Three strikes put York history student out

Mike Diluccio can’t catch a break from the unions, wrote The Globe and Mail July 9. The York University student has been caught in the crossfire of three labour disruptions in the past eight months.

It began in September when he battled gridlock and rang up a hefty amount in parking fees after workers at Viva – the transit service he counted on to get to school – went on strike.

In November he reluctantly walked the picket line himself as a teaching assistant when 3,400 York University employees participated in the longest anglophone university strike in Canadian history – a strike he didn’t vote to participate in, and which held back his progress on his master’s thesis in Canadian history.

And now Diluccio may not finish that thesis in time to graduate – all because the city workers strike has shut down the City of Toronto Archives, a vital resource for historians and students.

Before the strike began, Diluccio made the trek to the archives building at Spadina Road and Davenport Road four or five days a week. But since the archives were closed on June 22, much of his work has come to a halt. “I’ve been doing some patchwork writing with what I have, which is frustrating because there’s all these empty spaces. It’s just complicating the writing process,” he said.

Diluccio has spent the past few months poring over archived city council minutes and communications documents for his thesis on the history of parking meters in the city. It took him a month to get permission from the city clerk’s office to peek at some restricted files that he calls “pure gold”, but now that he has clearance to do so, he can’t.

Diluccio also fears the archives will be packed once they are reopened with fellow researchers trying to make up for lost time. “I don’t think there’s going to be much table space after the strike’s over. People will be fighting to use the space,” he said.

Jay Young, a PhD student at York, will be competing for that space.

Before the strike, Young visited the archives almost every weekday to complete research for his dissertation on the history of the subway system. Young said he can find archived city council minutes in the Toronto Public Library’s Urban Affairs Library, but the archives is the exclusive holder of rare documents such as the subway designer’s drafting materials. “It’s stuff that can’t be accessed anywhere else in the world,” he said.

Rivers can’t be controlled by honour system

In the wake of being deemed the country that is the worst offender of blocking climate change mitigation measures, it is another blow to read about the events happening on the North Alouette River – in my own backyard, wrote Abigail Cruickshank, master of environmental studies candidate in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in a letter to the Maple Ridge News July 7.

The North Alouette not only represents a beautiful part of our natural heritage but also provides important breeding grounds for BC’s iconic salmon industry. It is astonishing how the story has unfolded in the two months since Jack Emberly first reported seeing an abundance of dead stickleback, bass and cutthroat trout to Environment Canada and the Alouette River Management Society.

Now, some may like to think we live in a utopian community, but honestly, can we allow the amount of water being withdrawn from our rivers to be controlled solely by the honour system?

In addition, why isn’t there regulation enforcing the maintenance of a minimum flow, thereby ensuring survivability of aquatic species during low flow years?

And lastly, why are outflow pipes being built before water withdrawal licences have been approved? Does this reflect a system where companies dictate the approval of permits?

My fundamental point to Canadians and Canadian ministries is: we know better, and it’s high time we start acting on our knowledge.

Huntsville Public School awarded EcoSchool gold

For students at Huntsville Public School (HPS) it was a green school year that was topped off with gold, wrote The Huntsville Forester July 8. Thanks to the numerous environmental initiatives taken throughout the last school year, HPS became one of four Trillium Lakelands District School Board schools to be awarded the gold EcoSchool designation, and the only one to do so in Muskoka.

Ontario EcoSchools was created in 2002 by a consortium of education stakeholders to address environmental issues in the formal education system. Seven school boards, York University, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority collaborated to adapt and expand on the work of the Toronto District School Board, developing an environmental education program that is used provincewide.

Retiring federal justice urges better funding for self-representation

A legal-aid program for people representing themselves in the Federal Court of Appeal would help both litigants and young lawyers, says the outgoing chief justice of the court, wrote Canwest News Service July 8.

During a legal career that spanned five decades and saw the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Anti-terrorism Act, Chief Justice John Richard’s decisions have affected the accountability of government.

In an interview this week, Richard (LLB ’59) – who officially retires on his 75th birthday, July 30 – said “the growing phenomenon” of self-representation should be addressed with a pro bono program.

The Federal Court of Appeal handles federal laws passed by Parliament, including appeals of cabinet decisions and security issues. But it also deals with “a number of issues that are really people-oriented,” says Richard, including tax court decisions, the Employment Insurance Act, and immigration and refugee issues.

Despite the fact litigants representing themselves are dealing with highly complex laws and have not been trained to follow “the proper methodology” of legal arguments, more individuals are coming to court without lawyers, presumably because they can’t afford representation. “The danger is that there will be issues not raised or badly argued that will result in a decision that would have been based on other considerations,” says Richard.

Richard grew up in Ottawa, where he attended the University of Ottawa, followed by York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, where he graduated with the prestigious gold medal in 1959.

Poet’s collaboration with editor began at York

Toronto poets Donna Langevin and Kate Marshall Flaherty will be joining Cobourg’s Deborah Panko at Meet at 66 King St. E., Cobourg, tonight to read from Not A Muse, a new anthology that includes their work, wrote July 9.

“I knew one of the editors, Kate Rogers, who now lives in Hong Kong, from a creative writing class at York University 20 years ago,” said Langevin, a retired English as a second language teacher. “We became great friends and have edited each others’ poems and issued writing challenges to each other over the years.”

Langevin will also be reading some of her poems from Not A Muse, as well as work from her forthcoming chapbook, The Middle-aged Man in the Sea.