Students stunned by Vanier double stabbing

On the eve of their first day of a new school year, York University students were left stunned by the double stabbing of a “happy” young couple, reported The Toronto Sun Sept. 6. Toronto police were called to the University, at Keele Street and Steeles Avenue West, by campus security about 2:30pm, Sept. 5, and found a seriously injured man near the main gates who led them to his girlfriend’s ninth-floor dorm room in Vanier Residence. Officers found her with her throat slashed, bleeding profusely.

“They both suffered knife-type injuries,” Sgt. Thomas Urbaniak said. “Both parties involved in this are being treated and investigated,” he said. “There are no suspects outstanding. It’s not as if there is somebody running around at large on the campus.”

The couple, whose names were not released, were taken to Humber River Regional Hospital’s Finch Avenue West site. The young woman’s wound was much more serious than her boyfriend’s and she was later transferred to Sunnybrook. They are both expected to survive.

Many Vanier residents were oblivious to the incident but some ninth-floor residents said they were feeling more than a little uneasy following the violence, the Sun said. David Goldstein, who lived next door to the girl last year and has a room around the corner, said news of the violence “scared” him initially. But he was able to calm down after learning more about what had happened. Goldstein, a second-year theatre production major, said he and the injured girl are in the same program. “I don’t know him very well, but she’s nice,” he said. Several students said the couple had been dating since at least the start of the last school year and they seemed like “a happy couple.” “They were always together,” said Paul Charuk, 20, who lived on the ninth floor last year.

Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, confirmed the couple both attended the University. “This was a very tragic, isolated incident between two individuals,” he said, emphasizing that there was absolutely no reason for students to be concerned for their safety over the incident.

  • In its story Sept. 6, The Globe and Mail said investigators were treating the incident as an attempted murder-attempted suicide. Investigators believe the two had formerly been in a relationship and the woman attacked the man while distraught over the breakup. She was found unconscious, with a slash wound to her neck, the Globe said. Police believe the wound was self-inflicted and came after a confrontation with her ex-boyfriend.
  • “There had been a recent break-up,” Acting Staff Sergeant Thomas Urbaniak said, according to the Toronto Star Sept. 6. The two students were to start classes Sept. 6, York officials said. School officials said no other student was ever in danger. News of the incident was also carried on most radio and television stations in the Greater Toronto Area.

Disgraced lawyer compared to Mel Gibson

During a speech on the interaction between “criminal conduct” and “legitimate business” this week at Cambridge University, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 6, Toronto author Margaret Beare, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Arts, compared lawyer Peter Shoniker’s plight [a conviction for money laundering] to that of Hollywood star Mel Gibson, who made anti-Semitic and sexist remarks to police in California and later apologized for “any behaviour unbecoming of me in my inebriated state,” noting he has battled alcoholism.

Referring to the Shoniker case, Beare wrote in her prepared remarks: “While it is commendable that friends support friends, his offences appear minimized when the former police chief Julian Fantino, (Maj.-Gen.) Lewis Mackenzie and other high profile supporters rallied to his defence. Using the less-than-successful Mel Gibson defence, it now looks like alcohol, sleep deprivation and anti-depression pills turned Shoniker into a money launderer and thief.” Beare is a former director of the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption at York University.

Gibson has yet to have his day in court, but it’s not unusual for people accused and convicted of crimes to use their alcohol or drug abuse both as a defence and as a mitigating factor upon sentencing, said York’s Alan Young, professor of criminal law at Osgoode. When considered during sentencing, a “general preponderance of cases would suggest you get a slight discount for crimes…based on the proposition that the crime was out of character, that there really was external pressure that compelled you to commit the crime and it isn’t your true nature.”

Brand-new year, brand-new teacher

Jen McColl (BEd ‘06) was nervous and not about to hide it, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 6. Coming off a sleepless night, the rookie teacher stood before her Grade 7 class and introduced herself by holding up a large photo of herself at their age, complete with frizzy hair and adolescent awkwardness. “Now, you have to be kind. It was 1986,” she said to laughter. Their attention captured, McColl, 31, saw the chance to make her point. She recalled that back in her day in Mississauga, the school included students from grades 7 to 13, she talked of having the path to her locker blocked on her first day by an older kid “who had to be 6 feet 5 inches and 4 feet wide.” “I was so scared. And that’s a little bit how I’m feeling today,” said McColl, who will teach math and French to about 100 students and serve as home room teacher to two dozen.

McColl, who graduated from York University last spring, characterized her more relaxed style with the students as part of an overall approach among most teachers today to make intimidation and the don’t-smile-until-Christmas approach a relic of the old school. “I don’t want to be their friend,” McColl said. “But you also don’t want to swing too far the other way. “You want them to know you care and you’re someone they can come to for help.”

Lifeline for vulnerable youth

Shortly before her 14th birthday, York alumna Jane Le (BA ‘06) faced a wrenching decision, wrote columnist Carol Goar in the Toronto Star Sept. 6. She could go back to the family from which she’d been removed by child welfare authorities. Or she could become a Crown ward, severing her legal link with her parents. A disproportionate number of Crown wards fail at school, drop out early, develop drug and alcohol problems, get pregnant, go on social assistance and spend most of their lives in poverty.

Le elected to be a Crown ward. Luckily, her story turned out better than most. Her own resilience had a lot to do with it. But so did a groundbreaking scholarship program run by Hope for Children, the charitable foundation that provides “extras” – Christmas vouchers, summer outings, the chance to go to college or university – to young people cared for by Toronto’s Catholic Children’s Aid Society. This year, the foundation awarded 72 scholarships, 39 to returning students and 33 to those entering a post-secondary institution. They ranged in value from $1,500 to $20,000.  Le was one of the returning students.

On air

  • Don Ross (BFA ‘83), self-taught guitarist and York alumnus, was interviewed about his life and music on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning Sept. 5.

  • Allan Middelton, marketing professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about retailers getting the jump on Halloween and Christmas, on radio stations 680 News (Toronto), CHNI-FM (Saint John) and CIGM-AM (Sudbury) Sept. 5.

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about CanJet’s decision to end scheduled flight service, on 680News radio (Toronto) Sept. 5.