Poet Priscila Uppal knows how hard life can be

Ontological Necessities is the fifth collection of poetry for the prodigiously prolific Priscila Uppal, who at the age of 32 is a tenured professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, wrote the Ottawa Citizen May 27. In  it Uppal asks: What does it mean to be alive?

Home, for most of Uppal’s life, was Ottawa where she was born in 1974 to an Indian father, a Sikh, and a Catholic mother from Brasilia, wrote the Citizen. Her ethnic makeup fit in nicely with the multicultural character of her street. That was the good part. Uppal’s childhood was also marked by tragedy. Her father enjoyed a promising career with CIDA. But on a mission to the Caribbean he was involved in a boating accident. The canoe he was in tipped over and in a devastating fluke he swallowed the virus for spinal meningitis. Within 24 hours he was quadriplegic. Uppal was two years old.

"All of a sudden your way of being in the world is completely shifted," she says. "You have this house that suddenly needs renovations for things like elevators and wheelchair ramps, and medical people are coming around constantly, and Daddy can’t get up, and Mommy is crying all the time."

When Uppal was eight her mother abandoned the family, wrote the Citizen. Uppal says of those years, "I developed a real intense sense of fear and panic that life can change at any moment. But I also developed a capacity for empathy and compassion."

Uppal’s father made his children (Uppal has an older brother) the focus of his life. Academic achievement was everything. She describes her father as heroic: "I learned from him just how strong you have to be to live. Even when you have all your wits about you – and all of your limbs – life is still a lot of work. I think that’s where my ambition comes from," she says. "There is real pleasure in doing things for yourself and seeing what you are capable of, even if the odds are against you."

The Citizen noted that Ontological Necessities is nominated for the Griffin prize, which will be awarded June 6.

Debate rages over cormorants

"From the time a cormorant nests in a tree, it takes about five years to kill it," said Dawn Bazely, a biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, commenting on the birds’ destructive impact on Lake Erie’s East Sister and Middle islands for a story in the Windsor Star May 28. "They pick bits of the twigs to make their nests and then they just sit there and poop." This guano and the nesting processes are clearly having an impact, Bazely said.

Since 1995, Middle Island has lost 41 per cent of its dense forest canopy, said Marian Stranak, superintendent for Point Pelee National Park, which includes the island.

"I don’t really advocate killing for the sake of killing,” Bazely said. "But clearly you have to do something to prevent the cormorants from destroying habitat." There are other options besides shooting the birds, said Stranak, like oiling the eggs, nest removal and scaring them off. "We will need to have a broad-based public discussion," Bazely said. "At the end of the day, the collective decision to act is going to have to involve public values."

Wave ripples; Russo and Jane Creba ‘inspired’ anti-violence workshops

Put into a wheelchair by a gunman’s bullet, Louise Russo has made giant strides with her Walk Against Violence Everywhere (WAVE), wrote The Toronto Sun May 28. Under rainy skies, 700 people walked and wheeled around the Toronto Track & Field Centre on York’s Keele campus bringing in more than $30,000 to Russo’s second annual fundraiser.

  • The walk, co-sponsored by York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, also received wide coverage on Toronto radio and TV stations, including Citytv and CP24.

This year’s Congress book fair compared to York’s

Benoit Gervais, book fair organizer at this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Saskatoon, said it’s exciting for the University of Saskatchewan to host such a large book fair, one that’s nearly as large as the 88-booth Toronto fair held at York’s Keele campus in 2006, wrote The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) May 28. "(While planning) we compared this one to the Congress we had in 2004 in Manitoba. I think they had 72 booths," he said. "To see the number of booths comparable to what we had at York University to us is astounding. I’m very excited about the turnout."

‘A lot more service’ by GO promised for York Region

An exciting development for GO Transit is that Barrie will soon be accessible by GO Transit’s rail network, said Gary McNeil, GO Transit managing director and CEO, in a story in the Newmarket/Aurora Era-Banner May 26. "York University students could now live in Barrie still and not have to live on campus or in downtown Toronto," said McNeil. "This provides them with an opportunity to stay at home and still go to school in Toronto."

Star says subway to York Region is needed to combat worsening gridlock

Toronto’s population of 2.5 million is expected to grow by almost 400,000 over the next 15 years, wrote the Toronto Star in an editorial May 28. To avoid permanent gridlock, and help reduce choking smog, Toronto must provide practical alternatives to using cars. Plans have been developed for a $6-billion light rail network, using new electric streetcars, serving virtually every neighbourhood. Also needed is a new subway line to York University and York Region, [and] aggressive GO Transit expansion.

Youthful trader takes aggressive approach

Yaser Anwar is a 21-year-old student, in the third-year of a BCom degree, specializing in finance at York University, wrote The Globe and Mail May 26. "I’m a very aggressive trader. When I was 18, I was looking for a career and I stumbled on a finance book on Warren Buffett and I saw how much money people could make. But I also remembered how my dad lost a lot of money in the tech boom. I was so interested in how people got emotionally involved with money. When I was just starting, I did paper trades for a while. I did that for about six, seven months. If you can’t paper-trade, you can’t make money in real life."

Student thanks York profs for letting him disagree

How did Al Gore’s anti-global warming film An Inconvenient Truth become compulsory classroom viewing in parts of Canada, asked the National Post in an editorial that prompted a column by Paul Russell, Post letters editor, May 28. A majority of readers who wrote letters, he said, were happy to see the mainstream thinking on global warming challenged.

"I am very grateful I went to York University," wrote former student Paul Larman. "My profs would have allowed me to disagree with them on global warming. Debate and dissenting opinions are apparently not welcome at the University of Toronto or the University of Western Ontario. This kind of closed-mindedness frightens me. Are we educating our children or brainwashing them?"

Tourney remembers man killed in crash

York graduate Dino Raponi (BA ’00) is gone but not forgotten, wrote the Stouffville Sun May 26. In January, Raponi, 29, was killed when his Ford F-250 collided with a hydro pole in south Uxbridge, east of Goodwood. A graduate of York’s Faculty of Arts, who grew up in Unionville and attended Brother Andre Catholic High School, he had been made a partner in the family business, Strap Drywall Inc., because he was so disciplined and business-minded, his father said at the time. A charity golf tournament in Raponi’s memory will be held June 1 at the Maples of Ballantrae Golf Club.

Contest helps student pick university courses

Tristen Petate, a Grade 12 student at Markham’s Brother Andre Catholic High, was the winner in our short story contest, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun May 26. "I didn’t think anybody would care about anything I write," she said. "Now, everyone is congratulating me. People I don’t know have come up and said ‘Wow, you must be a good writer’." The 17-year-old plans to spend two years studying French and English at the Glendon campus of York University. Petate won for a story called “My Mother’s Margaritas”.

Markham students excel on university track

Erica Broomfield ran off with a pair of firsts at the recent University of Windsor Open, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun May 24. The 29-year-old York University student and former Milliken Mills Secondary School graduate won the women’s 100 metres in 11.42 seconds and the 400m in 53.37.

City woman rising radio star

With one minute and 35 seconds until she’s live on air, Megan Murphy (BFA ’02) tosses out ideas to her radio co-host about how to segué from Donald Trump news to Mike Tyson gossip, wrote the Peterborough Examiner May 26. Despite having trouble finding a sound clip, they hit the airwaves for Star 93.3 FM. All of a sudden they’re speaking live to thousands of listeners across Cobourg, Port Hope and Peterborough.

Murphy loves the rush – if something goes wrong, she can’t hit rewind. Murphy, a single 28-year-old Peterborough woman and daughter of the late criminal lawyer Marty Murphy, started co-hosting the morning show for the Cobourg-based station two weeks ago. It has been a real change of pace for Murphy, whose background is in theatre and improv. "I love it, it’s fast-paced and the learning curve is steep," she says.

After graduating from high school in 1998, Murphy earned a $50,000 TD Canada Trust Community Leadership scholarship, which paid for her tuition at York University, wrote the Examiner. After graduating university, she moved back to Peterborough in 2003 to be closer to her father who was sick with cancer. He died in July 2004.

Activists speaking at Horizons of Friendship

Steven Schnoor is an activist and PhD student in York’s graduate program in Communications & Culture, wrote the Northumberland News May 25 in a story about a speaking engagement he will make May 29 in Cobourg. Recently, Schnoor spent four months collaborating with mining-affected communities and organizations in Guatemala and Honduras and produced a short independent documentary video about violent illegal evictions in five Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities in the region of Skye Resources’ planned nickel project. The documentary has generated widespread response from the public, the Canadian ambassador in Guatemala and the company itself.

Both Steven and colleague Sandra Cuffe are involved with Rights Action, an organization that supports community-controlled projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti.

Riders’ all-time line-up has defining characters

Has a Roughrider ever been so aptly named?, mused columnist Rob Vanstone in The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) May 26, in an item about former York Lions football player Josh Martyr (BA ’05). I know, I know, wrote Vanstone. Consider the hardships Roughriders diehards have endured. They have maintained the faith, somehow, despite a succession of letdowns. And now Josh Martyr arrives. Perfect. Martyr, 26, spent five seasons at York University. Last year, he had 21 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown. He led York in rushing in 2002 with 440 yards.

Neighbourhood Snapshot: Casa Loma

Novelist Margaret Atwood lived at 27 Hilton while a professor at York University in 1971, wrote the National Post May 26; poet and York English Professor Susan Swan rented a house at 64 Wells Hill in the early 1980s.

Poor have no blanket right to counsel

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not give impoverished litigants a blanket right to obtain legal counsel, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, wrote The Globe and Mail May 26. "The court says it is not its job to create or encourage systemic remedies," said Bruce Ryder, a law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "It leaves the task to governments – the very governments who have under funded or cancelled legal aid programs.

"We have to either demand adequate funding for legal aid from our governments or stop pretending that we are a society that truly cares about justice for all," Ryder said. "Whenever we hear politicians waxing eloquent about Canada’s commitment to protecting human rights, we should ask them if they’re talking only about the rights of those who can afford to enforce them."