Police stay mum on sex offender’s whereabouts

Toronto police say they will not disclose where a high-risk sex offender, who committed a series of sexual assaults near York’s Keele campus five years ago, is living because they do not want to drive the man underground, pushing up the chances of him striking again, reported the National Post April 6. Police believe 23-year-old Philip Foremsky, who finished serving a full five-year sentence this week, is likely to reoffend. They are asking a judge to restrict his movements. Foremsky was released to a Kingston halfway house in 2004 but was jailed again after he breached his parole. Detective Sergeant Gordon Whealy, with the Toronto police’s Sex Crimes Unit, said police know where Foremsky is living and do not want that to change. “When we’re managing our offenders, we need to know where our offenders are,” he said. “If we increase their anxiety level [by releasing their addresses], they can disappear and go underground. What good is that?”

The Post also reported that, according to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, most sexual offenders do not reoffend sexually over time. Correctional Service Canada indicates that the rate of sexual reoffending at a 31/2-year follow-up period is about six to seven per cent. Kemba Byam, a co-ordinator at the York Women’s Centre, was on campus during Foremsky’s string of attacks in 2000 and recalls the palpable fear that permeated the sprawling university. ”A lot of women were concerned for their safety at the time,” she said. ”There was a lot of fear going to vehicles and to their homes because many students live on and off campus.”

York University was informed of the sexual predator’s release two weeks ago and photos have been distributed to security personnel, the Post reported. “Like all universities, we really take our security seriously,” said Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations. He noted the University long ago reconfigured its approach to safety, providing foot and vehicle escorts to York’s sprawling parking lots and trimming hedges to ensure dark areas are exposed. “We have no reason to believe that this person would come on campus,” Bilyk said.

But threat and risk assessments lead police to believe Foremsky is at a high risk to reoffend. That’s why they are seeking a judicial order that would impose certain restrictions on his freedom. He has contested that application, and a hearing is scheduled for next week. In the meantime, he is subject to the following conditions: He must report weekly to police, he is not allowed to have any contact with his victims, he cannot be in a public park, on a university or college campus or school property, cannot be in possession of a weapon or non-prescription drugs and is not allowed to associate with criminals.

  • Most Toronto television and news radio stations broadcast stories about Formensky’s release. Camera crews visited campus to get students’ reaction and administration views. Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, and Michael Markicevic, executive director of York’s security services, explained the changes made to campus security since the incidents occurred in July and August 2000.

Advanced Credit Experience gives at-risk youth a real chance

Joseph Smith is a big kid with a smile to match. But that trademark toothy grin, offered easily to classmates who affectionately call him “JJ”, quickly vanishes as he ponders how things might look if he wasn’t part of a York University pilot project giving academic opportunities to so-called at-risk youth from two of Toronto’s tougher, inner-city high schools, reported the Toronto Star April 6. “We see all this gun violence and same old bad stuff all the time,” Smith, 17, a Grade 11 student at Emery Collegiate Institute in the Finch-Weston Rd. area of North York, said of his neighbourhood. “If I wasn’t given this opportunity, you just don’t know…,” said Smith, his voice trailing off as he recalled friends who have joined gangs, dropped out of school and been injured in shootings. “Now, I’m an individual but I feel like I belong. I have something positive I can put my time and effort into.”

Since September, the Star said, Smith has been one of about three dozen Grade 11 students from Emery and nearby Westview Centennial Secondary School enrolled in the Advanced Credit Experience, or ACE, project at York. The goal of the program, funded by the York University Faculty Association, Toronto District School Board and a private donor, is to help students who show the potential for university or college overcome some of the systemic barriers they face such as race, ethnicity or economic class, reported the Star.

York’s faculty association has also begun offering scholarships of up to $5,000 for ACE graduates who go on to university, the Star reported. “Jane-Finch sits on our doorstep yet there might as well be the Atlantic Ocean separating us,” said Jackie Robinson of York’s Faculty of Education, who oversees the program. “The object is to bridge that gap between the actual community and the academic community.” Robinson co-ordinates the York/Westview Partnership, a program established in 1992 between the university and nearly two dozen schools in the Jane-Finch area with students from junior kindergarten to Grade 12.

At the beginning, the high school students are hesitant youngsters who remain tight-lipped in class, struggle taking notes and readying for mid-term exams. By the end of their semester, they participate in classroom discussions and tutorials and possess a much better sense of how to manage their time and workload. “It’s been a complete turnaround over the past five months,” said Susan Lee-Pierce, 21, one of the York students in the Faculty of Education who has served as teacher and mentor to program participants. “It’s been very inspiring.” Lee-Pierce has no doubt offered a little inspiration herself. Born in South Korea, she came to Canada with her mother, Esther, at age 8. With little disposable income in a single-parent household, mom helped tutor daughter in English and worked two jobs to ensure the youngster could continue with violin lessons. “I want to show them you can pursue your dreams, you just have to work hard at it.”

Smith insists he’s taking that to heart, the Star said. Before this year, the latest designer shoes or iPod were at the top of his to-do list. Now, he’s determined to “make my marks skyrocket” in Grade 12, so he can get into university to study political science. Smith’s co-op placement at the university archives has seen him filing major history research papers “and other stuff I didn’t know existed a year ago.” “For sure, I can do this,” said Smith, the only child of a single mother. “Now, I’m motivated. That’s the key.”

Seymour Schulich a driver for subway

A couple of weeks ago, the Ontario government anted up a whopping $670-million for a subway megaproject that will take rapid transit to the northern reaches of the Greater Toronto Area — including serving, for the first time, 905ers as well as 416ers, reported The Globe and Mail April 6. One of the biggest benefactors of this subway line will be York University. The untold story of this huge capital project is a prominent Canadian businessman, who was, it turns out, a not-so-silent force working behind the scenes on this. It was, we hear, none other than mining magnate Seymour Schulich.

Schulich, who made his dough running gold miner Franco-Nevada, heads Newmont Capital, the merchant banking arm of gold giant Newmont Mining. He also funded the Schulich School of Business at York University, in addition to a number of other educational and philanthropic ventures. Subway systems around the world became an intense focus of study for Schulich. Apparently, he crunched a whole lot of numbers and came to the view that the extension would be largely self-financing. Hence, the fervour in supporting the project. The $670-million buys a five-stop line, with likely half of it built underground and half above ground. The jewel for the Toronto Transit Commission will be the air rights it could sell to developers along the route.

Ambition strongest among teen immigrants

Immigrant teenagers are much more ambitious than their Canadian-born peers when it comes to higher education, reported the Toronto Star April 6, in a story about a study done at the University of Alberta. Crunching numbers from a Statistics Canada survey of teens, the researchers found close to 80 per cent of visible minority teenagers born outside Canada hope to earn at least one university degree. Among teens born in Canada who are not members of a visible minority, it’s just under 60 per cent.”That’s why we came here, to educate ourselves and make a better life for ourselves,” said fourth-year York student Soheila Satar, 23, who immigrated to Canada from Kandahar, Afghanistan, with her family when she was 7. Satar and four of her seven siblings are all pursuing post-secondary educations. Satar has nearly finished a degree in kinesiology & health science at York University and hopes to open her own physiotherapy clinic one day. Their father, who was a doctor in Afghanistan, drives a cab. Their mother, a teacher in Afghanistan, works in retail. “That was the reason it was mandatory,” says Satar. “They said, ‘Look at us, do you want to be us? Go get an education.'”

Paul Anisef, a professor in York’s Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts, conducted a 25-year longitudinal study of aspirations among Grade 12 students in 1973. He found similar aspirations among immigrant youth then. “Immigrants have always felt that the fulfilment of their dreams really rests with their children so they put a lot of emphasis and a lot of stress on the social mobility of their children and they recognize that…a post-secondary education is the key to unlocking the door to good careers and high earnings,” Anisef said.

Glendon prof has no sympathy for ‘senator’

In response to a letter in the National Post April 6 titled “Senator ‘Victim’ of 9/11 Zeal”, Terry Heinrichs, professor of political science at Glendon wrote, Cynthia McKinney is not, as this headline reads, a US senator; she’s a congresswoman representing the 4th District in Georgia. The thought that she might ever gain senatorial status is frightening to all but the looney left. This is the same woman who implied that President George Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11 but didn’t release it because he had friends he knew would benefit from it. For [letter-writer Stephen] Edwards to say “it’s hard not to sympathize with her,” and to imply that she was the victim of an overzealous security guard (who received a few punches for repeatedly asking for her to stop and identify herself before entering the Capitol Building), is a bit difficult to fathom. That she is now charging racism should be no surprise to anyone who has followed her career; that’s what she does.

York graduate joins select group of former patients working at Sick Kids

For York alumna Ashley di Battista (BA ‘05), 23, who spent 15 years being treated as a Type 1 diabetic at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, the transition from patient to staffer has not been without funny moments, reported the Toronto Star April 6. Soon after starting work as a clinical researcher in the hospital’s critical care unit, she had to call on Dr. Denis Daneman, the pediatric endocrinologist who had treated her from when she was 3. “Even though I was wearing my staff name tag, without thinking I automatically lined up with the rest of the patients in his waiting room for my turn to see him,” recalls di Battista. “When I saw Dr. Daneman, all he could say was, ‘You’ve grown up and you work here. Now I feel old.'” When she was 5, she knew she wanted to work at Sick Kids. A year ago, she joined the research staff. Today, she examines data on children who have suffered brain injuries to examine what has been done to treat them and what works best. “When I walked through the door on my first day at work, I was in awe. There was a little bit of a strange sensation that I wasn’t a patient anymore.”

On air

  • Allan Greenbaum, a lecturer in York’s Division of Social Science, Faculty of Arts, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s “The Current” April 5 for a segment on people who obsess about their lawns. Greenbaum’s PhD dissertation at York was titled, “The Lawn as a Site for Environmental Conflict.”