Opening of Tubman institute receives wide media coverage

The history and heritage of African peoples and the stories of their forced migration around the world have found a home in a new research institute at York University, reported Canadian Press March 25 in a story published in The Toronto Sun, the Hamilton Spectator and other dailies across Canada.

The Harriet Tubman Research Institute on the Global Migrations of African Peoples was officially opened at the Toronto campus Sunday on the 200th anniversary of the British law to abolish the slave trade. The research centre is named for the famed Maryland woman who fled slavery in 1849 and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad that helped slaves flee the US to safety in Canada.

"Slavery was one of the most barbaric crimes in the history of humankind,” Governor General Michaëlle Jean said at the event after receiving an honorary doctor of laws from the University. "We must work in solidarity so freedom is a reality for everyone,” Jean said. "Exploitation and racism still flourish. What is worse is we still hear of cases of slavery around the world today.”

The institute is the only academic centre in Canada that focuses on the dispersion of Africans around the globe. Personal and official documents, photographs, interviews and maps archived by the institute will tell the stories of the migration of African people, whether voluntary or by force, over hundreds of years.

"It will be a window through which the slave histories of black people in Canada and throughout the African diaspora can be seen. Their stories cannot be whitewashed from our collective memory,” said Paul Lovejoy, director of the new institute. "The type of interdisciplinary research we are doing draws on subjects that range from music to biography, and from culture to religion. We are interested in issues of identity and ethnicity as well as gender.”

The event was widely covered by other print, TV and radio media:

  • Paul Lovejoy, Tubman institute director, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s "MetroMorning" March 23, about the history of slavery and the African diaspora. 
  • A day before the opening, The Toronto Sun reported that Canada’s governor general would receive an honorary doctorate of laws at the institute’s opening. York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden said the University was honoured that Michaëlle Jean would "be inaugurating the Tubman Institute, which is unique in Canada in its field of academic research." The Sun also mentioned the international symposium at York called "Slavery, Memory, Citizenship," which coincided with the opening the institute.
  • The news that Jean would receive an honorary degree from York and open the new institute featured prominently in newscasts March 23 on CBC TV, and March 25 on regional CBC radio, CTV, Global TV, CJOH TV in Ottawa, CITY TV, CHCH TV in Hamilton, CKVR in Barrie, and March 26 on CitytV’s "Breakfast Television". The national Broadcast News radio service also sent out a report March 25.
  • Photos of Jean receiving the honorary degree appeared March 26 in the Toronto Star, Edmonton Sun, Ottawa Citizen, The Gazette in Montreal and the Peterborough Examiner.  

Why Canada needs a single securities regulator

In a Globe and Mail commentary March 26, Claude Lamoureux argued for a single securities regulator in Canada and cited a study by York University Chancellor Peter Cory, a former Supreme Court justice, and Marilyn Pilkington, former dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. They recently completed a study of critical issues in enforcement for the Task Force to Modernize Securities Legislation in Canada.

The Cory/Pilkington study, says Lamoureux, is arguably the finest and most comprehensive research on securities-law enforcement. It found that many high profile cases in Canada have not been prosecuted, insider trading is undeterred, some prosecutions are unfair, regulators delay in acting to prevent investor losses, investigations are not managed effectively, and securities commissions as both regulator and adjudicator have the appearance of bias. The study goes on to say that police, prosecutorial services and courts lack sufficient specialized knowledge of capital markets, there are delays in court adjudication, and penalties are inadequate and inappropriate. Shareholders are unhappy about being unable to obtain compensation for losses caused by wrongdoing.

Tone will be key during PM’s Latin American tour, says prof

Judith Hellman of York University says tone will be key to any talks with Latin American and Caribbean countries, and Canada must approach bigger players such as Brazil, Chile and Mexico as equals, reported the Canadian Press in a story published March 26 in The Globe and Mail about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s upcoming tour.

She cautions that being embraced as an alternative to the United States means Canada will also have to act the part. "We have to be there for some reason other than to get the most money out of every deal," said Hellman, who teaches about Latin America as a political science professor. "There has to be some component of the Canadian concern for social equality – that is the difference between us and the United States – that informs the trip and informs the relationship that Harper and any other Canadian leader is going to build with Latin American countries."

Canada ‘dead last’ in ECE spending, says profs’ report

Canada ranks "dead last" among developed nations in its spending on early childhood education – despite overwhelming evidence of how crucial the first six years of life are, says a new study, reported the Toronto Star March 26 in a front-page story.

Early Years Study 2: Putting Science Into Action, by Fraser Mustard, Margaret Norrie McCain and Stuart Shanker, a distinguished research professor of psychology/philosophy at York University, is a 185-page follow-up to the groundbreaking 1999 Early Years study Mustard and McCain were commissioned to do by the provincial Conservative government. The new report is published by the Council for Early Child Development, a not-for-profit group Mustard founded in 2004.

Studies have shown that early learning and behaviour problems can lead to poor school performance, social maladjustment, criminal behaviour, substance abuse and health problems later on. "Even the amount of stress a baby is exposed to can determine not just how well they do in school, but if they’re happy or have solid social relationships and also their physical health, mental health and their risk of depression, autoimmune disorders, cancer, whatever," said Shanker, an expert in developmental neuroscience and now president of the early childhood council.

"We are now beginning to appreciate the social enormity of these problems, plus the cost to society," said Shanker. "It’s very expensive to do intervention on a school-age child and at best you’ll only succeed about half the time."

Budget benefits mental health

In her March 24 column about Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s blueprint for a Canadian Mental Health Commission, Toronto Star columnist Helen Henderson said Liberal Senator Michael Kirby, who has been chosen to head the new commission, hopes the national commission can offer policy and service advice at all levels. He also knows the commission has to practise what it preaches.

It’s important that people who live with the experience are not simply token advisors but are hired to top positions at the commission, says Geoffrey Reaume, a health policy professor at York University and one of the organizers of the Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto. "Otherwise, the commission is just reinforcing stigma."

Province should restore TTC funding, says Star

After being snubbed in the federal budget last Monday, Toronto Mayor David Miller had hoped Queen’s Park would deliver assistance to his cash-strapped city when Finance Minister Greg Sorbara unveiled the province’s spending plans three days later. Unfortunately, Miller was left out in the cold again, suggested a Toronto Star editorial March 25. Toronto was disappointed on public transit. While the federal and provincial governments have both pledged money to extend the subway to York University and beyond, Queen’s Park has not restored its share of operating funding to the Toronto Transit Commission, which was cut by the Conservatives. Without such funding, service and long-term planning will continue to suffer, suggested the Star.

  • A March 25 editorial in The Toronto Sun said the Ontario budget benefited the 905 region more than Toronto. One 905 bonus was both the federal and provincial governments jumping on board the Spadina subway extension in their budgets. Is that good for Toronto? We’ll call it mediocre at best, suggested the Sun. But this is political, not practical. It’s good for Sorbara, as he’s cunningly extended the line right into his own riding in Vaughan. It’s good for York University students. It’s good for the Harper Tories, who have a shot at seats outside Toronto, less so in the 416.

Threats against moderate Muslims real, says prof

In a Winnipeg Free Press commentary March 25 about a CBC-TV documentary on the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalist to their secular and liberal co-religionists, Asad U. Khan noted that the documentary had a clip of York University Women’s Studies Prof. Haideh Moghissi, who said the threats against moderate Muslims are real and should be taken seriously.

Researchers say ‘subliminal seduction’ is a myth

Psychologist Tim Moore of York University’s Glendon College and several other researchers have run controlled studies proving that "subliminal" self-help tapes provide no benefit, reported the Globe and Mail March 24 in a story about a CBC report that slot machines flash jackpot images that influence players to keep playing. The problem, Moore says, lies in the widespread public belief that subliminal manipulation is a powerful and insidious tool to enter people’s minds. More powerful, in fact, than regular influences. And that belief, he states flatly, has no scientific evidence: "It’s an urban myth."

Won’t be easy to set up prostitute co-op

The group of Vancouver prostitutes behind a move to set up a co-op says they could simply apply to be a massage parlour or escort agency under city bylaws, but they’re not interested in running another clandestine brothel, reported the Globe and Mail March 24. Which means they’ll need exemptions from the law or face getting charged by police. For example, the section in the Criminal Code that prohibits living off the avails of prostitution could have implications for a co-operatively owned business in which part of the money the women make will be funnelled back in.

Gaining exemptions from criminal law is all but impossible, said Alan Young of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who is also handling a constitutional challenge to the prostitution laws filed in Ontario last week. The Criminal Code would need to be amended or a constitutional exemption would have to be granted in court. "People can’t just apply for exemptions from the law," Young said.

York grad approached to star in a reality TV series

Chris Bower and Tal Rosenbloom (BBA ’00), founders of Chris & Tal’s Better Foods – purveyors of half-soy burgers, meatballs, sausages and ground meat that have half the fat, calories and cholesterol of similar mainstream products – didn’t anticipate the possibility of becoming reality TV stars, reported the Toronto Star March 26. But it could happen. They’ve been approached by a producer who saw them in the Star and wants to build a reality TV show around them. They are among the nine chosen for the Star’s Build a Business Challenge and matched with experts from Ontario’s leading business schools and other consultants, to help them pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.