Two accused in York University sexual assaults granted bail, must live with parents

Two men facing 11 charges each in connection with two sexual assaults at York University have been granted bail, wrote the National Post Sept. 25. Justin David Connort and Daniel Katsnelson, both 25, were freed on $200,000 bail. Both will have to live with their parents. The charges against Katsnelson and Connort include sexual assault, gang sexual assault, two counts of forcible confinement and break and enter.

Two 19-year-old first year university students were allegedly raped while they slept in their unlocked residence rooms on Sept. 7. Police have not said how the suspects entered the dorm, which can only be accessed with a pass card.

  • Both men appeared weepy while a Crown attorney read the allegations to the court, wrote The Toronto Sun Sept. 25. The pair showed no emotion when they were granted bail, but their families uttered sighs of relief. Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, who attended the hearing, said his thoughts were with the victims. There is a publication ban on evidence in the case.
  • Other newspapers and most broadcast media also carried reports of the bail hearing.

Judge has discretion for direct indictment in terrorist case, says Osgoode prof

The case against 14 men who were arrested in Canada’s largest terrorist sweep will go directly to trial, after federal prosecutors stunned the accused and their lawyers by suddenly stopping a preliminary hearing, wrote the National Post Sept. 25.

Many of the lawyers for the Toronto-area men accused of plotting to detonate truck bombs were "totally shocked" when Crown attorneys announced in the morning that they would be filing a direct indictment against their clients. The preliminary hearing had been proceeding for almost four months.

The option to prefer a direct indictment is entirely at the Crown attorney’s discretion, said James Stribopoulos, a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall. He added that the constitutionality of direct indictments has been challenged, unsuccessfully.

The politics of breastfeeding

It seems everyone’s in favour of breastfeeding – as long as they don’t have to see a breast, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 24 in the wake of Facebook’s controversial decision to remove a Web site featuring a mother nursing her child. Every time the breastfeeding lactivists whip up their shirts to nurse in protest, legions of the less militant roll their eyes, wondering why they can’t just let it go, cover up and make nice. To advocates, there are good reasons not to. "It takes a lot of courage to breastfeed in public. It can make you quite vulnerable," says Andrea O’Reilly, founder and director of the Association for Research on Mothering at York University. To O’Reilly, the latest controversy shows the issue strikes something deep, powerful and primal – a discomfort based on the madonna-whore complex. "You’re not supposed to be comfortable in your body and be maternal and sexual at the same time – not that breastfeeding is sexual, but let’s face it, it’s a breast," she says. "These stories are saying we (as a society) are still uncomfortable with it." In other words, while cleavage is used to sell everything from jeans to cars to beer and appears all over Facebook, it’s still not okay to bare your skin in order to feed an infant.

The political expediency of breaking a promise

Promises are the currency of elections. With no platform to judge, on what other basis could voters make a decision when casting a ballot? Promises are also part of a category of verbs that experts call "performative speech acts." These utterances actually cause the speaker to perform a certain act, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 23. "We can see something happening, like ducks swimming on a pond, and use language to describe it but have no effect on it," explains York University linguist Philipp Angermeyer, a professor in the Faculty of Arts.

On the other hand, "Speech acts are not just about describing something that would happen anyway. They can make things happen that wouldn’t happen otherwise." As a speech act, "I promise" is, similarly, not just a statement describing what’s promised. It constitutes an act of promising. It’s personal between the person saying it and the person hearing it," Angermeyer says. "So that may have something to do with the reaction if it’s not fulfilled."

Long before Madonna, non-Jews took up Jewish practices

Last Saturday, Madonna met with Israeli president Shimon Peres. "I am an ambassador for Judaism," she told him, began a Toronto Star story Sept. 22. Madonna, we know, is not Jewish. She’s Jew-ish: a non-Jewish-born non- convert who practices a select group of Jewish traditions. It’s a novelty act. Except it’s some 2000 years old.

In the Roman Empire in the first through fourth centuries, York University history Professor Steve Mason says, a hard-to-determine number of non-Jews – including what appears to be a "disproportionately high proportion among the elites" – conspicuously adopted Jewish customs. Many non-Judeans admired Judeans, says Mason, who is based in the Faculty of Arts. In a society that prized simplicity and modesty – "Material Girl" wouldn’t have gone over well – Judeans were "a philosophical people with a simple lifestyle, a discipline of diet, and who lived a regimented, disciplined life." If they didn’t mind the mockery, Romans who fully integrated into Judean life stood to reap significant rewards. Roman citizenship was highly restricted; non-citizens had no protection from the edicts of often-cruel provincial governors. Jews were granted the freedom to make their own set of laws – and they also received exemptions from military service.

Job opportunities in growing field of GIS

Despite its deadly dull name, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is helping everyone from policy-makers to pizza delivery drivers better understand the world and our role in it, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 23. Inventor Roger Tomlinson foresees the widespread use of GIS applications in cellphones, allowing people to not only locate themselves and a desired destination on a map, but also receive precise directions on how to get there. There are also some hurdles that need to be addressed. One, says Tomlinson, is a shortage of people with expertise in the field. While many universities now offer GIS programs, he says more needs to be done to promote the field. "There’s definitely a lot of job opportunities out there for these guys," says Martin Bunch, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies who teaches courses about the application of GIS to planning and resource management.

Socialite’s Brazilian Carnival Ball raised millions

Italian and Brazilian in ancestry, Anna Maria de Souza heated up the staid fundraising climate in Toronto with the Brazilian Carnival Ball, probably the most significant philanthropic gala on the Canadian social calendar, noted a Globe and Mail obituary Sept. 21. Using old-fashioned influence, rather than naked power, she forged alliances with charitable foundations in campaigns that raised their profiles, her status, and close to $45-million for Toronto hospitals, universities and arts and culture organizations over the past 40 years.

At the 40th anniversary of the ball in 2006, the $2-million in net proceeds went to York University‘s Accolade Project and the 1,600 guests were entertained by a 30-minute samba parade from the Rio Carnival – including 50 dancers in feathered, beaded and bejewelled costumes processing on foot or on wooden horses – to the beat of the batucada rhythm supplied by the Cocktail Brazil Band.

On air

  • Irene Henriques, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, was interviewed on APTN National News Sept. 24.