York grad’s film wins Toronto International Film Festival award

A York University grad picked up the Best Canadian Feature Film award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), wrote InsideToronto.com Sept. 23.

Cairo Time, directed by Ruba Nadda (BA ’96), was called a “superbly directed lyrical waltz of longing and desire across disparate worlds” by the jury. The award includes a $30,000 cash prize.

Nadda was born in Montreal and studied English in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and film production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

She made several award-winning short films, including Lost Woman Story, Interstate Love Story, So Far Gone and Damascus Nights before writing and directing the features I Always Come to You, Unsettled, Sabah and Cairo Time.

President denies ‘threat of reprisal’

York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri says he did not in any way threaten to punish a professor for opposing York’s practice of cancelling classes on Jewish high holidays, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 24.

During questioning yesterday before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Shoukri said he simply referred Professor David Noble’s letter last year, about his plan to hold unauthorized classes on Rosh Hashanah, to the dean of the [then] Faculty of Arts, because the dean oversees academic matters, not because the dean also oversees discipline.

“That referral was in no way, shape or form a threat of reprisal,” said Shoukri yesterday at the hearing into Noble’s claim that York retaliated against him.

In questioning officials, including former president Lorna Marsden, Shoukri, a former dean and even some students, Noble is trying to show York threatened him with punishment for his outspoken criticism of the University.

Yesterday, Noble asked Shoukri, head of Canada’s third-largest university, why he did not come and unlock the classroom door himself when Noble arrived to hold his forbidden class on Rosh Hashanah. Noble had asked Shoukri in writing to ensure his classrooms would be left open for him despite the University’s policy of not teaching on that day.

Shoukri replied that he did not believe it was the president’s job to unlock classroom doors.

Noble, a 64-year-old social science professor who is Jewish, led the opposition to the holiday policy, which has since been scrapped. He maintains he has suffered reprisals and the threat of reprisals for his stand, wrote the Star.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is required to hear all complaints but the Ontario Human Rights Commission has withdrawn as a “party” to the case, leaving Noble to represent himself.

Testimony wraps up today, with closing arguments Nov. 3.

‘The worst type of social activism

Judy Rebick’s column illustrates what can happen when academic study is overtaken by the imperative of social activism, wrote Sara Horowitz, humanities professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in a letter to the National Post Sept. 24. The values of rigorous thinking, accuracy and integrity are compromised by the need to push one’s cause.

Rebick supports Naomi Klein and others who advocate the ostracization of Israel, wrote Horowitz. As Rebick sees it, Klein is a “pretty” and “smart” woman who “passionately” supports a protest against Israel. Those who agree with Klein “have spoken out”. Those who counter the protest and support Israel are termed “hysterical”, “vicious”, “distorted”, “unacceptable”, a “pile-on of angry Jewish males” and not genuinely Jewish in spirit – which, as Rebick defines it, means “protesting the celebration of Israel at a film festival.”

Rebick claims “there is a debate to be had” but her column dismisses voices that disagree with her characterization of Israel. Her column exemplifies the worst type of social activism – delegitimizing those who disagree rather than engaging them and legitimizing the right of expression and activism only for those whose opinions one agrees with.

‘Burbs grew too fast,’ says former prof John Sewell

The rush to develop the suburbs is largely responsible for the mess the 905 area is in today, says former Toronto mayor and former York professor John Sewell, wrote The Mississauga News Sept. 23.

Sewell was at the Courtneypark Branch Library on Monday to talk about his latest book, The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl. He examined the growth of suburban communities around Toronto from the early planning in the 1950s well into the 1990s.

Sewell notes roads and water and sewage lines had to be built in a rush to accommodate the growth, even though it was clear municipalities didn’t have the money to pay for it. “So what happened was that the province would build the systems itself,” said Sewell, who first came up with the idea for the book in 2004 after doing research for a lecture at York University.

First Nation communities face diabetes epidemic

Twelve local health and community organizations are producing the first-ever Aboriginal Diabetes Expo to take place in Timmins on Oct. 6 and 7 at the legendary McIntyre Arena, wrote The Timmins Daily Press Sept. 24.

The expo is designed to provide an all-encompassing event dedicated to diabetes and featuring information on healthy eating, active living, education and awareness.

The event will also feature a special keynote address by international expert on diabetes, Michael Riddell, of York’s Muscle Health Research Centre and a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health.

Riddell will share his knowledge on the role of stress and physical activity in diabetes prevention and control.

Peterson family attending  tribute by York bursary winner

It’s time for the eighth annual All-Canadian Jazz Festival and, this year, Kelly and Celine Peterson, wife and daughter of the late Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, will be in the audience for the Robi Botos Trio’s tribute to Oscar Peterson, wrote NorthumberlandToday.com Sept. 24.

“When the Petersons heard of the tribute, they asked to attend and (Botos) said ‘Yes’,” festival representative John McGuirk said. “Of course, we’re honoured.”

Botos, a self-taught musician, “won the Oscar Peterson prize to study at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and became friends with Oscar and his family,” McGuirk said. Botos was a favourite of Peterson’s and opened for him at Montreux in Switzerland.

Music industry’s future is being shaped at conference

Somewhere along the way a bare-essential element of the music industry – connecting an artist to an audience – went horribly awry. Peer-to-peer sharing may have killed traditional music stores, but the granddaddy of all file-sharing sites, Napster, which eventually lost the battle with record labels after a litany of lawsuits, isn’t to blame for the industry’s loss of opportunities, wrote Victoria, BC’s Times Colonist Sept. 24 in a story about Transmission, a conference that brought major players in the music and technology industries together.

Conference Chair Paul Hoffert, [former director of the CulTech Research Centre at York and a professor in Calumet College] was a co-founder of the group Lighthouse in 1969 and has a new-school mindset about the issue. “If the heads of the music industry who met with [Napster creator] Shawn Fanning in 1999 had been more in touch with audiences, might there have been a different outcome?”

NAEC wins gold by going green

The North Addington Education Centre (NAEC) has received the highest certification, or gold status, for their participation in the Ontario EcoSchools program for the 2008-2009 academic year, wrote the Stirling EMC Sept. 24. NAEC was one of four Limestone District School Board schools certified, and the only one to receive the gold standing; Module de l’Acadie and Napanee District Secondary School received silver, while Sydenham High School achieved bronze status.

Ontario EcoSchools was created 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 can be used provincewide.

On air

  • Ivan Fecan (BA ’01), president & CEO of CTV/globemedia and a member of the York University Foundation Board of Directors, spoke about the York Speed Mentoring event at the Keele campus, on CTV News Sept. 23.