Gunmen murder Guyanese official who was a York alumnus

Gunmen shot dead Guyana’s agriculture minister and York alumnus Satyadeow Sawh (BA ’82), two siblings and a security guard in what the government said was a well-planned attack that may be linked to coming elections, reported The Globe and Mail April 24. Sawh graduated from York in 1982 with a BA in economics. Guyana is calling on Canada to help investigate the murders in what Guyanese officials say was an attempt to destabilize the country before the impending election, the Globe said. President Bharrat Jagdeo will formally request help from Canadian authorities to investigate the assassinations of the agricultural minister and his sister, Phulmattie Persaud, and brother, Rajpat Sawh, who were both visiting from Toronto to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of their mother.

A leading figure in the government at the time of his death, Sawh fled Guyana and came to Toronto when he was 19, the Globe said. He settled in Scarborough, studied at York and became a Canadian citizen. In 1992, he returned to Guyana at the calling of then-president Cheddi Jagan, who had steered the People’s Progressive Party to victory in what was considered the country’s first free and fair election since independence in 1966, the Globe said. Sawh was named ambassador to Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, and later joined the government as minister of fisheries and livestock and as agricultural minister.

“Mr. Sawh was a dynamic political leader who wanted the best for his country and mobilized for change,” said Basil Punit, president of the Canada-Guyana Chamber of Commerce.  Punit speculated that the killing of Sawh, who was of East Indian origin, was both racially and politically motivated. “There are historical tensions between blacks and East Indians in Guyana, and the PPP is considered to be a party for East Indians,” he said.

  • “Many people saw Satyadeow as a future president of the country,” said Joe Jaglall, a member of the Vedic Cultural Centre in Toronto, who worked closely with Sawh here and in Guyana, reported the Toronto Star April 24.

York graduate student lauds Jane-Finch ‘hippie guy’ minister

York doctoral candidate in sociology Shirley Ramsarran lauded outreach minister Barry Rieder, 47, who received an outstanding achievement award from the Centre for Social Justice, reported The Globe and Mail April 24, in its ongoing series on the Jane-Finch community. Ramsarran, who runs a tutoring program at the Firgrove public housing complex where Reider works, said it’s an incredibly successful, if unlikely, partnership. “He’s become the community father. I think he’s transcended racial boundaries, gender boundaries, class boundaries,” Ramsarran said. “Here’s this blond-haired, blue-eyed, hippie kind of guy. Nobody would believe it.”

York Holocaust hero speaks at largest memorial outside Israel

Getting up to use the outdoor toilet one October morning in 1941, Sara Ginaite-Rubinson – now a retired York political science professor – saw an endless column of people inching up a hill to their deaths, reported National Post April 24. She decided she would not be forced to join them. Germans had taken over Kaunas, a Lithuanian city then a part of the Soviet Union, a few months before. A day earlier, her family had escaped the selection of nearly 10,000 Jews sentenced to death when Helmut Rauca, who eventually immigrated to Canada and was arrested in the early 1980s, ordered the entire population to the centre of the city. “I completely rejected the way the Nazis had arranged my death,” Ginaite-Rubinson said. “If my fate was to die, I would die on my own terms.”

Ginaite-Rubinson shared her story Monday at a ceremony for Yom Hashoah, the annual worldwide Holocaust remembrance day, at Earl Bales Park in North York. More than 2,500 community members were expected to attend, making this the largest Holocaust memorial gathering outside Israel.

Many would view Ginaite-Rubinson’s efforts as heroic, but she is careful to declare that she was not alone. “All of my generation have passed,” she explained. “I was one of many – a lot of women were the same.” She said the underground Anti-fascist Fighting Organization, which she joined in 1942, was made up of 15 per cent women. In late 1943, their group of 300 was ordered to join the partisan resistance in the Rudninkai forest outside of Vilnius. Their combined group of over 2,000 joined the Red Army and liberated Vilnius on July 13, 1944. Ginaite-Rubinson, not allowed to fight, stood guard alone with a rifle when a Soviet war correspondent drove by and took her photo during the moment of history.

The movie doctor is in: Can Jenkinson cure Telefilm?

Michael Jenkinson (LLB ‘85), who grew up in Toronto before making it in Hollywood, flew back to his hometown yesterday to begin his new life as Telefilm Canada’s miracle doctor, reported the Toronto Star April 24. This morning at the Spoke Club, Wayne Clarkson, Telefilm’s embattled executive director, will introduce his newly minted movie czar to the media and the players – many of them bothered and bewildered – on the English side of the industry.

 “I’ve always been adventurous in my choices and I do feel this is a great opportunity,” Jenkinson explained cheerfully in an interview. Does the man not realize he is entering a world of fear and loathing, as well as expectations that some veterans would describe as impossible to meet?, asked Star writer Martin Knelman. Well, at 44, Jenkinson has enjoyed a life of taking big risks, which may explain why he is embracing a job cynical observers might describe as sure to test anyone’s sanity and temper. Born in Jamaica, he moved to Toronto along with his parents and two older sisters, living in the Annex and later Downsview. After earning his law degree at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Jenkinson landed on Wall Street earning a big salary at the Chase Manhattan Bank. But after taking a year off and travelling through Southeast Asia and Africa, he decided he wanted to work in films – and talked his way into the Canadian Film Centre, where he learned how to be a movie producer.

So why leave the world’s movie capital? “I had a terrific ride in Hollywood for 13 years, but I was looking to move back to Canada,” he said. He and his wife, who is from Milan, have two sons, ages 8 and 6. They’d prefer to raise them in Toronto. “This position strikes me as a terrific opportunity,” Jenkinson explains. “The issues are complex. It’s a chance to work with filmmakers I respect within an institution that produces a significant number of films.”

  • Clarkson also praised Jenkinson’s “wide range of creative, financial and business experience, his commitment to storytelling featuring members of under-represented communities, and his insight into the North American film and television industry,” said the CBC in an online story April 21.

‘Be strategic’ Osgoode career counsellor advises graduates

The market for law students is not what it was a few short years ago and law school career advisers across the country are doing what they can to best prepare their students for life after graduation, reported The Lawyer’s Weekly, April 28. But career advisers at the schools also emphasize that their contribution is only part of the picture, since students must take an active role in ferreting out opportunities. “There has to be a proactive rather than a passive approach” to looking for positions, said Andre B. Bacchus, director of Career Services at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who added that searching for a job involves more than simply filling out an application. “You have to be strategic in creating opportunities for yourself”, he said, which includes doing such things as volunteering.

Canadian law schools like Osgoode assist students by providing a range of services, including offering individual counselling for students, conducting mock interviews, and assisting with the preparation of resumes and cover letters. Bacchus also said his school supports students who want to look beyond big firm careers and consider social justice options. In particular, Osgoode has a link on its website directed to this area. The school also introduces its students to the idea of split or shared articles with more than one employer, as well as encouraging students to consider smaller practitioners’ offices and in_house positions which may not have previously hired articling students.

Citizenship possesses municipal component

Citizenship rights are not only granted at the federal level but can also be thought of as flowing from being the citizen of a municipality, wrote Roger Keil, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies in a letter to the Toronto Star April 23. It is this kind of citizenship that should matter if someone is chosen to sit on a city’s board. Second, most people in the world are not citizens of a country because they love it. Citizenship has only tenuous connections to patriotism. It shouldn’t matter whether you love or hate your country when it comes to sharing the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, said Keil.

Cows have played a prime role in shaping York football standout Ricky Foley

Ricky Foley was the fourth player taken in the CFL’s annual cattle call of college players and one of the few who can expound on the scourge of bovine spongiform encepalopathy, reported the Vancouver Sun April 22. BSE, the infectious, brain-wasting agent responsible for the chaos on Canadian farms and ranches, unintentionally has shaped Foley’s football career and personal development. “Sure I know what BSE is. Mad cow disease,” says Foley, a defensive end/linebacker from York University who was the BC Lions’ second of three first-round picks in Thursday’s draft. “My dad and I battled it pretty hard. It completely changed my attitude about life. Things can be going great for you and then it can all turn around. That’s why I don’t let success go to my head, because the hard times are coming, eventually. You can’t take anything for granted.”

“He blew everybody off the charts [with his test scores],” says Tom Gretes, York’s head football coach. “We [coaches] stood around scratching our heads, ‘Where did this guy come from?’ As good as he is now, he’s going to get that much better, because he has so much upside left. With the sideline-to-sideline speed needed to play in the CFL, he’s the perfect fit.” Though he has only 23 games of competitive football experience, Foley similarly turned heads with his test scores at the CFL combine last month. It’s not surprising. He once entertained the thought of competing for Canada in the decathlon, the ultimate athletic test for the all-rounder. “Definitely, I looked up to Michael Smith [the three-time Canadian Olympic decathlete],” Foley says. “I wanted to be like him. We have the same type of build and strength.”

  • Foley wasn’t projected to be a first-round pick, but his athleticism and coachability helped him enter the radar of many CFL clubs, reported CBC News Online April 22.

York graduate becomes curator of Elgin County Museum

York alumna Ninette Gyorody (MFA ’03, BFA ’98) is the new curator for the Elgin County Museum, reported the St. Thomas Times-Journal April 21. Her appointment was announced Thursday by Cathy Bishop, director of Library Services for Elgin county. Gyorody was previously curator and operations manager of Georgina Pioneer Village in York Region. She possesses a master of arts degree in art history and a bachelor of fine arts degree from York University.

Li Preti to lead subway subcommittee

It’s early days, but nonetheless, the Toronto Transit Commission has struck a subcommittee to make sure that the subway extension through York University stays on track, reported the North York Mirror April 20. “It’s a place for staff to touch base between commission meetings,” said TTC Chair Howard Moscoe at Wednesday’s meeting. “I know we’re a long way from implementation but it’s good to have a mechanism in place.” Commissioners voted to create the committee – which will be chaired by longtime subway booster Councillor Peter Li Preti (Ward 8, York West) – just weeks after the provincial government made official its intention to fund one-third of a $1.5-billion subway extension of the Spadina line through York University and into Vaughan. The subway would cut through a perennially under-serviced part of Toronto’s transit network, and allow commuters from Vaughan an alternative to using their cars for the commute into Toronto.

Li Preti said the committee is necessary to make sure that the city and the TTC don’t lose sight of the goal. “I’m very concerned that there is no real implementation on the city level,” said Li Preti. “I think that if we don’t put up a very credible plan, then we will be behind Vaughan and York Region in terms of planning. They have a much more aggressive attitude.” Li Preti said he hopes the committee will be able to help co-ordinate land-use planning and funding, and deal with inter-governmental issues. “You’re not only discussing issues with other politicians but also with developers in the private sector and get an opportunity to see how the community feels about this line. I think it is a win-win situation for all of us.”

On air

  • Shin Imai, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about his field of research, Aboriginal land claims, in connection with the standoff between Six Nations people and police in Caledonia, Ont. on CBC Radio shows in Windsor and Cornerbrook, Nfld. April 21.
  • CBC Radio in St. John’s, Nfld. mentioned the role of Shirley Katz, professor in York’s Division of Humanities, Faculty of Arts, who is conducting an inquiry into the death of a female professor at Memorial University who was harassed by a male student before she died of natural causes.
  • Heather Lotherington, professor in York’s Faculty of Education, spoke on Rogers TV April 22 about the multi-literacy movement in a feature on retooling text books for immigrants.