Victim juggled two jobs, university before she was shot

Little distracted Chantel Dunn from her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, but it was on one of her few breaks from working two jobs and going to university that she was killed, reported The Toronto Sun Feb. 9 in a story echoed in other major Toronto dailies. “This is a determined young lady [wanting] to get herself through school and not get caught up in what’s happening on the streets,” Toronto police Homicide Det. Wayne Fowler said. “What happens? She dies from picking her boyfriend up at a basketball game.” Dunn, 19, died Tuesday morning from gunshot wounds to the torso after two gunmen peppered her car with bullets outside the Northwood Community Centre on Clubhouse Court. Her boyfriend was shot in the neck and shoulder area but is recovering in hospital. “She had her act together,” Fowler said of Dunn. “She was determined that she had her goals set and that’s what she was aiming for.”

An excellent student in high school who had top marks, won awards and made the honour roll, Dunn had wanted to be a lawyer since the age of seven. And despite her academic performance falling off in her last year of high school, the teen redoubled her efforts in summer and went straight into York’s Business and Society Program as a prelude to law school. She worked two retail jobs to pay her tuition, a neighbour said.

The University will be offering whatever help it can to the investigation, Rob Tiffin, vice-president students at York, said in a statement. “All of us at York are devastated to hear the news of this tragic event,” Tiffin said.

  • A Toronto Star editorial cited the deaths of Chantel Dunn and of Jane Creba, on Boxing Day in downtown Toronto, as reason to support Chief Bill Blair’s pledge to have a higher police presence in troubled neighbourhoods.
  • The news of Dunn’s death continued to capture headlines on Toronto radio and TV newscasts Feb. 8. Richard Fisher, York’s chief marketing & communications officer, was interviewed about Dunn, on “CTV News”. So was VP Students Rob Tiffin on “CBC News at Six”. “Global News” profiled Dunn.

Better living through video games?

A new study of 100 university undergraduates in Toronto has found that video gamers consistently outperform their non-playing peers in a series of tricky mental tests. If they also happened to be bilingual, they were unbeatable, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 9. “The people who were video game players were better and faster performers,” said psychologist Ellen Bialystok, a research professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. “Those who were bilingual and video game addicts scored best – particularly at the most difficult tasks.” The York study, which tested subjects’ responses to various misleading visual cues, is to be published next month in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology. Bialystok suspects video gamers, like bilinguals, have a practised ability to block out information that is irrelevant to the task at hand. “It’s like going to the gym,” she said. “You build up the ability to control impulses with practice.”

Tories urged to act fast on top-court nominations

The new Conservative government must act quickly to reform the way it appoints judges to the Supreme Court of Canada as it will likely get only one chance to put changes into practice, says the head of one of Canada’s top law schools, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 9. Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said new federal Justice Minister Vic Toews must try a new system when naming a replacement for former Supreme Court judge John Major, who retired in December. “During this mandate, this is going to be the only opportunity that they’re going to have,” Monahan said after a York conference on judicial appointments. With no other retirement at the court expected for several years, “this is going to be the last chance for the rest of the decade.”

Monahan and other academics told the conference the entire process for naming top-court judges needs to be more transparent, with some power removed from the hands of the prime minister and justice minister – who currently make the final decision. Monahan said he would like to see the government choose a candidate who would then face a “structured interview” with a committee that included parliamentarians and others. That process would “deter a government intent on appointing an individual with extreme views,” he said. If the committee disapproved of the candidate, he or she could still be appointed if the prime minister were prepared to accept the political consequences.

Canadian dollar overvalued, economist says

The Canadian dollar is currently overvalued, rising in relation to a depreciating US dollar, says Kurt Huebner, a visiting economics professor at University of British Columbia, reported The Vancouver Sun Feb. 9. “The value of the dollar, in comparison [with] the US dollar and the euro, is not reflecting the real value, in terms of productivity,” said Huebner, from York’s Faculty of Arts. While a stronger dollar might provide a boost to Canada’s resource sector, he said, the appreciation is harming the service and manufacturing sectors and emphasizing regional imbalances between the Western resource-based provinces and the central manufacturing-heavy provinces. The higher dollar means domestic manufacturers lose their price competitiveness in the global marketplace, especially against China, where the value of the yuan is not based on a flexible exchange rate, Huebner said.

Study confirms research findings

“For those of us who followed the research literature on ‘fat and health’ for the last 10 years, the recent study finding no relationship between a low-fat diet and health is not a ‘bombshell,’ but rather another confirmation of a stream of similar research findings,” wrote Dennis Raphael, a professor in Atkinson’s School of Health Policy & Management at York, in a letter to the Toronto Star published Feb. 9. “Indeed, American science writer Gary Taubes exposed the ‘fat myth’ in Science Magazine in 2001 and the New York Times in 2002. And I made sure every health reporter in Canada was made aware of these findings. Better late than never, I guess.”

Dancing to the beat of life

Toronto choreographer Yvonne Ng never consciously attempts to layer her modern dance works with her ethnic heritage and cultures, which is a mix of Singaporean, Chinese-Malaccan, Catholic, Confucian, Buddhist and Canadian, reported the Toronto Star in a feature about the York grad and her latest production Signs Feb. 9. “The [labelling] problem always surfaces,” says the 4-foot-10 Ng, who graduated from York’s dance program in the mid-1980s. “The fact is there really isn’t a distinctly characterized Canadian move or a Chinese gesture, or an immigrant dancer or a contemporary dancer. The important thing about contemporary dance is no one really knows what it is, and you can draw from all the influences in your life to create something new.”

Teacher believes in miracles

His parents prayed every Sunday for their blind newborn son at a Montreal church known for its miracles. After 11 months, Trevor Digby could see. Digby – now a 39-year-old husband, father and high school teacher who has maintained limited vision despite being told it was medically impossible – is returning to St. Joseph’s Oratory in May, reported the Peterborough Examiner Feb. 9. He holds up a piece of paper so it almost touches his nose and reads what’s on it. And he could see well enough to study textbooks and earn a BA in history in 1992 and an MA in interdisciplinary studies in 1996 from York University.

Cineplex mogul leads ‘by example’

Ellis Jacob buys his own popcorn. As the president and CEO of Cineplex Entertainment LP, the largest movie theatre owner in Canada, Jacob (MBA ’76) proudly declines freebies from his own theatres, which now number 130 locations and 1,270 screens after last year’s $500 million takeover of Famous Players, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 9. “You have to lead by example,” says Jacob, 53. “I really treat the money as if it were my own.”

More cash for higher learning

MPP Chris Bentley, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, announced Wednesday that GTA post-secondary institutions will share $57.2 million of the new Quality Improvement Fund, promised in last spring’s budget, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 9. York University received $10 million in an announcement last fall.

Program may become model for electricity savings

A local pilot program that is helping low-income families save money by conserving energy may become the model for other Ontario communities, reported The Expositor in Brantford Feb. 9. Conserving Homes, a joint project of Brantford Power and Share the Warmth, a Toronto-based homeless prevention charity started in 1995 by Osgoode Hall Law School students, was launched in 2005 and is already attracting plenty of attention.

On air

  • Political scientist Thomas Klassen of York’s Faculty of Arts said Stephen Harper’s decision not to name a deputy prime minister could bog him down in the business of governing, reported CIGM-AM “News” in Sudbury Feb. 8.