Why the computer-leasing inquiry is unlikely to lead to charges

In an opinion piece Sept. 13 in the Toronto Star, James Morton, president-elect of the Ontario Bar Association and an adjunct professor of evidence at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, explained why no charges are likely as a result of the inquiry into Toronto’s computer-leasing scandal: With the findings by Justice Denise Bellamy (LLB Osgoode ’78) now published, “some evidence would seem to be relevant to potential criminal prosecutions. However, any evidence from the inquiry could almost certainly not be used” against most witnesses, due to protections in Section 13 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “The one significant exception, though, to Canada’s rule against using testimony from procedures like judicial inquiries in subsequent criminal proceedings has to do with charges of perjury or giving contradictory evidence,” wrote Morton. “Those are expressly excluded from the protection of Section 13. Anyone who lied to Bellamy can be prosecuted for that, for lying – and the false evidence can be considered at the criminal trial.”

But the level of proof is high, said Morton. “The prosecution must show beyond reasonable doubt that the testimony given was false, the accused knew it was false and lied with the intention of misleading. This last requirement can be especially hard to prove. Because it is so difficult to prove, perjury charges are seldom laid. Whatever charges may arise from the computer-leasing scandal, the prosecution is not going to be based on testimony by the accused at the Bellamy inquiry.” 

Don’t cancel classes on Jewish holidays, says prof

A York University professor is calling on Queen’s Park to stop the school’s tradition of cancelling three days of classes in October to honour Jewish holidays, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 13. While York is believed to have more Jewish students than any university in Canada – at nearly 5,000, they represent almost 10 per cent of the student body – David Noble, a professor of social and political thought in York’s Faculty of Arts, says no public, secular university should cancel classes for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah or any other religious holiday, especially in a province that plans to outlaw religious arbitration.

Noble, who is Jewish, plans to hold classes in open defiance of the cancellations, which he says violate the York University Act of 1965 forbidding the University to impose religious observances on any of its members. “We have a secular government and a secular university that makes it illegal to impose religious observances on students and professors who otherwise would not honour them,” he said. Noble doesn’t plan to defy cancelling classes on religious holidays like Good Friday because they’re statutory.

A provincial spokesperson said Queen’s Park respects universities’ right to set policies. A York spokesperson said the University adopted the practice in 1974 at the suggestion of a student, adding the rule against imposing religious observation was meant to protect religious freedom. Since Noble objected to the policy last year, a senate subcommittee has been reviewing the issue and will report this year. He’s since complained to Queen’s Park because he’s not satisfied with York’s response.

Professor Martin Lockshin, an observant Jew who teaches humanities in York’s Faculty of Arts, said while York is believed to be the only university in Canada that does not hold classes on Jewish holidays, several campuses of the State University of New York also do not.

Separate school funds should be cut next

In a Sept. 13 letter to the National Post, Eric Lawee, humanities professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, wrote: “In pronouncing a ban on all religious tribunals in Ontario, including Christian and Jewish ones, Dalton McGuinty insists that ‘there will be one law for all Ontarians.’ Yet the kind of distinctions McGuinty’s Liberal government won’t countenance when it comes to religious tribunals it avidly perpetuates when it comes to religious schools. In the area of education, the double standard in Ontario is absolute: Catholic schools at all levels receive full public support while those of other faith communities receive none. The current situation is obviously unjust. In addition, according to a ruling of the UN’s Human Rights Committee, it places Canada and Ontario in violation of its obligations under international law.” Lawee concludes: “Having determined that religious tribunals in Ontario must all be treated equally, McGuinty, I hope, will immediately introduce legislation creating ‘one law for all Ontarians’ when it comes to funding his province’s religious schools.”

Why be just one sex?

For the transgendered to be fully themselves, they need freedom to move between male and female, reported Maclean’s in its Sept. 12 issue. Current thinking on gender is coming around to the concept that sex, like sexual preference, isn’t an either/or proposition but rather a continuum. Transgender studies have become a hot new area of scholarship as more transgendered academics come out and publish. Philosophy Professor Michael Gilbert of York’s Faculty of Arts, is a “committed cross-dresser” who started teaching periodically as Miqqi Alicia Gilbert in 1996, after he received tenure. “When we’re born, the doctor takes a peek between our legs and says, ‘Oh, it’s a boy or girl,’ and that’s the end of it,” Gilbert notes. “But there are a huge number of people who are not comfortable with that. Not all are cross-dressers or transsexuals. Some are tomboys who resent having to play a feminine role. Some are ‘sissies’ who didn’t want to play sports but were forced to. I think of gender as analogous to eyesight – there are many different prescriptions.”

Injured football star gone for season

Andre Durie, York’s indomitable Lion and one of Canada’s top football players, is gone for the season, reported The Toronto Sun – along with the Toronto Star and many sports news programs – on Sept. 13. A first-team all-Canadian running back, Durie requires knee surgery. “An MRI showed tears in my left knee,” Durie said Monday. “I was kind of scared when it happened because I’ve never experienced anything like this. But you know what? It could be worse. It’s just another obstacle and I’ll be back next season.” It’s that kind of attitude and approach that has endeared Durie, a class act whose season-ending injury casts serious doubts about York’s ability to make the post-season for the fifth year in a row. Durie, 24, was injured in last Saturday’s 40-7 road loss to Queen’s when the third-year tailback exploded through the line of scrimmage on a third-down gamble. The Lions rely so much on Durie’s skills that it almost is unfathomable to think anyone can fill the void, said the Sun. York head coach Tom Gretes plans to use a running back by committee to somehow get the Lions back on track in the wake of the devastating news of Durie’s season-ending injury.

For slave’s biographer, truth contains a bit of fiction

Olaudah Equiano’s 1789 first-person account of being kidnapped and enslaved at age 11 and dragged from Nigeria to the New World in a horror-filled slave ship has long been viewed as the definitive account of the infamous Middle Passage, one of the very first slave narratives, an accounting that gave the fledgling abolitionist movement a ringing moral authority, reported The Washington Post Sept. 10. Except it might not be true. If the man who penned “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself” was not African-born, but rather an African American born in South Carolina – as Vincent Carretta, a University of Maryland scholar, suggests – then who was he? Carretta’s findings, detailed in his biography of Equiano in bookstores next month, have sparked a firestorm in academic circles. “I don’t question [Carretta’s] research,” said Paul E. Lovejoy, Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History at York, who is writing an article about Equiano. “What I question is the conclusion he’s reached. I just think there’s an alternate interpretation,” one that does not preclude an African birth, Lovejoy says. Mistakes are often made with records, the professor notes: During Equiano’s lifetime, after enemies questioned his authenticity, one of the witnesses who vouched for his African birth was his godmother – the same person who is listed on his baptismal record as vouching for his South Carolina origins.

Why Windsor gas costs more

Windsor drivers paid 19 cents more per litre for gas than drivers in Toronto Monday, reported The Windsor Star Sept. 13. Gas price observers contacted Monday couldn’t explain the regional price difference. Windsor enjoyed lower-than-average gas prices this year because of a price war between Zehrs and Wal-Mart. The gas battle kept gas prices low across the city, but there must be a truce – last week the average price of gas in Windsor was $1.33, while the national average was $1.26. “It may be that the gas war isn’t helping them anymore and market shares have stabilized,” said Bernie Wolf, director of the international MBA program at York’s Schulich School of Business. “All it takes is one major company not to play the game, then the prices get stuck. I think the major point is why is Windsor so much higher than Toronto when it’s usually the opposite?”

The buzz on word-of-mouth sales

It’s clear that the buzz on buzz is big. The how-to books, the conferences, even the formation of WOMMA, the official Word of Mouth Marketing Association, just nine months ago, all point to a growing trend, reported Strategy in its September issue.. “In the last 12 months,” says Andy Sernovitz, the Chicago-based association’s president, “word of mouth has gone from anecdotal to actionable. You can actually make a word-of-mouth plan and implement it on behalf of a brand.”

Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, agrees that it’s possible, but because spending in word of mouth is so low among many Canadian marketers, many don’t think it merits the research costs. He thinks it should. “[Many] have taken [marketing money] away from somewhere and put it into something new. Wouldn’t you like to know if it works?”

On air

  • GO transit will expand its bus services to York University, reported CKVR-TV’s “News at 6” and CFMT-TV’s “Studio Aperto” Sept. 12.
  • CFMT-TV’s “Studio Aperto” interviewed York undergraduates Ashley Monti and Roxanne Otchkous for an item about tuition costs aired Sept. 9.