National union takes over CUPE Local 3903

The union local that shut down York University in one of the longest strikes in Canadian campus history has been taken over by the national executive because of “serious financial issues”, including a ballooning debt pegged at more than $1 million and a failure to keep adequate records, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 4.

The York local, which represents 3,300 contract faculty and teaching and research assistants, was placed under the administration of the national wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees last week at the request of the local’s executive. A forensic audit is planned, as well as an investigation into charges of intimidation and harassment of local members, said the Globe.

The move comes as campuses across the country brace for what is shaping up to be a period of labour unease as universities look to cut costs in response to growing deficits. Teaching assistants at Hamilton’s McMaster University went on strike this week, and contract faculty at the University of Toronto will be in a strike position on Monday.

The troubles at the York local follow a bitter three-month strike that threatened the school year of more than 50,000 students before it was ended by the province in February with back-to-work legislation. A new local executive was voted into office after that dispute and soon discovered problems with the local’s accounting practices, including its strike records and receipts for expenses, according to an internal e-mail obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Last week that executive group voted to ask the national wing of the union to step in. Lynn McDougall, appointed by the national union as administrator of the local, said the financial difficulties stem, in part, from the lengthy strike, but also involve "financial practices."

"There are very serious financial issues," she said in an interview. "There has been a great deal of speculation and certainly there is documentation that is lacking in several areas." McDougall said she also has received several reports of harassment and intimidation from local members since taking her post last week and will be examining those concerns.

A group of union members opposed to the move by the national union is attempting to take back control of the local, said the Globe.

McDougall said the national wing must get approval from the labour board to keep the local under administration for more than one year. "Administration in our minds is a very serious move and it takes very serious reasons for an executive to contemplate requesting it and for national to do it," she said.

McDougall did not rule out the potential of wrongdoing, saying anything is possible, but that the audit will answer that question.

York University launches psychology clinic

York University will officially launch its psychology clinic Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the Keele campus, wrote the North York Mirror Nov. 3.

The 5,000-square-foot space will serve as a teaching, research and treatment facility. The state-of-the-art clinic provides training for graduate psychology students and offers mental health services to York faculty, staff and the surrounding community.

The clinic, affiliated with York’s Faculty of Health, operates in a manner similar to a teaching hospital, with PhD students conducting counselling under the supervision of registered psychologists. Services for people of all ages – including individual, couples and family therapy – are offered.

Treatments must recognize differences between men and women

Separated and divorced people are the most overrepresented group among suicides in Ontario, according to a York University professor who is researching a way to identify and help people most at risk as a result of estrangement, wrote the Brampton Guardian Nov. 3.

“Estrangement from an intimate partner clearly increases the risk of suicide and attempted suicide,” says sociology Professor Emeritus Desmond Ellis, who conducts research at York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution. “In order to intervene effectively, we need tools to assess the risk of suicide and we need to design mechanisms to intervene. Both must be based on evidence about the biological and social differences between men and women.”

Is Canada’s next government in the hands of suburban voters?

The federal government is reportedly on the verge of announcing new legislation that would add up to 34 seats to the House of Commons in some of Canada’s fastest-growing areas, wrote Oct. 27. If this goes ahead, British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario would receive the lion’s share of the new representatives.

This plan may raise the hackles of queer voters who are wary of a majority government headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, wrote the gay community publication Xtra.

The outcome of that battle is still uncertain, but Professor Roger Keil, director of The City Institute at York University, says it will play an important role in any future elections. Keil also said that important factors to consider are “the tremendous changes in the employment structure in [the] suburbs,” which he says could have an effect on voting patterns among immigrants and visible minorities.

Municipal elections act reforms do little to curb corporate influence, critic says

The financial influence developers and corporations wage in municipal elections may be a thing of the past if new legislation drafted by the Ontario government gets the green light, wrote the Vaughan Citizen Nov. 3.

[But] York University Professor Robert MacDermid, of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, who specializes in municipal election financing, said he doesn’t believe the new limit will curb corporate influence.

MacDermid calls for an all-out ban on corporate and union donations. “The limit is not really a limit at all. You could still give to seven candidates on a council. The Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association can still give $70,000 to campaigns in the GTA.”

York prof speaks about the challenge of researching community histories

An author-historian will be sharing her expertise at the Nikkei Centre in a presentation on Nov. 10, wrote BC’s Burnaby Now Nov. 4. The Tuesday evening talk is part of the Japanese Canadian National Museum’s speaker series.

Mona Oikawa will be speaking on "Generations of the ‘Internment’", discussing some of the challenges and processes of conducting research at the National Archives in Ottawa for individual, family and community histories of the era.

The presentation will also address research conducted for her forthcoming book, Cartographies of Violence: Women, Memory and the Subject(s) of the "Internment", including insights from interviews conducted with the daughters of women who were expelled from BC in the 1940s.

Oikawa is a professor in the Race, Ethnicity & Indigeneity Program in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Coaching trio helps keep St. Joe’s girls on top of their game

The St. Joseph’s Jaguars make the plays, but it’s the team’s coaches who help keep this senior basketball team on the prowl at all times, wrote The Barrie Examiner Nov. 4.

With the husband-wife team of Michelle and Ralph May on the bench alongside assistant James Moreau, there’s no escaping a pointer or two, despite the score. The Mays helped form a novice club team with the Barrie Royals about eight years ago, while Ralph is currently an assistant with the York University women’s Lions basketball team.

On air

  • Amin Mawani, acting director of the Health Industry Management Program in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the economic impact of a flu epidemic, on CTV News and 660News Radio in Calgary Nov. 3.
  • Maggie Toplak, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about research into why intelligent people do irrational things on Winnipeg’s CJOB 68 Radio Nov. 3.
  • Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the court case of vigilante shopkeeper David Chen on CTV News Nov. 3.