YFS not stifling free speech, says Massa

Freedom of speech is of paramount importance on campus. At no point has the York Federation of Students (YFS) tried to stifle free speech or freedom of association, wrote YFS vice-president external Gilary Massa  in a letter to the National Post June 28, responding to a story about a student anti-abortion group fighting a YFS ban on its funding. The YFS, wrote Massa, has made the legitimate decision to take a position that is representative of the majority of its membership who believes that reproductive freedom is a right for all women in Canada. This right should not be eliminated based on the moral opposition of a few.

The decisions taken by a number of students unions to not provide resources to groups that work to criminalize abortion and harass students on campus have not prevented members of anti-choice groups from associating or speaking freely.

If anything, the significant coverage of anti-choice groups, regardless of merit, demonstrates that this unrepresentative minority continues to speak freely and perhaps has greater access than most to the commercial media to exercise its Charter rights, wrote Massa.

Hate speech complaint dismissed

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) dismissed a hate-speech complaint against Maclean’s magazine, in a decision the complainants blamed on “inappropriate political pressure,” wrote CanWest News Service June 28.

The goal was an order forcing Maclean’s to print a "mutually acceptable" rebuttal, but this failure at the federal level leaves the entire enterprise hanging on the forthcoming decision of a British Columbia tribunal, which heard the case this month.

An identical complaint, brought in Ontario with the help of three Muslim graduates of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, was rejected on jurisdictional grounds.

Maclean’s said in a statement announcing the decision (the CHRC does not publicize dismissals of complaints) that it "is in keeping with our long-standing position that the article in question, ‘The Future Belongs to Islam,’ an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s best-selling book America Alone, was a worthy piece of commentary on important geopolitical issues."

Faisal Joseph, lawyer for the Canadian Islamic Congress, said in a statement that the dismissal contradicts the findings of the CHRC’s own investigator, and that a tribunal hearing is warranted.

"We now have two different tribunals, neither of which had the complete evidence presented to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, making contradictory findings," Joseph said, referring to Ontario rights chief commissioner Barbara Hall’s statement that Maclean’s published Islamophobic material that went against the spirit, if not the letter, of Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

Alumna nominated for Dora Mavor Moore award

York alumna Monica Dottor (BFA ’98) never saw it coming, wrote the Sault Star June 30. The Sault Ste. Marie native finds out tonight if she’ll win her first Dora Mavor Moore Award. The awards mark the best in Toronto theatre, dance and opera.

Dottor was nominated for outstanding choreography in a play or musical for her work in Factory Theatre’s production of The Russian Play. “To be honest, it was not on my radar of possibility at all,” she said in a telephone interview from her Toronto home. “I didn’t realize I was eligible to be nominated. I just wasn’t thinking of it so I was really shocked when the nomination came through.”

The York University dance and music graduate has choreographed productions for about a decade in addition to acting. She is currently appearing in Canadian Stage Company’s presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at High Park. Dottor appears as Hermia. The urban, hip-hop take on Shakespeare’s work runs until Aug. 31.

Canadian brands can benefit as corporate chameleons

Forget the industrious beaver, wrote CanWest News Service June 29. Canadian businesses ought to look to the adaptable chameleon for a modern corporate model, a new book suggests.

Canadian entrepreneurs and business owners can learn plenty from the colour-changing lizard if they want to become global brands, marketing experts Jeannette Hanna and York Professor Alan Middleton, of York’s Schulich School of Business say in their book, Ikonica: A Field Guide to Canada’s Brandscape.

The authors chastise Canadians, especially marketers, for dismissing some of the country’s greatest international brand success stories as mere flukes, and call on other companies to learn from these case studies.

Bowman says futuristic Clairtone stereo was cool

In Canadian homes, Clairtone stereos became practically ubiquitous, reported CBC Television June 27 in a feature on the classic Canadian stereo system of the late ‘50s. Professor Rob Bowman teaches popular music in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. As a Toronto teenager, his family saved and bought the latest status symbol: a Clairtone. Even the lower- priced, lower-styled models had a certain something.

“Why was the Clairtone cool?” asked Bowman. “Well, for me at least, the sound was big. It was rich. For my parents, it was fine furniture. It was somehow modern or ‘modairne’ if you want to think of it in that way. But I think for both of us, it somewhat represented the future, and the future was cool."

Canada Post’s six-cent solution

To take a bite out of escalating energy costs, Canada Post president and chief executive officer Moya Greene (LLB ’78) formally submitted a request to the federal government Thursday for a six-cent increase in the price of domestic stamps over the next three years, wrote The Globe and Mail June 28. “It’s not going to bring us all the way, but it’s going to contribute to us staying in the black, and for us not to become a burden on the tax payer,” Greene explained in an interview.

Greene says that before Canada Post even considered jacking up the price of stamps and the cost to ship other parcels, the corporation looked at cutting back costs in all areas. "We batten down the hatches everywhere," she notes, referring to the almost $150-million the company has projected to save this year.

The Globe noted that Greene is a graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Oil sands have nothing to fear from Obama, says York prof

I don’t think Canadians need worry about Barack Obama cutting off oil purchases that emanate from the tar sands, if he is elected US president, wrote Sally F. Zerker, sociology professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Arts, in a letter to the National Post June 28 . When his spokesperson implies that the oil from Canada’s tar sands may be too carbon intensive to fit Obama’s environmental program, this is nothing more than a neat electioneering ploy, wrote Zerker. It’s a good practice not to believe everything candidates say while running for the US presidency.

Life on the fringes feels decidedly mainstream

Toronto ’s Fringe Festival offers a berth for young playwrights like Rachel Blair (BA ’06), whose first work, Wake, is set to premiere at the festival, wrote the Toronto Star June 29. “The Fringe has been great to me,” said playwright Blair, a graduate of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. In addition to providing seed money for the production, the festival has also brokered access to a producer and director and “so many other people that I don’t think I necessarily would have been in contact with,” she said.

“I see Fringe as a beginning, it’s not an end. You try something at the Fringe and see how it goes. Fringe is set up so well for that, where artists can kind of throw stuff out there and see what sticks and what doesn’t,” Blair added.

Canadian director for UK production of Candide studied at York

Canadian director Robert Carsen, 53, was raised in Toronto and for two years studied theatre at York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, before heading to Britain to join the Bristol Old Vic, wrote The Globe and Mail June 30 in a story about Carsen’s production of Candide at England’s London Coliseum. In 2005, he and his father, the Toronto philanthropist Walter Carsen, were given joint honorary doctorates from York. “I was very touched,” he says, “though I felt obliged to point out that I had dropped out and come to England.”

York student’s brother is ‘King Pong’

“We are so proud of my little brother as a Canadian to compete at the Beijing Olympics,” said Long Shen, a 24-year-old graphic design student at York University, in an e-mail to the National Post June 28. [Shens’ brother, table tennis player Qiang Shen, will compete in the Olympics in August.] “It is our family’s dream, especially my father’s dream, to see him in the Olympics. He deserves this opportunity. The interesting thing is that the place he will show his talent to the world is the place where he was born and familiar with.”

It is a perfect fairy tale. Or it would be, if there were a happy ending to look forward to, wrote the Post. Shen’s family has cancelled their tickets to Beijing. His father is too sick to travel, but it takes Shen’s older brother, Long Shen, to say just how bad things are: Xun Jun Shen is dying of liver cancer. He barely has the energy to speak.

Taste of Lawrence turns five with great gusto

Next weekend, six lanes of Lawrence Avenue East from Warden Avenue to Crockton Boulevard are going to be closed to cars for the fifth annual Taste of Lawrence, wrote the National Post June 28. “This is the type of thing that you normally see downtown,” says Rafael Gomez of 54east, the arts-based storefront he helped found in a strip mall at 2068 Lawrence Ave. E. A business and economics professor at York’s Glendon campus, Gomez grew up in this area. His goal is to give a little nudge to the arts and culture underground in Scarborough.

Teacher was given a posthumous award by York’s Faculty of Education

A footnote to your article about the tragic death in 2006 of York Region teacher and York University alumna Suzanne Mizuno (BA ’96, BEd ’96): She was awarded, posthumously, the 2007 Faculty of Education Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award for her exceptional classroom work, wrote Paul Axelrod, dean of York’s Faculty of Education, in a letter to the Toronto Star June 30. She was a creative, engaging and inspirational teacher, deeply admired by students and colleagues alike. She is missed, wrote Axelrod.

Mature students left out

Most younger students in need have access to federal or provincial student loans, wrote Edward Fenner, past-president of the York University Mature Students Organization in a letter to the Toronto Star June 28. While cumbersome, there is funding available. However, for most mature students in Ontario, these options are not available because we usually have assets (house, car, RRSPs, etc.) that tend to disqualify us from education-based loans and force us to struggle with alternatives or paying as we go (not all assets are in a position to be sold or borrowed against).

The current student loans system does next to nothing for the hundreds of thousands of adult learners in Canada.

Medical pot shouldn’t be a controlled substance, says Osgoode prof

Osgoode Hall Law School professor Alan Young, commenting on a case before the Ontario Human Rights Commission, involving a bar owner who refused to allow a patron to smoke marijuana even though he has a licence to use it for medical purposes, said marijuana should not be considered a controlled substance for the 2,000 Canadians licensed to smoke it because it is approved for medical use, wrote The Vancouver Sun June 28.

Student has his price to give up the car

Waiting for one of York Region’s new Viva rapid transit buses north of Toronto, Andrew Snider, 22, said it will take gas prices of at least $1.60 a litre before he contemplates giving up driving, wrote The Globe and Mail June 30 in a story on changes in commuter habits due to increasing oil prices.

When he can borrow his mother’s car, driving from his suburban Richmond Hill home to his courses at York University takes just 30 minutes, compared with 90 minutes on the bus, he said. “Fuel prices are out of control, but for my time, I can justify the fuel expense,” he said. “My car is still the better choice, unfortunately.”

New prescription needed for MD shortage

New rules won’t address the underlying problems for foreign-trained doctors in obtaining accreditation to practice in Canada, said British researcher Mojgan Rahbari at a recent Centre for Refugees Studies conference at York University. “We need an integration strategy to match the immigration strategy,” she said, in a story published in the Toronto Star June 30.

On air

  • Richard Leblanc, marketing professor in York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, spoke about making Monday’s work day between the weekend and Canada Day fun for those employees who had to work it, on numerous radio stations across Canada June 27.