Olympic shooter’s Beijing ticket is a dream come true for mom Lien Chao

Toronto’s Avianna Chao more or less fell into Olympic pistol shooting, but she swiftly learned she had a gift for it and that, in turn, has translated into an extraordinary present for her mother, reported CanWest News Service July 17. Chao, 32, won the women’s 10-metre air pistol event at the Pan American Games on Monday, which also qualified her for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. So, mother and daughter will be able to journey for a special visit back to the country of their birth, which they left separately, years ago, owing to circumstance.

When the poet, anthologist and literary critic Lien Chao (MA, ’86, PhD ’96) emigrated from China to Canada in 1984 to study Canadian literature, she had evident talent, a dream to complete higher education, absolutely no funding from the government of China and $100 in her pocket, CanWest said. Oh, and an 11-year-old daughter named Avianna she had to leave behind with relatives until she got settled, culturally and financially. Two years later, Avianna followed her mom, then a student at York University, where Lien completed her MA and PhD in literature. Mother and daughter lived for 10 years with Virginia Rock, a member of the York University faculty [now retired as an English professor], while the mother completed her education.

Lien’s signature work, an autobiography, is titled Maples and the Stream: a narrative poem in which she writes of the grim, grey, miserable life in China, contrasted with realization of her dreams in Canada, which she symbolizes with references to the “blazing red” of Canada’s maples, said CanWest.

  • Canadian Press noted July 16 that Avianna was born in Wuhan, China, and her family moved to Canada when she was 11 so her mother Lien could pursue her studies in Canadian literature at York University.  “I hope to make both my countries proud – Canada being my home now and then my family in China,” said Avianna.

Supermom, RIP: Return of the night nurse

Once considered a luxury that only the wealthy could afford, agencies that place baby nurses, also called night nurses, say that demand for the service has surged even among families that are not affluent, reported The Globe and Mail July 17. The profession is making a comeback, with more mothers booking an extra pair of hands to help with their newborn charges.

In previous generations, bigger families and proximity to extended family helped women get ready for motherhood, says Andrea O’Reilly, founder of the Association for Research on Mothering at York and a professor in the School of Women’s Studies. Now, "women are ill-prepared for motherhood," O’Reilly says. "They have no practical, hands-on experience."  New mothers are also discharged from hospital so fast that they may not have a chance to master the basics of newborn care, such as feeding and burping, she adds.

Free trade with Colombia ‘very troubling’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper placed Canada firmly on the side of Colombia’s scandal-plagued government Monday, launching a passionate defence of free trade with this and any country that is struggling to overcome a violent past, reported CanWest News Service July 17 from Bogota. However, critics of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe say the process is flawed. "The Uribe government has had its hands in horrible human-rights violations, and I’d find it very troubling if Canada pursued free trade negotiations with it now," Ricardo Grinspun, a Fellow of York’s Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean and an economics professor in the Faculty of Arts, said in an interview from Toronto.

Spadina subway extension an ‘important investment’, says councilor

In a letter to The Toronto Sun July 17, Sandra Yeung Racco, a City of Vaughan councillor and Chair of the Spadina-York Subway Extension Committee, said a previous article on Toronto’s finances missed the mark in regards to public transit by suggesting that government is "throwing a billion dollars at a subway to nowhere." The extension of the Spadina subway to York University and north to the Vaughan Corporate Centre at the intersection of Highways 7, 400 and 407, is an important investment in the future of the GTA — just ask any daily commuter sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, she wrote.

The numbers tell the story, said Yeung Racco. Some 311,000 motorists travel south to Toronto during the morning rush-hour as 224,000 vehicles head north – and these are 2004 figures! Travel by car between municipalities in the GTA continues to increase. Rapid transit, and specifically the Spadina subway extension, will alleviate road congestion, reduce harmful emissions, and provide commuters with transit choices. The GTA is going somewhere, and the subway extension is an important part of a GTA transportation strategy.

Sudbury pride shines at York

One of the more popular groups in the Sudbury Network on Facebook is called "Proud To Say I Grew Up In A Hole aka Sudbury, ON", reported the Sudbury Star July 14. It boasts about 3,800 members and is growing. The description reads: "Pretty self-explanatory… If you’re from Sudbury, Ontario, or just happen to be fascinated by its rocks and such … This group is for you …"

Group creator Danielle Parent said she did not expect it to become so popular when she set it up less than a year ago. "It was one of those ‘I miss Sudbury’ type things," said Parent, 20, who now lives in Toronto where she attends York University. She sent a group invitation to about 30 friends in the beginning. "After about a month or so … I looked and saw there were about 300 people," she said. "Every time I look it’s more. We’re almost at 4,000."

The dilemma of Lawrence Heights

In a July 16 story about the planned redevelopment of Toronto’s Lawrence Heights area with mixed housing, the National Post spoke to Iman Ali, 21, and Helen Yohannes, 18, who bristle at the idea of the private sector and the upper classes invading their neighbourhood. The girls are eloquent, passionate opponents of the revitalization, the paper said. "I feel it’s trying to make the community that already exists here disappear," said Yohannes, who was born in the complex. "We have so much of a tight-knit sense of community. I don’t want to lose that."

But Ali, a nursing student at Ryerson University, and Yohannes, a political science student at York University, are also prime examples of a dilemma that will keep plaguing Lawrence Heights if it is left to subsidized housing alone. Their academic success means they will likely be too well-off to stay in the community after they graduate, said the Post.

On air:

  • Eric Bronson, a philosophy professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, continued to help host Kevin Sylvester as his “personal soul trainer” in a quest for a workable philosophical system, on CBC Radio’s “Sounds Like Canada” July 16. Bronson outlined his views on how Sylvester, inspired by the idea “deny thyself nothing”, had started drinking coffee again after swearing off.
  • Shin Imai, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and co-author of Aboriginal Law Handbook, discussed the $1.4-billion treaty settlement announced by Ottawa for the Crees of Quebec, on “The Stafford Show”, CFMJ-AM, Toronto.