Alumnus plans to cycle across Canada for children with cancer

How many kids can one man carry across Canada? That’s what cyclist and Osgoode graduate David Visschedyk (LLB ‘04), 27, asks himself every morning as he gears up for his cross-country odyssey to raise funds and awareness in the fight against childhood cancer, reported the Toronto Sun June 11. At the age of 8, he lost his leg after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same cancer Terry Fox had. He doesn’t remember much of the experience, other than being more upset about losing his hair than his leg, a common reaction in children with cancer. “An 8-year-old can’t comprehend losing a leg,” he said. For years, from the age of 9, Visschedyk shared his story with school children “to bring cancer to life for them,” through the Terry Fox Foundation.

Every day, Visschedyk cycles between 140 and 170 km. It’s the typical daily training regime he has set himself for his epic journey which begins on Canada Day in Vancouver. He’ll dip the wheel of his bike into the Pacific and start pedalling eastward, though he’s worried about the mountains. “I’m concerned about the mountains because I can’t train for them here,” he said. “I can train for distance but not mountains. It’s fear of the unknown. I can’t even picture the mountains…but as Lance Armstrong says, ‘If it were easy, everyone would do it’.”

Uphill battles are nothing new for him. In 1988, after his surgery and 10 months of chemotherapy, Visschedyk went off to Camp Oochigeas, a camp for kids with cancer, where he re-learned how to ride a bike with his prosthetic leg. Calgary lawyer Brian Grasmuck, one of his counsellors and longtime mentor, said: “David is a quiet, shy young man, and not aggressive in the least, but I expect he’ll be aggressive when he hits the road.” He became an avid cyclist and insisted on playing baseball and basketball all through school along with “anything else kids play, like street hockey and football.” He went on to excel at the University of Western Ontario and York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, where he studied law. He calls himself well-adjusted, and gives credit for that to his mother.

MacDermid says polls show city election is Miller’s to lose

Jane who? Anyone pulling for mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield, 51, is hoping that people eligible to vote in November’s municipal election will be able to easily answer that question, wrote the Toronto Sun June 11. But the underdog has a long way to go before she has Miller, 47, looking over his shoulder. A recent poll of voters by Environics Research Group put Miller ahead of Pitfield by a wide margin. Miller captured the support of 54 per cent of voters, while Pitfield received the nod from 20 per cent of those questioned.

“It’s obviously Miller’s to lose at this point,” Robert MacDermid, a professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Arts and an expert on election polls, told the Sun. “Certainly, the polls have been suggesting that – the few polls there have been – and the low profile of the only candidate that opposes him – Jane Pitfield,” he adds. “I mean she’s not well known. She’s not a well known figure in the city.”

Ajax mayor raised campaign finance issue before York prof’s study

Dozens of municipal politicians from Greater Toronto and beyond who convened in a “smog summit” at Toronto city hall on June 7 would have cleared more smog had they tackled the not-unrelated issue of election finance reform – especially in light of the eye-opening study, released last week, showing that so many of our suburban politicians are tools of the development industry they pretend to reform, wrote columnist John Barber in The Globe and Mail June 12. At least one of them, Mayor Steve Parish of booming little Ajax, was smart enough to see the connection. In fact, Parish began ringing this bell long before Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, revealed the alarming extent to which successful 905-area politicians depend on the development industry to finance their elections.

  • MacDermid’s study was also mentioned in the Newmarket/Aurora Era-Banner June 8.

 Study of Muslim youth and extremism needs to be independent, says Rahnema

The Canadian Islamic Congress is calling on the federal government to provide funding for a study that would investigate why some young Muslim men are being drawn into fundamentalist and extreme religious views, reported The Globe and Mail June 8. The request comes three years after the Department of Canadian Heritage denied a similar application by the Islamic organization, which hoped to commission university experts to research the issue. “This type of study is very important and would be significant,” said Saeed Rahnema, a political science professor in Yorks’ Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. “But it would have to be done independent of any Islamic organization.” Rahnema believes that some young Muslim men are more vulnerable to fundamentalist views because they are impressionable and impatient, and that some harbour feelings of isolation in a predominantly Christian country.

Sex attacker re-arrested on pot charges

A man who was convicted of sexually assaulting York University students and released from jail as a high-risk offender was re-arrested Thursday for allegedly possessing pot, reported the Toronto Sun June 12. Philip Foremsky, 23, is back behind bars after officers from the behavioural assessment section of the sex crimes unit arrested him, allegedly while he was rolling a marijuana cigarette. He was released April 4 after serving five years for sex offences. The story was also carried on Global TV June 10.

A Purr-fect day for dad at Glendon

Dad may not own a Jag, but we know he loves ’em, wrote the Toronto Sun June 11, in a story about the Ontario Jaguar Owners Association’s Concours d’Elegance, the highest-level Jaguar show and competition, scheduled for Father’s Day, June 18. Held on the fittingly elegant grounds of York University’s Glendon campus, the event is Canada’s largest Jaguar show and features a wide range of vehicles including the influential (and gorgeous) E-Type and timeless classics such as the Mark V, as well as modern sport and sedan models.

Doomstown’s writer-director studied in York’s film & video program

Former York film student Sudz Sutherland wants you to remember Doomstown is a movie, wrote The Calgary Sun June 11. During the past few months there has been a lot of buzz about the Canadian made-for-TV flick, which aired on CTV June 11. But while the bulk of the buzz has centred upon Doomstown‘s timely subject matter – gun violence in Toronto – Sutherland says potential viewers should not be intimidated by the seriousness of the theme. “A lot of the promotion from CTV has been, ‘Issue, issue, issue,’ ” says Sutherland, who wrote and directed Doomstown. “But overall, this is an entertaining film. We’ve got some great performances and some great music, apart from the issues. It’s a movie that has a fullness to it I like. After you see it, you feel as if you’ve gone somewhere.”

In a wider sense, one of the main points of Doomstown is you don’t have to “go somewhere” to find people who are trapped on this dangerous treadmill of drugs, gangs and an unslakable thirst for respect. Toronto has been plagued by gun violence during the past couple of years. Canadians slowly are waking up to the reality that startlingly casual, everyday shootings are not exclusive to LA, Detroit, New York, St. Louis or any other large American city. “Yeah, that’s the whole thing, exactly that,” says Sutherland, who was born and raised in Scarborough, attended York University and has built a solid reputation for his creative work in feature films, short movies and music videos. “Hopefully by giving it a Canadian context, with different accents and Canadian money…we’ll get people to say, ‘Hey, it is happening here.’

York coaches welcome new Ontario sports scholarship program

Starting in the 2007-2008 season, Ontario University Athletics member schools will offer athletic financial awards to prospective student-athletes, as do universities in western Canada and the Atlantic provinces, reported the Markham Economist & Sun June 10. Under the proposed program, a school can offer a first-year student-athlete up to $3,500. The student-athlete must be a Canadian Interuniversity Sport-eligible student athlete and possess a minimum Grade 12 academic average of 80 per cent or equivalent. The eligible student-athlete can be a direct entry from high school or a transfer student, providing he or she hasn’t completed one full year of study.

“The financial awards are a great item for the OUA conference,” said Bill Pangos, head coach of the York Lions women’s basketball team. “I’m looking forward to this. I think it will help us.”  While the money will be welcomed, the Holland Landing resident was quick to note York has not announced where the money will come from. “It’s definitely not coming from government sources,” Pangos said. “But it will come from university sources. The bottom line is that this will be helpful. I have players who have an 80-per-ent grade average. Now I can recruit youngsters who are in Grade 10 or 11 and tell them if they can get an A average after Grade 12 they can get up to $3,500,” Pangos said.

While the women’s basketball program at York stands to benefit, other sports might not to the same degree. York men’s hockey coach Graham Wise thinks the incentive won’t alter his program dramatically. Based on his 19 years on the job in recruiting players, the Stouffville resident noted a good number of players who join his program come after labouring a couple of seasons in tier two junior A. And only a small percentage would be eligible under the rigid academic guidelines placed on successful candidates. “Of the 250 kids I recruit, maybe two or three might have over an 80-per-cent average,” he said. “But this program is beneficial to other sports, particularly to those where the students go directly into a university program from high school.”

As CanLit rose, criticism fell: Memoir

York alumnus and former English professor Robert Lecker‘s title to the contrary, Dr. Delicious is a portrait of publishing dyspepsia, wrote reviewer Fraser Sutherland in the National Post June 10. Lecker’s indigestive partner was former York graduate student Jack David, with whom he founded Canadian independent publisher ECW Press in 1975. Both were risk-taking workaholics. As in many marriages, their relationship was marked by compounded joys and sulks. At one point, Lecker (PhD ‘80, MA ‘76, BA ‘74) says of David, “he was fiercely proud, and once he had set his mind on a plan it was hard to slow him down. He believed that a person should be given the freedom to make his own mistakes and to learn from them, which is great if there aren’t huge financial consequences, but lousy if it means you’re going to lose your house.” After repeated fiscal mishaps and personality clashes, David bought Lecker out in 2003.

York benefits from million-dollar bashes and donations

Throwing a party with all the right people is a proven way to raise cash, wrote the National Post June 10. A list of the top fundraisers – and fun events – recently attended by Amoryn Engel, National Post‘s City Life society columnist included May’s Brazilian Ball, to benefit York University’s Accolade Project raised $2-million-plus. A related story on donations by Canadian philanthropists in the Post included a photo and caption of York benefactor Seymour Schulich.

Groups’ walk will remember shooting victims like Chantel Dunn

Marilyn Ortega, the mother of 1997 shooting victim Ruddin Greaves, will participate in a walk in the Jane Street and Finch Avenue area to show that violence affects everyone, reported the Toronto Sun June 10. The walk is organized by Break Away Relief Care, a grassroots organization that provides mentoring and conflict resolution workshops. There also will be a ceremony remembering teen gun victims Jason Huxtable, who was gunned down last August, and York University student Chantel Dunn, who was killed in February.

Match pair both studied Fine Arts at York

York graduates Shelley Scarrow (BFA ‘94) and James Hurst (BFA ‘92), who were featured in “match” section of The Globe and Mail’s “Hatch-Match-Dispatch” feature June 10, learned how to take criticism from each other long before they became romantically involved. As co-writers on the TV series “Degrassi: The Next Generation”, they sparred regularly over plot lines and character development. “Being in the same room with a person when they are throwing out creative ideas and you are shooting them down is a recipe for disaster,” Hurst says. Fortunately, Scarrow adds, “we conversed like co-workers, and it made romance a piece of cake because we had figured out communicating early on.”

With TV movies and documentaries to his credit, he has won two Writers Guild of Canada awards and at 36 is an executive producer and head writer on the sixth season of “Degrassi”. Scarrow, whose “Degrassi” writing is characterized by raw and jarring subject matter, was a co-Gemini nominee with Hurst. The duo, both BFA graduates of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, are social and environmental activists. They drive a Prius, support Amnesty International, the World Wildlife Federation and (in his case) the Green Party.

On air

  • Patricia Wood, Chair of York’s Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts and a member of the City Institute at York University, spoke about immigration and a public conception about decline in the quality of life in the city on CBC Radio Toronto’s “Metro Morning” on June 9.
  • Paul James, York Lions master soccer coach and former World Cup competitor for Canada in 1986, spoke about Canada’s prospects of qualifying for future World Cup tournaments on CBC Radio Toronto’s “Metro Morning” and on CFRB Radio (Toronto), June 9. James also shared his thoughts on the top six countries at the tournament and other soccer news with CBC Newsworld on June 9.
  • World Cup fever was also on the agenda for Pablo Idahosa, coordinator of York’s African Studies Program and a social science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, who was part of a panel on TVO’s “Studio 2” program June 9.