Experts sound alarm on drug-approval plan

The federal government moved yesterday to meet intense pressure to get new drugs on the market faster while maintaining rigorous safety requirements but health experts warned that Canadians could be exposed to medicines that are approved too quickly to ensure safety, wrote The Globe and Mail April 9.

The government introduced sweeping changes to the way drugs are approved and monitored such that they will require safety checks before and after they reach the market. The changes are among consumer-product safety measures unveiled in Ottawa.

"I think that’s a pretty dangerous thing to be doing," said Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, and a drug safety expert. "This is part of a general trend in a lot of countries, at least with respect to the drug-approval system, [which] is deregulation, turning over more responsibility to the drug companies."

  • Lexchin also spoke about the proposed changes to drug safety monitoring in Canada, on CBC Radio April 9.

Prof’s multimedia installation called ‘brilliant and deeply moving’

Thin Air, the title of York visual arts Professor Nina Levitt‘s brilliant and deeply moving multimedia installation at Toronto’s Koffler Gallery, holds a couple of meanings, wrote The Globe and Mail April 5. First, thin air is the kind of air people disappear into. Second, thin air is the kind of air that fills cold, silent nights that are presided over by full moons. And the full moon is central to Levitt’s installation.

The work honours two remarkable Jewish women, Vera Atkins and Hannah Senesh, whose heroic lives were connected when they both went to work for British intelligence during the Second World War.

Among the many highlights of this troubling and ennobling exhibition is the way Levitt, an artist and professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, has managed to bring together the stories of these two larger-than-life women. By employing only a few carefully chosen objects and projections, she has embodied something of their spirit, their courage and, more generally, the times they lived through. All of this would have been easy, in lesser hands, both to sensationalize and sentimentalize.

Major initiative to assure quality language training in Canada

Languages Canada, a new national organization of public and private sector language training programs, would like to ensure that language training in Canada is of the highest quality, wrote Canada News-Wire April 9, in a media release that quotes Calum MacKechnie, director of York University’s English Language Institute and president of the new Languages Canada/Langues Canada association.

Language training is a global business worth about $6.5 billion a year. Canada, with a market share of 15 per cent, ranks third among destinations for English training. The UK and US rank first and second respectively. As strong as Canada is, this is no time to be complacent. The competition is working hard to increase its market share.

"The UK, our biggest competitor, is ahead of us with a coordinated effort and significant support from government," says MacKechnie.

"We Canadians tend to be modest," adds MacKechnie. "Language training is a true Canadian industry – it’s something we excel at, from coast to coast, from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re special – we’ve got two languages. And that’s not just in one part of the country. We’ve got high-quality French schools that are members of Languages Canada in BC, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Ontario as well as Quebec."