Theatre grad calls Shake Hands with the Devil ‘such an important movie’

It is a story that needs to be told – and told often, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) Oct. 13. That’s why, even after the release of a book and a documentary about Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire’s experiences amid the Rwandan genocide, the new feature film Shake Hands with the Devil demands to be seen.

"I’ve never been more proud of a movie I’ve been in than this one," says actor and York graduate James Gallanders (BFA ’93), who portrays Dallaire’s right-hand man, Maj. Brent Beardsley, in the film. "This is such an important movie."

The creation of the film was "quite frantic" at times, says Gallanders, who was told only a week before shooting that he had landed the part of Beardsley. "They told me, ‘You’re getting immunized tomorrow and headed to Africa next week,’" Gallanders recalls.

The actor, now 37, was a drama student in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts when the real-life Rwandan genocide was happening, and he knew only what the scant news reports were conveying (the O.J. Simpson trial got more media attention), wrote the Record.

So when Gallanders got the part, he did as much research on the subject as he could, including reading Dallaire’s memoir and watching the award-winning documentary. But nothing prepared the actor for the flood of conflicting emotions he felt when he and the crew landed in Africa.

Future ‘masters of disaster’ learn to cope with calamities

How safe is safe enough?, asked the Toronto Star Oct. 15 in a front-page story about York University’s new "masters of disaster," a first-of-its-kind Ontario graduate studies program focused on analyzing emergencies and developing better ways to handle them or even prevent them from happening.

"Disasters aren’t going away," said Professor David Etkin, director of the Master’s Program in Disaster & Emergency Management. "I think we’re going to get more of them. We hope the graduates of our program will be able to contribute to a safer society," he said after a recent lecture about assessing risks, which included an examination of the causes of death among Americans.

Etkin, 57, a retired Environment Canada forecaster, said the emergency management community has typically been dominated by so-called first responders such as firefighters, police and the military. The York program takes a much broader look to embrace social and health issues, business impacts, and engineering and environmental fallout. "If you leave one out, what happens is a system that’s not going to work very well," he said.

Ann Baka, 41, who has a political science degree and spent 20 years working in social services, was attracted to the program because it recognizes "while we all come from different backgrounds, everyone can contribute" skills to help deal with disasters. Nurse Timmi Olanubi, 23, said she’s looking "to develop more versatility" in her credentials.

For classmate Manpreet Jaiswal, 23, a recent graduate in international development from the University of Ottawa, it’s a chance "for more hands on, practical experience" to help both on the reconstruction after a disaster and on planning "so it doesn’t happen in the first place."

Varsity Blues are singing them

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team has lost 48 games in a row, a national record, after losing 44-1 to the University of Western Ontario on Saturday, wrote the National Post Oct. 15.

The record previously belonged to fellow Toronto school York University. In 2004, York beat Toronto 45-41. The following season, York edged the Blues 40-33 in overtime. And this year, York handed Toronto its 46th straight loss, a 21-20 defeat. The Lions must really have wanted that record off their hands, wrote the Post.

New MPP expects big learning curve

Less than a day after her Oak Ridges-Markham election victory, which was preceded by a 30-day campaign hoofing around the hustings, Liberal MPP Helena Jaczek (MBA ‘94) is back on the streets, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun Oct. 14. "We’re just cleaning up the campaign office and then we’re going for a walk to scout constituency office locations," a buoyant Jaczek said Thursday. "I’m very happy."

Could a ministerial post be on the horizon? "All those decisions are to be made over the next few weeks by the premier," she said. Though she won’t speculate, she’s a prime candidate for a portfolio, considering her education and professional pedigree.

Formerly a family doctor, she has an MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business. For 18 years, she served as the medical officer of health and commissioner of health services for York Region.

Greens’ future a shade of grey

Ontario Green party members are facing the question, “what next?” as they reflect on a campaign in which they won no legislature seats but nearly tripled their share of the popular vote, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 15. Can the Greens maintain this support? Or was it an aberration? Observers are divided on this one.

"There are still questions out there," says York Professor Mark Winfield, of the Faculty of Environmental Studies. "Are the Greens really prepared to play in the big leagues? One of the things they need to reflect on is, ‘can the leader take them to the next level?’"

Jewish groups back Harper over mailing list

There is nothing "nefarious" about Prime Minister Stephen Harper compiling a mailing list of Jewish Canadians and sending their households holiday greetings, two prominent Jewish lobby groups said, wrote the Brockville Recorder and Times Oct. 13. Their comments come amid news the federal privacy commissioner has begun an inquiry into last month’s Rosh Hashanah greetings, following several complaints from private citizens.

Sara Horowitz, director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, agreed there’s nothing sinister in the Conservative mailing but understands why the cards might rub some Jews the wrong way. Canada‘s Jewish community has a very high percentage of Holocaust survivors and their direct descendants, she said, something in the range of 30 to 40 per cent. Only Israel has a higher per capita population of Holocaust survivors. "People have deep historical memories and things resonate for them," said Horowitz.

Easing gun rules for US police

The federal government wants to relax rules so that foreign law enforcement officers don’t need a permit when bringing their weapons into Canada, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 15. But some fear it may be opening Pandora’s box by giving police agents carte blanche to carry guns in Canada.

"We don’t need people who are not accountable to Canadian authorities carrying deadly weapons," said Alan Young, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. "Allowing foreign jurisdiction officials to come in with guns is not very much different from inviting an army in – it’s just a matter of numbers."

Danier not obliged to reveal sales outlook, top court rules

Danier Leather Inc.’s 1998 decision to hold off telling investors about a sales downturn until after the launch of an initial public offering was done may have angered plenty of new shareholders, but Danier was not legally obliged to reveal that information, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a landmark corporate-disclosure decision, wrote the National Post Oct. 13.

But Mary Condon, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said with investors "pouncing" on minute-to-minute information in the Internet age, legislators should look at broadening the definition of what companies are legally obliged to reveal during an IPO. "It’s time for us to take another look at this whole question," she said. "The reality of the way securities markets work is that investors tend to rely heavily on information about a company’s financial results."

Kirk to share latest works

With two books in one year, York alumna Heather Kirk (MA ’89) is well on her way to becoming prolific, wrote the Barrie Examiner Oct. 13. Kirk’s first book, Mazo de la Roche Rich and Famous Writer, was a biography of the creator of the Jalna series, released last year for the young adult market. Her second book, Who Were the Whiteoaks and Where Was Jalna?, is more scholarly because it centres on Kirk’s investigation into the sources of the de la Roche’s Jalna novels.

Kirk, in her extensive research for biography, uncovered new information that disproves previous books on the writer’s life. It’s a subject that’s occupied her life for the past five years. She thought the biography would be easy because it’s not the first time she’s written about de la Roche. That was some 20 years ago for an essay when she went back to school to work on her PhD in English at York University. She chose de la Roche as her subject because she was the "the underdog."

Kirk maintains that de la Roche is equal in importance to Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote Anne of Green Gables, and Orillia’s Stephen Leacock (Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town).

York grad student wins medal from Brock

Cheryl Athersych is earning a PhD in sociology at York University and received the Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock [University] medal this week. But don’t call her smart – at least not as smart as anyone else, wrote the St. Catharines Standard Oct. 13.

The 29-year-old spent seven years in St. Catharines, working at a women’s shelter while earning a master of arts in social justice and equity studies. And though she has worked hard, she considers herself no smarter than the women she served at the King Street YWCA, and no one else should either, she said.

"I don’t think I’m an academic," she said. "I thought I was bright when I was a dropout. Women who come through the shelter are bright, even if people don’t see them that way. I don’t think letters after a name make a difference."

Leading authority on the art of living and eating well to speak in Fredericton

York graduate Rose Reisman (MBA ‘85) has been announced as guest speaker of the 2007 Breast Cancer Awareness Day Luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the Delta Fredericton, wrote The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton, NB) Oct. 13.

Reisman is spokesperson for The Balance of Living Well, a partnership with McCain Foods. She is the bestselling author of 15 books, a registered nutritional consultant, a partner in Rose Reisman Catering, a newspaper columnist and a motivational speaker. She is also a regular guest on national television and radio.

Recently, Reisman received the Schulich School of Business at York University alumni recognition award for outstanding public contribution.

The spice is right

It all started with a dinner party, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 15. York graduate Rachna Prasad (BA ’99) had promised to cook an authentic Indian meal for her diverse network of friends. The only problem was, she didn’t know how.

Her plans to secretly rely on her mother, Rekha, fell through when mom announced she wouldn’t be available that day. Several frantic phone calls later, Rekha Prasad had dispatched a few homemade spice blends to her daughter along with detailed instructions on how to assemble a meal, including the shopping list. And – boom – a business venture was born.

Next week, supermarket patrons across Ontario will be able to buy the same specially blended flavours as the Prasads launch the first ever India meal kits under the brand name Gourmantra.

Bureaucratic gridlock

Public transit expansion is poised to zoom in the Greater Toronto Area, but Ottawa is putting the brakes to progress by failing to deliver necessary funding, wrote the Toronto Star in an editorial Oct. 14.

Granted, federal officials have recognized the problem and taken some initial steps toward a solution. Last March, Prime Minister Harper announced almost $1 billion for public transit improvements in the GTA. Among other projects, this federal money would help pay for extending Toronto’s Spadina subway line to York University.

Unfortunately, due to the congealed nature of big bureaucracies, funding promised in the spring has been slow in coming. And, even when it arrives, it will be far from enough. Work on the projects outlined in the MoveOntario plan is essential if gridlock is to be blunted.

Labour-sponsored funds fail to deliver for taxpayers

If Canadian governments wish to stimulate investment in entrepreneurial activity, then the elimination of labour-sponsored funds would be a good place to start, wrote Douglas Cummings and Keith Godin in the Penticton Herald Oct. 15. Labour-sponsored funds are tax-subsidized investment funds that attract contributions from individual investors through generous tax incentives and invest the funds in entrepreneurial businesses.

Douglas Cumming is a professor and Ontario Research Chair in Economics & Public Policy in York’s Schulich School of Business, noted the Post.

On air

  • Jessica Turi, a member of the York Lions women’s hockey team, described her successful battle against leukemia two years ago, on CBC Newsworld Oct. 13.