Equal pay is not negotiable

We may have to erect a tombstone on Parliament Hill and inscribe it “Here lies pay equity,” if Canada’s MPs support the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, buried deep in C-10, the Conservative’s Budget Implementation Act, wrote Pat Armstrong, professor of sociology and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research chair holder in York’s Faculty of Arts, along with four colleagues in the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 27.

Eleven recipients of the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case, the country’s highest honour given to women, and more than 60 experts on women’s human rights have called on Stephen Harper to drop this legislation because it empties women’s right to equal pay for equal work of its meaning. But media space has more readily been given to those denigrating pay equity with such old saws as “Equal pay for work of equal value is like comparing apples and oranges.”

In contrast to Canada, the EU has recently moved to strengthen its pay equity legislation. The European Parliament has called “for the organization of a European Equal Pay Day to contribute to raising awareness about the existing wage gap and to encourage all those involved to take additional initiatives to eliminate this gap.” Yet in Canada, conservative economists continue to posit, contrary to extensive evidence, that the market, if left unregulated, will resolve wage and other financial inequities. But history shows that the absence of market regulation leads to, rather than prevents, gender inequity. And recent global economic events further reveal the problem with unregulated markets.

If the market is capable of redressing discriminatory wage inequity, then why has that not happened? Why is it that on average women’s income continues to be a shameful 70 per cent of men’s average income? Rigorous research has shown that women are paid less than men on average whether they are performing the same work, similar work, or work of comparable value. And contrary to oft-repeated myths, women do not choose lower-paid work.

Consistently, when women manage to enter and subsequently dominate historically male-dominated jobs or professions, either wages in those jobs become depressed or women are simply paid less than men for the same work. And perhaps most significantly, the consequences of non-intervention in wage setting is an unequal burden heaped on women who must suffer lower wages for some unknown duration until those benevolent unseen forces one day resolve the wage differentials. And when that long-heralded market correction fails to appear, some “expert” will simply attribute those low wages to the inability of women to bargain effectively.

Middle East tensions flare at universities

Tensions over the conflict in the Middle East are igniting a fierce debate at Canadian universities, raising questions about freedom of speech and the rights of students to feel welcome and safe on campus, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 27.

A string of incidents, including a confrontation between Jewish and pro-Palestinian students earlier this month at York University and the banning of a poster from a pro-Palestinian group on Ottawa campuses has pushed the issue to the forefront.

Yesterday, a coalition of Jewish student groups called on university leaders and members of the public to take action, saying a “scary climate” is developing on Canadian campuses where debate over the Middle East conflict has crossed a line and become anti-Semitism.

The Canadian Federation of Jewish Students, which has links to more than 30,000 students on 40 campuses, says calls from troubled students have spiked in recent weeks and have increased steadily since Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

The group said it has received complaints about racial slurs, posters and, on one campus, two physical assaults.

“It’s horrible stuff,” said Noah Kochman, a McGill student and member of the federation’s executive, at a news conference in Toronto. “This is not a Toronto issue or a Montreal issue or a York University issue, this is coming from across the country and it is spreading.”

The call to action comes as pro-Palestinian groups on several campuses prepare for an annual event called Israeli Apartheid Week starting Monday.

  • The Canadian Federation of Jewish Students warned Thursday about the growth of violence and threats against Jews who overtly support Israel or who are wearing clothing that identifies them as Jews, wrote The Windsor Star Feb. 27.

On Feb. 11, York University students blocked the entrance to the office of Hillel, a Jewish campus group, shouting anti-Israel – and allegedly anti-Semitic – statements. Campus and city police had to escort the Jewish students through the swarm.

  • Rob Tiffin, York’s vice-president students, and student Daniel Ferman, president of Hillel at York, spoke about recent incidents on the Keele campus on CFRB Radio Feb. 26.

Collective punishment

Expressions of bigotry can be subtle, but this one wasn’t: A retired Ontario judge has ordered that no Muslim students be eligible to receive scholarships he established at York University and the University of Windsor, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 27 in an editorial.

The academic community is outraged, as it should be, and the universities have no intention of honouring the judge’s wish. The judge, Paul Staniszewski, seems to think that excluding Muslim students is a legitimate way to protest Islamic terrorism. This is discrimination of the worst kind. A Muslim student in Toronto should not bear the sins of fanatics on the other side of the world. The judge is engaging in the crudest kind of collective punishment.

The little satellite that could

While NASA lost a $285-million satellite this week, a Canadian microsatellite that does the same job is chugging along happily in orbit – at one-1,000th the cost, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 27.

The 30-centimetre-long satellite is searching for “missing” carbon dioxide – the vast amount of Earth’s main greenhouse gas that somehow vanishes each year. That’s what NASA’s OCO satellite would have done if it had survived launch on Tuesday. The big difference: Canada built and launched its tiny version for $300,000.

The OCO (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) launched Tuesday but failed to reach orbit.

Meanwhile, the University of Toronto’s CanX-2 is cruising 700 kilometres above Earth, “and functioning really well” after some glitches that followed its launch last April, said Ben Quine, professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. He’s the director of space engineering at York, which made an instrument aboard the tiny CanX-2. Its job, like OCO’s, is to find Earth’s missing greenhouse gas.

“The measurement principle is almost exactly the same as the one for the OCO,” he said. “It’s very sad when you lose a spacecraft but it also means that we are the only people in orbit with one-kilometre resolution on the ground.” That means York’s Argus instrument can look at small details below. A Japanese satellite does the same job but can’t look at features less than 10 kilometres wide.

“Argus is the lowest-possible-cost approach to making this measurement. NASA was probably the highest-possible-cost approach,” he said, “so the instruments are not going to be exactly commensurate.” Still, little Argus began sending a stream of data in December.

The CanX-2 satellite “is about the size of a milk carton,” Quine said. It’s 34 centimetres long by 15 by 15, and cost about $300,000, including the launch. It weighs 3.5 kilograms – less than one per cent of OCO’s weight. “With these little microsatellites, the launch is about $100,000,” he said. Many microsatellites can share the same rocket.

York research chairs renewed

York University will receive close to $5 million from the federal government to renew four Canada Research Chairs (CRCs), wrote the North York Mirror Feb. 26. The funds will enable Professors Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands, Christopher Innes, Leo Panitch and Paul Lovejoy to continue their research.

The four chairs focus on environmental cultural studies, performance and culture, political economy and the African diaspora. Federal Minister of State (science and technology) Gary Goodyear announced the chair renewals at a conference held at McGill University Monday, Feb. 23.

“Federal research investments are crucial to attracting and retaining the world’s best researchers,” said Stan Shapson, vice-president research & innovation at York. “The Canada Research Chairs program allows us to sustain York’s globally competitive research that impacts upon Canadians’ quality of life and the country’s economic and social well-being.” York researchers have been awarded 28 CRCs since the program began in 2000.

Corporate donations in Pickering too high: prof

Electoral funding from corporations is getting out of hand, and it has to stop, says a York University political science professor, wrote the Pickering News Advertiser Feb. 26. “Pickering is certainly at the highest when you look at the data as it came out in their statements,” Robert MacDermid said in an interview regarding his recent study on the subject.

Based on the financial reports of all candidates in 10 GTA municipalities in the 2006 municipal election (based on contributions of more than $100), Pickering councillors received the highest percentage of corporate dollars, which accounted for 76.7 per cent of the total funding. Forty-six per cent of that came from developers, and 10 per cent was development related. Pickering rated the lowest in candidates funding their own campaigns (4.6 per cent). Seventeen per cent came from citizens and less than one per cent from unions.

“There needs to be reforms to remove corporations from the equation,” MacDermid said, adding this would force municipal leaders to depend more on citizen donations, strengthening ties between them. Taking developer funding out of election campaigns would remove some worries about unfair influence on planning decisions, he said.

  • Running an election campaign is no cheap task, wrote durhamregion.com Feb. 26 in an editorial on a vote at Pickering council about changes to campaign finance rules. It would be unfortunate for someone to be unable to run if they simply didn’t have the personal funds to finance their campaign. However, it would, as York University Professor Robert MacDermid pointed out, force the candidates to get out knocking on more doors and, hopefully, strengthen the ties between the politician and resident, rather than politician and developer.

The political science professor recently conducted a study on corporate funding, calling for a municipal ban. To the naked eye, it seems Pickering councillors were elected on too many development dollars. In MacDermid’s study, he found Pickering councillors combined received the highest percentage of corporate dollars in running their campaigns out of 10 GTA municipalities.

Canada adds to medal count

Canada will add at least a pair of silver medals to its haul today in Harbin, China, as the clock ticks down on the 24th Winter Universiade, wrote Canwest News Service Feb. 27.

The Canadian women’s hockey team routed Slovakia 10-1 in Thursday’s semifinal, to earn a trip to today’s championship game against China, while the Canadian women’s curling team dropped Great Britain 7-5 to secure a berth in today’s final against China.

Canada defeated Slovakia 6-3 earlier in the tournament. “They did a lot of good things on Saturday,” Canadian and York University women’s hockey head coach Dan Church said of the first meeting between the teams. “But we discussed that before the game and realized that the score probably had more to do with how flat we were than how [well] they played. We didn’t really intend to turn this into any sort of statement game, other than to prove to ourselves that we could be better.”

Courtney Unruh of York University scored two goals.

Lions’ Nathoo is named OUA East coach of the year

An East York school vice-principal was named as Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East coach of the year, wrote the East York Mirror Feb. 26. Arif Nathoo, of Thorncliffe Public School, coached the York University Lions women’s volleyball team to top spot in the OUA East Division. The team’s record was 18-1. The team also won two tournaments this season and were on a 29-game winning streak including conference and tournament play. This is the second time Nathoo has received OUA coach recognition.

York grad creates one-of-a-kind tea pots

At the corner of 4th Line and Kellogg is a small studio. In that studio functional teapots are created, they are one of a kind, somewhat like their creator, Susan McDonald (BA ’90), a full-time potter who has been working with clay for just over six years, wrote The Shield EMC newspaper’s North West Edition (Campbellford) Feb. 27. Susan is one of two artists chosen by the Community Futures Development Corp. to represent the county of Northumberland at the One of a Kind show in Toronto, which runs April 1 to 5.

In addition to her talents at the wheel, McDonald holds a Bachelor of Arts from York’s Faculty of Arts in psychology, as well as a number of “well-being” certifications. She is a master herbalist and has successfully published a book, Herbal Simpling Plain And Simple. She is currently working on two fictional books.

Howitt lauded as decisive jurist

Former provincial court judge Henry Howitt (BARR ’40), affectionately known as “Hanging Hank” because of his decisiveness in the courtroom, has died, wrote the Waterloo Region Record Feb. 27. Howitt, 93, died yesterday at The Elliott Community after a bout with pneumonia.

Born in Guelph in 1915, Henry Howitt followed his father’s footsteps into law and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1940.

On air

  • Louis Laberge-Côté, dancer with the Toronto Dance Theatre and a cast member of (RE)Tracing Fred, spoke about the York Faculty of Fine Arts’ dance production, on Radio Canada (Toronto) Feb. 26.