Twelve-year-old’s abuse explained as ‘moral disengagement’

The crime that has stunned a city – including those who regularly deal with abuse cases – may offer a glimpse into the psychological damage of drug addiction, reported the National Post May 5. A Rexdale mother is alleged to have given her 12-year-old developmentally delayed daughter drugs and forced her to have sex with multiple men over a period of several months in exchange for drugs and money. "Very little could explain such abusive behaviour," said Debra Pepler, a psychology professor at York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution.

Pepler pointed to a process called "moral disengagement" for answers. "When people repeatedly abuse others, they can morally disengage. They can come to the point where they honestly don’t see it as wrong, even though anybody standing outside of it would certainly understand it as abuse," she said. "In the process of moral disengagement, people somehow begin to justify abuse of others because they don’t see them as worthy; they don’t even see them as human. They don’t see themselves responsible for the abuse. They often think that the person is to blame."

York emergency expert lauds Quinte West’s disaster plan

Ali Asgary, professor of emergency management in York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, watched from the sidelines as table-top exercise Weather Watch – Quinte West’s disaster plan – unfolded, wrote the Belleville Intelligencer May 8. "For a small city Quinte West is far more prepared than other larger centres. It’s beyond what we expected," said Asgary. "Quinte West is ahead of the game."

Vaughan aims to boost voter turnout in 2010

A contentious mayoral race finally behind it, the City of Vaughan, Ont., has set itself the lofty – and early – goal of dramatically increasing voter turnout by the next municipal elections, slated for 2010, wrote the Toronto Star May 8. They could include allowing voting by email or Internet, extended hours and more advance polls.

Robert McDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, an expert on municipal election finance issues and a critic of how corporate contributions disproportionately influence municipal politics, said the initiative is a "great" idea, though some targets may be difficult to achieve. McDermid warned that some ideas, such as e-mail, Internet and mail voting, could be open to abuse.

A pilot project in Markham to allow advance polling via the Internet did increase voter participation, McDermid said, but it wasn’t an extraordinary boost. "What tends to happen is that people who tend to vote and use the Internet, vote on the Internet instead of going in person, but it doesn’t necessarily attract a whole bunch of people who wouldn’t have voted at all."

  • MacDermid also spoke about the City of Vaughan’s plans on CFMT-TV’s “Studio Aperto” May 7.

Three Osgoode graduates started practice in BC farm country

Osgoode Hall Law School alumnus James Geoffrey Kane (LLB ’72) was eulogized, by his daughter, Melissa McConchie, in The Globe and Mail, May 8.

Six years ago, when he was 53, my father was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called mantle cell lymphoma, wrote McConchie. From the beginning, he believed that he would beat this thing. But, for my father, beating cancer was not just about a cure. It meant living every moment to the fullest. And he did.

The truth of the matter is, my father never really grew up, but the kid in him was what made him so special. Dad’s practical jokes were legendary, often involving elaborate, well-orchestrated series of events. One time he even hired actors and involved the Delta police to spoof his friend and law-firm partner Bill Weiler (LLB ’72) for his 40th birthday.

Bill recently described my father as the leading light of their law firm. At the celebration of life held for my father, Bill and Cliff Shannon (LLB ’72), the third founder of their law firm, recollected how they came to Vancouver from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. They said it was Geoff who persuaded them to venture west and start a law firm in the middle of what was then farm country. Dad had a vision of the area developing and thriving. Today, Kane, Shannon & Weiler is one of the largest law firms in the Fraser Valley area.

Tweet, tweet, you’re dead

In Silence of the Songbirds – the echo of Rachel Carson’s epoch-making Silent Spring is deliberate – Bridget Stutchbury, a biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering who has been studying songbird migration for more than 20 years, charts the decline, pinpoints its various causes and suggests ways we can slow down the rate of the birds’ disappearance. Her book is a thoroughly researched and elegantly written call to arms, says a Globe and Mail review May 5. Like Rachel Carson in the 1960s, Stutchbury is issuing an early warning that we ignore to our peril: "We have learned the hard way that when birds begin disappearing, we may be next."

  • On Monday, May 14, Riverdale Farm will host a special discussion and workshop about practising songbird conservation at home, wrote Inside Toronto May 7. The bird-friendly event is the first part of Project CHIRP! (Project Creating Habitat in Residential areas and Parkland), a new songbird conservation initiative that strives to educate and inspire homeowners to plant native species of trees and shrubs in the city. York University Professor Bridget Stutchbury’s lab in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, a partner in the Birds in the City initiative, was also inspirational to the founding of the event.

The $400 face job

If you haven’t replaced that jar of anti-aging cream in your bathroom vanity for a while, you could be in for a case of sticker shock, reported the National Post May 5. This spring’s new generation of face creams not only brings cutting-edge ingredients but an extra zero to the price tag. You can blame the baby boomers for this phenomenon, says Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. "This is the generation that brought us the youth movement and, quite frankly, they refuse to get old. I like to explain it like this: From the neck up, these individuals are 30, but from the neck down they are 60." And they will go to any length to keep the image of youth.

Student copes with chronic fatigue syndrome

Kayla Scott was 21, in her second year at York University, when things started going wrong, began a Toronto Star feature May 5 about chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). She was a good student, a healthy athlete and embarking on a relationship with a guy who would turn out to be one of the mainstays of her life. But no matter how much rest she got, she couldn’t shake a fatigue so profound she was unable to think straight. "I had become a completely different person pretty much overnight," she says. About 85 per cent of people who seek medical help for CFS are told it’s all in their head but the disease is not only real, it can be treated, particularly if it’s caught early. Today, Scott knows she is one of the lucky ones. The women’s studies student has had tremendous support from York’s School of Women’s Studies.

Rice paddy as field of dreams for York-trained choreographer

The solo that Vancouver-based dancer and choreographer Alvin Erasga Tolentino will dance here next week approaches the currently popular environment issue in a way that you won’t see debated in the House of Commons, reported The Gazette in Montreal May 5. The work, called Field: Land Is the Belly of Man, sees the global landscape not in economic or health terms, but in terms of its impact on human emotions. And what is lost, the work implies, cannot be easily replaced. Tolentino, who studied dance at York from1988 to 1990 and in 1991-1992, knows about the loss of habitat. At 12, he and his family left the Philippines and immigrated to Vancouver. Twenty years later, Ballet Philippines invited the adult Tolentino to create a work that allowed him to examine the emotional impact of his native land on his psyche.

On air

  • Paul Delaney, astronomy professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about York’s participation in the Phoenix mission to Mars, which includes special Canadian-made equipment to monitor the Red Planet’s weather, on CBC Radio and CTV News May 7.