Osgoode grad wins National Aboriginal Achievement Award

Delia Opekokew‘s life has been devoted to bringing social justice to Aboriginal people, wrote The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon, Sask.) March 3 in a story about winners of the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, which will be broadcast on Global TV and APTN March 21.

At the cost of separation from her family and community, Opekokew (LLB ’77) was educated at Indian residential schools. "It was the only option I had if I wanted an education," she has said. At 21, she began her involvement in Aboriginal activism as assistant to Walter Dieter, then chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, which later became the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and founder of the National Indian Brotherhood, now the Assembly of First Nations. Travelling with him, she met Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, federal cabinet ministers, premiers and other officials.

She earned her law degree in 1977 from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and become the first Aboriginal woman to be called to the bar in both Ontario and Saskatchewan. She has served as negotiator for the settlement of several land claims across the country, and was involved in public inquiries into the death of Leo Lachance in Prince Albert, Sask., and Dudley George in Ontario. She was a founding member of the Canadian Indian Lawyers’ Association (now the Indigenous Bar Association) and is one of several vice-presidents of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Throughout her career, she has battled for reconciliation of the conflict between Aboriginal cultures and that of the criminal justice system, and against racism and hate "so hurtful to the vulnerable." She is the author of two books on Indian government, and numerous other publications.

Mandatory jail sentences good publicity, bad strategy

To meet a genuine public concern, the federal government has announced a series of tough anti-gang measures, including an expansion of the use of mandatory minimum prison sentences, wrote James Morton, adjunct professor and lecturer in evidence at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, in the Toronto Star March 3. At first blush, such federal steps sound good – surely it makes sense to up the ante for gang crime?

The trouble is that mandatory minimum sentences, at least for the types of crimes related to gang violence, are more useful for publicity than for fighting crime. They don’t hurt but they don’t do much good either. A detailed Connecticut study, following years of mandatory minimum sentences, found "that mandatory minimum sentencing laws achieve few of their stated substantive objectives and do not work."

Lawyer’s whodunit set in Toronto court

In Old City Hall, Robert Rotenberg‘s mystery novel set in Toronto, homicide detectives tote maroon notebooks, prosecutors favour crepe-soled shoes and the spouse of Canada’s most famous radio personality is found dead in the bathtub of her Front Street condominium, wrote the Toronto Star March 3.

Rotenberg (LLB ’79), 55, is perfectly positioned to tell the story. As a Toronto defence lawyer, he knows the territory, but his real interest is "trying to figure out what makes people tick," which is what drew him to the practise of criminal law.

"When clients come in, I don’t let them talk about the case. I want to find out everything about them…", he said in an interview. "You know, Mark Twain once said – and it’s a great line – ‘People are like the moon. You only see half of them.’"

After studying English at the University of Toronto, he drove a cab for a year, until pursuit of "the human story" led him to York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. After the bar admission course, he moved to Paris and edited Passion, an English-language magazine.

MBA grads now need to have a Plan B and a Plan C

Joseph Palumbo, executive director of The Career Development Centre at York University’s Schulich School of Business, likens the current market for MBA grads to the one after the Sept. 11 attacks, when a surplus of Canadian expats working in New York flooded back into the country, depressing the job market here for years, wrote Financial Post Magazine March 3.

Though it’s still too early to tell how 2009 graduates will fare, Palumbo says that internship opportunities at Schulich have already fallen by 15 per cent. He expects the number of jobless graduates to rise, and given the dearth of positions in investment banking – with starting salaries of $120,000 or more – he expects a 5 to 10 per cent drop in average pay for MBA grads, currently $93,000 at Schulich.

In response, business schools have been beefing up their networking events and scouring alumni databases to tap the "hidden job market" – where positions are never posted, but rather filled through referrals and relationships, and friends of friends. Career management centres are also training students on soft skills, such as resumé writing and interviewing tactics, and offering career counselling to ensure students are headed in the right direction.

Despite these efforts – or perhaps because of them – Palumbo says that many students are only now starting to realize how competitive the job market will be when they graduate in the spring. "I saw a very relaxed group of MBAs this fall," he says. "But we in the career development office have seen these slowdowns in the past. The number of offers this year is going to be down for sure, so what we are advising at this point is to have a Plan B, and possibly even a Plan C, and not to sit back and wait for traditional campus recruiting to come at you with jobs."

"You have to look at yourself as a global citizen," Palumbo says. "Keep your options open and think of the world as your job market."

  • Dezsö J. Horváth has been reappointed to the post of dean at the Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote the Financial Post Magazine March 3. This will be Horváth’s fifth term, making him one of the longest-serving business-school deans in North America. Horváth first came to Schulich in 1976 as a visiting professor and received a full professorship in 1981. He has been dean of Schulich since 1988.
  • Business schools across the country are collaborating with companies to develop customized MBA-style programs for rising managers and executives, wrote the Financial Post Magazine March 3. As the examples below show, the big schools are also attracting big business.

Schulich School of Business at York University

    • Atomic Energy of Canada
    • Grand & Toy
    • Rogers Communications
    • Sleeman Brewery
    • Telus