The big business of philanthropy

As the fundraising stakes rise, and charities get more competitive for the giving dollar, the professional fundraiser’s time has come, reported the National Post Nov. 17. Professional fundraisers can be found on both sides of the table – the givers and the receivers. Paul Marcus is on the receiving end of the charity dollar. As president of the York University Foundation for the past six years, he has helped double its fundraising revenue, with a 63 per cent increase in donors, and has helped bring in 35 gifts of a million dollars or more. "We have a $200-million campaign. Our revenue jumped from $10 million to $26 million in the past five years and that’s really resulted from higher-end gifts." 

Among York’s higher-end donors: Honey and Barry Sherman ($5 million), Tim and Frances Price (over $1 million), TD Waterhouse ($1 million), Milton and Ethel Harris ($5 million) and Seymour Schulich (more than $27 million). 

Marcus spends his long days in committee meetings, strategy meetings and schmoozing with donors. Marcus says that it’s possible for him to be out every evening on the job. "I’m out there when the big donors are being honoured in the community, from the largest galas, like the Brazilian Carnival Ball, to intimate dinners. There are many choices for people to give their philanthropic dollar, and we want to stay on their radar." 

Schreiber’s fate in Tory hands

If Karlheinz Schreiber is extradited to Germany where he faces criminal charges, the German-Canadian businessman said he would be hard-pressed to co-operate with a public inquiry into his business dealings with Brian Mulroney, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 17. Schreiber’s legal options are limited at this point, said Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "He’s already appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which was dismissed last month," he said. "It would be surprising if the Supreme Court of Canada would come to a different conclusion."  

Both Schreiber and Mulroney’s testimony would be key to the public inquiry’s work in getting to the bottom of their business dealings, said Monahan. If the Conservatives extradite Schreiber, they could avoid frustrating the inquiry by brokering a deal with the German authorities that would guarantee his return to testify, he said. Without an agreement, the inquiry could still subpoena Schreiber once he’s in Germany, but it might be difficult to bring him back, Monahan added. Another possibility would be to move the inquiry to Germany for Schreiber’s testimony. "But that would be a huge expense and would probably delay things," Monahan said.  

  • CanWest News Service and the Toronto Star reported Nov. 17 that Liberal MP Mark Holland quoted Monahan when he told the House of Commons that holding the inquiry without Schreiber would be pointless. CPAC-TV aired the Question Period when Monahan was quoted on Nov. 16.

Education or segregation? African-centred school showing the way

Toronto has been engaged in a heated debate about the merits of opening up an Africentric public school – a concept that already exists on a small scale at the privately run Umoja Learning Circle in Rexdale, reported the National Post Nov. 19. A Rastafarian grandmother who goes by the moniker Tafari (BEd ’94, BA ’95) started the school 13 years ago after she lost faith in a public education system she says failed her son. Like those currently advocating for an Africentric public school, she says diversity in the Toronto District School Board stops at the student population. "There are kids who can go through the public school system just tops, but that’s not for everybody," said Tafari, a trained teacher who was educated at York University. "For the ones who can’t fit in that, I think if you immerse them in their own, when they leave as adults they will be better equipped to contribute to society."

  • The Toronto Star quoted Carl James, York education and sociology professor, Nov. 18: "There are important things to work through – content of curriculum, discipline, approaches to learning and navigating the differences in class, race, culture and differing immigration experiences of blacks. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try. I’m curious to see where it goes. I’m trying to figure out why the angst. This is the fourth or fifth time this has surfaced. If it’s about the achievement of black students, we should be willing to try what’s possible. We need a curriculum and a school program that responds to the needs and expectations of students who are black."

Building an enclave around a mosque in suburban Toronto

After nine years of living in housing at York University, Hamid Rahman was looking for other options, reported The New York Times in its real estate section Nov. 18. An instructor of Web design, Rahman valued York’s multicultural mix, yet his housing setup was inconvenient for his religious life. For prayers, he had to visit a multifaith centre or join other Muslims in renting a conference room. That changed in 2003, however, when he moved with his wife, Bilquis, and four children to a home on Bashir Street in Peace Village, an Islamic subdivision of 265 homes in Vaughan, a suburb north of Toronto.

Some Canadian Muslims believe that the community’s homogeneity is polarizing. "Diversity is the backbone of Canada and the value of living here is that you get to mix and mingle," said Raheel Raza, an author who has lectured at York University about the portrayal of Muslims in the media. "Especially after 9/11 when we see more polarization of Muslims, it’s important to be seen as part of the community."

 York grad’s debut novel a contender for GG

Is it possible that a mere first novelist could grab this year’s Governor General’s Award for fiction away from much-lauded scribes like Michael Ondaatje, Barbara Gowdy and M.G. Vassanji? asked a Montreal Gazette reviewer Nov. 17 after hearing finalist David Chariandy (PhD ’02) read from his debut novel Soucouyant. On the back flyleaf of his book, there are precisely two sentences: "David Chariandy lives in Vancouver and teaches in the department of English at Simon Fraser University. This is his first novel." Soucouyant, however, does not read like a debut effort.

Chariandy was born and raised in Scarborough, Ont., to parents who had immigrated, as adults, from Trinidad. If it hadn’t been for one guidance counselor who took note of his reading levels, he would have been "streamed" into trade school. He did his undergraduate studies and masters degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, then went on to do his PhD in English at York. Four years ago, he was hired by SFU as a literary critic and teaching professor. He researches and writes mainly about Canadian, Caribbean and post-colonial literature.

"I’d always wanted to do creative writing," he said. "But I felt, foolishly, that it was self-indulgent, selfish to be a creative writer. So one has to get a real job.” he said. “Creative writing was this thing that I felt had to do on the side, not to tell too many people that I was doing it."

Ontario Heritage Trust honours Lincoln Alexander

Lincoln MacCauley Alexander grew up living in a time when people called him the N-word and African-Canadians or anyone with a foreign-sounding name wasn’t welcome to walk the streets of Toronto, reported The Toronto Sun Nov. 18. "My daddy was a porter and my momma was a maid, but I vowed never to become a porter. I respected my dad being a porter, but I was not going to be restricted by the foolishness of (racist) people," said Alexander, who graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1953. He became Canada’s first black member of parliament, first black cabinet member and first black lieutenant-governor and the founding chairman of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

On Nov. 27, the Ontario Heritage Trust is holding a presentation to mark its 40th anniversary, featuring Stephen Lewis, at the Winter Garden Theatre. Proceeds will go to the Ontario Heritage Trust’s Lincoln M. Alexander Legacy Fund in support of heritage conservation.

Church archives are a valuable resource, says York historian

A group of about 50 people converged at Victoria University in downtown Toronto chanting "Save the Archives" on Tuesday in a bid to convince the University not to move its holdings of the United Church of Canada’s archives to Etobicoke, reported the Annex Guardian Nov. 16. Craig Heron, a history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, noted that the church was an essential part of life for settlers and branched out into areas that one might not consider. "Some of the biggest hockey leagues were church leagues," said Heron as he explained how his research into the early Canadian working class took him into the United Church archives. "We are concerned that there is a public interest that hasn’t been considered (in this decision process)."

Debut novel published by York press

At 30, Sarah Burns is awaiting the release of her debut novel, reported the Sault Star Nov. 17. Jackfish, the Vanishing Village has been accepted by Inanna Publications, based in York University, and is expected to appear in bookstores Canada-wide by the end of the month. "They are a small, but highly regarded feminist press, so I was very happy to have them for a publisher," said Burns in an e-mail interview from Colorado, where she has lived since her marriage five years ago.

Football coach’s job all work and no play

It is 5am and, as the world sleeps around him, BC Lions assistant coach Mike Benevides is engrossed in video, reported The Vancouver Province Nov. 18. This is not unusual.

Benevides, like all assistant coaches, watches more video than Roger Ebert. This morning, he will put in 21/2 hours of work in preparation for the Lions’ 6:30am defensive meeting in his capacity as the linebackers’ coach. If he’s lucky, he’ll be home at 7pm. And for all that, Benevides will tell you he’s been extremely fortunate in his career. Since graduating to the CFL from York University (where he studied administrative studies from 1990 to 1995) eight years ago, he’s had two jobs and one boss. He won a Grey Cup with the Stamps in ’01, another with the Lions in ’06 and, in his five years here, the Lions have averaged just under 13 wins a season.

Can-con gives Argos an edge

Of all the pro teams in the town, the Argonauts stand alone in being both successful and, well, likeable, wrote sports reporter Damien Cox in Toronto Star Nov. 17. They’re owned by two involved locals, their GM and head coach are Americans who became Canadian citizens and live here. When they line up to face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Sunday, they’ll start nine Canadians, otherwise known as non-imports. Interestingly, there are those inside the organization who believe York University product Andre Durie might give the Argos their version of Hamilton’s Jesse Lumsden as early as next season, adding yet another Canadian to the starting mix.

Putting the TTC back on track

The recent announcement by Queen’s Park and Ottawa that they’ll contribute big-time to the capital cost of extending Toronto’s Spadina subway line north through York University to the Vaughan Corporate Centre is good news and bad news, wrote The Toronto Sun Nov. 18. The good news is it would be great if the TTC was operating on a sound business model now. The bad news is, since it isn’t, building this particular subway is like discovering your house has a leaky roof and, instead of fixing it, taking out a mortgage to build a new swimming pool.

On air

  • John McCullough, film professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, commented about the portrayal of violence and death in the media following the release of a video showing a man dying after being tasered at the Vancouver airport, on CBC Radio programs across the country Nov. 16.