The painful choice of ‘satellite babies’

According to a Canadian study to be published in today’s Infant Mental Health Journal, an increasing number of immigrants to Canada and the US are shipping infants to their home country to be raised by extended families, wrote the Toronto Star May 11.

In Greater Toronto alone, an estimated 2,000 Canadian-born kids of Chinese parents are sent back to mainland China each year, then returned to Canada when they reach school age, said researcher Yvonne Bohr, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health. “These parents are completely torn by the decision but they believe in this collectivist value that their own pain of separating from their child will be a greater good for the family (later on),” Bohr said in an interview. “The family system is the building block of a community. When it is changed, compressed and stressed, it could create problems in relationships.”

The study looks only at Toronto’s Chinese-Canadian community, which has a large incidence of the “satellite baby” phenomenon, common across different communities in large North American cities. The small study, a first of its kind to look into the conflicting psychology of these parents, interviewed 12 immigrant families debating whether to send their infants back to China; the parents were between ages 24 and 36, all university-educated and living in Canada for one to three years. The babies’ ages ranged from five months to 15 months.

They all cited the necessity to retrain or to develop their careers and the high cost of child care as reasons that would make it impossible to keep their baby in Canada. Bohr said parents also raise concerns over the returning school-age kids’ adjustment to a new place, as well as depression at being separated from their previous caregivers. “The parents may not understand the child because they just don’t know them," Bohr said.

Ottawa urged to establish forensics watchdog

With a US report throwing doubt on the validity of nearly every type of forensic evidence used in courtrooms, an expert on wrongful convictions is urging Canada to consider setting up a watchdog agency to regulate what is currently touted as “science”, wrote the Toronto Star May 10 in a report on the York-sponsored conference Expert Forensic Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Avoiding Wrongful Convictions.

"You can’t wait until evidence gets into a court of law to hope truth will prevail," Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the New York-based Innocence Project, said.

US lawmakers are expected to introduce a bill in Congress this summer to create a national institute to establish and rigorously enforce standards after a recent blockbuster report found no forensic method except DNA has been shown to be scientifically reliable. That report, from the Washington-based National Academy of Sciences in February, put to rest any notion inspired by television shows such as "CSI" that forensic science is foolproof.

Saturday’s conference, sponsored by York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Forensic Science & Medicine, also looked at forensic science lessons from the case of Steven Truscott – wrongly convicted of a 1959 murder – and the recent Goudge inquiry into pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario.

Building a city, book by book

Robert Rotenberg did well to ignore the counsel of friends who advised him to downplay the Toronto-centricity of his debut legal thriller Old City Hall, wrote the Toronto Star May 11. “They told me that no one in the States would be interested in a local Toronto story,” says Rotenberg, a Toronto lawyer who spent 20 years working on the book in his spare time. “But all great drama is local. And I was determined right from the beginning to make Toronto a key part of the book.”

The author will read from his book at – where else? – Old City Hall as part of this year’s Doors Open Toronto. The 10th edition of the popular citywide open house, linked this year to Toronto’s Lit City celebration, is more bookish than usual this time around, with roughly a quarter of the more than 160 venues having a literary connection.

Toronto has sometimes been derided for lacking a vibrant fictional narrative, an assertion contradicted by Hugh Garner’s Cabbagetown and the many references scattered through novels by some of this country’s most emblematic writers, including [Glendon Professor] Michael Ondaatje. “I don’t know that the output is more prodigious than it has been in the past,” says Amy Lavender Harris, a geography instructor in York’s Faculty of Arts and author of the forthcoming book Imagining Toronto. “The difference is that we’re paying more attention to it. There was a widely held belief that either Toronto had no literature or that what existed was written by about five authors. But there is a lot more literature than people think about and it means a lot more than a lot of people are willing to acknowledge.”

Little research has been done on evidence cases, says Osgoode prof

As more courts grow impatient with allowing the guilty to escape conviction, lawyers and civil libertarians are bracing for two pending Supreme Court decisions that could change the rules for excluding evidence and make it far less certain accused people will walk free, wrote the Toronto Star May 9.

In recent years, some courts have voiced unease over the direction the law has taken, saying freeing accused people in the face of powerful evidence of guilt goes beyond what the Charter contemplated. One issue, said Alan Young, an Osgoode Hall Law School professor, is that nobody knows what percentage of cases are lost to tainted evidence. There has been almost no research on the subject in Canada.

Mediation will help divorce cases, says York prof

Susan Pigg’s article is one of a number of Toronto Star articles she has written on the family court processing of divorces, wrote Desmond Ellis, professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Arts and a past-director of the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, in a letter to the Toronto Star May 10.

Implicit in all of them is the uncritical acceptance of the notion that more judges and court resources will solve problems relating to delay, cost, custody battles and the parental alienation of children. Findings from a number of research studies clearly indicate they will not.

These problems are partly grounded in the nature of the adversarial process itself. Conclusions from various studies also indicate that divorce mediation, an alternative to adjudication, is safer, less costly, speedier and more likely to de-escalate conflicts over custody, financial support and access.

In short, divorce mediation transforms a tug-of-war into a tug toward peace, wrote Ellis.

Group hopes to wake people up to reality about violence

This Wednesday, United Against Violence Against Women will host their second annual Wake Up event at York University, wrote the Vaughan Citizen May 9. The organization was initiated by York students who were tasked with creating something they felt strongly about. The group seeks to address the needs of women who continue to endure all forms of violence everyday, said York student Denise Taylor, the group’s president.

Beginning at 2pm at The Underground on York’s Keele campus, the event will include a procession, a theatrical play, food, entertainment and guest speakers lecturing on a variety of issues. Some of those topics include safety, the media’s role in interpreting the language of violence and representatives from The White Ribbon Campaign: men working to end men’s violence against women.

The organization feels strongly about reigniting the issue of violence against women by giving it a platform beyond International Women’s Day in March or the Montreal Massacre in December. “We want to get the message out there, we want our voices to be heard and we don’t want it to be taken lightly,” said York student Crystal Gaudet, the organization’s vice-president.

Wake Up will be held May 13 from 2 to 4:30pm. There is no fee required to attend the event.

Investment advisers aren’t lawyers or doctors

The education that you need to be to be a financial adviser, registered representative, stockbroker, investment adviser, whatever term you want is, in fact, very limited, said Chris Robinson, professor of finance in York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, on CBC Television’s “Sunday Report” May 10. "

You don’t need a university degree," said Robinson. "Grade 12 education is it. My students in my program pass it easily. It’s just a simple thing."

York grad’s business is personalized baby blankets

Ellaine Feferman (BA ’72), who’s known as the Baby Blanket Lady, has been knitting – and knitting and knitting – personalized, cotton baby blankets for 25 years, wrote the Toronto Star May 9. About 6,000 of her colourful coverings have been welcomed by mothers, snuggled by babies, clutched by youngsters and treasured by teenagers.

Feferman, a former art teacher who took fine arts courses at York University and then studied textiles at what is now the Ontario College of Art and Design, started making the blankets when she was pregnant in the early 1980s. She had been painting on silk using French dyes that were toxic, and was looking for something non-toxic to do during her pregnancy.

Beauty pageants may be passé but the shows go on

Ksenia Mezenina, who competes in this weekend’s Miss Universe Canada, says the contest falls in step with her ambitions, wrote the Ottawa Citizen May 11 in a story about how beauty pageants are trying to adapt to the times. The sapling-slim model, born in the Siberian city of Yekaterinberg, is enrolled in York University’s Glendon International Studies Program. She hopes recognition on the world stage will launch her career as a Canadian ambassador.

Osgoode’s first executive officer recalls his adventures at sea

It’s 71 years since a fresh-faced high school kid joined the Ottawa division of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve but the memory of the day remains clear for Peter Godwin Chance of Sidney, BC, wrote the Times Colonist (Victoria, BC) May 10 in a feature about the BC author who wrote about his war experiences. He will be 89 in November and long retired from the active naval service begun in 1938 when he reported to division headquarters in the basement “of Kresge’s department store” in Ottawa.

There were other adventures awaiting the young officer as he moved up the promotion ladder. He had earned his wings and flew off HMCS Magnificent; he was on HMCS Skeena for Operation Neptune on D-Day and later when she went aground and was lost.

He served on many ships as a specialist in navigation, air control and in command. He held 10 staff appointments, including a period at naval headquarters, Ottawa, where he retired with the rank of commander in 1970 to assume the position of executive officer in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. In 1974, he retired again, this time to Vancouver Island.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about losses at Toyota and new contract negotiations at GM on CTV Newsnet May 8.