‘Right’ is wrong on education

Edward Fenner, president of the York University Mature Students Organization, wrote a letter to the editor published in the Toronto Star July 31 following a story about Ottawa’s plans to cut scholarship funding from June 28. This is extremely unfortunate news and an exceedingly unwise move by the Stephen Harper government, wrote Fenner. Canada needs more investment in academia not less. Conservatives always talk about how important education and research are and how business and industry demand the best from our institutions and scholars, but never want anything to do with actually footing the bill from the public purse. Why is it that the “Right” always gets it wrong when it comes to education?

Embattled OPP boss accepts Irish offer: Criticized over Caledonia standoff

OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface (BA ‘82, LLB ‘88), who has been under the spotlight for her handling of the Caledonia native standoff, is leaving her post to take up a position in Ireland, reported the National Post July 29. Announcing the news yesterday, Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Monte Kwinter praised Commissioner Boniface for her work.

“Commissioner Boniface has given exceptional service to the people of Ontario and has led the OPP’s 7,000 uniform and civilian members with distinction,” he said. “Her intelligence, dedication, and leadership have made a real, positive difference here in Ontario and I am not surprised that Ireland sought out someone with those qualities to take on this challenging new position.”

Commissioner Boniface began her policing career with the OPP in 1977 and was named Commissioner in 1998. She also holds a bachelor of arts degree from York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and a law degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Commissioner Boniface received the Order of Ontario in 2001 for her work with First Nations communities and is, by invitation, a member of the First Nations Chiefs of Police.

  • Gwen who? Apparently Gwen Boniface is leaving her position as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. The announcement is really just a formality. As far as I can see, Boniface hasn’t actually been leading her 7,000 officers for a long time, wrote columnist Susan Clairmont in the Hamilton Spectator, July 29. The news came yesterday morning, five months to the day after the native land occupation began in Caledonia. Boniface’s complete lack of leadership during the Caledonia debacle absolutely had to result in her stepping down. There could be no other way. She was reaching the bottom of a deep, dark hole of public mistrust and contempt and was dragging the province’s largest police service down with her.

Baseball academy a hit with kids in Oakville

A story about Oakville’s 17,000-square-foot Frozen Ropes baseball/softball facility in the Hamilton Spectator July 29 featured York alumna, baseball player and instructor at the new facility Samantha Magalas (BA ‘05), a member of Team Canada’s women’s squad, currently competing at the World Cup in Taiwan. All instructors had to receive more than 80 hours of training before being allowed to teach. Magalas, who graduated from York University, says she stepped into a dream job. “I learned so much more about baseball from the training sessions,” she said. “I get to teach baseball all day. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

A battle to relish

Even as McDonald’s and its lower-priced compatriots desperately expand beyond the burger, two Toronto franchises – the three-year-old Hero Certified Burgers, brainchild of Toronto cafe king John Lettieri, and the more recently founded South St. Burger Co. – are taking on the venerable Lick’s Homeburgers and Ice Cream chain. Lick’s, meanwhile, is on an expansion kick of its own. All three are betting on the upscale burger, reported the National Post July 29.

“When the tide rises, all boats go up,” says Alan Middleton, a marketing guru at York’s Schulich School of Business. “For various reasons, [Lick’s] didn’t expand that concept fast enough. So they left the door open for other people to come in. And that is indeed what their two competitors have done.” Quality burgers that cost a little more are bound to be a big hit in Toronto, Middleton says. “I think the target group, which is more concerned about food than fill, is more evident in the major urban centres,” he says. “That’s not to say it wouldn’t play in a smaller urban centre – just that the sheer volume potential for business is going to make it so much less likely.”

Bees are buzzing off from Bruce

Laurence Packer, biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, has teamed up with a fellow bee researcher at the University of Guelph to look at pollinators as an important aspect of work being done by the newly formed Canadian Barcode of Life Network, reported the Owen Sound Sun Times, July 29. Last year Packer and his York research associate, graduate student Amro Zayed (BSc ‘01), found bees are “10 times more likely to go extinct than other animals” because of their peculiar genetics that can turn females into sterile males, commonly known as drones.

“Our results help us understand why it is that so many bee populations have crashed in recent years and these declines have been observed across the globe as well as in Canada,” Packer said in a York University media release. “Bees are the agricultural equivalent of canaries in a coal mine and their death signifies a much larger problem,” he said. “We have to make sure that we keep bee populations large – a lot larger than anybody has previously thought – in order to ensure that we have bees to pollinate our crops and flowers for generations to come.”

Gender gap splits baby boomer saving strategies

Married couples may be overestimating the likelihood of working longer to make up for savings shortfalls, reported the National Post July 29. Many are forced to retire earlier than they expected because of poor health or job loss. Unfortunately, early retirement does not mesh well with the trend of greater longevity. This has led to much academic research on how to avoid running out of money before running out of life. Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, often addresses in his papers how annuities can act as “longevity insurance.”

After the Quiet Revolution, attempts to alter Quebec’s outlook have failed

This week’s passing of Jean-Paul Desbiens, the teacher, journalist and philosopher behind Frère Untel (known in English as “Brother Anonymous”), has prompted a public outpouring of nostalgia in Quebec for the man who belled the cat on what was then a stultified, church-dominated society, reported the Toronto Star July 29. More than four decades after his electrifying screeds – which also confronted the clergy of which he was a member – Quebecers continue to maintain a special sort of reverence for “les acquis sociaux” or the vested rights to emerge from the 1960s.

Sociologist Marc Lesage, who teaches at York University’s Glendon campus, says Desbiens set the tone for what was to come by “expressing some very powerful things about language and culture.” By extension, he says, the roiling, turbulent change of Quebec in the 1960s and early 1970s is founded on that which is most central to Quebec. The legacy goes beyond the intangibles of identity and into specifics – the college and university system, nationalized hydroelectricity, interventionist economic institutions like the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement and the Société Générale de Financement, the auto insurance board and universal health insurance. The province has the most generous social programs in the country and a robust labour movement.

Lesage has studied social change in the province extensively and says one of the by-products of such a rapid societal transformation is a lingering existential fragility – compounded by federalist-sovereignist divisions – that makes it difficult to accept criticism from within. “Doubt and uncertainty have become essential conditions; it cuts across the generations,” he says.

Schulich grad digs deep in Idaho

Freegold Ventures of Vancouver is nothing if not patient when it comes to mining gold in Idaho. It is planning to develop a large open pit and heap-leach project 12 miles east of Weiser, near the Idaho-Oregon border. Or maybe new management rather than patience will make Freegold a successful producer.

Late last year Steve Manz (MBA ‘88) agreed to become president of Vancouver’s Freegold Ventures, reported the Canadian Mining Journal July 30. He holds an MBA from York’s Schulich School of Business. His successful track record includes a stint as CFO at Royal Oak Mines, president & CFO at Atlas Corp. where he turned around a battered mining operation, and VP of Gerald Metals, one of the world’s largest metal merchant companies.

Leader turned informant rattles Muslims

The surprise announcement by a prominent Muslim leader here that he was an informant who helped authorities arrest 17 Muslims on terrorism charges has raised questions in the Muslim community over the ethics of informing versus a responsibility to stop violence, reported The Christian Science Monitor July 31. Since outing himself as an informant who infiltrated and trained with the suspects, Mubin Shaikh has come under harsh criticism by some Toronto Muslims and sparked a debate about how far citizens should go in aiding police investigations, even as he has been hailed as a hero in the mainstream media. Some question his motivation – Shaikh claims he was paid $77,000 for his work and is owed another $300,000. Others simply scorn him as a betrayer.

The question of entrapment often arises in investigations involving undercover informants, experts say. “If the police lose control of their informant, they lose control of the investigation,” says Alan Young, a law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. “In organized crime, very often you need informants to penetrate the inner circle…sometimes they’re necessary and sometimes they’re a disaster.”