Mourners at funeral for young hockey player sing him one last Christmas carol

Don Sanderson was in a coma during Christmas and missed celebrating his favourite time of year, so hundreds of mourners solemnly sang a yuletide carol Monday at the funeral for the 21-year-old hockey player who died following an on-ice fight, wrote The Canadian Press Jan. 5.

Rev. Peter Lackmanec said Sanderson’s favourite was Silent Night, and he led the congregation in an understated rendition of the song. Sanderson’s mother began weeping as the mournful voices filled the packed church.

“We loved him with all our hearts and I don’t know how we’re going to move on without him, but he’ll be there to support us,” Dahna Sanderson said outside the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in this small community northeast of Toronto.

“All I ask is each and every one of you love each and every one of your family members every day. Tell them how much you love them. All I know is my heart is breaking because I will never hear my baby say: ‘Love you, mom’.”

She rocked back and forth as Lackmanec spoke of how Don Sanderson had a great passion for hockey and a great love for his mother and father.

“No child should ever predecease their parents,” he said. “There is nothing worse than a mother or father to lose their child…. What a precious gift that they had that is now gone.”

Many mourners wore emblems bearing Sanderson’s uniform number – 40 – that was also on display throughout the community, scrawled on a dusty pickup truck in one instance.

York campus reopens, strike talks continue

Talks were to continue today between York University and its striking staff, as 50,000 undergraduates are left to worry about the fate of their school year, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 6.

The school reopened its campus yesterday after the winter break with no sign when classes might start and a new round-the-clock protest outside University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri‘s office.

The 25 students and strikers at the sit-in are demanding Shoukri host a forum this week with the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903, to answer students’ questions. The York Federation of Students will present both sides tomorrow with a petition of more than 4,000 signatures calling on both parties to remain committed to bargaining.

  • Talks to get York University students back on the learning curve are continuing and that has some optimistic their academic year can be saved, wrote The Toronto Sun Jan. 6.

“I have a job lined up for this summer and it is important for me to be done school by the end of May,” said Jacob Phillips, a third-year student. “But more importantly…I didn’t pay my tuition to sit around.”

Phillips returned to campus yesterday on the day classes for the winter semester were supposed to begin. Instead he waited for news on negotiations going on at a hotel a few kilometres west of campus.

Two previous attempts at reaching a deal have been unsuccessful but this time might be different, said Tyler Shipley, a spokesman for CUPE Local 3903. “We’re really encouraged,” Shipley said. “This is the first time since the strike started that we really feel the University is making an effort to sit down and negotiate with us.”

About 20 students staged a sit-in again in the offices of York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, demanding he provide answers to questions about what is going on.

  • Another round of negotiations is underway in an attempt to end the two-month-old labour dispute at York University, wrote CBC News online Jan. 6.

For student Victoria Barnett, now in her graduating year, the labour dispute has put her life on hold. She said she’s angry that the university administration has not been willing to work harder to bargain with staff and end the dispute. “I’m frustrated that I’m out of school and that classes are cancelled and everything is going to be delayed and pushed back,” she said.

If the strike continues, the University is looking at making more changes to its calendar.

York will likely cancel reading week, compress its fall and winter exam schedules, and possibly extend the academic year into May in order to make up for lost time.

For Barnett, this could make it harder to find a job. “If I have to wait until May to apply, that makes it more difficult. There will be less available.”

Barnett and many others connected to the university are hoping the new round of talks will produce an agreement.

  • Several spokespersons, representing the University, CUPE 3903, and students were interviewed on radio and television on the first day the campus re-opened after the holidays.

Organized labour confronts the financial crisis

A grave financial crisis should bring the leaders of organized labour, management and government into line. In theory, wrote the National Post Dec. 20.

Yet the past few weeks have seemed like the dark hours of the Thatcher era, fraught with intimidation and adversarial muscle-flexing from all sides. Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister, threatens to ban the public sector workers from striking. Part-time York University professors are waging a long war of attrition with school management. In both Canada and the United States, autoworkers are routinely blamed for the combustion of the Big Three.

Though they may seem dogmatic and unwavering, unions are not the fist-on-the-table radicals they used to be, note many labour experts from both sides of the spectrum. Aside from the striking part-time York profs, which most observers dismiss as a complicated exception, most unions have actually mellowed with age.

Per-vote subsidies still provoking debate

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a televised interview conducted before Christmas that taxpayers are tired of funding political parties wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 6 in a story about the government’s move to back down on banning the contributions. But Robert MacDermid, a professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Arts, said he doesn’t know where Harper is getting his information.

MacDermid points to the 2006 Canadian Elections Study, funded in part by Elections Canada, which asked respondents whether political parties should get public funding. More than half of those surveyed had no opinion. But, of those who did, 71 per cent said the public financing was a “good thing.”

“This is the history of public finance for parties. Time and time again, in polls going back to the early ’90s when the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing looked at this issue, Canadians have always said that they support public financing,” MacDermid said. “I can speculate that they think it’s a way of ensuring fairness – so that the richest party doesn’t always dominate the circus, which is a pretty persuasive argument.”

  • Toronto could soon become the first city in Ontario to ban corporate and union donations in municipal election campaigns, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 6. The executive committee voted 7-4 yesterday to ask for a draft bylaw outlawing such donations, permitting only contributions from individuals. City council would make the final decision in the fall. 
    Corporate campaign donations have been on the decline in Toronto, in part because some candidates have voluntarily refused them, including Mayor David Miller. In contrast, corporate donations represent a much larger proportion of contributions to candidates in surrounding regions, said Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, who researches the issue. “In some places, candidates take as much as 80 or 90 per cent of their money from developers,” MacDermid said. “The entire council will have over 50 per cent of their money from developers.” 
  • If you’re lucky enough to get a card from your local government representative in the mail, savour it, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Dec. 24. You paid for it. York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid, of York’s Faculty of Arts, notes the gesture might only serve as a reminder to some people that all they get is a Christmas card from their local representative.

Court eases way for suits against government

It will be easier to sue the federal government as a result of an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that rejected what it described as a Dickensian series of obstacles that the federal Crown was trying to uphold, wrote Canwest News Service Dec. 29.

A lawsuit seeking financial damages against the federal government or one of its agencies may generally be launched in the Superior Court of any province, rather than in the Federal Court of Canada, the court said in a ruling issued Dec. 24.

The Court of Appeal decision followed a consolidated hearing earlier this year stemming from four unrelated lawsuits – three involving companies suing the federal government and one filed by one of the country’s most notorious bank robbers.

“This is a very significant ruling,” said Patrick Monahan, a lawyer for Telezone Inc., one of the companies in the case before the Court of Appeal. The decision removes obstacles for “Canadians who try to hold the government to account,” added Monahan, who is also the dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

  • Telezone was ably represented by Patrick Monahan, the dean of York’s Osgoode Hall law school, wrote The Toronto Sun Jan. 6 in its story on the case.

The art of cross-examination

Toronto defence lawyer Heather McArthur once had one of those rare Perry Mason-type moments, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 6 in a story about the legal art of cross-examination. In 2006, she got a witness to dramatically reverse his testimony and admit that her client could not have participated in the fatal beating of a Burlington student.

Good cross-examination is a science more than an art, says McArthur, who has taught classes on it at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Balancing priorities at work and home

Lisa Raitt (LLB ‘96) says it’s all a bit of a juggling act, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 4. The 40-year-old federal Minister of Natural Resources and mother of two small boys was talking about the big Canadian challenge of battling an economic crisis with one hand and environmental problems with the other.

“It’s important to recognize there’s a balance between the environment and the economy and energy,” she says. “The balance is really important in ensuring that we responsibly and reasonably and prudently manage the resources that we have.”

She may have risen quickly from relative obscurity as head of the Toronto Port Authority to a senior cabinet portfolio – in charge of challenging files like the Alberta oil sands and nuclear energy – just a fortnight after she was elected as the Conservative MP for Halton.

Still, the Cape Breton native, who has a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Guelph and a law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall, says her biggest challenge is another balancing act – albeit one much closer to home.

Whirling dervish in verse

“Metaphysics can be tiring,” Asher Ghaffar writes at one point in Wasps in a Golden Dream Hum a Strange Music, his first collection of poetry, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 4. There are times a bemused reader, immersed in this whirling dervish of a book, might agree, although Ghaffar’s passion and razzle-dazzle inventiveness are also compelling.

Ghaffar is a Canadian-born Muslim who is pursuing a doctorate in social and political thought at York University, but his family roots are in Pakistan. Ghaffar relies on “a language of debris” and “broken scattered images” that make his feeling of dislocation palpable in the form of the poems themselves. His aim is to “Weave words as one weaves the strings of a broken instrument along steel frets. The scrambled rib cage of lost music.” He also invokes a dizzyingly wide range of references, from the French poet Edmund Jabes to Hindu mythology.

Hunting for a new Hirst

As York University marketing professor Don Thompson of the Schulich School of Business demonstrated this year in the book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, the Hirst Corporation became a multi-hundred-million-dollar enterprise thanks to rich men engaged in a contest to see who could pay the most ridiculous amounts of money for art, wrote the National Post Jan. 5. The works of Hirst – and Emin and Koons and every other artist you’ve read about in the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times – are, to the people who can afford them, status symbols.

‘Off-label’ use of drugs leads to problems for patients

Drug safety expert Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, says all drugs carry risks that have to be weighed against the benefits, wrote Canwest News Service Jan. 2 in a story about a practice known as off-label prescribing.

“Off-label prescribing means that, really, the data that you’re using is just not that good a lot of times, in terms of knowing whether or not what you’re prescribing is the most appropriate medication, or whether the doses are right,” Lexchin says. “Often it’s really a shot in the dark, and the patient(s) may be the guinea pigs.”

Artist recognized for Canadian contribution

A prominent member of Mississauga’s South Asian arts community has been named a Member of the Order of Canada, wrote The Mississauga News Dec. 30. Lata Pada, artistic director of Sampradaya Dance Creations, received the honour today for her work in promoting traditional Indian dance and South Asian arts and culture.

Pada holds a master’s degree in dance from York University and serves on the advisory committees of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, is also a strong advocate for justice following the 1985 Air India bombing. Her husband and daughters were on board Air India Flight 182, which crashed off the coast of Ireland, killing 329 people, including 29 Mississauga residents. Pada was involved in the inquiry into the bombing.

Bringing young Afghans ‘out of the shadows’

As an Afghan-born youth living in Toronto, Nadera Ahmadi leads a hectic life, wrote the Globe and Mail Dec. 30. The 22-year-old attends York University full time, works part time in a big grocery store, and lives with her parents and family members in a small apartment in Thorncliffe Park.

But on a recent evening, she still took time to join about 30 young people in the basement of a local community centre to hash out a touchy subject: Should young people correct their parents on cultural issues?

The debate, moderated by a new grassroots forum known as the Afghan Discourse, touched on typical intergenerational conflicts. But for Afghans struggling to find work and adapt here, sometimes tensions erupt between tradition-minded parents and children lured to the wrong crowd.

“I face these issues at home and it is good to know other people are going through the same thing too,” Ahmadi said later. “You don’t feel so alone.”

Gay community looking to make political inroads

It might surprise some that a gay organization could build such strong ties with the Republican party, given the considerable influence that social conservatives wield within the party, wrote CanWest News Service Dec. 29 in a story about Fred Litwin and his blog called “Gay and Right”. But Miriam Smith, a public-policy professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and Atkinson School of Public Policy & Administration, said it is much easier for minority groups to find room within the two big American parties.

“The US political system offers a lot more opportunities for groups to mobilize to influence public policy and also to organize within political parties,” said Smith, who has written a history of lesbian and gay rights in North America. “Canadian parties tend to be much more disciplined, and it is much more difficult for groups to form within them.”

Patience is more than a virtue

What distinguishes theatre company Necessary Angel is its patient, elaborate, drawn-out method of workshop development, wrote a reviewer in the Globe and Mail Dec. 29. Under both founding artistic director Richard Rose (BFA Spec. Hon. ’78) and, since 2003, Daniel Brooks, the same regimen applies: No play is deemed ready for full production until all its kinks – scriptural, design, choreographic, etc. – have been fully ironed out.

It was Rose, together with three otherwise unemployed York University theatre grads, who set up the collective that became Necessary Angel in 1978 – the name suggested by the wife of one of the quartet. Six months later, this brave enterprise collapsed – the others got paying jobs – and Rose was left to carry on.

Tempers flare over Palestinian deaths

“The last 48 hours, Israel attacked Hamas weapon depots, training camps and missile launchers. They have the right to defend themselves from terrorists,” said York University student, Jonathan Jaffit, 24, who almost tossed his shoe at the crowd [during a protest march], wrote The Toronto Sun Dec. 29. 

  • David Dewitt, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the conflict in Gaza, on CTV NewsNet, Jan. 5.

This couple found names written in the stars

Steve Upegui got his first telescope while in high school, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 27. Then, as a student at York University in the late 1990s, he took a course in astronomy. Diane Carmichael, his then-girlfriend, used to sit in on the class, too. “We got on the constellation Orion, and I thought it would be a really cool name for a kid,” she says.

She later married Upegui, and in 2004, their first child, a son, was born 13 weeks prematurely. “Orion is the hunter – it’s a strong name and it fit him,” Carmichael says. Then, this Sept. 6, another star was born: daughter Phoenix. “It’s the whole thing about the fire bird that rises from its own ashes, you can’t keep it down,” says Carmichael, 32. “It’s another strong name. She’s really good, a happy, big baby; she’s growing like a weed.”

Immigrants ‘collaborate’ to learn to speak

The Ebony Toastmasters Club is one of Greater Toronto’s youngest chapters of an international organization that helps people hone their communication and leadership skills, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 27 in a story about a meeting of the group.

The evening began with a couple of humorous tales by an assigned “joke master” from the group to lighten things up, followed by another member who introduced the word of the day: “collaborate.” The word means working together, said Phylicia Davis (BA ’07), a recent international studies and political science graduate from York University born here to Jamaican immigrant parents.

Benevides elects to stay on Buono’s team

There may come a time in the career of former York Lions player Mike Benevides when he finds a CFL team with a head coaching vacancy that represents the perfect fit, wrote The Vancouver Province Jan. 6. At present, however, that team is not the Toronto Argonauts, which means the Lions will not be in search of a new defensive co-ordinator this season.

After a protracted period of research and reflection, Benevides informed the Argonauts last week he will not accept their head-coaching offer. “It’s pretty short and sweet for me,” Benevides said Monday when asked why he turned down the Argos job. “I became big fans of their ownership but it basically came down to feeling like the time and place is still here for us.”

A Toronto newspaper last week reported Benevides had accepted the job, citing ties with fellow former York student and Argos co-owner David Cynamon. However, the coach’s ties with Buono, which go back a decade, were considerably stronger.

NFL career still in sight for Foley

Former York Lion Ricky Foley, a defensive end/special teams player with the BC Lions: The Baltimore Ravens gave the York University product a brief look in 2006 before he joined the Lions, where he’s been a standout on special teams, wrote the Globe and Mail Dec. 24 in a story about Canadians who might be headed to the National Football League in the US.

Computer game helps patients align their eyes

York graduate student Tristan Carvelho is a member of a team responsible for a new Pac-Man therapeutic game, wrote the Waterloo Region Record Dec. 27.

I’ll be home for Christmas…

For some, such as York University theatre student Starleana Scott, going home to family is simply what you make it, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Dec. 24 in a story about Christmas travellers. Originally from Ottawa, she was taking the bus to Toronto to spend Christmas with her boyfriend’s family. Her family, she said, is separated and dysfunctional, and so the invitation from his was a welcome one.

“His family is from the UK,” she said, “so they have all these cute family traditions – they’ll drink tea on Christmas Eve and play board games. It’s all very cute, family-oriented traditions.”

Not just words

There are nuances in the way people speak, says Andrew Clifford, professor at the School of Translation at Glendon College, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 23 in a story about interpreters facing cultural taboos in hospitals.

He recounts a case in which the children of an elderly Cantonese-speaking man tried to stop the interpreter from telling him he likely had terminal cancer. It was their duty to protect him, they said. The doctor insisted he know and be able to decide on treatment or palliative care. “It exploded into a horrible mess,” says Clifford. “Perhaps the interpreter should have spoken to the family first before the doctors arrived and asked who was going to make the decisions.”

How a former York poet’s book became a cult hit in the UK

By Christian Bok‘s calculations, it took him roughly five minutes to become a bona fide cult phenomenon in the UK, wrote the Calgary Herald Dec. 21 in a story about the York grad (PhD ’98).

In November, Bok called long distance from Calgary to the offices of BBC’s Radio 4 to read from his cheerfully strange book of poetry, Eunoia, on the venerable broadcaster’s morning show. The book, published seven years earlier in Canada by Toronto’s Coach House Books, had just been released with a handsomely designed new cover by Scotland’s Canongate Books in time for the Christmas rush. Within two days of Bok’s brief radio appearance, the entire British print run of Eunoia had sold out.

That means the book has sold more than 10,000 copies in the UK in less than a month. Bok, who teaches English lit at the University of Calgary emerged from York University’s experimental poetry scene in the 1990s.

Schulich professor interviewed by CTV on the economy

Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke with CTV News reporter Craig Oliver about proposed financial aid for Canada’s automakers and recession on CTV News Dec. 21.

Oliver: Yeah, not everyone agrees on bailouts for auto industries all times at all places. We’re joined from Toronto by Bernie Wolf, who’s the director of the international MBA program at the Schulich School of Business at York University. Are you worried, as some are, that the federal government may have embarked here on an endless massive nickel and diming process that, in other words, all these billions are only a down payment?

Wolf: Ordinarily I don’t like bailouts of this kind. I don’t like industry-specific grants. However, these are very unusual times. This is an emergency situation, and I think there was really no choice…. If we want to maintain our current share of the assembly of motor vehicles in North America, then, yes, then we have no option but, in fact, to help bail out the companies.

Deficits are necessary sometimes; surpluses are nicer than deficits…. And I think that the prime minister was wrong, in fact, in suggesting to people that, you know, we weren’t originally going to have a deficit.

The CAW and the UAW have to come to the realization that, you know, yes, we’ve achieved these levels of wages and benefits but they’re no longer affordable to the companies, and the US, I think, was perfectly right in telling GM and Chrysler, and Ford as well if Ford in fact takes money, that they have to get their costs down to the [level of the] so-called transplants, the Hondas, the Toyotas, the Hyundai’s that are operating in North America.

I don’t think this is union busting. I think that the pain has to be felt all over. The bondholders are going to have to take equity. The shareholders probably will be, already have been, almost, wiped out. So everybody has got to feel the pain. I mean you’re paying, to a very large extent, for the mistakes of the past.

Sector slams brakes on 2009

The North American auto industry is hanging on by its fingernails as the smash-up derby that was 2008 crashes to a close, wrote The Canadian Press Dec. 26. But Sam Gindin, former economist for the Canadian Auto Workers union and a political scientist in York’s Faculty of Arts, said there’s plenty of opportunity waiting to be seized, but first the industry has to shed its defeatist attitude.

“Part of the problem is that people have been defeated for a long time, expectations have been lowered about what’s possible, and that’s why it’s so important to get out of that frame of mind,” Gindin said. “If we think small, we’re going to end up losing everything.”

Gindin said it’s time to stop worrying so much about the automakers and focus instead on what can be done with mothballed plants and, more importantly, the communities they once helped to build. “The way to think about it is to go beyond auto, to say, ‘Look, if we want to strengthen our manufacturing base, we can’t just lose these productive capacities, these component plants, these tool and die plants’,” Gindin said. “We have to have some kind of general plan in the economy about where we’re going.”

Taiwan accident victim dies

York grad Jeff Rezansoff (MES ’05), a St. Albert Catholic High School graduate who left Canada to teach English overseas, died Tuesday from complications stemming from an accident in Taiwan, wrote Alberta’s St. Albert Gazette Dec. 27. He was 34. Rezansoff sustained serious damage to his kidneys, liver, and brain in the Dec. 7 accident, which is still under investigation.

He is survived by his wife MJ, his four-month-old son Augustine, his mother Linda and sister Amanda.

After graduating from high school, Rezansoff completed a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies at the University of Alberta and a master’s in environmental philosophy at York University. He worked at the Devonian Gardens as an interpreter with children’s classes. He left Canada more than two years ago to teach English overseas, starting in South Korea and working throughout southeast Asia. At the time of his death, Rezansoff and his family were living in rural Taiwan.

York grad helped found wheelchair hockey association

Startford native and York grad Thomas Eric Wagner (BA Spec. Hons. ’93), age 47, passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008 at St. Mary’s Hospital, Kitchener, wrote the Stratford Beacon-Herald Dec.31.

A graduate of York University’s Faculty of Arts with an honours degree in history, Wagner was an active member of Citizens for Independence in Living and Breathing and co-founder, past captain and member of the Canadian Electric Wheelchair Hockey Association. A family service was held at W.G. Young Funeral Home in Stratford on Dec. 30. A celebration of Tom’s life will be held in early spring for all friends and family.