Immigration system hurts more than helps, study finds

The rags-to-riches immigrant stories Canada has been bred on don’t work anymore, say the two professors who led the project that will be released today, wrote the Toronto Star June 18.

Luin Goldring, sociology professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts, and Patricia Landolt of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto, were the lead researchers on the "Immigration and Precarious Employment" project, which over three years interviewed 300 Latin American and English-speaking Caribbean immigrants in Greater Toronto with a variety of incomes and backgrounds.

Among the major findings:

  • Despite an immigration policy designed to lure “the best and the brightest,” education had no impact on whether immigrants ended up in a precarious job. The only thing that made a difference was the ability to speak English.
  • Their first job in Canada had a big influence on the rest of their work lives: Those who started with precarious jobs were more likely to stay in them. Bad advice was a prime factor in ending up in precarious work.
  • On-the-job training helps improve immigrants’ working lives, but government education and training strategies don’t have much impact.

Aiken says she is disappointed at reaction to Israel/Palestine conference

Last month, York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri said that the “freedom of independent scholars to organize events such as conferences on matters of legitimate academic inquiry goes to the very heart of academic freedom,” adding that it “would be entirely inappropriate for the University administration to intervene in, or to take responsibility for, the academic content of such events, provided that they do not offend Canadian law,” wrote The Canadian Jewish News June 18 in a story about a review of funding for an Israel/Palestine conference being held at York June 22 to 24 by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

A peer-review committee of scholars from a number of academic disciplines awarded the SSHRC grant, wrote the News. Gary Goodyear, federal minister of state (science & technology), contacted SSHRC last week to ask that a second review committee assess whether the event still deserves funding, given that the initial proposal didn’t have details about who would be speaking.

SSHRC spokesperson Trevor Lynn confirmed Goodyear had spoken to the council, and that it had asked conference organizer and Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Bruce Ryder to provide details about any changes to the conference since the grant was made.

Sharryn Aiken, a Jewish law professor at Queen’s University, [also a scholar at the Centre for Refugee Studies at York] and a lead organizer of the event, urged the Jewish community to remain open-minded about it. She also refuted claims about non-academic speakers. “At least 90 per cent of the confirmed speakers are academics affiliated with academic institutions around the world,” Aiken told the News. “The minority of people that aren’t fall into the category of ‘public intellectuals’ with publication records in this specific area.”

“I’m not a self-hating Jew who is anti-Israel,” she said. “I am deeply disappointed by the reaction in the [Jewish] community and by those who know me and who continue to insist that this conference is all about promoting hate.”

York-TTC deal on Viva route in the works

York Region Transit and the TTC are eying a pilot project that could make getting to and from York University a lot easier, wrote June 17.

If it goes forward this summer, commuters on both sides of the Toronto-York Region border will be able to take Viva buses from Downsview Station to York University without paying a double fare.

Even at peak periods, the 48-person Viva Orange buses average only seven riders on the stretch before heading west into Vaughan.

By contrast, the TTC’s 196 York University bus averages more than 50 people at peak hours and is at or over capacity virtually all day. “It’s a unique situation. We think it’s the only place on the boundary where this would occur, because of York University itself,” said Bill Dawson, TTC service planner.

The pilot is set to launch in August, coinciding with the opening of York’s dedicated busway. Regional council votes on the proposal at its June 25 meeting.

Ayatollah risks credibility by entering political fray, says Rahnema

With a showdown looming between rival factions in Iran Thursday, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, looks to be in a precarious situation, wrote The Globe and Mail June 18.

“If Khamenei loses any more ground,” says Saeed Rahnema, an Iranian-born political scientist in York’s Faculty of Arts, “both he and the military-security establishment will suffer a near irreparable blow.”

The problem, says Rahnema, is that the Supreme Leader may not be making the calls any more. “The Revolutionary Guards have a lot to lose if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Khamenei fall,” he explained. “They may be pushing the Leader to take precipitous action.”

It was the support for the Guards’ economic and other opportunities that gave Ayatollah Khamenei a powerful political base. But, Rahnema says, “he may have created a monster he cannot control.”

York filmmaker combines life with art

Filmmaker John Greyson has made a mark around the world with his politically charged and expressive work – and he credits a lot of his success to Toronto’s supportive and nurturing queer community, wrote the Toronto Star June 18.

Arriving here in 1980 after saying goodbye to his hometown of London, Ont., he immersed himself in gay issues as a writer for The Body Politic and other local magazines before becoming a video and performance artist.

“There was just so much going on in the early 1980s…there was an abundance of gay activism in this city and I just couldn’t help but get involved,” says Greyson, who won this year’s Pride Award for Arts and Culture. “I guess you can say it shaped the artist within me.”

Born in Nelson, BC, in 1960, Greyson is a film and video professor in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “There’s nothing like having your own community give you the spotlight,” Greyson says of his Pride Award. “It’s a wonderful feeling and it’s a wonderful community.”

EI system needs to be reformed

Employment Insurance (EI) is in need of greater reform than the politicians are suggesting or demanding, wrote Bill Gleberzon, a contract faculty member in York’s Faculty of Arts and Atkinson School of Arts & Letters, in a letter to the Toronto Star June 18. It has become a hidden tax – a deduction from our salaries. And large numbers of contributors are artificially excluded from its benefits when they lose their jobs.

It is both like Canada Pension Plan – it’s a salary deduction – and unlike it, as there is an eventual return from CPP and it cannot be raided by the federal government.

The government should set up an EI agency that is legally at arm’s length from the federal government – like CPP. And it should be reformed so that everyone who contributes is assisted one way or another regardless of the number of hours they work or where they live if they become unemployed.

Jewish groups’ report says community is ‘shocked, shaken’

A Jewish communal commission says there has been “intimidation, harassment, ridicule and virulent anti-Israel sentiment” at one of Canada’s largest universities, wrote the Jewish Tribune June 17.

The commission on the quality of Jewish life at Toronto’s York University was organized last month and made up of officials from the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, Hillel of Greater Toronto, Hasbara at York and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy.

Members gathered hundreds of testimonies from students, faculty and Jewish community members after recent events at the University “left many members of our community shocked and shaken,” the final report said.

Osgoode professor to study copyright law for Conference Board of Canada

The Conference Board of Canada admitted Wednesday there was “undue reliance’’ on feedback from a funder with ties to the entertainment industry for a copyright report that wrongly chastised Canada as the file-swapping capital of the world, wrote Canwest News Service June 17.

The organization has also commissioned Ruth Corbin, an objective expert in the field of intellectual property and adjunct professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, to produce new reports on the subject.

Music grad mixes genres in Celtic Vespers concert

York grad and percussion master Niel Golden (BA ’77), guitarist Brad Prevedoros and multi-instrumentalist Greg Joy create an exotic, unique synthesis including eastern, Latin jazz, African, pan-Asian and Celtic folk influences, wrote Sidney, BC’s Peninsula News Review June 16 in a preview of the group’s Celtic Vespers concert at St. John’s United Church on June 21.

Golden has been a world music pioneer since graduating with a degree in ethnomusicology from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and tabla studies with Bob Becker of the renowned percussion ensemble, Nexus. Golden’s tabla playing has grounded numerous world music ensembles including Juno-nominated Djole. This year he released his debut solo CD, It’s a Journey, to critical praise for its brilliant marriage of Brazilian, Celtic, blues and classical Indian influences. It has been nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award.

Quirky musician studied at York

Although he has successfully melded his experimental tendencies with an unabashed love of pop, former York student Spookey Ruben (né Alan Deil) qualifies for an underappreciated artist award, wrote the Ottawa Citizen June 18.

A “space brat”, Ruben lived in Maryland, Washington, Germany and Holland while his father worked for the European Space Agency. Ruben studied film at York University in the ’90s and works at LA sound-design studio Stimmüng.