself as the spokesman for the ‘little people’,” said Stanbury. “No wonder he had friends in every walk of life.” Born and raised in Brockville, Hollingworth earned bachelor of commerce and bachelor of arts degrees at Queen’s University in four years. After leaving the air force, he graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1948 and opened his law practice on Avenue Road in North York.

New Viva transit service ready to take the bite out of gridlock

Frustrated York student and retail worker Vicky Amato said she’s looking forward to the launch of Viva, York Region’s newest transit system, which after months of anticipation, hits the roads today, reported The Toronto Sun Sept. 4. The Thornhill woman takes the transit about five times each week and said she often runs into problems. “I really hope it will help,” Amato, 21, said. “Anything will be better than the YRT. It’s always late and never on time.”

Design goes to school

In a story about functional furniture design for schools in The Globe and Mail Sept. 3, John Hellwig, vice-president of design and innovation at Toronto-based Teknion, says his company’s furniture designs match high-level architecture at places like York University. “It’s not faddish or quirky. Architects are even involved in helping to choose furniture. So we need to provide better design. Classrooms are the newest area – as opposed to private offices and research areas.”