Taking terrorists to court is problematic, says Osgoode expert

CTV News Channel’s Tom Clark spoke with James Morton, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, June 2 about problems surrounding the introduction of a bill in the House of Commons that would allow victims of terrorism to go to a Canadian court to seek redress.

Well there are a couple of difficulties, Morton said about the proposed legislation. The obvious one is that if you sue a terrorist organization itself, you’re already suing something that’s illegal and it’s going to be very difficult, frankly impossible, to collect on any judgment. If you are suing a state sponsor of terrorism, then that country may in fact have assets in Canada that you can seize but we’re going to have to look very closely at the states that are listed. It seems unlikely that states that Canada has diplomatic or other financial ties with are going to be listed on this group of nations. And if it’s a very narrow group, then we really have more of a paper remedy than anything else.

Clark: But, James, if you’re on the other side of this case, I mean, wouldn’t it be a legitimate question for the courts to say how on earth can you make the connection between this incident of terror and the fact that the government of, say, Syria or Iran was involved? I mean, you know, even national security organizations have a tough time figuring that one out.

Morton: Well the way the legislation is drafted at the moment doesn’t actually require that. You don’t have to show a link that these dollars went from this government to this terrorist organization causing this incident. What you do have to show though is that this government did sponsor this terrorist organization. It raises all kinds of issues, all kinds of concerns about diplomacy. In terms of Canadian sponsors of terrorism, those individuals I think you could go after at the moment without any change in the civil law, so it’s a bill that may help. It may help. But if it’s going to do anything, you’re going to have to have a very broad number of potential nations that you can sue, and I just can’t see that’s going to be coming from this government.

The question, I suppose, is rather, should a court system be deciding matters of effectively international law, international diplomacy and terrorist acts that will generally have taken place outside of Canada? That’s more of a political question. But it certainly won’t stretch the court system.

Israeli academic condemns Israel/Palestine conference

The president of York University in Toronto has issued a statement defending his University’s sponsorship of an on-campus conference titled Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace, scheduled to take place June 22 to 24, wrote Gerald Steinberg, chair of the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and an executive director of NGO Monitor, in the National Post June 9.

This response attempts to portray serious criticism of the event as an attack on academic freedom, wrote Steinberg. This sort of criticism is not an attack on academic freedom – far from it. Such analysis [of the speakers] highlights the very absence of the free exchange in a marketplace of ideas, which is the indispensable foundation for academic freedom, he said 

Regarding the few genuine academics scheduled to make presentations at the conference, the ideological range runs from strongly critical of Israel (but accepting of the legitimacy of Jewish sovereign equality) to one-state promoters, who are essentially in favour of “wiping Israel off the map", wrote Steinberg. There are many academics whose research goes beyond one-dimensional Israel-bashing to examine the failures of Arab, Palestinian and Muslim leaders to contribute to peace making. Unfortunately, these dimensions are conspicuously absent from the program, Steinberg said.

Former York Lion to help BC Lions buck CFL tradition

Certain things are inviolable at a Canadian Football League (CFL) training camp: Practice starts on the whistle and an American player earns a first-team job at defensive end, wrote The Globe and Mail June 9. The British Columbia Lions are set to break that second dictum in 2009 as Brent Johnson, the all-time sack leader among Canadian players, is joined by former York Lion Ricky Foley, a fourth-year player from Courtice, Ont., along the team’s defensive line.

Foley, 27, is being counted on to help replace Cameron Wake, a two-time CFL defensive player of the year, who led the league with 23 sacks then signed a rich contract with the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins this winter.

Unquestionably, Johnson and Foley measure up physically. Foley, meanwhile, is perhaps even a better athlete. He is 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, up 10 pounds from last season. He has eight sacks and has forced six fumbles over the past two years while playing only 15 snaps per game on average. “He’s got all the strength and speed in the world, and lots of mass,” defensive coordinator (and former York Lions player) Mike Benevides said. “He’s got everything you want; now it’s a matter of continuing to mature.”

Living wage would be a welcome complement for arts-minded careers

Why Canadians have been so hesitant [to adopt a living wage policy] is a mystery, wrote Ellie Tesher and Martin DeGroot in the Waterloo Region Record June 9. The issue bears a relationship to the challenges of making a living as an artist. I’m thinking of the SpOtlight celebrations last weekend, which originated with the passing of Ontario’s first Status of the Artist legislation. I’m also thinking of a recent report of the results of a survey of Canada’s visual artists and how they make their living, undertaken by the Art Gallery of York University.

Hometown history buff

When York grad Todd Stubbs (MA ’02, PhD ’07) walked into Heritage Place for the first time, the new history professor was impressed by the building where he would teach the first generation of students at Lakehead University’s downtown Orillia campus, wrote the Orillia Packet & Times June 9 in a story about his research into local history.

“But, to be honest, I knew nothing about the building,” said Stubbs, who later found out the building was home to one of the last operating Tudhope cars, a unique all-Canadian-built automobile that was manufactured at the facility at the corner of West and Colborne Streets between 1910 and 1914.

On air

  • York’s convocation ceremonies were noted on CKRM-AM Radio in Regina, Sask., June 8 in connection with the honorary doctorate being given to Roy Romanow, former premier of Saskatchewan and head of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada.
  • Sarah Flicker, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, took part in a phone-in show about her latest study of teens’ sexual health on Vancouver’s CKNW-AM Radio June 8.
  • Sean Rehaag, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about a federal court decision upholding a deportation order against a former KGB officer on CBC Radio in Yellowknife, NWT, and St. John’s, NL June 8.
  • Fred Fletcher, University professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Arts and founding director of the York and Ryerson Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, took part in a panel discussion about negative political advertising on TVO’s “The Agenda” June 8.