Osgoode professor wasn’t surprised when drug squad case was dismissed

When [a Toronto police] drug squad corruption case came crashing to the ground last month I was not at all surprised, wrote Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star Feb. 12.

Although I do not have much sympathy for these officers, it would be categorically wrong to claim that they "got off on a technicality." Their charges were stayed because of an unreasonable delay largely caused by the failure of the Crown to properly discharge its constitutional obligation to make full and complete disclosure to the accused.

Perhaps there is an innocent explanation for the drug squad prosecution fiasco. Perhaps the accused officers are actually innocent. But in light of our dismal track record [of prosecuting or suing police officers in Canada], the mere fact that this case ended in a no-decision is a criminal justice disaster because it suggests in the minds of many that the justice system plays favourites with the police being indulged like mischievous children who can do no wrong in the eyes of the parents. As with every other failed prosecution of the police, the collapse of this prosecution can only serve to further erode the perceived legitimacy of the system.

Last week, the attorney general launched an appeal as if to show a renewed zeal to prosecute these officers, but the gesture comes too little, too late. Whether or not the appeal has any merit, it will not address the bigger question of why we continuously fail in our efforts to bring allegedly bad cops to justice.

The Court of Appeal can only decide whether or not Justice Nordheimer was wrong in concluding that 56 months of delay was unreasonable and this seems to be a rather trivial debate when compared with the bigger question. But, while the Crown tries to stretch this case out even longer by playing with numbers on appeal, it can fool people into thinking that this case is just about a technical legal error and not about political failure.

Lessons from the playpen

When our twins were born two years ago, we were overjoyed, apprehensive and overwhelmed, wrote Thomas Klassen, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, in a column for The Globe and Mail Feb. 12. However, unlike most parents, I saw an opportunity to finally resolve one of the great mysteries of the universe: What matters most in shaping who we are, nature or nurture?

As a professor of sociology, I had long taught my students that nurture reigns supreme, that personality is shaped by the social environment. An extensive body of research suggests gender roles and gender-specific behaviours are largely learned. Genetic predispositions – I had often argued in lectures – can be overridden by parenting styles.

For the first few weeks after they were born, our plan went well. We fed the babies at the same time, dressed them in the same clothes and treated them equally.

But neither nature nor nurture co-operated with our plans in the months that followed. Nature gave Alexander a slightly larger body than his sister and he quickly took to grabbing things – including his sister – and pulling as hard as possible, often accompanied by a loud yell. If that failed to accomplish his objective, a bite with his four teeth was the final resort.

Power authority chief stepping down

The chief executive of the Ontario Power Authority, the agency in charge of planning the province’s electricity system over the next two decades, has decided to step down in June, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 12.

Jan Carr’s critics label him an old-school engineer obsessed with mammoth power plants, whether nuclear or hydroelectric. They argue the power authority, under Carr’s leadership, short-changed the role of conservation, renewable energy and grid renewal in the province’s 20-year roadmap.

"The focus has been on big, centralized generation, particularly nuclear, and everything else has been treated as a sideshow," said Mark Winfield, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies.

Law students don’t get meaning of a free press, says letter-writer

Osgoode Hall Law School graduates Naseem Mithoowani (LLB ’07), Khurrum Awan (LLB ’07) and Muneeza Sheikh (BA ’03, BA ’04, LLB ’07), who claim they have joined with London lawyer Faisal Joseph in recently lodged human-rights complaints against Maclean’s magazine concerning the writings of Mark Steyn, do not understand the meaning of a "free press", wrote Dawson Winchester in a letter to the London Free Press, Feb. 12, regarding their rebuttal, Maclean’s Muslim articles foster mistrust (Feb. 9).

In their rebuttal, the three students also state their case against articles by columnist Salim Mansur. Having read the Steyn bestseller America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It and counting myself a regular reader of Mansur’s columns, I marvel at the confused rhetoric and unbalanced reasoning of Mithoowani, Awan and Sheikh in their bumbling critique of Steyn and Mansur. It is obvious they do not fully understand the meaning of a "free press" as we know it in Canada and other democratic nations of the world.

York alum was Halton’s longest-serving education director

York alumnus Clifford G. Byrnes (BEd ’85), a Hamilton-born educator who was the longest-serving education director at the Halton Catholic District School Board, has died, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Feb. 12. Byrnes passed away Feb. 1 due to heart complications, after a bypass more than a year ago. He was 74.

GO’s double-decker bus fleet takes high road

GO Transit has ordered 22 double-deckers from Alexander Dennis Ltd. in Edinburgh, Scotland, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 12. GO will receive 12 buses this year, including four next month. They’ll go into service in April. The GO board recently exercised its option to buy 10 more double-deckers, to be delivered next year.

The buses are 13 metres long; 2.5 metres wide and 4.3 metres high and will be equipped with bike racks eventually. The buses will travel Highways 403 and 407 on routes from Oakville to Unionville. York University will be their main hub, with stops at Square One and Bramalea. Double-deckers are limited to select routes because they’re too tall to fit through many city underpasses. GO’s 407 Express service is the fastest growing segment of its ridership, increasing 13 per cent last year while carrying nearly 2.4 million riders.

On air

  • About 80 high-school students from across the country are meeting at York University’s Glendon College until Tuesday to discuss bilingualism, reported Ontario French-language radio stations CHYC-FM (Sudbury) and CHYK-FM (Timmins) Feb. 11.