Abellas receive honorary doctorates from Bishop’s University

Bishop’s University will hold a special convocation ceremony on Friday, Oct. 17 in Centennial Theatre, wrote The Record (Sherbrooke, Que.) Oct. 17. Joining the graduating class will be two honorary doctor of civil law degree recipients: Rosalie Silberman Abella (Supreme Court justice) and York Professor Irving Abella (author and historian).

This will mark the first time Bishop’s University has awarded honorary doctorates to a husband and wife during the same ceremony. Rosalie Silberman Abella practised civil and criminal litigation until she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court in 1976. She subsequently chaired the Ontario Law Reform Commission and the Ontario Labour Relations Board, and was the sole commissioner and author of the 1984 Royal Commission on Equality in Employment.

Irving Abella is a history professor and the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry in York’s Faculty of Arts and a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Vered Jewish Canadian Studies Program of the University of Ottawa. Abella was elected to the Order of Canada in 1994, to the Royal Society of Canada in 1993, and was awarded an honourary doctorate of law by The Law Society of Upper Canada in 2001.

Banners re-brand Jane-Finch

Dozens of stylish new banners are hanging in the Jane and Finch area, part of a re-branding process aimed at rehabilitating the area’s battered reputation, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 17.

The nearly 90 banners, mostly hanging from hydro poles, depict silhouettes of a pioneer farmer and a graduating student. The farmer represents the area’s rural history, while the student is a reference to neighbouring York University.

Half the banners carry the words "University Heights". It’s a name Anthony Perruzza, city councillor for the area, revived last year to give the neighbourhood a different feel. Other banners carry names relating to sites in the community like Black Creek Pioneer Village.

The banners are to be officially introduced today at an event at the corner of Keele and Finch. It’s all part of an effort to "redefine the community," says Perruzza. "The area has received a negative image based on an intersection."

Geography prof co-authors study on rural visible minorities

Visible minorities in Canada’s small towns and rural areas are less likely to say they’ve felt uncomfortable because of their skin colour, culture or religion than those in big cities, according to new research being presented today at a conference of social science researchers, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 17 in a story about a study co-authored by Valerie Preston, geography professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and director of the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS) of York University.

Scholarships boost black kids

York grad Iania Thompson (BA Hons. ’04) knows only too well how tough life can be trying to put yourself through university, wrote The Toronto Sun Oct. 17. With her single mom battling to provide for her and her four younger siblings, it became a major burden in 2002 as Thompson tried to complete her studies. But a "blessing" in the form of a Black Business & Professional Association national scholarship changed everything.

Thompson was not only able to finish her studies in York University’s Faculty of Arts but excel, completing an honours double major in Law & Society and Sociology.

Last night, a group of university students from Ontario’s black community were set on what they hope will be a similar path. The 33 postsecondary students with Black African ancestry scooped the pool in being awarded BBPA national scholarships.

The Ontario students were presented with more than half the 48 scholarships given to postsecondary students across the country. Thompson, who now works in employee relations at the Toronto District School Board, remembers what it felt like to receive a BBPA scholarship in 2002.

York music instructor performs tribute to Arab poet

Befitting a poet, Bassam Bishara beautifully articulates the genius of Mahmoud Darwish, wrote The Toronto Sun Oct. 17 in a story about York music instructor Bassam Shahouk, whose stage name is Bishara. A teacher of Middle Eastern Music in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Bishara will be paying tribute to the iconic Palestinian poet who passed away two months back at age 67. The event is part of Heritage Day – Arab Pride, happening at the Harbourfront Centre waterfront complex tomorrow.

"Darwish felt the pulse of Palestinians in beautiful poetry, he translated their pain in a magical way that shook their emotions, and he gave voice to the Palestinian dreams of statehood," Bishara says.

"He knew how to express the attachment of an entire people to its land and the absolute desire for peace. His message of co-existence will continue to resonate and will eventually be heard."

Bishara says that Darwish, who wrote about his people’s struggle for independence while criticizing both the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian leadership, created a national Palestinian identity that no other poet could achieve.

Bishara says that in March 2000, Yossi Sarid, who was the education minister of Israel, suggested including some of Darwish’s poems in the Israeli high school curriculum, but his idea was shot down by right wing protesters. "I feel that his poems weren’t simply about politics and his people, but also about olives and figs, the eyes of your beloved and the imagination of a child," Bishara says.

Don’t dismiss the Conservatives…or blandness

Reading Robert Fulford’s column, it struck me that Canada is indeed a strange country, wrote Sally F. Zerker, York professor emeritus and senior scholar, in a letter to the National Post Oct. 17. Here we are with five parties that ran in the recent election, and among them there’s not a single leader that Canadians really like. Fulford’s description of the prime minister’s political personality is entirely negative. Stéphane Dion is more or less blamed for the declining fortunes of the Liberal party, and the talk now is about replacing him. Jack Layton, who seemingly has a following in the NDP ranks, nevertheless turns off Canadians not among the loyal party followers. Outside of Quebec nobody likes Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe – and even in Quebec it’s only the separatists who find him attractive. And Elizabeth May can’t be said to have captured the hearts and minds of Canadians.

I’m not sure that such colourlessness is all bad, wrote Zerker. But isn’t it just so Canadian? As for me, I prefer this blandness to Trudeaumania and its like.

Changing the world

Addressing an audience of elementary school students as part of the London District Catholic School Board’s annual "Embracing the Earth, Caring for Creation" initiative, inspirational speaker Long Le used humour and real-life examples to encourage children to consider their environmental impact, wrote the Woodstock Sentinel Review Oct. 17.

Le, a speaker with Craig and Marc Kielburger’s world famous Me to We organization, used a simple magic trick – piercing a green balloon with a wooden skewer while avoiding the expected "pop" – to reinforce the idea that nothing is "impossible".

"Some of you thought that’s impossible, the same way a lot of adults tell us…we’re too young to make a difference," the former York University student said. "Nothing is impossible. Young people have always made a difference in our world."

On air

  • Marc Lesage, sociologist in York’s Faculty of Arts, Glendon campus, spoke about problems with nightclubbing on TFO-TV Oct. 14.
  • Ute Lehrer, urban studies professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about the increasing appeal of condominiums in Toronto, on TFO-TV Oct. 14.