Minister’s comment gives police a green light for pot busts, says Young

Professor Alan Young of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School says pot busts have increased over the past months, with word that the Conservative government won’t resurrect Liberal efforts to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana, reported the Toronto Star April 3. “I seem to be getting more calls from people who’ve been arrested for simple possession,” Young said. “They [police] are trying to flex their muscles and say the law’s still vibrant,” Young said. Justice Minister Vic Toews announced recently that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories have no plans to loosen marijuana laws.  “It’s a green light for police to go ahead with stricter law enforcement, if they so want,” Young said. “They’re doing it with much more vigour than before, no doubt about it. They’re charging more people and they’re more proactive on the grow-ops. They’ve done a real campaign to show grow-ops as the 11th Biblical plague.”

York author of Queen’s racism report says change has been ‘glacial’

It’s always assumed that Queen’s University has an elevating effect on Kingston in terms of economic spinoffs, education and culture. But when a document like the Henry Report comes along, concluding that there is systemic racism toward university faculty who are from visible minority groups, one sees how much influence goes the other way, said the Kingston Whig-Standard in an editorial April 1. Queen’s, like the city surrounding it, is a predominantly white institution. Whiteness as such isn’t a problem; it’s how the white majority treats minorities that is worrisome. As Frances Henry, professor emerita of York University, notes in the conclusion to her report, “the central narratives that emerge from the results of the survey and focus groups suggest that Queen’s, like most other North American universities, is still struggling to overcome deeply entrenched cultural beliefs, values, norms and structures that preserve the continued dominance of Whiteness and maleness.”

The outward signs of systemic racism, the report says, are “reflected in the everyday interactions between minority faculty and their white students, who challenge their expertise, authority and competence. It is manifested in the normative discourses of colleagues, hiring and tenure committees, university administrators, who commonly employ the discourses of reverse discrimination, loss of meritocracy, political correctness, colour-blindness, neutrality, and freedom of expression – all of which act as a cover for the persistence of racial bias and differential treatment.” The result is that Queen’s has difficulty attracting and retaining staff from these groups. That’s not good in a world that is becoming more interconnected.

The report would likely result in severe condemnation in communities where there is greater cultural diversity. Here in Kingston, it will probably rate little more than a collective shrug. The Henry Report notes that Queen’s produced the Report on Race Relations in 1991 but that few of its recommendations were implemented. This new systemic racism study was begun in 2001 and turned over to Henry in 2003. Her report was tabled in April of 2004. Now, two years later, it is finally being made public. Henry isn’t kidding when she writes that “while there are some signs of positive change, the scope and pace remain glacially slow.”

Appeal court judgment may affect university autonomy

The autonomy of Ontario universities from the provincial government may be affected by a Court of Appeal ruling that a student can sue York University President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden for misfeasance in public office, reported The Globe and Mail April 1. The ruling, which overturns a Superior Court ruling that found Marsden was not a public official, allows Daniel Freeman-Maloy to include the grounds of misfeasance in public office in his $850,000 suit against the University.

The University was studying the judgment and will take time to consider whether to appeal, said Richard Fisher, York’s chief marketing & communications officer. Jamie Mackay, vice-president of policy and analysis at the Council of Ontario Universities, said he was “absolutely shocked” by the decision. “I just think this will be something that all Ontario universities will be obviously following very closely,” he said. “It’s so important with respect to the autonomy of universities and independence from government – to consider that their senior officials are in fact government officials is…just not something we would want to contemplate.”

 Diversity is becoming big business

Diversity “is the new frontier,” said Professor Pat Bradshaw, who teaches organizational behaviour in York’s Schulich School of Business, in a story about diversity consultants in the Toronto Star April 1. “It is still in the very early stages.” With that in mind, both Bradshaw and fellow business professor Dan Ondrack of the University of Toronto, emphasize that it is important to check the qualifications and references of diversity businesses, because literally anyone can hang up a shingle in Canada and call themselves a consultant. While non-profit organizations have been concerned with the issue for a long time because of their ideological and political beliefs, it is now becoming an imperative of doing business in Canada, Bradshaw says. When the corporate sector is looking to hire the best students, “if only 20 per cent of the graduates are white males and you restrict your hiring to that group, you are not getting the best.” She concurs with the idea that organizations in Canada have legal, ethical and business reasons for moving forward with diversity programs. “It is an economic imperative. It’s not just people being nice.”

On Byron and putting the sublime in it’s place

In a review of the book Selected Proceedings from the 30th International Byron Conference, in the Times & Transcript (Moncton) April 1, a columnist noted comments in the book from Ian Balfour, professor in York’s Department of English, Faculty of Arts: “Tragedy, however sublime, tends to put the sublime in its place, so to speak. There is a powerful drive in tragedy to make sense of everything, if only after the fact, at the end of the play.”

 Hooray for subway extensions? Careful what you wish for

Whatever Helen Flanagan thought the Sheppard subway would bring to her neighbourhood, it wasn’t this, reported The Globe and Mail April 4. “We expected intensification,” she says. “But this is just too much.” Flanagan thought the billion-dollar subway line would bring eight-storey apartment buildings. Now, she finds herself fighting a proposed 2,500-unit condominium development across the road from Fairview Mall, which would turn the Parkway Forest area next to her suburban neighbourhood into a slice of downtown – complete with 36-storey towers, underground retail and ever-worsening traffic. With Toronto planning another suburban subway expansion – this time extending the Spadina line through York University, up to Steeles and potentially into Vaughan, with a projected daily ridership of 100,000 – veterans of Sheppard’s sudden urbanization say those in the new subway’s path should look at their experience as a cautionary tale.

 York graduate’s tea pot wins Mad Hatter’s competition

It started with a sheet of sterling silver. It ended with a win: Charles Funnell‘s teapot, designed for Bejewel’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Competition, took “Best in Show”, reported the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal April 1. Funnell (BFA ‘86) wanted a pure form for his teapot, anticipating something simple. Then he spent 250 hours working out the design.

“A teapot is the top thing to make,” says Funnell. “I didn’t feel like I was ready, but then I said, ‘Well, here we go!'” Funnell, whose work is technically challenging and aesthetically beautiful, first came to Fredericton from Ontario in the fall of 2004 after Brigitte Clavette (studio head at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design) paused, during a demonstration she was giving at The Haliburton School of the Arts and asked him, “Why don’t you come to the Craft College?” She made a few phone calls. He packed his car, and headed east. A BFA from York University in sculpture, and BEd from The University of Western Ontario, first led Funnell to teach art in Moosonee, six hours north of Cochrane, Ont. – the last stop on the Polar Bear Express. (There are no polar bears but occasionally he says Beluga whales come down the Moose River from James Bay.) He eventually left to pursue a passion for metal arts. Sculpture training was useful in this competition; he’s still designing three-dimensional forms.

  Third man convicted in shooting death of York graduate

The long, sorry tale of a botched jewellery store robbery in Richmond Hill six years ago drew closer to a conclusion on Saturday, reported the Toronto Star April 3, with a guilty verdict against the third person charged in the death of clerk and York graduate Niv Erez (BA ‘98). A jury in Whitby convicted Giuseppe Marinni, 34, of Toronto, on manslaughter and robbery charges after four days of deliberation at the end of a three-month Superior Court trial. York region Crown Attorney Rob Scott, who along with colleague Nadia Courville has pursued the case since 2000, said he was “pleased” that all three suspects in the high-profile case have been convicted in the death of 23-year-old Erez.

Erez and jeweller Mark Lash were packing to move their East Beaver Creek store to new premises on the night of Jan. 16, 2000 when two armed and masked men, using a rooftop ventilation unit, came crashing through the false ceiling tiles of their showroom. The crooks seemed flustered and disorganized and a struggle ensued, police said. Several rounds were shot from automatic weapons and Erez, described by relatives as “a kind, gentle and loving person,” died of a gunshot wound. His family said he was getting some experience in business before applying for the masters of business administration program at York at the time of his death.

Ossie Rowe, Osgoode alumnus, class of ‘38

Each person who knew Osgoode Hall Law School alumnus Ossie Rowe (LLB ‘38) had a story about him, reported the Barrie Advance April 2. Fellow graduate George Taylor (LLB ’59), winding down his own law career these days, remembers being a new graduate from Osgoode, perusing the journals in search of employment. And there it was! An ad from the firm of Boys, Seagram & Rowe…”wanted, junior lawyer for active firm in Barrie, Ontario. Must be Progressive Conservative.” Tarylor felt he fit the ticket, applied and got the job. Rowe practised law for 58 years, serving as Barrie’s city solicitor for 49 of them. He was 83 in 1996 when he retired from his firm. He died in Barrie March 3.

  On air

  • Harvey Simmons, professor emeritus in York’s Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts, discussed the economy and labour unrest in France on TVO’s “Studio 2” March 31.