Goodyear questions Mideast forum funds

Federal Science Minister Gary Goodyear is under fire from academics for asking the council that funds social science research in Canada to reconsider its support of a conference on the future of Israel and Palestine that will take place [at Glendon College] later this month, wrote The Globe And Mail June 10.

But many Jewish groups say they are pleased he has decided to intervene, although it is unclear whether the $19,750 in federal support will be withdrawn. They say the conference, organized by York University in Toronto and Queen’s University in Kingston and to be held June 22 to 24, questions Israel’s right to exist.

The conference, Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace, received the grant from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, or SSHRC, earlier this year. The decision to award the money was made by a peer review committee composed of scholars from a number of disciplines.

Sharryn Aiken, a law professor at Queen’s University and one of the organizers, says the idea is to bring academics with diverse ideas together to look for a way out of the current impasse, and to look at alternatives to the "two-state" solution.

She is Jewish and says she is distressed by the reaction of her community and surprised and disappointed at Goodyear’s response.

"We set out to create a forum that would facilitate a lively exchange from diverse perspectives," Aiken said. Most of the 54 confirmed speakers are academics from universities around the world, she said, and one in four are Israeli.

Goodyear has asked SSHRC president Chad Gaffield to convene a second peer-review committee to assess if the conference is still worthy of public funds, given that the initial proposal did not have details about everyone who would be speaking at the three-day conference.

Fine arts prof’s article helps save town’s architectural gem

Deano Wilson Rouse was on her way back home from a conference in Barrie, when she got a phone call from John Runnquist, owner of Paris, Ont.’s old Gothic town hall, wrote the Brantford Expositor June 10. Runnquist told her he had a magazine to give her – an architectural journal that had just published an article by Malcolm Thurlby, a professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts who specializes in medieval art and architecture and Canadian architectural history. The article was on the 1854 building, which Wilson Rouse has been fighting to preserve for use as an arts centre.

The article, published in the Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, Volume 34, No. 1, 2009, stretched over about 10 pages. Wilson Rouse said she knew the article was coming but never realized it would prove to be so significant. And, while she already knew the building was the oldest of its type remaining in Canada, Thurlby revealed much more. “It’s not only the earliest one in Canada but in the world,” she said. “He believes it to be the earliest Gothic civic hall (still standing) anywhere.”

In March, Wilson Rouse’s white knight stepped forward in the person of Brantford developer Gabriel Kirchberger, who offered to buy the Burwell Street hall from Runnquist for $700,000 and undertake to make renovations for the use of arts groups.

Secret jury lists could put dozens of verdicts in question

There are strict rules on what the Crown or defence can know about a potential juror, and the actions in at least two regions in the province may have violated the Juries Act, constituted professional misconduct and breached a Ministry of the Attorney General directive in 2006, wrote the National Post June 10 in a story about a case in Windsor where the judge declared a mistrial yesterday because of secret background checks conducted by police in a first-degree murder trial.

James Stribopoulos, a criminal law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said, “the Crown has effectively put its thumb on the scale. They have cheated,” said Stribopoulos. “This goes to the heart of trial fairness.”

The refusal to order an independent investigation is not surprising, suggested Stribopoulos. “The attorney general is thinking about the floodgates opening [for appeals] if it was pervasive in certain jurisdictions,” he said.

Can a perfume make you smell younger?

Many experts don’t buy it, wrote June 9 in a story about the new perfume Ageless, which makers claim can make you smell younger. “They may get the sense that you’re somebody who feels youthful, that they may have absolutely young feelings suited to you but it’s not going to change how you look,” warns psychologist Heather Jordan of York University’s Faculty of Health. “Sorry!”

“There certainly is some play between smell and attraction,” feels Jordan. But she claims the only way to make yourself truly seem younger is a good diet, exercise – and surrounding yourself with people who are a lot older than you are.

Smith anchors defence for Team Canada

Mississauga’s Jamaal Smith has been named to the Canadian men’s soccer team for the 25th International University Sports Federation Summer Universiade games next month, wrote The Mississauga News June 9.

The selection caps off what has been a tremendous year for Smith, a dominant defender for the York University soccer Lions. This year, the Lions captured the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship, the team’s first in more than 30 years and the first for the school in any sport since 1990.

On air

  • Saeed Rahnema, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and the Atkinson School of Public Policy & Administration, took part in a panel discussion about US President Barack Obama’s speech about the Middle East on TVO’s “The Agenda” June 9.
  • Sarah Flicker, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about her latest study of teens’ sexual health, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” June 9.