New research key to early childhood development

When he talks about the brave new world of research into early childhood brain development, Stuart Shanker gets, pardon the pun, as excited as a kid, reported The Calgary Herald Dec. 3. “This is one of the most exciting times to be in this field of work,” says Shanker, who was recently appointed director of York University’s Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative, which specializes in the study of early childhood development. “Some of the biggest breakthroughs in our understanding and knowledge of the developing brain have occurred in just the past six or seven years.”

One of the leaders in this field has been York honorary degree recipient Fraser Mustard (DSc ‘96), who in 1999 co-chaired a report entitled “The Early Years Study” for the government of Ontario on early learning, with specific community recommendations. Everything from adult physical, mental and emotional health, Mustard pointed out, is affected by what happens in those early years between birth and age three.

Shanker says one of the biggest breakthroughs that has occurred in the field since 2000 has been in understanding the role emotions play in what he calls “the healthy wiring” of the brain. “It turns out emotions are critically involved in everything from memory to how a child solves problems.” Shanker plans to bring out a revised edition of Mustard’s report in the New Year, to reflect this additional knowledge, said the Herald.

Women students buddy up for protection

Female York University students are buddying up for protection on campus after two recent sex assaults on young women in the area, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 2. One 21-year-old student was so traumatized by the recent attacks, and one she suffered herself, that she has taken time off from classes and gone out of town to her parents’ home for a few weeks.

Caitlin Murphy was jumped about a month ago around 7pm while walking through a field near her home in the Village area at Sentinel Road and Murray Ross Parkway – the same area where the two sexual assaults occurred. Since that night Murphy would never dream of walking alone through a field. “My boyfriend walks me everywhere I go. We have goSAFE vans at York. They drive you to the school, to certain locations. I’ll take that now. Before, I wouldn’t walk by myself after 9 p.m. or 10 at night. But now I won’t walk by myself after it gets dark,” Murphy said in a phone interview from her parents’ home.

Other York students interviewed by the Toronto Star said they are being more careful, too. They are more worried now as classes end, exams begin and the campus becomes more deserted, especially since the two young women both have night exams coming up, they said. Police are urging women to be aware of their surroundings at all times. “Look out for your friends, take advantage of York University security. Walk in groups,” said Staff Insp. Jane Wilcox of the police sex crimes unit.

  • Women at York University are fearful after two victims were sexually assaulted near the campus earlier this month, possibly by the same man, police believe, reported The Toronto Sun Dec. 2. Const. Kristine Bacharach said there’s a chance the same man carried out both attacks because the descriptions are similar.

Christians and Jews gala a drive for battling prejudice

Canada’s business elite and top-tier social set recently honoured two formidable couples at the Canadian Council for Christians and Jews (CCCJ) gala held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, reported the National Post Dec. 2.

Howard Sokolowski, a director of the York University Foundation and one-half of one honoured couple, is co-founder of Tribute Communities and co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts. His wife, Linda Frum, is a National Post columnist who is also known for giving back to the community. The other dynamic duo consists of Ivan Fecan, president and CEO of Bell Globemedia and also member of the board the Foundation, and Sandra Faire, a producer, and founder and president of SFA Productions.

Among the celebrants at the Royal York were Barry Sherman, chairman, Apotex Inc., and his wife, Honey Sherman, who is also a director of York’s Foundation. The article included a photograph of Lorna R. Marsden, York’s president and vice-chancellor.

Mothers left out of mother & child programs

The Ontario Early Years Centres that have dominated the landscape for the past few years are heavily focused on the needs of children and instruction for parents, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 4. This focus has caused concern among some community activists. Linn Baran, who handles community liaison for the Association for Research on Mothering at York University and mother of a 5-year-old, raised it at a recent conference on mothering in Toronto. “Programs ostensibly for mother and child are essentially for children,” she said in her presentation. Mothers, she says, “have been lost in translation.” She called for the mandate to be altered to invite parents back in.

In a Scarborough café, it’s maid to order

The pretty maids are lined up in a row, offering to take your coat or hand you a menu, all with a little bow and a rapid batting of lashes, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 2. The service comes with a smile, but it’s the costumes they are wearing that endear them to their largely male clientele. It might seem kitsch – not to mention sexist. But these waitresses at the iMaid Café in Scarborough are local manifestations of a Japanese trend in which restaurants feature staff dressed for cosplay – short for costume play, and often inspired by characters in manga, anime and video games.

“They are not just waitresses,” says owner Aaron Wang, a 24-year-old Beijing native who left China six years ago to study at York University. “They are friendly, always smiling, they treat the customer like he was in his own home.”

Wang has taken this year off from studying economics to launch the café, which opened in July, reported the Globe. In Asia, he says, the trend has been growing exponentially since the first maid café (or meido) appeared in Tokyo’s Akihabara district in 2000. There are now meidos across Japan, all staffed by waitresses costumed as comic-book heroines. These, in turn, have spawned a new subculture of ready-maid fanatics, so to speak, who share their experiences on the Internet — where there is also a thriving business in maid-café-inspired paraphernalia such as dolls and lunch bags.

An activist ponders a possible TTC post

Before his ascension to a seat on Toronto city council, Gordon Perks’ regular attendance at TTC meetings (along with fellow long-time transit advocate Steve Munro), became a running gag for chairman Howard Moscoe – not expected to return to the role – who used to call him “Commissioner Perks,” wrote The Globe and Mail’s transit columnist Jeff Gray, Dec. 4.

This week, Perks – one of the few challengers endorsed by Mayor David Miller in the election campaign – will find out whether he gets to use that title for real, as Miller doles out key posts. He nods at the mayor’s plans for dedicated bus or streetcar routes – many already in the works – on Yonge Street north of Finch Avenue, Kingston Road and Don Mills Road, among other places. But Miller also pledges to extend the Spadina subway line to York University and into Vaughan, something Perks opposes. The $2-billion project – to which Queen’s Park has already committed $670-million – is on hold pending federal funding. Perks would rather see that cash spent on those streetcar and bus lanes.

Mnjikaning CFO makes the grade

Rama Mnjikaning First Nation’s chief financial officer has made the front cover of a national publication for strides he’s made in the community, reported Orillia Packet and Times Dec. 2. Richard Morano’s story is featured in this month’s CMA Management magazine. “My mom and dad are quite excited,” he said.

At 24, Morano saw his job at a Barrie tire shop come to an end when the business froze into a lengthy strike. He decided to study business administration at Georgian College – a path that eventually led to a four-year degree at York University, which made him a certified management accountant (CMA).

Cory may divide artworks between gallery, Beaverbrook heirs

The arbitrator hearing New Brunswick’s contentious art dispute could rely on the wisdom of Solomon and resolve the high-stakes conflict by divvying up works between the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and the UK Foundation, reported the Times & Transcript (Moncton, NB) Dec. 2. Peter Cory, a retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice, said he will decide the fate of the 133 paintings and sculptures, which are worth $100 million, within two months.

Cory, a veteran jurist who has tackled arbitration cases as difficult as scrutinizing the government’s response to a series of paramilitary gang killings in Northern Ireland, has not tipped his hand toward what he is thinking. But the chancellor at York University seems to be buying some of the arguments central to the gallery’s case, said the paper.

On air

  • Documentary film maker Nancy Nicol, a professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, spoke about same sex marriage on Rogers TV Dec. 3.