Osgoode professor to study indigenous peoples’ self-government

A Regina-born law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School plans to use a prestigious fellowship grant to research issues related to aboriginal self-government, reported The Leader-Post (Regina) April 13. Kent McNeil, 60, is one of 10 academics from across Canada to receive a Killam Research Fellowship this year. McNeill, a Sheldon-Williams Collegiate graduate, is to spend two years researching indigenous sovereignty and European colonization of western North America. “I teach law, but my primary interest is in the rights of indigenous peoples. This is directly related to that interest,” McNeill said. He plans to visit archives in Calgary, Ottawa and Winnipeg, as well as those in Chicago, Portland and St. Louis as part of his research efforts. He said he will be examining both past and current issues. “It’s just not historical,” McNeill added, “it also relates to modern claims of self-government. McNeill said he wants to turn his research into a book.

The award is worth $140,000 and will help to pay part of McNeil’s salary over two years. “It will give me the opportunity to concentrate on my research for two years, which is a very good thing for an academic to be able to do.” Since 1997, McNeil has been a law professor at Osgoode, located at York University. McNeil said he plans to return to teaching after the two years of researching. “I enjoy teaching, but it’s hard to really do a good job of teaching and get research done at the same time,” he said. The Canada Council for the Arts administers the fellowship.

York ties evident in jazz timekeeper Elmes’ quartet

April is Jazz Appreciation Month south of the border, an initiative of the Smithsonian Institution, but Canadians don’t need highbrow encouragement to appreciate the talent and commitment of drummer Barry Elmes, a professor in York’s Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, reported the Toronto Star April 13. He’s much more than simply a celebrated drummer who emerged in the 1980s to become a key element in the nation’s jazz scene. He co-founded the exciting unit Time Warp (once a trio, now a quartet), leads his own quintet, plays a key role in quartets led by bassist Pat Collins and clarinetist Phil Nimmons, co-leads D.E.W. East with Alex Dean and Steve Wallace, and performs as a prominent sideman in numerous combos. His involvement, in a broad swath of other activities, helps define Elmes. He’s president of the well-regarded independent label Cornerstone Records, teaches at summer jazz camps and is a producer of albums.

The Star said Elmes has just finished a quintet date led by pianist and York alumnus Mark Eisenman (BFA ‘80),  now a York instructor. Before that came Collins’ terrific In the Moment CD and a quintet video of the group’s most requested song, “The New Shim Sham Shimmy” (at least, it had that status until the 2001 release of its last recording, “The 5-Minute Warning”). Elmes’s current album project for the quintet (with York instructors Mike Murley and Kevin Turcotte, as well as Reg Schwager and Steve Wallace) is half complete and should be finished by summer’s end. As if that’s not enough, Elmes is now associate chair of York University’s Department of Music, after putting in years as a part-time teacher, and works from a brand-new building complete with recording studio. One of his main missions is to help students function in today’s jazz marketplace.

There’s a connection between that aim and the quartet he’s leading at The Pilot matinee on April 15. With him are busy saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and two virtual unknownsYork grad Michael Davidson (BFA ‘05) on vibraphone and York student James McEleny on bass. Meanwhile, Time Warp is jazz quartet in residence at York, and is busy doing concerts on campus and at other schools and colleges. “It’s funny how all these different things overlap. I’ve always been concerned that young players, especially rhythm section members, find it difficult to get work,” Elmes said. “There’s nowhere to play. I saw this as a big challenge, so last year I designed a rhythm section course that’s very intensive, no more than eight students at any one time, which gave me a chance to explain priorities, do some mentoring. I’ve brought in players like Murley, Eisenman and singer Bonnie Brett to work with them.”

He’s also created a course for fourth-year students on jazz entrepreneurship, said the Star. “I encourage youngsters to be sure to be seen, no matter in what weird and wonderful place. And self-employed musicians have to learn about things like press kits.” Elmes objects to suggestions that, when he broke into the bigs, there was work every day. “I had a hard time. People like [drummers] Claude Ranger, Terry Clarke, Bob McLaren and Jerry Fuller were active, and in order for me to get work, none of them had to be available.” Elmes, at 53, is comfortable with what’s he achieved. But he’s not complacent – “I play when the phone rings,” he says, but “what I do what I like doing…. Teaching hasn’t interfered with my playing but my work scene has. It’s resulted in me organizing sessions at my home to try out things – it’s what I did when I was starting out!”

City’s subway extension debate delayed

Toronto city councillors just can’t seem to get their act together to debate whether to earmark $433,000 for initial studies to extend the subway to York University, reported the Toronto Star April 13. The budget advisory committee tried to meet last week to authorize $433,000 on initial studies but only three out of seven members showed up. The meeting had to be cancelled for lack of quorum. Chair David Soknacki and vice-chairs Joe Mihevc and Sylvia Watson were there.

Missing were Deputy Mayor Sandra Bussin, whose father is ill, Councillors Peter Milczyn, who was late, Kyle Rae, who was in England for his mother’s 80th birthday, and Shelley Carroll, who slept through her alarm. Soknacki then scheduled a makeup meeting for Tuesday, but there weren’t any clerks to staff it. So, the issue will now be delayed, and go to the regular May meeting. Mihevc said the committee’s failure to meet doesn’t mean support for the subway project is faltering. “I think city council is enthused about it, I think the budget committee is enthused about it,” he said. “I would not take this as a sign of disinterest.”

Victims’ rights or chequebook justice?

The $2 million payout to Louise Russo by the people who nearly killed her, described by some as chequebook justice, sparked criticism from politicians and cautious approval by one legal expert, reported the Toronto Star April 13. Professor Alan Young, who teaches at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, gave a cautious stamp of approval to the deal, calling the payout unusual, but said the money paid to Russo appears not to have resulted in lighter sentences. “I would say these sentences are in the low end of the range and it appears perhaps that the donation has had a small impact but small enough that it’s not a cause for concern that we’ve run into a case of buying justice,” Young said. Still, Young said criminal courts should proceed very carefully with arrangements because it is morally indefensible to alter a sentence based on the financial status of an offender.

Television feature on York acting coach also features two alumni

CTV News April 12 broadcast a feature item on David Rotenberg, professor in York’s Department of Theatre, Faculty of Arts, in which York theatre alumna Rachel McAdams (BFA ‘01) was also mentioned. The presenter of the story was another York alumna, CTV weekend news anchor Sandie Rinaldo (BA Hons ‘73). Here’s a partial transcript of the story, beginning with an introduction by news anchor Lloyd Robertson:

Robertson: And finally for us tonight, they say that behind every good actor is a good acting coach. And one of the best of those coaches lives and teaches in Toronto. David Rotenberg spent 20 years in the US honing his craft alongside such big name actors as Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver. Now, as we see in tonight’s success story, Rotenberg is helping to shape some of Canada’s brightest stars. CTV’s Sandie Rinaldo steps into the footlights.
Rinaldo: If you’ve ever wondered where accomplished actors go when they need help with their television and film roles, look no more. An acting class taught by David Rotenberg. No ordinary teacher, but a master acting coach and mentor to professional performers, some auditioning for roles, others working on them.
Rotenberg: The new realities of shooting leave the director with little time to actually work with an actor. So the actors go to coaches.
Rinaldo: Rotenberg’s technique, he uses a camera. His critique, right to the point.
Rotenberg: This kind of acting is about selecting and not about pretending, and the obligation of a modern actor is to be compelling.
Rinaldo: His notoriety well known. Some of Canada’s bright young stars fly in to be coached by him. Actors like Scott Speedman. Hollywood’s new it girl, Rachel McAdams. A graduate of York University in Toronto where Rotenberg also teaches. The Toronto-born Rotenberg has also directed for the stage. But it’s teaching he loves.
Rotenberg: They humble me with their talent periodically, you know, and I think that it’s easier to see the talent when you’re not in competition with the talent.
Rinaldo: An actor’s best kept secret, a secret no more.

Beautiful mind from an ivory tower

Talk about beautiful minds. Canada’s Ivory Tower is generating some universal learning – Miss Universe, to be exact, reported the Toronto Star April 13. As Natalie Glebova wraps up her stint as Miss Universe 2005, another Toronto university student is poised to be Canada’s choice for Miss Universe 2006: York University student Alice Panikian, a model and second-year English major. Born in Bulgaria, the 20-year-old moved to North York when she was 5. She was chosen from 48 contestants to represent Canada in the international contest in July.

Paperwork’s a killer, says Schulich professor

“Many new businesses fail because entrepreneurs spend too much time on administrative tasks and not enough time on growth strategies,” said Professor Ajay Sirsi of the Schulich School of Business, in a story published in the online edition of The Globe and Mail April 13. Sirsi, who consults regularly with small- and medium-sized businesses, added “instead of asking themselves if they can afford to outsource administrative tasks, entrepreneurs should be asking themselves if they can afford not to.”


Last week, wrote The Globe and Mail April 13, we referred to York University as a “benefactor” of the proposed subway extension in Toronto. Of course, we meant “beneficiary”. The benefactor is the Ontario taxpayer.

On air

  • James Sheptycki, criminology professor in the Division of Social Science in York’s Faculty of Arts and a board member of the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime & Corruption at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the recent biker gang murders on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” program April 11.
  • Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke on City-TV April 12 about the plea bargain settlement of a court case involving shooting victim Louis Russo.
  • Debra Pepler, professor in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, and the Lamarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution spoke on CFTO-TV about swarming by teenage girls.
  • Sergei Plekhanov, professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the recent elections in Italy on TVO’s “Studio 2” April 12.