Osgoode professors pay tribute to late justice

Former Supreme Court of Canada justice Bertha Wilson – who died on Saturday after a long illness – played a historic role in Canadian law both as a pioneering female jurist and as a primary architect of Charter of Rights jurisprudence, wrote The Globe and Mail May 1. The first female judge to ascend to the Supreme Court,  Wilson was appointed just weeks before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted in 1982. She quickly became a strong proponent of using the Charter to end centuries of discrimination.

Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the legal mainstream is only beginning to catch up with some of Wilson’s views. He specified her contention that the charter ought to be read as containing social and economic rights, such as a right to welfare or housing.

  • From the beginning of Bertha Wilson’s term on the Supreme Court of Canada in 1982 – the first woman to hold the appointment – she wielded an eloquent pen, even if her reasons were not always in accord with those of her male colleagues, wrote The Globe and Mail May 1 in an obituary. "She was a vital part of that early burst of judicial energy and creativity that really characterized those early years of charter interpretation," said Jamie Cameron, a professor at Osgoode. This was before the words "judicial activism" were part of common parlance.

"She almost never wrote the opinion for the majority of the court," Prof. Cameron pointed out. "My sense of it is that she was very much an individual and a loner, and so I think it was a struggle for her to find her voice, to claim her voice and to maintain the integrity of her own voice."

Deep Thoughts: studying boredom isn’t boring

Shelley Fahlman, a second-year PhD student in clinical psychology in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, is researching the development and validation of the multi-dimensional state-of-boredom scale, wrote the Toronto Star, May 1, in its Deep Thoughts feature. Fahlman’s research certainly isn’t boring: she’s developing a new scale to measure boredom that can in turn be used for research in psychology.

Not much has been done in understanding boredom, she says. "Boredom is a really common experience and just for that sake alone it’s a good idea for people to understand it," Fahlman says, adding boredom is often related to other destructive behaviours, like anxiety and depression. But without more research, psychologists won’t understand how being bored leads to them. Fahlman says more in-depth studies can’t be done on boredom until a scale is developed to measure it. This, therefore, is the foundation for future research on boredom.

Camping out at Linux for the free Wi-Fi shuffle

Detlev Zwick, 39, a marketing professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, sporting running shoes and urban scruff, has been shuffled before from his table by David Patrick, owner of Linux, a Harbord Street café offering free Wi-Fi internet access. Zwick’s a regular who spends at least $10 per visit for a seat in his "downtown office." He doesn’t feel as welcome at Starbucks or Second Cup, corporate coffee houses that charge obscene amounts of money to use free Wi-Fi – about $3 for 15 minutes. "Sometimes we have to squeeze and share a table," Zwick says. "It’s manageable because for me this place is great. I can sit here for four to five hours at a time and it doesn’t raise any eyebrows."

Bike helmet laws work, stats show

Laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets do increase helmet use and may also reduce head injury rates among young riders, according to a report evaluating various studies on this issue, wrote Edmonton RushHour May 1.

Alison Macpherson, a professor in York’s Faculty of Health, and Anneliese Spinks of Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, examined the effectiveness of legislation requiring bike helmets, which has been enacted in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Canadian study found a 45-per-cent drop in head injuries in provinces with bike helmet laws on the books, compared to a 27-per-cent reduction in provinces without such laws.

York nursing professor asks the right questions

The mystery of why an Alzheimer’s patient became distraught when a nurse threw out her collection of paper cups was one of a series of stories highlighting the need to show respect for elderly patients, published in the St. Catharines Standard May 1.

The woman, in a very advanced stage of dementia, had devised a way of keeping track of the passage of time by the number of cups she’d collected. No one had understood that. No one had asked. Then someone did. It was Gail Mitchell, a professor of nursing in York’s Faculty of Health. She asked the woman a simple question: "Tell me about the cups." And the woman did.

"We may not understand what’s happening, but there’s a reason it’s happening," says Mitchell. Once hospital staff realized how important the cups were to the woman, they replaced every one of them. Understanding the person behind the disease is crucial, says Mitchell.

Research reveals Mickey Mouse was censored in BC

There was a time Mickey Mouse was considered vulgar and unsuitable for British Columbians and news reporting was censored by the provincial government. Welcome to the not-so-distant era of the British Columbia Censor of Moving Pictures, reported The Globe and Mail April 30. Stanley Fox, a former television producer and program director at the CBC and TV Ontario, film professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts (from 1971 to 1984) and current documentary film consultant, recently spent several weeks examining the contents of eight boxes of letters and directives relating to film censorship in BC between 1914 and 1963. Considered through a 2007 lens, the correspondence appears arbitrary and rife with politics.

"There was a political agenda," Fox says, adding there is a common misconception that censorship activities were focused primarily on sex. He says BC censors cast a wide net and employed a loose interpretation of the act, censoring for not only sexual morality and political content but for social and even artistic reasons, too.

York professor chairs Black History Month panel

A panel discussion during Black History Month in Owen Sound was chaired by Naomi Norquay, professor in York’s Faculty of Education and a regular at the annual event, wrote the Owen Sound Sun Times May 1. Norquay owns property on the historic Old Durham Road near Priceville and is keen to learn more about the history of the area’s first non-native settlers.

Why do songbirds start crooning so darn early?

"Songbirds have steamy social lives that would make most of us blush," wrote Georgia’s Macon Telegraph May 1, the latest newspaper to publish a review of York Professor Bridget Stutchbury’s book, Silence of the Songbirds. Stutchbury, a biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, writes in her new book that songbirds are quickly losing their habitats. The rainforests and other disappearing nesting grounds hurt them, and so do city lights.

York professor says anti-Nazi blog raises defamation issues

More than 30 people in the Calgary region have been named as neo-Nazis by a group posting pictures and personal information on an Internet blog, wrote CBC.ca News April 30. But a York legal expert says the practice raises other legal issues. Calgary lawyer Martin Kratz, a regional director in the part-time LLM program in e-business law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said freedom of speech rights are balanced by other laws. "The law of defamation is quite easy. One should not promote false, injurious statements about other people to the public." Members of Anti-Racist Action say they’ve been threatened many times before, both legally and physically, and they’re not about to take down their Web site.

Green pilot program snubs Ontario and York

Funding from $240 million allocated to the federal government’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food program won’t be going to any pilot projects in Ontario, wrote Ontario Farmer May 1. The Credit Valley Conservation Authority, whose river runs through Brampton and Mississauga, was a partner, along with the Ontario Soil and Crop Association, Conservation Ontario and the Region of Peel, in a request submitted by York University. It asked ACAF for $350,000 towards a $430,000 project.

BC Lions draft a York Lion

Vancouver-area players that the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions are watching closely include York Lions running back Pearce Akpata, wrote The Vancouver Sun May 1.