Osgoode graduate brings hope to Africa’s child soldiers

A year ago, York alumna Pernille Ironside (LLB ’99) of Spruce Grove, Alberta, sat down at a table in the Democratic Republic of Congo with some of the world’s worst war criminals, wrote The Edmonton Journal Jan. 7.

It was a long-awaited chance to talk directly with leaders of one of the most notorious militias in the Congolese province of North Kivu, where Ironside lives and works as a child protection specialist for UNICEF. It was Ironside’s job to convince leaders of the rebel group to release child soldiers working for them.

"If you wanted to see some war criminals, these are them. They’re extremely dangerous people who have committed many atrocities," she told a small audience in the Strathcona Public Library, where she showed photographs and spoke about her experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"This was a particularly difficult situation, extremely tense. I’ve never encountered anything like it." No children were released that day, but that talk set the stage for the eventual release of 150 children into UNICEF’s care.

Ironside returns to her job this week after a visit home for Christmas. She earned a law degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and speaks English, French, Dutch and German.

GO, union reach deal

All will be GOing well for commuters Monday morning, wrote The Toronto Sun Jan. 5.

GO Transit and nearly 1,200 of its employees who are members of Local 1587 of the Amalgamated Transit Union reached a tentative agreement last night – two days ahead of a strike deadline that would have left 30,000 daily bus passengers without a ride to work and school.

The deal allowed commuters a huge sigh of relief, especially those who rely on GO’s bus service to get from one part of the GTA to the other – like along Hwy. 407, which is the transit service’s fastest growing route.

Monday is the first day back at school for many university students who use the bus service to get to York University, as well as to other colleges and universities from Hamilton to Oshawa.

Ratification votes must still be taken by GO Transit’s board of directors and the 1,170 unionized employees who have been without a contract since June 1.

  • About 30,000 people take the GO Transit bus service, many of them students at York University, McMaster University and area colleges, wrote The Canadian Press Jan. 7.

Osgoode prof is named principal of women’s college

Colleen Hanycz, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, has been named the new principal of London, Ont.’s Brescia University College, effective July of this year.

"Over the past nine decades, Brescia has firmly established itself as a leader in women’s education in Canada," said Hanycz. "I am privileged to have the opportunity to build upon this enduring Ursuline legacy." Hanycz is known for her work in the area of alternative dispute resolution.

Hanycz will be the college’s second lay principal. She currently teaches civil procedure, legal negotiation and dispute resolution at Osgoode. She is this year’s recipient of the Osgoode Hall Law School Research Fellowship and also served as Osgoode’s assistant dean from 2004 to 2006.

Brescia, Canada’s only women’s university college, is an affiliate of the University of Western Ontario and was founded by the Ursuline Sisters of Chatham in 1919.

Billionaire looks set to bid for Leafs empire

Toronto billionaire Alex Shnaider (BA ’92), a one-time team owner in the prestigious Formula One auto racing circuit, has his sights set on another blue-chip sports investment: the Toronto Maple Leafs, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) Jan. 8.

Shnaider has been consulting in recent weeks with investment bank-industry contacts about how much money it would take to pry the Leafs’ parent company – Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment – away from its owners, say two sources familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for the Russian-born Shnaider confirmed to the Toronto Star that he has "preliminary interest" in the sports holding company.

The 39-year-old Shnaider is contemplating an offer at an interesting time. In October, Forbes magazine estimated that the York University graduate had a net worth of US$1.8 billion. That placed him 14th – tied with Quebec cheese magnate Lino Saputo and ahead of Research In Motion co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie – on a list of 23 Canadian billionaires profiled by the magazine.

  • The question being asked in the hockey world today is: ‘Who is this Alex Shnaider?’, wrote The Toronto Sun Jan. 6.

Shnaider, who is reported to be interested in buying Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., is a 38-year-old Russian-born, Canadian-raised billionaire who made most of his fortune in the steel business in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Using investments from family and friends he parlayed western-style electronics such as VCRs into shares in rusting Soviet steel factories while living with his parents and finishing a degree in economics at York University.

Star seizes spotlight with two sexy roles

For former York student and 20-something Amanda Brugel, 2007 was very good to her, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 5. It was a break-out year in which the actor, playing two very different women, will be seen in two Canadian TV series later this season.

Add to that a feature film, Splice, starring Oscar-winner Adrien Brody and actor/director Sarah Polley, also to be released in 2008, and it’s easy to see why Brugel is both tired and excited about the future.

"It was a bit surreal. It was wonderful. It was everything that you imagine and you hope to be when you’re in (acting) class," says the former student in York University’s drama program. "It’s been a slow progression. I’ve worked all the way through but this year has definitely been the busiest and the most successful."

First up will be a starring role in "MVP", the saucy new series touted as "the secret lives of hockey wives" premiering Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. on CBC. Then Brugel crosses over to the other side, playing Lynnie Jordan, a new character on Season Three of Showcase’s "Paradise Falls", which airs later this year.

Degradable disposables may cause more problems, says York expert

Oxo-degradable products like food containers are designed to degrade into a fine powder with the help of a chemical additive and are touted for being a more environmental alternative to Styrofoam products which remain in landfills for hundreds of years. But that’s where degradation meets its skeptics, wrote The Winnipeg Sun Jan. 6.

"That could cause more problems because you end up with tiny particles floating around," points out Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. "Particles in that form could be swept as uptake in the food chain…and the environmental impact could be worse."

While biodegradable cutlery may seem like a novel idea, a lot of energy and resources has to be forked over to make these one-time use knives, Winfield points out. "The basic answer has always been that it’s more efficient in the long term to reuse things rather than recycle it," he said.

History course proposal upsets Canadian Turks

An unusual new course about genocide to be offered in Toronto high schools this fall has sparked anger among Turkish-Canadians for including the Turkish killing of Armenians in 1915, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 7.

The Grade 11 history course, believed the only one of its kind at a high school in Ontario and possibly Canada, is designed to teach teenagers what happens when a government sets out to destroy people of a particular nationality, race or religion, through three examples, including: the Holocaust, the Rwandan slaughter and the Turkish killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923.

The Council of Turkish Canadians has gathered more than 1,200 signatures on an online petition opposed to the course for calling the Armenian killings a "genocide" and inciting anti-Turkish sentiment.

The course is being designed with the help of experts from York’s Faculty of Education, UNICEF, the Canadian Centre for Genocide and Human Rights Education, the University of Toronto and the Holocaust Centre of Toronto. Schools from as far away as Montreal have asked for the curriculum, says Segal.

Founding dean of fine arts at York promoted interdisciplinary studies

Jules Heller, who helped lead the first Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and was founding dean in the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture, died Dec. 28, wrote the Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.) Jan. 5. He was 88.

He long stressed "the importance of genuine interdisciplinary thinking by all university people – so that scientists understood the artists, and artists understood the scientists," said Gloria Heller, his wife of 66 years. She said Heller, an artist, professor and university administrator, was eager to help all students make "arts part of the society, including the political."

Heller left Penn State in 1968, when he was recruited to lead the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University in Toronto. From there, in 1976, he returned to Arizona State. He served as a dean there until his retirement.

A film lover’s delight at festival

The final nips and tucks for the Aultsville Winter Film Festival, Jan. 25-27, are now in the works and it’s going to be great, wrote the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder Jan. 5. Of course, there’s all the other perks, too. Coffee hours, the gala reception, film shorts by local students – and, making a return visit this year – the one, the only, Vince Pilon, fresh from his first year of film production studies at York University.

Provincial rebates almost a year late

Nine months after the provincial government announced it would give homeowners up to $150 to conduct energy audits on their homes, not a single cheque has been issued, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) Jan. 5. The lag shows the governments are not really committed to fighting climate change, critics say.

”Where there is political will to do these things, these problems can be overcome. It’s as simple as that,” said Mark Winfield, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental studies. ”It’s disappointing.”

Big Pharma – marketing is our business

Drug companies spend almost twice as much on marketing and promoting their products than on research and development, wrote Pharmagossip Jan. 7, in a story about a York study. In their analysis of data from two market research companies, Marc-Andre Gagnon, of the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Joel Lexchin of York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, found that American drug companies spent US$57.5 billion on promotional activities in 2004.

A familiar ring to ‘Cashman’s’ business success

"There is nothing I won’t do for attention," says Russell Oliver (BA ‘70), the owner of Oliver Jewellery famed for his low-budget commercials wrote the National Post Jan. 7. "Well," he says, "I wouldn’t do anything illegal."

Oliver has built his business on low-budget commercials in which he plays the starring role. If you own a television, you know Oliver and his "I’ll give you cash for your jewellery" mantra. Here’s something you probably don’t know about Russell Oliver: He majored in philosophy at York’s Glendon College.

But even then, in the late 1960s, Oliver was more interested in cash than Kant. "I ran an after-hours club called the Village Green that was at Church and Wellesley. I made a fortune. In those days, I was making between $2,000 and $5,000 a weekend," he says.

On air

  • Leo Panitch, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about public perceptions about the power of large corporations on CHED-AM radio (Edmonton) Jan. 5.
  • David Leyton-Brown, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the US presidential primaries, on BNN-TV Jan. 4.