Extreme snowboarders are pushing injury rates higher, says York epidemiologist

Traumatic brain and spinal injuries appear to be on the increase on ski hills around the globe, says a team of Canadian injury researchers who suggest the rising popularity of acrobatics and high speed on the slopes could be responsible, wrote The Canadian Press Dec. 3. Professor Alison Macpherson, an injury prevention expert in York’s Faculty of Health, said what is happening on the slopes runs counter to what is happening elsewhere.

“I was surprised that the incidence of head injury and spinal cord injury is going up because in most other areas the rates are going down,” Macpherson said. The studies cited in the team’s report, which was published in the British journal Injury Prevention, showed that snowboarders were substantially more likely than skiers to suffer serious injuries. Also, males and skiers or snowboarders under age 35 were more likely to be injured, the review showed.

Macpherson noted that many snow parks, the cordoned-off areas where snowboarders and aerialists perfect their tricks, require participants to wear helmets. “So it’s not that much of a stretch to require helmets everywhere,” she suggested, noting she and her entire family wear helmets when they ski.

New York Times cites York prof’s study of perfectionists

Several recent studies stand as a warning against taking the platitudes of achievement too seriously, wrote The New York Times Dec. 4. The new research focuses on a familiar type, perfectionists, who panic or blow a fuse when things don’t turn out just so. The findings not only confirm that such purists are often at risk for mental distress – as Freud, Alfred Adler and countless exasperated parents have long predicted – but also suggest that perfectionism is a valuable lens through which to understand a variety of seemingly unrelated mental difficulties, from depression to compulsive behaviour to addiction.

"It’s natural for people to want to be perfect in a few things, say in their job – being a good editor or surgeon depends on not making mistakes," said Gordon L. Flett, a psychology professor in York University’s Faculty of Health and an author of many of the studies. "It’s when it generalizes to other areas of life, home life, appearance, hobbies, that you begin to see real problems."

Health Canada unfairly restricts access to medical marijuana, says Young

Health Canada has effectively established itself as the country’s sole legal provider of medical marijuana, but is providing an expensive yet ineffective drug that doesn’t meet the needs of many patients who use it to treat chronic pain, seizures and other ailments, said Alan Young, criminal law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Young’s comments were reported by The Canadian Press Dec. 3 in a story about a case he is currently arguing before the Federal Court on behalf of the patients.

“It’s not enough to say, ‘Here’s some pot for you, knock yourself out.’ That’s not the way medicine is delivered,” Young said outside court Monday. “You come up with the optimal product.”

There are providers who want to supply various strains of the drug at a lower cost for medical use, but they’re prohibited from doing so because government policy restricts them from supplying more than one patient, Young added. “They are determined not to let an individual grow marijuana for more than one person – determined,” Young said. “They want to have control over it and they said, ‘ultimately our vision is that we’ll be out of this business and that marijuana products [will be] available in pharmacies and we can wash our hands of it.’”

New white-collar crime report supports conclusions in York profs’ study

The fledgling RCMP units created to fight white-collar crime have generated "disappointing results" that highlight a lack of leadership, high staff turnover and laws that make prosecuting fraud more difficult than in other countries, particularly the United States, says a new report by the former superintendent of financial institutions Nick Le Pan, wrote the National Post Dec. 4.

Le Pan’s report comes after former Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory, chancellor of York University, and Marilyn Pilkington, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, argued in a widely cited report that commercial crime cases are hampered by the RCMP’s lack of sophisticated knowledge about the capital markets and that penalties for white-collar crime are inadequate.

  • Le Pan’s report won praise from Pilkington, who co-wrote a report on enforcement issues in 2006 for the Investment Dealers Association of Canada’s Task Force to Modernize Securities Legislation in Canada, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 4. It made similar recommendations. The IMET program "can work, but it needs much more attention and focus," she said.

Osgoode dean says MPs lack the ability to question Schreiber effectively

It’s been called a kangaroo court and a political circus, a forum in which the due process of law is denied the central witness, Karlheinz Schreiber, wrote the National Post Dec. 4. Patrick Monahan does not go that far in criticizing the Commons ethics committee proceedings into the dealings between Schreiber and former prime minister Brian Mulroney in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But the dean of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, one of the most prominent members of the legal community, does say the inquiry by MPs that resumes today is an ineffective way to find the truth. "In fact, it could cause more confusion than bring more clarity," he said in an interview. "The committee doesn’t have the capacity really to engage in a serious fact-finding inquiry."

Monahan said MPs tend to make speeches instead of asking precise questions, lawyers for witnesses are not allowed to cross-examine other witnesses, and there is nobody directing a line of questioning the way there would be at a public inquiry. "They don’t have the ability really to probe effectively what witnesses are telling them," he said. Monahan’s observations were the latest in a string of doubts expressed by legal experts.

A front-row seat for new theatrical experiences

Fleeing Iran 24 years ago, Soheil Parsa (BA ’89) says that he escaped so he could continue his art, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 4. The 53-year-old theatre director and artistic director of the Modern Times Stage Company is looking back, from his office in Toronto’s Distillery District, on what it was like as an immigrant trying to crack this city’s theatre community.

"The realities for a first-generation immigrant artist make it more complicated," he says. "The limitations of language were a huge thing, because I couldn’t speak English very well at that time. I also had to settle my family and myself. I had to do different kinds of work to survive…it was really hard to get hired by any theatre company or any theatre institution. At times it looked totally impossible."

Parsa says it took going to York University’s theatre program to truly get settled. The schooling helped him become familiar with this country’s theatre systems and make connections. There, he also met Peter Farbridge, with whom he started Modern Times.

On air

  • David Etkin, director of York’s Program in Emergency Management, and students Dr. Lily Malkin-Dubins and Susan McGregor spoke about the program, on CTV’s “Canada AM” Dec. 3.