Osgoode alum to head residential schools commission

The Aboriginal judge appointed to head a federal truth & reconciliation commission exploring the legacy of abuse in residential schools says he hopes the process will allow the country to come to terms with its past and move forward, wrote the National Post April 29.

Justice Harry LaForme, whose appointment was announced by the federal Conservative government, credited the victims and survivors of the abuse for inspiring the creation of the first truth and reconciliation commission established in the developed world.

"Your pain, your courage, your perseverance and your profound commitment to truth made this commission a reality," LaForme, a member of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation, said after puffing on a "healing pipe" at a ceremony to mark his appointment at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

Speaking later to reporters, LaForme defended his use of the term "horrendous" to describe what transpired and challenged those who think the magnitude of the abuse is overblown to think again.

"If there was one child that was treated in the fashion that we know some children were treated, that’s enough, that’s enough to describe it as horrendous," LaForme said, referring indirectly to the accounts of physical, sexual and other abuse that went on at the schools.

The commission, which will be formally established June 1 after the appointment of two panel members to work with LaForme, flows from an out-of-court settlement reached two years ago with former students of the now-closed residential schools that also included lump sum payments for thousands of school survivors.

LaForme, a graduate of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, is a former member of the Indian Commission of Ontario, a member of the Ontario Court of Appeal and the first Aboriginal to be appointed to an appellate court in Canada.

  • LaForme added he appreciated the desire of individuals from churches, government and former staff to participate "with honesty and humility in this commission," while also taking advantage of "unfettered access" to church and government records, wrote CBC News online, April 29.

"The commission prepares to hear and to understand the multiple voices of the past with eyes, ears, minds and hearts that are open and compassionate, that will not ignore or mask the truth of that past," he said.

Secret drug trials put people at risk, says York health professor

US and Canadian regulatory rules allowed companies to conduct “secret science” that jeopardized the lives and health of hundreds of people who took part in clinical trials for a human blood substitute, even though earlier tests had shown the existing products were dangerous, wrote The Canadian Press April 28, citing comments by researchers.

“If the research isn’t published or otherwise made public, [you will have cases where] someone knows that the proposed therapy may be harmful but that somebody won’t tell anybody else,” said Dr. Joel Lexchin, a York University researcher who closely monitors regulation of the pharmaceutical industry.

“So you have research ethics boards approving studies where the therapy may be dangerous. You have patients enrolling. You have the doctors who are running the trials undertaking them…. You’ve got all these people participating in something which is inherently unethical.”

The study was published Monday by the Journal of the American Medical Association in advance of a two-day FDA hearing on blood substitutes that will be held in Bethesda, Md., beginning Tuesday.

Lexchin was more critical of Health Canada for treating unpublished studies as confidential information. “They’re calling this business information, not health information,” he said.

Standing up to bullies

A recent study by Debra Pepler, psychology professor in York University’s Faculty of Health, and Wendy Craig of Queen’s University, suggests that a bully’s peers may be key to stopping violent and harassing behaviour, wrote BC’s Richmond News April 29.

"The peer group wields considerable power to promote or stop bullying," they conclude in the study, titled “Binoculars on bullying: a new solution to protect and connect children”. Bullies typically become the centre of attention and "are frequently rewarded for their use of power and aggression" by their peers.

Conversely, Pepler and Craig found that, "when a peer has the courage to intervene, bullying stops 57 per cent of the time, within 10 seconds." They suggest that students be encouraged to come up with their own codes of conduct when it comes to bullying, because they might be more likely to follow them.

Sudbury’s loss is York’s gain

Sudbury Jr. Wolves forward Scott Restoule is among four former Ontario Hockey League players signed to play for the York University Lions next season, wrote the Sudbury Star April 29.

Before joining the Wolves, he spent parts of three seasons in the OHL with the London Knights, the Sarnia Sting and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Restoule will join his cousin, Lions forward Matt Restoule, on the team.

Joining Restoule at York will be defencemen Matt Thomson and Riley Brand, and goalie David Davenport.

Striking a pose in Old Havana

Several York students were featured in a picture taken in December 2007 and published in The New York Times April 27 in a feature, titled “Why we travel to Cuba”. The picture showed York student Lydia Wong on vacation with fellow students Nicole Ng Yuen and Sofiya Osipov, and two friends. "We thought it would be a great time to just relax because our exams had just finished, so we decided to go to Cuba because it was one of the cheapest flights down to a hot place,” said Wong.

On air

  • Edward Waitzer, Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about issues raised in the current session of parliament on CBC Radio’s “Cross Country Check-up” April 27.
  • Leo Panitch, Canada Research Chair in Competitive Local Economy in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about renewed calls for the TTC to be declared an essential service, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” April 28.
  • James Laxer, political science professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, spoke about the US presidential race and his book, The Perils of Empire, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” April 28.
  • Ben Quine, director of the space engineering program in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and lead investigator in the Argus experiment to measure airborne greenhouse gases, spoke about the project on CBC Radio’s “Quirks and Quarks” April 26.