It’s not the Year of the Hamster

"As long as we’ve been living in settled villages, rats have been living alongside with us, so we have this long shared history…and because of that we have both positive and negative associations," says Kathryn Denning, professor of anthropology in York University’s Faculty of Arts, in a story in The Globe and Mail Feb. 26.

Although they are worshipped at a temple in India, and were admired enough to merit a place in the Chinese zodiac, "in a lot of places, they’re just considered to be unclean and harbingers of disease," she says.

Of course, it could just be their tails, which somewhat inexplicably disgust many people. "There’s something about their naked tails that people find icky," Denning says. The all-but tailless hamster outsells rats by "50 to 60 per cent," says one employee at a PJ’s pet store in Toronto.

"Hamsters are not very social," Denning points out, "and yet we regard them as being better pets because they’re cuter. Why are they cuter? They’re cuter because they’re rounder. What they have are features of neoteny." The term refers to a certain infantile quality – disproportionately large eyes, rounded features – that we are hardwired to respond to positively.

Singer exposes her winning side online

Mississauga singer/songwriter Selyne Maia beat out dozens of other singers to place second in the international on-line video singing competition, popvideo STAR, wrote the Mississauga News Feb. 26. For her efforts, the 21-year-old music major at York University won a Web site to call her own. Complete with free hosting and advertising, the site will help launch her career.

"The best thing about it was the exposure part of the competition," said Maia, who sang with various choirs as a child, but had no formal voice training prior to university. "I got a lot of comments about a lot of my videos. I’ve been getting a lot of people connecting on my YouTube account based on that competition."

The contest, which began last September and concluded on Feb. 16, brought in more than 14,000 votes. Kitty Brucknell, 23, of London, England, won the competition by 63 votes.

Maia’s submission for the final round was her take on Alicia Keys’ hit, No One. Maia said she was shocked when she quickly became a fan favourite, shortly after joining the contest. When she made it to the final two, she thought the final vote could go either way.

Bryan Bedard, co-creator of popvideo STAR, thought the Mississauga singer would win. "It was surprising to me that she (Maia) didn’t win the whole thing because she was leading all the way throughout," said Bedard.

Canadian securities regulators not dormant

A 2006 study, authored by former Supreme Court justice,York Chancellor Peter Cory and former Osgoode Hall Law School dean Marilyn Pilkington for the IDA’s Task Force to Modernize Securities Legislation in Canada, found it “widely perceived that securities enforcement processes in Canada are inadequate,” wrote the Law Times Feb. 25.

The study, however, lumps together regulatory and criminal deficiencies. This is understandable from the perspective of the research, which examines Canadian securities-related law enforcement as a whole. At the same time, it adds grist to the mill that blames the regulators, who are the entities most commonly regarded by the media and the public as the watchdogs of our capital markets.

That’s not to say that Cory or Pilkington absolved regulators of blame. The specific perceptions of regulatory inadequacy that they cite include the beliefs that regulators have failed to pursue too many high-profile cases; that insider trading is not deterred; that some prosecutions are unfair; that there are delays in taking action to prevent losses to investors; that investigations are not managed effectively; and that integrating adjudication with the other functions of regulators creates an appearance of bias.

Second Opinion: Help wanted: A judicial code of conduct

Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that there is no code of conduct for judges in Canada, wrote Adam Dodek, visiting scholar at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in the Law Times, Feb. 25. The Canadian Judicial Council has issued a booklet entitled Ethical Principles for Judges, but these are only advisory in nature.

Lawyers, MPs, MPPs, public servants, doctors, teachers, students, and now even paralegals are all bound by specific codes of conduct. Recent events show that the need is pressing, both for the public and for the judiciary, and judges should be added to this list.

A judicial code of conduct will help to strengthen the value of judicial impartiality within our legal system. Constitutionally, judicial impartiality is a basic principle of our legal system.

On air

  • Ian Roberge, political science professor at York’s Glendon College, spoke about the implications of the vote of confidence received by Ontario Conservative leader John Tory on Radio Canada Feb. 25.