RCMP tactics in Arar case show need for independent oversight

According to newly uncensored material in the Maher Arar report, in 2002 the RCMP almost certainly relied on torture, reported the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 10. But it didn’t soil its own hands directly. Instead, it used information extracted by Syrian agents to obtain search warrants and telephone warrants it wanted to pursue its anti-terrorism investigations. Critically, the RCMP failed to inform the judges who granted the warrants that they were relying on information that was likely the product of interrogations involving tactics forbidden in Canada.

Legal experts, like James Stribopoulos, a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, used words like shocking, indefensible and despicable to describe the RCMP’s conduct.

Stribopoulos said the cases are part of a larger problem with search warrants, which have a "shockingly high" error rate. One solution, Stribopoulos said, would be more training for police officers and justices of the peace. The latter approve most warrants even though most j.p.’s lack formal legal training. Greater independent oversight should also be considered, he said. "One of the reasons that the actions of the police can fall so woefully short of the legal standard is partly because so often there aren’t legal consequences to it."

Remaking classics is a fool’s game

News that Indian filmmaker Rajeev Nath is remaking Casablanca is bound to upset devotees of the Hollywood classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, reported the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 10. Some films should be off limits for remakes. Gone With the Wind is best left alone, believes Seth Feldman, a film professor at York University, as are any "classic movies that are made by unique personalities." Lawrence of Arabia comes to mind. No actor could be as brilliant as the young Peter O’Toole, says Feldman. It’s no mystery why studios like remakes. "They’re trying to exploit a proven property," Feldman explains. "Hollywood likes to play it safe because movies cost so much."

York grad’s feature film puts Sudbury in spotlight

From the brainless Road Trip to the critically acclaimed Thelma and Louise, plenty of movies have used the premise of the road trip. But a trip from Sudbury to Toronto, that’s a route many of us have taken, reported the Sudbury Star Aug. 10. For Adam Santangelo (BA ’00), it sets the stage for his film, Half a Person. The Mississauga native’s first feature-length film premieres at Cinefest Sudbury, which runs Sept. 15-23. Shot over three weeks in 2005 in Sudbury and Toronto, Half a Person is about two longtime best friends from the Nickel City, one heterosexual and the other gay, whose friendship is put to the test during their travels.

"I thought it would be interesting to start the story in Sudbury, just because I thought it would be interesting to see what it might be like for characters in those circumstances to come from a town like Sudbury and to visit the big city of Toronto and follow that archetypal journey from a smaller city to a larger one," said Santangelo.

Half a Person is Santangelo’s first film, although he has been writing for some time. His work first appeared in Marvel Comics, when, at 18, he sold two Spider Man scripts to the comic book empire. Santangelo studied creative writing at York University and worked as an analyst in a call centre for five years before taking the plunge into the film industry.

Jane-Finch youth write letters in York-hosted program

Every year, Jane-Finch’s Caring Village, a non-profit group, invites 75 Grade 8 students to take part in the Promoting Excellence project, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 10. The idea is to engage youth through interactive learning in literacy, math, life skills and activities that promote social justice. Participants also learn to express themselves, reflecting a voice that’s often marginalized. This summer, as part of the program hosted by York University, the youths wrote letters to tell others of their lives in the neighbourhood. Their message? Don’t pity us, don’t judge us, don’t shun us, just listen.

Monahan’s relief after Quebec election may be brief

A commentary about the erosion of federal power in the Cape Breton Post Aug. 10 cited Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Right after the March 26 provincial election in Quebec, Monahan was feeling relieved that the country was witnessing a huge step forward and would "finally get beyond the ghosts of Meech Lake and Charlottetown" – the two constitutional accords that had aimed to placate Quebec but were rejected by Canadians, began the commentary. The election returned Jean Charest’s Liberals to power but with a minority, while the conservative Action democratique du Quebec (ADQ) vaulted into official opposition ahead of the fading separatists, the Parti Quebecois. In Monahan’s view, ADQ Leader Mario Dumont, while he had expressed radical decentralist ideas about the country in the past, was more interested now in pursuing his smaller-government agenda than in wrestling Ottawa for more powers.

Unfortunately, the respite is turning out to brief. Less than five months after the election Charest is talking about pressing the federal government to clarify the division of powers and to commit to limit federal spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The Liberals hope that by taking on Ottawa with a list of demands they will suck up the nationalist oxygen, leaving little for either of their opponents. Canada faces complex national challenges. The country needs a national government capable of meeting them. It’s time to stop the erosion.