Top court solved vexing problem, says Osgoode dean

The Supreme Court of Canada solved a problem that has vexed the courts for 20 years by reversing its long-held approach to the Charter of Rights equality guarantee last year, wrote The Globe and Mail April 18 in its coverage of the annual Osgoode Constitutional Cases Conference.

Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, praised the court for ceasing to base the legitimacy of a law on whether it demeans the “human dignity” of an individual or minority group. “For the last 10 years, commentators have stated that the human-dignity test was inappropriate,” he said. “The court has signed onto that.”

Monahan said this pragmatic approach – adopted last year in a case known as Kapp – “is a welcome clarification and simplification of equality law.”

Other significant rulings he noted among last year’s 10 Charter decisions include:

The reversal of a previous precedent, in a case known as R vs. Hape, that held that Charter rights have very little application outside Canada. The case involved suspected terrorist Omar Khadr. The court concluded Khadr’s rights were breached because evidence was improperly withheld from him.

The decision means Charter rights can apply to Canadians in foreign countries if an individual’s treatment violates norms of international law, Monahan said. “It was surprising that the court narrowed Hape so soon after it had been decided,” he said. “They drove a truck through what had been a small caveat in the Hape case.”

In a pair of cases involving searches by drug sniffer dogs, the court decided police need only “a reasonable suspicion” that drugs are present for a search to be valid. However, the court left open the question of whether the same standard will apply to searches for guns or bombs, Monahan noted.

Red Barn Theatre’s destruction is a loss to theatre history

Don Rubin, professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, says the destruction of any barn theatre is a major cultural loss because few remain, wrote The Globe and Mail April 20 in a story about the fire that destroyed The Red Barn Theatre in Jackson’s Point. Using barns as a venue was common from the 1920s to the 1940s – a way of staging theatre that has developed only in North America.

“There are very few barn theatres still operating in North America,” Rubin said. “The real loss is to Canadian theatre history.” He says the only remaining theatre of this kind in Canada that he is aware of is The Piggery Theatre in North Hatley, Que.

Bisexual theory will ruffle a few feathers

As someone rather rigidly committed to gayness, wrote Brent Ledger in the Toronto Star April 18, I’m fascinated by people who seem to have a more expansive set of options.

I guess that’s why I was delighted to come across queersexlife, an iconoclastic mix of theory and autobiography by Terry Goldie, English professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. In a chapter ironically titled “There is No Such Thing as a Bisexual,” Goldie examines his long and fraught attempt to define himself and almost slips the surly bonds of identity altogether.

He has been in love with both men and women, he says, and has had long-term relationships with women but the closest he has come to “love at first sight” has been with men. He finds men attractive but thinks women make better friends. In short, he’s about as bisexual as it gets – but he doesn’t see himself that way and identifies as gay.

I don’t know how much comfort active bisexuals will derive from Goldie’s story. An academic, he reviews various theories of bisexuality without finding a complete reflection in any of them and concludes by suggesting bisexuality may be as much an ideal as a reality, one “we never can reach”.

Still, his story is reassuring in that it suggests the overarching characteristic of human sexuality, flux. Even people who confine their attraction to one sex experience shifts in desire, attraction, relationship and taste. Bisexuals just go the rest of us one better and move those disquieting shifts into the realm of both sexes.

You’d be surprised to know how much talent we have

Anyone who’s interested in some great gee-tar should make their way to Mo-burg this evening, wrote the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder April 18. The Emerging Artists show (in Morrisburg, Ont.) features some quite talented singer/songwriters, including Sandra Whitworth (BA Hons. ’84). Whitworth, for those of you who may not know her, is one sharp tack. A political science professor at York University, she is a highly published author and researcher.

Technology gives mentoring a boost

To enhance the mentorship process, this month Deloitte is rolling out a formal program that links new Canadians with senior leaders within the professional services company, wrote The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon, Sask.) April 18 in a story about diversity initiatives.

Nate Fuks (MSc ’04, MBA 07), who immigrated to Canada from the UK after leaving the Ukraine, is leading the initiative. While taking his master’s of business administration at York University, he took part in a mentoring program and saw great value in it.

“It definitely helped shape my vision of my future career,” he says. “We are not only helping immigrants find jobs, but also continued dialogue and better integration of those people overall into the Canadian workforce and into the firm itself.”

The case for the liner-note essay as a respectable literary genre

Earlier this month, music journalists were greeted by the 21st-century version of the liner essay in their inboxes: Accompanying a download of the new Tragically Hip album We Are the Same was a 750-word text about the band penned by Joseph Boyden (whose Through Black Spruce took the Scotiabank Giller Prize last year) and his wife and fellow novelist, Amanda, wrote the National Post April 18. Many LP liner notes, as York Faculty of Fine Arts music Professor Rob Bowman observes, were essentially promotional “puff pieces” but others offered a creative perspective. Bob Dylan’s own notes for releases such as Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, for instance, have a crazed, poetic energy, and reading them, says Bowman, is “like consuming Dylan in another medium.”

Downloadable “digital booklets” in PDF format exist but they don’t seem integral to the music, and they’ve yet to catch on, wrote the Post. Still, Bowman, who has written liner notes for reissues for over 20 years and won a Grammy for The Complete Stax/Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 3 (1996), holds out a degree of hope: “Space is unlimited on the Net, or when you’re including something digitally [with a purchase]. So you could actually get even more in-depth liner notes, if record companies are willing to pay for them.”

York experts comment on packing in Star’s Beat the Wrap series

Today, packaging has to meet a host of sometimes-conflicting consumer expectations, wrote the Toronto Star April 20 in one of a series of stories on packaging. Consumers are also predisposed to think bigger is better. “The idea that ‘less is more’ is actually a very difficult concept for humans. The bigger animal gave you more meat. We’ve got a long history where size matters,” says Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Retailers have an impact on packaging, too. Consumers take it for granted that cereal boxes come in uniform sizes. Retailers want packages that are neat, easy to display and maximize the selling space, Middleton says.

  • Time is running out, environmentalists and others say, for consumers and businesses to change their wasteful ways, wrote the Toronto Star April 18. “If we don’t make change, it is going to catch up with us,” said Pascal Murphy, a master’s student in York University’s Environmental Studies Program. But an emerging movement against waste packaging is slowly gaining ground in Ontario, wrote the Star. Some predict years from now its polluting presence will be diminished, much like smoking and drunk driving.

Blair’s new role hampered by skepticism, says York prof

Once hugely popular, former British prime minister Tony Blair ended his 10 years in power vilified by the anti-war British public, accused of toadying to the US and outright lying about the reasons for invading, wrote the Toronto Star April 19.

“You can certainly understand the skepticism about his new role,” says Stephen Brooke, a British historian at York University. “He ended up so disliked that people wondered if he even knew what the truth was any more.” Yet Brooke doesn’t doubt his sincerity: “He’s right about the importance of religion. But is he an appropriate mouthpiece? He’s been soiled by his foreign policy.”

Trish Stratus heads to Moncton

Former York kinesiology student Trish Stratus has visited Moncton in the past, but she admits she has no recollection of the city, wrote Moncton, NB’s Times & Transcript April 20. The former fitness model and seven-time World Wrestling Entertainment women’s champion worked for seven years in the whirlwind world of professional wrestling, where she travelled the globe several times over. But her hectic schedule left her with few memories of the many cities she visited during her career.

Trish retired from wrestling in 2006 after a seven-year career but, at only 33 years of age, she still keeps busy. Last year, she travelled the world as the creator and host of a travel documentary series called Stratusphere. The series currently airs on the Travel Escape network and is set to debut in the fall on Discovery HD.

She is currently celebrating the one-year anniversary of another Stratusphere, her yoga studio. Balancing a career as a celebrity and business owner isn’t easy but she says fans are often respectful of her space and show “autograph etiquette” – they’re not breaking down the doors of her yoga studio for autographs.

Her wrestling career has allowed her to springboard into other ventures, but she doesn’t mind talking about her career in the "squared-circle". She actually got into wrestling after she had studied biology and kinesiology at York University.

On air

  • Marc Wilchesky, executive director of counselling and disability services in York’s Counselling & Development Centre, spoke about the case of Ashif Jaffer, a student whose mother mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against the University, on CBC Radio April 19.
  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the potential deal between Chrysler and the Canadian Auto Workers on CTV News April 19.