Jordan Manners’ death raises questions about fatherlessness

In the 10 days since Jordan Manners was killed by a gunshot in a hallway of Toronto’s C.W. Jefferys high school, the mention of his father has been scant. No name. No photo. Not even a reference during the Toronto teenager’s funeral, reported the National Post June 2. Instead, we’ve watched Jordan’s mother, Laureen Small, a paragon of strength, going through her cycle of mourning. Even though she has friends and family bolstering her, some see her as a vulnerable single mother. That perspective has begged the delicate question, especially among family-values proponents: Amid this violence and sadness, where are the fathers?

Some stress that placing fatherlessness at the root of the problem is facile. Especially when there are so many other obstacles to consider. "We all could have lost a parent," says Carol Tator, the co-author of Discourses of Domination: Racial Bias in the Canadian English-Language Press, "but that doesn’t make us deviant." Also an anthropology instructor in York’s Faculty of Arts, Tator sees a pattern in the media’s portrayal of the lone, black mother. "She is abnormalized, portrayed as isolated and alone with no control over her sons and the friends he keeps. And it’s because she’s a black single woman. Nobody would ever say this about a white single mother."

Quebecor purchase of Osprey a healthy sign, says prof

Osprey’s sale to Quebecor is a sign of a healthy economy and marks an expected strategic shift in media ownership, said Theo Peridis, a policy professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. Peridis was commenting on the sale of the Ontario-based newspaper publisher in a Canadian Press story published June 2 in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.

"The story is the news world is changing, the ways news is generated, the ways news is distributed, the way advertisers use media to reach consumers is changing," Peridis said. He said the Internet has forced media companies around the world to adapt by providing many platforms to acquire news and advertising. "Parts of these corporate deals that we see are in realigning assets to serve the advertisers in a more effective way."

York filmmaker makes a French connection

A Regina filmmaker – and York grad – is still basking in the glow of the Cannes Film Festival, where he spent six days rubbing elbows with filmmakers from around the globe, attending parties and convincing people there is more to Saskatchewan than bald prairie, reported The StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post June 2. Brian Stockton was invited to Cannes to promote the third instalment of his short film The Epic Story of My Life, Saskatchewan, Part 3.

Cannes is the latest in a string of film festivals Stockton has attended over the years. All three of his short films have appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival since he began making the series. The trilogy is scheduled to be broadcast Aug. 5 on CBC for Saskatchewan Day. "I like telling funny stories that make people laugh. I knew from the outset I wanted to make them entertaining," said Stockton, who earned a master’s in fine arts in film and video from York in 2005.

Greens face uphill battle in engaging newcomers, low-income Canadians

Across North America, most environmental activists are white and middle class, reported the Toronto Star June 2. So, generally, are participants in public meetings and protests. The mainstream movement’s definition of the environment is far too narrow, says Beenash Jafri (BES ’03), a 27-year-old York graduate whose parents emigrated from Pakistan in the 1970s. In Canada, the environment has traditionally focussed on nature, the north, and green spaces, Jafri says. There’s been little focus on gritty urban issues, such as connections among pollution, poverty, race, housing, public transit, health care and social justice, "which the mainstream groups might not define as part of the environmental movement." As well, "so much privilege" is tied to the traditional concerns, she says. "Who gets access to nature and green space?"

The book on Toronto: A story for every corner

How do Toronto writers chart the city? asked York geography instructor Amy Lavender Harris in a piece in the Toronto Star’s Ideas section June 2. In part by narrating its diverse cultures and hidden corners, giving voice to our dreams, desires, memories and secrets, Lavender Harris writes. In an essay on Toronto published in his best-selling book The Global Soul, Pico Iyer calls Toronto "the city as anthology," an apt description since Toronto has a story for almost every neighbourhood: the Annex, Parkdale, Kensington Market – even Oakville and Richmond Hill.

Lavender Harris, noted the Star, took part in an event May 31 at the Lillian Smith library that explored those themes. It was part of the 2007 Festival of Architecture & Design.

Any anthology of Toronto literature would include the city’s most recognizable literary works, including Hugh Garner’s Cabbagetown, Dennis Lee’s Civil Elegies, Katherine Govier’s Fables of Brunswick Avenue, Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, Anne Michaels’ Fugitive Pieces, and Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For. But Toronto’s literary canon extends far beyond this short list, wrote Lavender Harris, who then explores writing about the CN Tower, Christie Pits, Parkdale, the Bloor Viaduct, Kensington Market and suburbia.

A growing movement aims to salvage neglected cemeteries for the mentally ill

Like 1,510 other former hospital patients whose families were too poor, too far away, or too ashamed of their illness to arrange a funeral for them, Cameron Tinkis is buried in the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital cemetery. It’s a 1.6-hectare field, bordered by a chain-link fence, at the corner of Horner and Evans Avenues just south of the Gardiner Expressway, reported the Toronto Star June 2. Like 1,356 of those patients, buried from 1890 to 1956, Tinkis lies in an unmarked grave. "They were ignored in their lifetimes," says Geoffrey Reaume, a professor in York University’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health. "And, frankly, ignored in death." Says Reaume, 45, who spent time in a psychiatric hospital in the 1970s: "This neglect is an active sign of discrimination today for people who have psychiatric disabilities," he says. "It says that it’s all right to say, ‘Oh, they were just crazy people, they were mad people, who cares? Let’s just bury them and forget them.’ Well, we care. And I suppose if we were alive back then, that would have been us buried there."

Toronto-17 terrorist case just beginning

When two young men accused of participating in an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell left the Brampton courthouse earlier this week, largely unnoticed by those around them, it stood in stark contrast to when they began their legal journey here, almost a year ago to the day, reported the Toronto Star June 2. One of them was seized in Canada’s largest terrorist bust and brought with 16 others to this courthouse which was swarming with tactical officers, rooftop snipers, bomb-sniffing dogs, lawyers, international journalists and the suspect’s family members. The second was apprehended a month later and both were granted bail last summer. The two youths are soon expected to sign peace bonds and finalize their cases, according to a source close to the proceedings.

Yet this massive case is far from over. The remaining men and one youth face an indefinite time in jail; legal experts predict it may be years before the matter is heard before a judge and jury.

The preliminary hearing for the adult accused, after repeated postponements, is scheduled to begin Monday. "The moment there are two accused it is like having two trials. If you add accused and you add complexity, it means the case takes longer," said James Stribopoulos (BA ’95, LLB ’94), a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.  

Any argument of entrapment will be made only after a guilty verdict. "Unless these individuals were targeted without any justification what so ever and offered an opportunity to commit offences that they didn’t initiate, entrapment is an almost impossible claim to prove," said Stribopoulos.

Canucks big players in China region’s boom

It may not seem obvious at first, but the future of this special administrative region of China has a lot to do with Canada, reported the Toronto Star June 2 in a profile of Macau. That’s because Canucks are heavily involved in Macau’s success, starting at the very top. Macau’s leader, Chief Executive Edmund Ho (BBA’78), studied business administration at York University and at Regina Mundi College in London, Ont. A chartered accountant at Peat Marwick in Toronto, he eventually returned to Macau as heir to a fortune worth billions.

Smarts about fat are thin on the ground

Fat, it seems, is the new tobacco, wrote Christine Sismondo, in a June 2 Globe and Mail review of The New Science of Weight Loss And the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata. To some, in fact, fat is considered even worse. In fact, the smoker may get a little relief in the near future as negative attention is redirected toward the new pariah: the chubby, continued Sismondo, who teaches humanities in York’s Faculty of Arts.

Many studies are emerging that question the entire association between overweight and health risks. Obesity carries with it an increased health risk, for sure, but many claim that overweight people can be perfectly healthy – especially if they have a good diet and a moderate exercise regimen. At least one recent study actually found that those who were merely overweight were often actually healthier than thin people. So why do we only hear of the alarmist studies? Why the great moral panic over fat? Why is the notion that fat is the result of sloth, stupidity and poor taste the overwhelmingly popular wisdom of the day?

Kolata answers these questions – impeccably. In fact, while the rest of the book is a sound and thorough treatment of the history and reality of dieting, the best part comes when she deals with the economic, cultural and political factors that obscure some of the most solid scientific research on the subject of thin today, wrote Sismondo.

Holtsceuticals appeal lies in the wording, says marketing prof

At the heart of Holt Renfrew’s new Vancouver store is Holtsceuticals, a 1,200-square-foot lifestyle oasis aimed squarely at boomer wallets, wrote The Globe and Mail’s Leanne Delap in her June 2 Globe Style column. The mediciney suffix "ceuticals" is the latest thing in the beauty game, with terms like cosmeceuticals and skinceuticals the catchphrases that loosely translate as "cosmetics with health benefits." A lot of the appeal is the wording, says Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business. "Across the board we have modern marketing buzzwords like functional, green, sustainable," Middleton says. "There is seldom real scientific backing or peer review of any of these products. Ah, but adding on the ‘ceuticals’ makes a sexy and saleable name."

"The beauty business," Middleton says, "is about selling hope," referencing American beauty pioneer Charles Revson of Revlon. And in the hope business, throwing money at a problem is an old instinct. "We still believe that if something costs more, it must be better," he says. "And now we are facing a group of people with broad and deep disposable income who are no longer brand loyal. Exclusivity counts, as does endorsement by a select group, such as celebrities."

Airline security advisories would cause panic, says prof

A lawyer representing relatives of Air India bombing victims suggested that Canadians should be informed when an airline flying within the country has terrorist threats against it, the Air India inquiry in Ottawa heard Friday, reported the Vancouver Sun June 2 in a story also published in the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post. Norm Boxall said companies recall products all the time, or warn of a safety issue. "Why should we protect the commercial interests of that airline? Why shouldn’t the customer know the threat?" Boxall asked.

Retired York political science Professor Reg Whitaker, who chaired the Canadian Air Transit Security Authority panel, said governments would be "loathe" to issue security advisories because of the potential panic that would occur. And he said security measures should be high enough that threats don’t mean increased danger to passengers.

The problem with the 1985 Air India bombing, Whitaker said, is that intelligence about the threats was not adequately shared between interested parties or properly assessed at the time.

"If we look at the Air India situation in retrospect, then we can obviously all agree that there was an enhanced threat," Whitaker said. "I would suspect that government would be very loathe to move to…actually setting an advisory."

York student helps Canadian tae kwon do team place third

Mississauga sisters Courtney and Shannon Condie helped the Canadian women’s team place third at the recent World Tae Kwon Do Championships in Beijing, reported The Mississauga News June 1. Competing in her first Senior World Championship, the 17-year-old Courtney finished in the top six finish among 43 combatants in the welterweight division. Unlike Courtney, 19-year-old Shannon was entering her second world competition. This time, the York University undergraduate moved up to the tougher bantam weight class and the fourth-degree belt wound up with a top-16 finish. A five-time national senior champion, Shannon took up martial arts at the age of five.

Music grad leads new concert band at Milton’s 150th anniversary

Milton is poised to celebrate its 150th anniversary, and what better time for a newly-formed music group to begin introducing itself to the community, reported the Milton Canadian Champion June 1. That’s exactly what the Milton Concert Band (MCB) plans to do over the next several weeks, with a series of performances to coincide with the town’s milestone. The ensemble began taking shape about nine months ago. Now leading the group, composer and woodwind musician Joseph Resendes (BFA ’04) – who’s performed in and around the GTA for over a decade – offers praise of the group’s early efforts. "I was really excited about the prospect of getting involved with a group who wanted to do something a little different here in Milton," said the York music instructor. "It’s not just your average community band, but one that challenges both its members and its audience with a creative and unique repertoire, in a fun learning environment."

On air

  • Saeed Rahnema, director of Atkinson’s School of Public Policy & Administration, talked about the York University-hosted conference last weekend exploring issues faced by Western-based Muslims, on CBC Radio’s "Here and Now" June 1. 
  • Margaret Beare, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, former director of Police Policy & Research in the federal Solicitor-General’s office and a member of her neighborhood community police liaison committee, joined a panel discussion about how police have special status in society, on CBC Radio’s "Sunday Edition" June 3.  
  • Family and friends paid tribute to Chantal Dunn, the former York University student who died in gunshot violence a year ago, in a memorial Friday at York, reported "CBC News at Six" June 1.
  • Annie Bunting, a social science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, joined a panel on CTV Newsnet’s "The Verdict" May 30 to discuss a child custody battle involving a white man who wanted to raise his two children off reserve after his Native wife died. She said it’s important to put the case into the historical context of the ’60s sweep where Aboriginal children were taken off reserve, raised by non-Aboriginal families and ended up having a lot of troubles in urban and non-urban settings where they have no connection to their ancestral heritage.