Good Samaritan helps nab sex attack suspect

The sex assaults that have frightened women near York University may have been ended by a good Samaritan who witnessed an attack and then chased the assailant at high speeds, reported the National Post Dec. 22. ”I was just doing what any person would have done in that situation to protect from this type of predator," the man, a father of a 20yearold female university student, told Global News. "I think anybody would have reacted the same way if they had witnessed that kind of altercation going on."

The man – who did not want to be identified – was driving along Sentinel Road, south of York’s Keele campus, around 3:30pm on Dec. 20 when he spotted a woman trying to break free from a man on the sidewalk, wrote the Post. He dialed 911 and used his car to block the suspect’s grey Intrepid. But the attacker got away, he said. Without thinking twice, the man sped after the attacker – and said the chase that followed was something he had seen only on his favourite TV show, "CSI Miami".

Police talked him through the pursuit on the phone, he told the Post. He dictated a description of the car and the licence plate and stayed close to the Intrepid while police had a chance to catch up. The man said he had heard about the serial attacks, but had been shocked by the brazen nature of the attack he stumbled across: "I think this person is very bold, very aggressive to take this kind of stance in broad daylight.” Just after 4pm, 31 Division officers stopped the Intrepid and arrested a man, Sex Crimes Detective Tom Lynch said.

Police believe the predator might have assaulted another woman less than an hour earlier on that same day, he said. ”Suspicious behaviour” was reported, but he would not elaborate. Despite the recent arrest, some York students still will not walk alone. Police are looking for several sexual predators elsewhere in the city. Because only one suspected predator has been arrested, police urge women to remain vigilant, Det. Lynch said.

Prince Powell, 28, has been charged with assault and appeared in a North York court yesterday, reported the Post. A publication ban was placed on the proceedings.

  • The Toronto Sun
  • and the Toronto Star also reported on the arrest Dec. 21 and 22 as did most Toronto radio and television media. Several papers noted the arrest came one day after officers from 31 Division went door-to-door looking for information in the The Village, a residential area south of the University near Sentinel Road and Murray Ross Parkway.

York establishes fund in honour of Mavor Moore

J. Mavor Moore passed away peacefully on Dec.18 after a number of years of failing health in Victoria BC at the age of 87, wrote Times Colonist (Victoria) in an obituary Dec. 21. A celebration of his life and achievements will be held at a later date in Toronto. A lecture series named after him to perpetuate his dedication to the arts in Canada will be established at York University where he made such an important contribution.

  • As multi-talented as he was prolific, as romantically restless as he was artistically ambitious, Mavor Moore worked all sides of the cultural street as an actor, director, producer, dramatist, impresario, composer, writer, critic, cultural commentator and academic, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 21. It is hard to believe that he was only one person. For five decades in this country beginning in the 1940s, he was the happening person for most cultural enterprises, including the CBC, Spring Thaw, the Stratford Festival, the Charlottetown Festival and the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto.

From the St. Lawrence Centre, Moore accepted an appointment in the Faculty of Arts at the newly established York University in Toronto. While teaching at York, he took on yet another responsibility as the first artist appointed head of the Canada Council, a position he held from 1979 to 1983. York designated him professor emeritus in 1984 when he reached 65.

York to host Ontario archives

Ontario’s official archives, some of which date back to 1729, will have a shining, new $100-million home at York University, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 19. After years of wrangling and controversy, Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips announced yesterday that York has been selected to house the province’s $400-million collection of historical records.

"This is an incredibly special week for the Archives of Ontario, one that will mark the beginning of a new era in the preservation of Ontario’s rich heritage," Phillips told reporters. The new threestorey facility will be located at York’s Keele campus and will be built over the next two years. A sevenstorey tower atop the archives centre will house university researchers. York will pay for and operate the building.

Aside from York there were initially three other bids to host the archives –– from the CBC, which offered to house the archives at the Front Street Broadcast Centre; from Union Pearson Group, as part of its sincecancelled Union Station renovation; and from Woodcliffe Corp. and Westdale Construction Co., in a joint proposal to renovate some King Street East buildings. Each of those bids eventually dropped off until only York could provide a home for the archives, noted Phillips.

York President and ViceChancellor Lorna R. Marsden said she was "delighted" the archives are moving to the campus. "The addition of the new subway line…will make this location even more convenient, " said Marsden. Opening is scheduled for 2009.

  • "Partnering with an educational institution of international renown, such as York University to build a new archival facility, is an innovative and cost-effective way of protecting our province’s information legacy," said Gerry Phillips (Scaborough-Agincourt), minister of government services, in the North York Mirror Dec. 19. The project has been proceeding under ReNew Ontario, the government’s five-year, $30-billion infrastructure renewal plan to build strong and prosperous communities.
  • "Obviously these records need special care and storage," Phillips said. "It isn’t like an office building or a school…. This is all original, often irreplaceable material…it’s a very tailored building to meet the needs of the archives," said Phillips in a story in the National Post Dec. 19. Moving the archives out of downtown won’t hurt access, especially since a planned extension of the YorkSpadina subway line calls for a station underneath the planned building, Phillips added. "And most people who visit the archives aren’t from Toronto," he said.
  • A new building will be constructed at York University‘s Keele campus to become the new home for the provincial archives, reported Canadian Press Dec. 18. Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips says a 98,000-square-foot building will provide a safe home for the $400-million Archives of Ontario collection.

The largest provincial archives in Canada preserves the documentary history of Ontario, and is used by police, the courts, historians and genealogists for research. Phillips says the archives struggled for decades to survive in less than ideal locations, and has outgrown the downtown Toronto offices where it’s been since 1972. He says the government recognizes the importance of protecting Ontario’s documentary history and making it more easily accessible to the public.

  • In 2003, there was a competitive process to select a new site for the Ontario Archives, wrote Gerry Phillips, Ontario’s minister of government services, in a letter to the Toronto Star Dec. 20. Only one bidder qualified and the government of the day planned to award the contract to that bidder. However, the bidder withdrew its proposal and no deal was ever reached.

Merit bonuses can motivate

Parbudyal Singh, professor of human resources management in York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, explains that merit bonuses reward employees and are more affordable for employers than continuous pay raises, reported the Hamilton Spectator Dec. 21. But a bonus will only motivate an employee if it’s a substantial percentage of his or her regular salary, and if it results from an appraisal of the employee’s performance, he says.

This means Christmas bonuses – which aren’t necessarily related to performance – won’t encourage employees to work harder. "It’s a nice gesture, but people shouldn’t link it as a means of increasing employee productivity," he said. Singh added that companies should be careful not to give small holiday bonuses because they could insult their employees. He says giving gifts might be a better option, especially if it’s done in a personal manner.

York astronomer comments on a peek at the end of the world

We now have a glimpse of what the end of the world will look like, reported the Ottawa Citizen and other CanWest newspapers Dec. 22. Astronomers have found what appears to be a solar system like ours, but partly collapsed around a dying star. It could take a few billion years, but if this is Earth’s future, it’s not pretty. Where there once were planets or asteroids, there’s nothing now but a flattened, discshaped cloud of debris filled with hot, radioactive metal. The cloud of former planetmaterial around the distant dying star is new evidence that we can find these lessthangigantic planets, said Paul Delaney, an astronomer in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.

"One of the biggest debates we’ve been having is: how common are solar systems?" he said. The search focuses on stars similar to our own. "For every 100 stars that we look at, only five of them have got planetary systems that we can so far detect," Delaney said. "Most of us are of the view that (planets) should be more common than that but, if you can’t see it…, then you come up with a low estimate."

Christians, business both lay claim to Christmas

The growth of Santa as the predominant icon of Christmas in much of the world grew out of the efforts of retail wizards such as John Wanamaker and Rowland Hussey Macy, founders of the modern department store, reported Illinois’s Belleville News-Democrat Dec. 26. Much like the early church fathers, Wanamaker and Macy systematically laid claim to a Christmas of their own making in the 19th century.

By this point, said Russell W. Belk, a sociologist and anthropologist who specializes in marketing in York’s Schulich School of Business, Christmas had already been through several incarnations – Christians in the United States had initially resisted Christmas because it was seen as tied to the Catholic calendar, but waves of European immigrants brought traditions of Christmas celebrations with them. Still, the idea of giving gifts to relatives was not the norm, especially among English immigrants, where Christmas gifts were primarily seen as acts of benevolence toward servants and slaves.

  • Alan Middleton , marketing professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about Christmas being too crass and commercial, on Rogers TV’s "Goldhawk" program Dec. 21.

Hajj links humanity across religions

Thousands of Canadians are performing the annual rites of Hajj this week, wrote Faisal Kutty, lawyer, writer and doctoral candidate at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press Dec. 24. All great religions teach that we are more than mere physical creatures in that we possess an essence beyond the material. Indeed, this is why they all have a tradition of pilgrimage. In the Islamic tradition, Hajj encapsulates this spiritual journey. The current state of affairs – within and outside the Muslim world – greatly increases the relevance of the universal messages inherent in the Hajj.

York student featured in holiday religion profile

On Dec. 25, Mandeep Kaur, York psychology student and co-president of the Sikh Students Association at York, will rise before the sun to say her prayers, which become especially pertinent between Dec. 22 and 26, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 21. During this four-day period, in 18th-century Punjab, the four sons of the prophet Guru were murdered in the Battle of Chamkaur Sahib. A bittersweet time for Sikhs, explains Kaur, she’ll go to temple during the day to mourn the loss and give thanks for their sacrifice, which has facilitated her survival. At night, she’ll "chill out" with friends and family to the sights and sounds of rented movies.

Rugged bacteria may be sign of Martian life – on Earth

Maybe life from Mars has arrived on Earth, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Dec. 20. Astronomers have found bacteria on Earth that can stand up to amazingly high doses of radiation – an environment more typical of Mars than our own planet. And since Martian rocks are known to have fallen to Earth, astronomers are wondering whether alien bacteria could have hitched a ride.

"It’s actually a theory which is gaining a little more ground of late," says astronomy Professor Paul Delaney of York University. There are about 30 known Mars meteorites on Earth (and certainly more that haven’t been found), he says. "Microbes come in the billions, which is very handy. Even if you kill off 90 per cent of them in flight, you’ve still got enough left.

"We have no proof…that says such a venture has already taken place," he said. "But…there is a lot of attention that is being given to the environment of a meteorite that would be required to contain literally billions of bacteria to survive the interplanetary journey from Mars to Earth.

Surf’s up for North York entrepreneur Dan Boag

Dan Boag turned a life passion into a full-time job, reported the North York Mirror Dec. 19. The 26-year-old North York resident founded Pacific Blue Surf Adventures two years ago, which specializes in fully instructional surf adventures and guided tours along the Pacific coastlines of southern California and Costa Rica for beginners. "We are the only surf travel company in Canada (that) offers this type of service," Boag said.

Boag, who spends May to September in Los Angeles and February in Costa Rica, was bit by the surfing bug at age 10 while vacationing with family in South Carolina. It was there that he rented a surfboard and taught himself how to ride waves. Throughout his studies at York, Boag, a business student, would spend his summers working in southern California, which afforded him easy access to the ocean.

Survey tracks indicators of students’ experience at Ontario universities

For the first time in Ontario, York and the province’s 18 other universities have taken part in an exhaustive student survey considered the "industry standard" across North America – the National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE, dubbed "Nessie") run by the Indiana University Center for PostSecondary Research, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 16. It asks students questions on everything from their relationship with their profs to how often they mingle with peers. Word is that the results, to be made public next year, will show that Ontario universities lag behind their American cousins in making undergraduates feel at home.

"When we compare ourselves to universities in the United States, Ontario universities don’t fare very well on the engagement of students, but many of them are better funded than we are," said Rob Tiffin, York’s vicepresident students. He said large, urban universities like York, U of T and Ryerson  where most students commute and many work parttime – face a daunting challenge to make students feel at home. To help them plug into campus life, York has launched a Web site with tips on how to get involved in anything from student politics and sports to finding help with university life.

A hard day’s delight

It’ll take more than a rebuff from the Guinness Book of World Records to dissuade a 20member ensemble of selfstyled "music nerds" from convening at the Phoenix Concert Theatre today to perform every Beatles album backtoback, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 17. "This has never been done before," says Classic Albums Live founder Craig Martin at the band’s rehearsal space. "We’re doing every album notefornote, capturing every nuance."

He’ll rely on an ensemble that includes guitarist and singer Mike Daley, one of four musicians who will be onstage for the entire program. "For a rock nerd, this is manna from heaven because you get to hang out with other rock nerds and exactly reproduce something," says Daley, 37, a musicologist who recently took time out from the sixweek rehearsal schedule to defend his doctoral thesis at York University.

‘Desi lit’ finds a warm welcome from T.O. readers

The animated conversation swings from sexuality to the caste system to the surreal experience of growing up South Asian in Toronto, living betwixt two worlds – chafing at tradition while also embracing it, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 16. "We have inherited those repressed views of sexuality through British colonialism. It wasn’t part of Indian culture before," said York graduate student Zenia Wadhwani. And so it goes at the twohour monthly meeting of the DesiLit Toronto Book Club, the first and only club in the GTA dedicated to fiction from the worldwide South Asian diaspora, according to organizers. It’s a book club that couldn’t have existed a few years ago. This meeting’s discussion of Shyam Selvadurai’s Cinnamon Gardens attracts only five people. But the numbers are irrelevant, says Wadhwani, 35, a United Way manager working on a PhD in communications & culture at York University who published Desilicious, an anthology exploring the intersection of South Asian culture and sexuality.

Iran’s leader feels backlash at the polls for tough talk

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has emerged politically bruised after elections in Iran indicated discontent with his hardline policies and the possible comeback of a leading rival, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 19. York University political scientist Saeed Rahnema, an Iranian émigré, agreed, saying that the preliminary results of the two simultaneous elections indicate a considerable setback to Ahmadinejad.

"Nothing major will happen but it’s an important signal…. It sends a message to Ahmadinejad that despite the fact that he has the big machinery of mobilizing the masses, the rest of the public is not happy with him." Rahnema said concern remains among socalled reformers or pragmatist candidates that the final election results may be rigged. "The authorities can always fabricate something, saying there were irregularities and so on."

On air

  • Kamala Kempadoo, professor of women’s & caribbean studies in York’s Faculty of Arts and director of the Graduate Program in Social & Political Thought, spoke about the practice of women taking holidays for sex on CBC Radio’s "The Current" Dec. 18.
  • Laura McLean, a former student in York’s Acting Conservatory, Faculty of Fine Arts, spoke about her role on television’’s "The Smart Women’s Survival Guide", on CBC Radio (Ottawa) Dec. 19.