Twenty years of alternative voices at CHRY

For a community radio station with a measly 158 watts of power, CHRY’s presence in the Jane and Finch community reaches far beyond its antenna, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 9. As a closed-circuit station born in 1968 in a small room in York University’s Vanier College, CHRY, like its community radio counterparts CKLN and CIUT, was at the forefront of playing urban and reggae music and black programming long before Flow 93.5’s inception in 2001. Community radio provides a much-needed alternative voice, says Danae Peart (BA ’05), operations co-ordinator for CHRY. A lot of listeners don’t know that Canadian radio goes beyond Celine Dion and Bryan Adams, she adds. "Mainstream radio gives you cookie-cutter music, cookie-cutter playlists and cookie-cutter views. We challenge listeners in word and in song."

Fast forward to 2007: CHRY – celebrating its 20th year on the FM dial – has more than 80 programs in a multitude of languages, including French Creole, Sinhalese, Tamil, Italian, French and Spanish. Many on-air programmers come from the diasporic communities represented in the music and discussions they air. The station has managed to carve its niche in the North York area, especially the Jane and Finch community, by sponsoring events like Rastafest, a Rasta arts and Kulcha festival, and the Driftwood community’s cultural festival. Programmers have been involved in everything from hip-hop literacy projects to esteem-building and leadership workshops to educating teens from nearby schools in radio production and media.

Delaney appears in Documentary Channel’s "Mars Rising"

Canada’s Discovery Channel enjoyed a decent ratings success with its two-part miniseries "Race to Mars", which aired last weekend and the week before, reported CanWest News Service Oct. 7. "Race to Mars", a realistic simulation of a manned space mission to the Red Planet, drew more than 300,000 viewers to its flight of fancy. Last Saturday, in what is arguably an even more ambitious project, saw the debut of a six-part companion documentary series, "Mars Rising", which pores over the dream of a manned mission to Mars in meticulous detail. More than 100 scientists – York University’s erudite physics and astronomy Professor Paul Delaney among them – from Canada, the US, Russia, Europe and South America posed hypotheticals and delineated the challenges, obstacles and realistic outcomes of such a mission.

  • The National Post called "Mars Rising" a must-see Oct. 6 and said Delaney and James Garvin, lead scientist for Mars and lunar exploration at NASA, guide viewers through the main experiments that will be used to plan a journey to Mars.

PC leader’s promise to trim government fat draws mixed reviews from analysts

If the fiasco over faith-based schools funding hadn’t stolen the spotlight during the Ontario election campaign, a sideshow skirmish over Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory’s promise to shave $1.5 billion in government spending might have made more of a splash, reported Canadian Press Oct. 6. Such lofty promises have left many wondering where Tory would trim. "I was thinking back to the previous Conservative government and the kinds of things that they intended to cut. And there’s not too much in the platform that assures us that those same kinds of cuts won’t come back up on the agenda, " said Lisa Philipps, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "They’re being very quiet about tuition policy, for instance, and they’re being very quiet about welfare programs. Those were favourites for the previous Conservative government to cut." The Conservatives also failed to keep their promises to immediately cut taxes and run balanced budgets following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, says Philipps.

Green Party support was growing before election campaign

The Green Party has made gains in this election campaign, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 8. Polls suggest it’s supported by more than twice as many voters as in 2003 – although they picked up just 2.7 per cent of the popular vote then – and its candidates are much stronger in a handful of ridings, particularly Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and in Guelph. But that increase came long before the campaign began, notes political scientist Mark Winfield, an environmental studies professor at York University. His research suggests most of the shift was from the Liberal party. "But it had already happened." What was the impact during the campaign? "None," he says. Still, the Greens’ growth "suggests the emergence of a significant block of voters who are signalling their willingness to make voting choices around the environment as a public policy issue," Winfield says. "No other issue I can think of can make that claim."

Grudging support for a new electoral system

Should we worry that a system of proportional representation (PR) would usher in an endless – and expensive – series of short-term governments? asked the Toronto Star Oct. 7 in anticipation of Wednesday’s referendum. In fact, the answer is no. Experts agree that this kind of political instability is endemic to minorities in our current first-past-the-post electoral system but not in proportional representation. Even skeptics of PR agree that minorities in this situation are more stable than in our system. "Yes, I guess it could be," Edelgard Mahant, a senior scholar in Glendon’s Political Science Department, says grudgingly. Mahant is the outreach coordinator for the "No MMP" campaign.

Mahant says stability is only one factor to consider. Coalitions, she adds, pose their own tricky problems. For one, coalitions are often shackled to the wishes of the small parties of which they are typically comprised, she says. These parties could have extremist agendas, she notes, such as in Denmark where anti-immigrant and anti-tax parties hold sway. "The problem with coalitions is that the smallest parties tend to get the most influence, they can negotiate what they want," Mahant says. "I don’t find it democratic to give the smaller parties so much control."

Postsecondary education is a provincial matter

Gary Mason asks why we don’t have a national postsecondary system and strategy. Surely he knows that the BNA Act gave powers over education to the provinces, wrote Lorna R. Marsden, York president emerita, in a letter published in The Globe and Mail Oct. 8. A national system and priorities would be splendid for Canada but would require a constitutional earthquake. We don’t know where the money goes, he quotes Paul Cappon asserting. Nonsense. Every institution files hundreds of reports annually to their boards, governments and auditors. Why don’t we align postsecondary expenditures with national priorities? Because we align them with provincial priorities, where the constitutional power lies. That’s also where quality assurance monitoring takes place. Ask each province, territory or institution for the facts, concluded Marsden, but don’t rely on a voluntary association to get them right.

Courts must uphold standards of evidence, not endorse public outrage, says prof

Three emotionally charged cases involving tainted blood, an orphaned girl and a slain pregnant woman are wrenching illustrations of how the criminal courts can never truly deliver justice to those who suffer enormous losses, legal experts say, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 7. "The criminal justice system does not solve social problems and it does not heal wounds," said Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "That’s why people tend to walk away from the process feeling justice isn’t served." Those feelings of dissatisfaction helped trigger the victims’ rights movement and led to the introduction of "restorative justice" programs that bring victims and offenders together as an alternative to the court process, Young said.

It’s human nature to always want to identify the perpetrator of a tragedy, said Young. "That’s why for so long we felt tornadoes were an act of God. We needed someone to blame. The reality is not every tragedy will have a single individual who should be found criminally responsible." Young believes society needs to develop a better understanding of the distinction between a crime and a tragedy. He also admits that wouldn’t address the emotional needs of people who’ve suffered.

Prof defends Canadian advocacy group

Critics of a Canadian mining venture in Ecuador are encouraging violence and condemning local residents to poverty by opposing the project, two Amazonian indigenous leaders charged at a conference in Ottawa on Friday, reported The Leader-Post in Regina Oct. 6. The event, sponsored by a small Quito-based consulting firm, is the latest in a series of unusual attacks on the advocacy group MiningWatch Canada. "This sounds absurd," says Ricardo Grinspun, a York University economist who specializes in Latin American development models. "MiningWatch is a very serious organization doing first-rate research, defending the interests of local communities. There’s not a shred of evidence they foment violence."

Playwright heads back to where it all began

This week I’m in Toronto, a guest of the Factory Theatre, in conjunction with the Alberta Playwright’s Network, begins Eugene Stickland (MFA ’83)in a special report for the Calgary Herald Oct. 6. I am here as part of an event called READING WEEK: Trans-Canada Edition. It’s a play reading series, featuring plays from the different regions of Canada. My play, Writer’s Block, which I’m writing for Ground Zero Theatre, is the Alberta entry….I came to Toronto from Regina back in the ’80s. I did a master’s degree in playwriting and dramaturgy at York University. Obviously that was a good choice, as I’ve been toiling away writing plays and helping others do it ever since.

Art gallery notches $5-million legal win

The Beaverbrook UK Foundation was ordered Friday to pay almost $5 million in legal costs to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery stemming from last year’s lengthy arbitration proceedings involving 133 disputed works of art, reported The Daily Gleaner in Fredericton and the Telegraph-Journal in St. John Oct. 6. Arbitrator (and York University chancellor) Peter Cory, the retired Supreme Court justice who heard the case, rejected a submission by foundation attorneys that no costs should be awarded. In particular, the foundation took issue $72,199.41 paid to Joyce Zemans, an art historian at York University. While he agreed the amount paid to Zemans seemed high, the retired judge noted that the foundation had no room to complain after paying a combined $218, 578 to two art experts called on its behalf. "If it were not the comparison to the amount charged by the foundation’s experts, I might have been inclined to reduce Ms. Zemans’s accounts to something in the neighbourhood of $60,000,” Cory wrote. "However, I think it would be improperly second guessing on my part to reduce her fee, particularly in light of the amounts paid by the foundation to its art experts."

Player kicks Lions to victory over U of T

York University’s Steve Grochot put the boot to the University of Toronto who continue to sing the football Blues (46 consecutive losses), reported the Hamilton Spectator Oct. 6. The Bishop Ryan (B.R.) High School graduate was mobbed by his mates as the place-kicker split the uprights from 36 yards out with 40 seconds remaining in the final stanza to give the York Lions a 21-20 come from behind win over the beleaguered Blues. "When I made the 3rd field goal (having scored earlier treys of 27 and 23 yard lines) my linemen picked me up and everyone in the stadium (a near capacity crowd) went wild," said the 21 year old kinesiology and health sciences major. "It was an overwhelming feeling of joy." Grochot was named York Lions Male Athlete of the Week for his last minute heroics. The unassuming booter was "thrilled" about receiving the weekly accolades. "I’m just trying to stay grounded and remember that we have a game this Saturday (against Western)."

Growing number of baby boomers heading back to school

As university students across the country settle into the new school year, there’s a good chance a 20-something might find themselves sitting next to a 50-something, as more and more boomers head back to the classroom, reported the Lindsay Post Oct. 9. It’s one of the facets featured in BMO Financial Group’s series of podcasts about Canada’s new retirement reality. Diane Zorn, course instructor at York University for more than a decade, says nearly 10 per cent of her Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies classes are made up of students 30 years of age and older. According to Zorn, adjusting to the culture of higher education is the biggest challenge they face. Based on her research, Zorn theorizes that boomers going back to school are more at risk of falling prey to the imposter phenomenon – the constant fear of being exposed as an intellectual phony, despite a solid record of achievement.

Some come running for brass ring at an early age

Shane O’Toole is a little stressed out, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 9. One of his friends was in a car accident the day before and crushed his ribs up against the steering wheel because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Now O’Toole has just spent way too much time searching for a parking spot, and a voter is suddenly calling on his personal cellphone. "It’s a lot more work than I expected," said O’Toole, the 20-year-old Progressive Conservative candidate, about campaigning in York West riding. In order to run, he took the semester off from York University, where he was to start his third year studying political science and history.

York grad runs for Green Party in Windsor

Jessica Fracassi (BES ’01),29, has the challenge of running in a riding that is not home to the Toronto resident, reported the Windsor Star Oct. 6. Fracassi stepped up to the plate after the person initially set to run in Essex backed out at the last minute. She has been involved with the Green party of Ontario since 2002. She attended York University where she earned a bachelor in environmental studies degree with a minor in political science.

Two countries, two Thanksgivings

A research paper titled A Wealth of Meanings: Thanksgiving in Ontario, 1859-1914, by former York University PhD history candidate Peter Stevens, says Ontario church leaders appropriated the American autumn holiday and transformed it into an instrument of Canadian nationalism, reported The Daily News in Halifax Oct. 8. Stevens maintains that the Thanksgiving holiday was first celebrated in the United Provinces of Canada in 1859, the declaration asking all Canadians to spend the holiday in "public and solemn" recognition of God’s mercies.

Program is a snapshot of positivity

Community – it’s a word that continues to crop up, again and again, when you speak with the participants of Project: Positivity, a program that puts cameras in the hands of 20 at-risk youth in Toronto and lets their creativity spin, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 9. This August, New York-based photographer Jamel Shabazz spent a week with the participants at the Alexandra Park Community Centre, where they learned the basics of photography. He also tried to teach them a different way to get out of difficult circumstances as well as how to prompt change in their own communities. Equipped with their cameras, the students took to the streets of their communities and tried to find positive images there. Asha Yusuf, 21, a participant, said one of her favourite things about the program was the sense of closeness the participants developed over the week. "It was an amazing week," says the university student, the oldest of four siblings, who is studying environmental studies at York University. "The first day nobody knew each other. The last day, it was so hard to say goodbye. People were in tears." An exhibition of the work taken by the youth is now showing at the Red Bull Music Academy Festival Hub at 394 Queen St. W.

Rose Reisman pens another cookbook promoting healthy living

This fall Rose Reisman‘s The Complete Light Kitchen (Whitecap) has been launched and this is what she calls her bible, reported Canadian Press Oct. 9. "Since 1993 when my first book on cooking light was published I looked at all the recipes I developed and loved and worked on improving them,” says the author of 16 cookbooks. Reisman (MBA ’85), a mother of four who is in her early 50s, says that weight gain in mid-life is a matter to be tackled with sensible portion sizes and regular exercise. To date, she has contributed more than $1 million to breast cancer research, from proceeds of sales of over 750,000 cookbooks. She also won the Schulich School of Business Alumni Recognition Award for Outstanding Public Contribution. 

On air

  • Atmospheric scientist Peter Taylor is the lead research on new radar technology that can profile winds in the upper atmosphere and could be used to predict tornadoes and give airline passengers a smoother ride, reported "CBC News at Six" Oct. 8.
  • Political scientist Robert Drummond was interviewed about party prospects during the final days leading up to the Ontario election, on CTV Newsnet’s evening news Oct. 8.
  • Political scientist Ian Roberge discussed Ontario’s referendum on mixed member proportional representation, on Radio Canada Oct. 8.
  • Primatologist Anne Russon talked about the intelligence of orangutans, on CBC Radio’s "Quirks and Quarks" Oct. 6.
  • York hockey player Jessica Turi very nearly lost not only her hockey career, but her life, reported "CBC News At Six" Oct. 5 in a piece about her inspirational comeback.
  • Kinesiology Prof. Alison Macpherson discussed the growing number of injuries sustained by drivers of all-terrain vehicles, in a news item aired on Radio Canada Oct. 5.
  • Women’s studies Prof. Andrea O’Reilly was a guest on TVO’s "The Agenda" Oct. 5.
  • Ricardo Grinspun, economics professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, took part in a panel discussion on global issues on CTS-TV’s “Michael Coren Live” Oct. 2. Topics included international reaction to the repression in Burma, the Iranian president’s s visit to New York and Latin America, and President Putin’s apparent intention to become prime minister of Russia.