Prof hesitates to call murders honour killings

As soon as Diba Masoomi learned that her sister Rona Amir Mohammed had been found dead with three younger women in a car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal, she believed she knew the motive, reported Sun Media in a story published July 24 in The Belleville Intelligencer and The London Free Press. From her home in western France, Masoomi began an e-mail campaign to convince police that her sister’s husband, Mohammed Shafi, had committed mass murder at Kingston Mills, but that it was a "crime of honour". 

Shafi, his wife Tooba and their 18-year-old son Hamed are charged with first-degree murder.  

"It’s not unheard of that women are killed in cold blood for, supposedly, the defence of men’s honour," said Haideh Moghissi, associate dean, external relations, of York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and an expert on gender relations in Middle Eastern cultures. "This is a gruesome murder but whether we should call it an honour killing or not, I doubt it."  

Moghissi said that even though most Mideast countries have adopted European-style codes of civil law, Muslim Shariah law tends to guide personal laws and relations, with the women slotted into subservient roles. 

"It means that, first of all, if she’s below 18, she needs the permission of the father (to marry)," Moghissi explained. "Once she enters that marriage, she is bound by certain regulations in terms of obedience." 

"Defiance is a very important article in the civil code of many Muslim countries," said Moghissi. "If a woman refuses to respect some of these legal rights of men and perhaps leaves the house without his permission or if she gets engaged in extramarital relationships, that’s very harshly punishable by law."  

Moghissi said courts in countries such as Afghanistan will never order the woman put to death as punishment.  

Satellite babies have difficulty adjusting to parents

The phenomenon of American-born children who spend their infancy in China has been known for years to social workers, who say it is widespread and worrying, reported the The New York Times July 24. About 8,000 Chinese-born women gave birth in New York last year, so the number of children at risk is substantial, according to the Chinese-American Planning Council, a social service agency that hopes to get a grant to educate parents about the pitfalls of the practice and help them find alternatives.

But no one tracks the numbers, and the issue has only recently seized the attention of early-childhood researchers like Professor Yvonne Bohr, a clinical psychologist at York’s Faculty of Health, who calls such children "satellite babies".

Their repeatedly disrupted attachments to family members "could potentially add up to a mental health crisis for some immigrant communities," Bohr wrote in an article in May in The Infant Mental Health Journal. She cited classic research like the work of Anna Freud, who found that young children evacuated during the London blitz were so damaged by separation from their parents that they would have been better off at home, in danger of falling bombs.  

Bohr, who is undertaking a longitudinal study of families with satellite babies, cautions that the older research was shaped by Western values and expectations. Chinese parents, including university-educated professionals she has studied, are often influenced by cultural traditions: an emphasis on self-sacrifice for the good of the family, a belief that grandparents are the best caretakers and a desire to ground children in their heritage.

Sending babies back to grandparents is also done in some South Asian communities, she said.

Sports are the priority at York’s diabetes camp

For children with Type 1 diabetes, the fear of low blood sugar and resulting health complications brought on by physical exertion can scare them away from exercise, reported the North York Mirror July 23. But at an elite sports camp at York University, youngsters with diabetes are learning how exercise can actually be used to better manage their disease. 

About a third to half of the 40 campers who attend the weekly sessions have Type 1 diabetes, with the rest free of the disease.  

"What this camp offers is a really safe, fun and educational experience for that child to excel in the sport of their interest," said camp director Michael Riddell, a world-renowned diabetes and exercise physiologist and professor at York’s Faculty of Health. “It really is a sports camp. That is the primary focus."  

While the children with diabetes could have gone to any sports camp, York’s program offers them a chance to learn more about their disease, said Riddell, adding camp staff members have expertise in diabetes management. 

"My belief is kids learn better here than in a hospital setting. They often learn from each other," he said. "Type 1 diabetes is not that common so we have campers who may never have met another kid with diabetes. They are no longer ashamed of their diabetes. Some parents’ comments are, ‘My child is now proud to talk about their diabetes.’" 

Riddell knows the issues campers face. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 15. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is not preventable and requires ongoing injections of insulin. Type 2 diabetes is associated with inactivity and obesity. Both types of diabetes are on the rise in Canada.  

Evidence is mounting that regular exercise should be the cornerstone of managing both forms of the disease, Riddell said. But at the same time, managing Type 1 diabetes for children and adolescents involved in sports can be particularly challenging, he added.  

The camp, which costs $250 a week, allows each camper to choose whether they want to spend their mornings receiving elite coaching in soccer, basketball or tennis. Afternoons for all campers are spent in the indoor swimming pool.  

Campers with diabetes can also attend sessions featuring guest speakers who have conquered challenges, such as cycling across Africa, despite having the disease. "They get inspired by these people who have diabetes," Riddell said.  

Several campers are also participating in a study measuring the effects of high-level sports on blood sugar management.  

Getting a charge over being in the buff

While much of Eastern Canada is having a cold, rainy summer, the Prairies are enjoying a heat wave. So, on a lark, Albertan Shawn Chenette took off his clothes – in public, wrote the Timmins Daily Press July 24. One minute he was splashing around naked in a pool at a house party in Red Deer, sucking back a cold beer. The next he and a female companion crossed the street in the buff to relax in a park near a community centre.  

Someone complained, perhaps the disapproving motorist who drove by them, glaring, and the cops soon pounced. After some cowboy antics – Chenette escaped from the police car and ran naked to a friend’s house before he was caught – he spent last Friday night in jail and sheepishly pleaded guilty on Monday to being nude in a public place. He was placed on probation for a year and given community service. (The young woman goes to court next month.)  

An offence against public decency? Arguably not. Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, says that Chenette might have been acquitted if he’d gone to trial. "It would be a great test case, but there aren’t a lot of people who want to be test cases." 

The portable, long-distance marriage  

In 2006, roughly one in 40 married couples lived apart across Canada, a leap from five years earlier, when the number was closer to one in 60, according to Statistics Canada, reported The Globe and Mail July 24. And as more Canadian couples are facing the choice to live apart for career or finances, the modern marriage has become a more portable one. 

"Traditionally, it’s been the female partner following the male," says Hugh Armstrong, a professor in the School of Social Work at Carleton University. "In many cases they are working service jobs that are available anywhere." 

But as women make up a larger proportion of the professional workforce, it has impacted some couples’ ability to be together. Especially if you’re in a field like academia or law, you often have to go where the jobs are. 

"There may not be a choice, especially if you want a career," Armstrong says. "Someone has the opportunity for a new job in a new town, while their partner doesn’t want to give up their old job. It’s a rising trend."  

That’s true in Armstrong’s own marriage. His wife of 40 years, Pat Armstrong, is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Over the course of their careers they have lived apart on three separate occasions, including a stint that has lasted for ten years and counting.  

"I’m on the train pretty often," he says. "It works for us, but we have worked at making it work. It doesn’t happen that way on its own."  

‘Tomboy’ set to relinquish her Miss Teen Canada-World crown

Katie Starke never owned a dress before entering the Miss Teen Canada-World competition, reported The Toronto Sun July 24. The Provincial Women’s Hockey League player called herself "a tomboy" before entering the national pageant. "I could barely walk in heels," the 5-foot-10 blond said at a pre-Miss Teen Canada-World event.  

The 19-year-old from Uxbridge, who plays varsity ice hockey and studies business administration at York, is stepping down as the reigning Miss Teen Canada-World.  

  • York student Katie Starke discussed the Miss Teen Canada-World competition the day before her successor was crowned, on “Talk-TV” on CP24-TV in Toronto July 23. 

Muscles – use them or lose them

When dealing with your muscles it’s the case of use it or lose it, reported Orléans EMC, an Ottawa-area online news publication. According to Michael O’Leary, a doctoral student in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, your body will begin to lose muscles quickly with a 24 per cent loss by the one-week mark. "We are seeing more and more evidence of how easy it is to lose muscle, compared to how difficult it is to regain it,” said O’Leary.