Pass the torch without burning your business

A 2006 survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that slightly more than one-third of independent business owners in Canada plan to leave their firms within the next five years, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 13. It also found that most owners of small businesses aren’t adequately prepared for business succession. A number of factors should be in place to ensure a smooth succession, says Eileen Fischer, Tanenbaum Chair in Family Enterprise at York University’s Schulich School of Business.  

"If the founder was charismatic and high profile, it can be particularly hard for the successor to step into his or her shoes and gain the respect of all those who need to have it for the business to operate smoothly. Preparation and training of the successor is really important, but charisma is hard to compete with – and the only way of successfully dealing with this is often to have the parent back away completely, even if they still have energy and interest," she says.  

Sometimes other stakeholders (such as key suppliers, distributors or investors) want to know the founding parent is still on the scene "because it’s the parent they know and trust," Fischer notes. "This can put the successor in a difficult situation that requires real co-operation on the part of the parent if the transition is ultimately to work out." 

Teacher’s views are his own business

Last Friday a disciplinary committee of the Ontario College of Teachers ordered Paul Fromm to surrender his teaching certificate "for participating in racist events," wrote Terry Heinrichs, a political science professor at York’s Glendon campus, in a letter published Nov. 13 in the National Post. That included "speaking publicly against non-white immigration" and founding an organization "that espoused beliefs ‘contrary to the principles of multiculturalism and tolerance.’" The committee admits that "there was no suggestion that [Fromm] behaved improperly at school," nor did it suggest he did anything that was illegal.  

Heinrichs wrote that one need not hold any brief either for Fromm or his impugned beliefs to know that it is both bad principle and bad policy to fire teachers for expressing views that are "contrary to the values of the profession and the educational system." Opposing officially held lines on issues such as immigration, multiculturalism and tolerance – in or out of the school system – is today in danger of becoming a lost art. Instead we get the mush that passes for thinking on such matters where everyone knows what to say and what not to say, and where they can’t say what they really think, even in private. It is not the school’s business to enforce public intellectual conformity; its job is to foster individuals who can think for themselves about the controversial issues of the day.  

Play by York grad opens in Hamilton

Growing up in the Golden Horseshoe Trailer Park in Beamsville, Nina Arsenault (BFA ’96, MFA ’99) knew at five years of age she was a female trapped in a male body, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Nov. 13 in a story heralding her new play Ladylike. In love with theatre, Arsenault came to Toronto in 1992. She discovered playwright Sky Gilbert and queer theatre at Buddies In Bad Times. She was 18. Two postgraduate degrees later – a master’s of fine arts in playwriting from York University and a postgraduate degree in theatre directing from Cape Town, South Africa – Arsenault became an instructor in theatre at York University. She was 25. That was 1999. Though basically male looking and going by her birth name, Rodney, Arsenault told her classes to refer to her using the female pronoun. "They had no trouble with that. Some were confused, of course, but they were also understanding." The $160,000 Arsenault eventually spent on her sex-change operations didn’t come from teaching at York. "I became a worker in the sex trade," she says. 

On air

  • As a judicial inquiry examining the practice of pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario began Monday, James Morton, an adjunct professor in advanced evidence at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, explained how the legal system establishes who is and isn’t an "expert" and discussed his thoughts on the inquiry, in interviews on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning”, “Ontario Morning”, “Here and Now” and CBC News Nov. 12.
  • York education Prof. Carl James discussed a Toronto school board proposal to open an African-centred alternative school, on CTV’s “Canada AM” Nov. 12.