Gucci-filled Brazilian Ball benefits York’s Accolade Project

Chances are, as you’re reading this, I’m standing before my specially designated “formal” closet, trying to decide between the knockout Wayne Clarke, the vintage Ceil Chapman and the elegant Lida Baday for Friday’s much-anticipated Brazilian Ball, the spectacular annual gala that benefits a different charitable foundation each year, wrote fashion columnist, and ball host Jeanne Beker, in The Globe and Mail May 13. This time out, it’s York’s Faculty of Fine Arts “Accolade Project.” And with tickets going for $1,200 a pop, a lot of coin will undoubtedly be raised.

“Come sit with me,” says Luciana Gimenez, the Brazilian bombshell who is most famous, of course, for providing Mick Jagger with his 7th child, Lucas, reported the National Post May 15. It’s Saturday, at that charity haute-meet known as the Brazilian Ball. The Ball, by the way, was another dazzling, feather-full, society-packed action-adventure. The 40th-anniversary charity event was co-chaired by husband and wife Heather and Max Gotlieb, and was in support this year of the “Accolade Project” at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. All conjured up in a crisp black-and-white palette – very March of the Penguins – it also seemed to feature a hell of a lot of Gucci. (Every fourth woman, I noted, was Gucci-ed up, Gucci-ed down.) It was, as usual, a chorus line of thousands, but some of those definitely seen making the scene: Rick Mercer (there with his New Best Friend, Belinda Stronach – playing the role of Betty to her Wilma), Lynda Reeves (looking very well-upholstered), Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (who no doubt puts the samba into GST), and that peacock-blue-perfect, headgear-ready founder Anna Maria De Souza (the forward-thinking lady who started it all!)

In its story on the ball, the Toronto Star noted that more than 1,700 people forked over $1,200 or more a ticket, selling out the event that will raise about $2 million for the Accolade Project. Gimenez, it said, planned to cover the glittery fundraiser for her own television show, a live two hours on RedeTV that she describes as, “Larry King meets Jerry Springer and Oprah.”

Parental democracy for three-year-olds is self-defeating, says O’Reilly

Not only are we unable to say “No!” to our three-year-olds (who don’t suffer the same difficulty), we are asking them where we should go on vacation and which restaurant we should go to for dinner, reported The Globe and Mail May 13. If there is anything we could have learned from our own mothers, surely it is that being a mother means never having to say you’re sorry. In the opinion of Andrea O’Reilly, a professor of women’s studies at York University and the founder of the York-based Association for Research on Mothering, this refusal to grab hold of the parenting reins is simply self-defeating. “The real feminist position is that the revolution starts in the kitchen,” O’Reilly says. “Motherhood is the most powerful job in the world.” In her view, a mother who is conflicted about being the boss isn’t only likely to fail her children, she is also “feeding into a larger mindset of hip mothering that has hijacked the role.” The Globe called it a little life lesson, just in time for Mother’s Day, that might also benefit more of us mothers who are too afraid, or too unsure of ourselves, to call on the ancient power of their mom mystique.

York board member Ng one of ’12 Who Make a Difference’ 

Dr. Ken Ng, a member of York’s Board of Governors, is a known statesman, a voice of moderation, a family doctor so soft-spoken you must strain to hear him, reported the Toronto Sun May 15, in one of a series of profiles titled “12 Who Make a Difference”. So when he led several hundred Chinese residents to Markham’s council chamber on Aug. 21, 1995, to denounce anti-Chinese comments made by the town’s then-deputy mayor, his words thundered. Speaking as chairman of the ad-hoc Coalition of Concerned Canadians, Ng told councillors remarks made by Carole Bell had “pierced the hearts of those who thought they had found a welcoming home in Markham.” It’s easy to understand how hurtful Bell’s remarks would have been to Ng, one of the first Chinese-Canadians to move to Markham when he set up his practice in 1981.

As an adult, Ng, 52, has devoted himself to community service. He’s the founding chairman of the Federation of Chinese Canadians in Markham, chairman of Markham’s Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and was instrumental in building the Markham Chinese Cultural Centre on the second floor of the Market Village shopping centre. Ng served as chairman of the organizing committee for Taste of Asia 2005, which drew 50,000 people to a two-day street party on Kennedy Road last June. The festival will be held again this year on June 24-25. He’s also honorary director of the United Way of York Region, on the Board of Governors at York University, has served as president of the Scarborough Branch of the Ontario Medical Association since 1987, and was the first Chinese-Canadian from Ontario appointed to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal from 1990 to ’93.

Bayefsky shocked by Arbour comments on Israel

There are plenty of misinformed people in the world who bash Israel for daring to boldly strike back at terrorists, but I never imagined Louise Arbour would jump on the bandwagon, wrote Mindelle Jacobs in an opinion piece for the Edmonton Sun May 15. The UN’s top human rights official and former Supreme Court of Canada justice suggested last week that Israel – the victim of an ongoing terrorism campaign – is as bad as the Palestinians in planning and launching such attacks. Is there something in the air at the United Nations that makes the place such a terrible breeding ground for moral relativism? York University political science Professor Anne Bayefsky is astonished by Arbour’s remarks. “This tells us exactly what the problem with the United Nations is. They can’t tell the difference between a terrorist and a victim of terrorism,” she says. Arbour’s comments display “a shocking ignorance of international law and a morally bankrupt assessment of human rights in the age of terrorism,” adds Bayefsky, who is editor of Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, wrote Jacobs. It is, after all, the UN.

Chen’s possible deportation raises issue for Canada, says Okafor

The now-notorious Min Chen, the quiet killer of 9-year-old Cecilia Zhang, will not only serve a stiff sentence here but almost certainly face the same fate again when he is paroled and deported back to his native China, we were told last week, reported the Toronto Star May 14. Human-rights experts say it would be easier for Canada to send Chen back to the possibility of double jeopardy, as opposed to, say, torture, which is much more serious than being jailed again, says Obiora Okafor, who teaches international human-rights law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. But even when it comes to a test for double jeopardy, there are problems. There’s no doubt, Okafor says, that the Human Rights Committee – the United Nations body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – would find China’s conduct contrary to international human-rights law. “However,” he adds, “the issue here is not simply China’s conduct. It implicates Canada in sending someone there.” After the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment, if it is determined Chen faces a risk in China, he may be granted a stay of deportation. However, given his murder conviction, it is likely he will also be considered “inadmissible” in Canada and thus ineligible to apply for residency.

York professor studies need for Chinese services in Canada

The average annual income of today’s Chinese immigrant is half that of the general Canadian population, despite the fact more newcomers from China have bachelor and masters degrees than ever before, reported the Toronto Sun May 13. The 2005 study by geography professors Shuguang Wang of Ryerson University and Lucia Lo of York University compared landing records from 1980 to 2000 and tax data from 1999, which showed average total income of Chinese immigrants at the time to be only $15,000.

While the wage gap narrows as time passes, Wang and Lo found it would take a Chinese immigrant in Canada more than 20 years to reach parity with native-born workers. The result is that a huge amount of human capital is squandered. Many immigrants give up in frustration and return to China and its booming economy. A 2002 Internet survey of recent Chinese immigrants by the Toronto-based North Chinese Community of Canada found that only 20 per cent of the 1,345 participants said they would remain in Canada after getting Canadian citizenship.

“It represents a brain drain,” said Lo. “Some would argue it’s brain abuse. It’s an underutilization of human resources.” Key roadblocks, the study found, were labour market discrimination by employers who favour Canadian education and experience, and a lack of English proficiency.

Cirque du Soleil was part of a trend in circus art, says Little

The story of how a rag-tag group of Quebec buskers created the successful Cirque du Soleil is both well known and subject to various revisionist fallacies, reported CanWest News May 14 – the most prevalent being that Cirque’s trademark marriage of theatre and circus sprang fully formed from the minds of founders Guy Laliberte, Gilles St. Croix and Daniel Gauthier. “Oh, no,” said Kenneth Little, professor of anthropology in York’s Faculty of Arts, who specializes in circus history. “There were lots and lots of examples of theatre-circus hybrids cropping up in the ’70s and ’80s. In England and France there was a whole genre called New Circus, that was blurring the lines between theatre and traditional circus.”

A second misconception about Cirque was that the troupe employed top-notch circus performers. Again, says Little, nothing could be further from the truth. “Cirque made its reputation as a bunch of theatre people who acted like circus people,” said Little. “They had some jugglers and whatnot, but you could get those anywhere. Compared to traditional artists from circus families whose pedigrees went back in many cases to the 17th century, Cirque was bush league in the extreme.” Where Cirque did break ground, however, was in choreography, costuming, music and, most important, in building a thematic and narrative framework around its circus acts. “They needed something, because they weren’t going to wow them with the quality of the trapeze artists,” says Little. “But they could wow them by telling a story, and also by having performers enter the stands and physically interact with customers. That idea of breaking down the wall between performer and audience came right out of theatre, but was never, ever part of the traditional circus.”

Bowman applauds pop music studies in high school

“There are historical aspects (to pop music) like Vietnam, hippie communes, the segregation of blacks,” said the teacher of a highschool class in rock and roll, featured in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal May 13. “There is so much you can teach through music.” Rob Bowman agrees, said the paper. Bowman was the first man to teach popular music studies in Canada, starting in 1979 at Toronto’s York University. Popular music, including rock, is “more relevant to students’ lives” than classical, jazz, or other music forms, he said. “The idea of education is to transform people’s relationship with the world they inhabit. Students interact with popular music. Most don’t interact with other forms of music in a deep way,” Bowman said over the phone from his Toronto home.

That isn’t to say that pop and rock should take precedence over other forms of music. But popular genres should have their place too, he said. The director of York University’s Graduate Program in Ethnomusicology & Musicology said that teaching popular music studies in high schools “should have been done years ago. But it has to be done well.”

Living longer demands different saving strategy, says Milevsky

With the advance guard of the baby boomers hitting 60 this year, the delicate issue of life expectancy arises, reported the National Post May 13. Each succeeding generation seems to enjoy more longevity. Statistics Canada says the life expectancy of Canadians hit a record 79.9 years in 2003, up from 79.7 in 2002. Men can expect to reach 77.4, and women 82.4. Furthermore, North American mortality rates are improving by 1 per cent per cohort year, says Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. So, a 65-year-old in 2006 is 1 per cent “healthier” than a 65-year-old in 2005. For a couple that is 65 today, there’s a 50 per cent chance at least one of them will live to 90 and a 22 per cent chance one will reach 95, Milevsky says.

Couple the extra longevity boomers expect with the decline in employer-provided defined benefit pension plan availability and it’s clear “new thinking is required,” Milevsky says. He warns that boomers relying on their RRSPs and RRIFs must think about getting their longevity insurance in another way. Contrary to the popular notion that retirees should own mostly bonds, Milevsky thinks boomers expecting to live five or 10 years longer than their parents should have plenty of equities in retirement. Anyone who has read Jeremy Siegel’s Stocks for the Long Run knows the longer the time horizon, the higher the returns of stocks and the lower the risk.

Then there’s the chance science may one day discover some miracle drug or procedure that adds still more years to our life expectancy. These may be costly, however, so Milevsky suggests tilting investments toward the health-care sector as a hedge against future medical liabilities.

Linden award winner is an Osgoode alumnus

Osgoode alumnus Paul Copeland (LLB ‘65) arrives at his Prince Arthur St. law office on a black BMW motorcycle. The black bike, black clothing and black helmet all suggest the trappings of an outlaw, or at least an outsider. That’s something Copeland admits he has felt like for a long time, reported the Toronto Sun May 13 in a profile of the 2006 Sydney B. Linden Award winner.

Born in 1940, he grew up in the Jewish community on College Street in Toronto. His family owned a bakery. He said he never felt a part of the orthodox Jewish crowd, but he remembers dealing with a fair amount of anti-Semitism growing up. When he went to Forest Hill Collegiate he was blackballed by the Jewish fraternity which his brother had quit the previous year. He was into football and was on the wrestling team at one point but never claimed to be a “jock.” He decided on a career as a geophysicist. “Other than being a social outcast, I went into math and physics,” he said. But the McCarthy era was in full swing and the civil rights movement in the southern US was gearing up to be a major force in the ’60s. He was attracted to politics and the civil rights movement that spilled into Canada. He might be a left-winger, but Copeland is no rhetoric-spewing campus activist.

Right-wingers can appreciate his lack of pretension. His speech is effectively punctuated with occasional four-letter words. Copeland is humbly dismissive when his accomplishments are listed. He has just won the Sidney B. Linden award for his contribution to the legal aid system in Ontario. “It was embarrassingly laudatory,” he said of the ceremony. Janet Leiper, chairman of Legal Aid Ontario, said Copeland’s down-to-earth nature is more his trademark than his motorcycle. “He can talk to the guy in the doughnut shop and he can talk to the minister of justice,” she said. “He respects everyone he talks to.” Copeland got his start helping hippies and others in Toronto’s Yorkville scene stay out of jail, or at least get bail.

The Sidney B. Linden award is given annually by Legal Aid Ontario. It recognizes commitment and outstanding contribution to helping low-income people get access to justice. The first award was given in 2005 to Dianne Martin, who was an Osgoode professor until her death in December 2004.

On air

  • Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about several issues, including the Cecilia Zhang murder case, in a panel discussion on TVOs’ “Studio Two” on May 12.