Independent prosecutor is likely in Fantino case, says Osgoode prof

Now that Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Julian Fantino has been summoned, onlookers question the logistics of launching a criminal case against the province’s top officer, wrote the National Post Jan. 9. “This is uncharted territory,” said James Stribopoulos, law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

At the centre of the current dispute is Fantino’s April 7, 2007, e-mail to Haldimand County’s mayor and councillors in which he allegedly warned the politicians not to support anti-occupation protests in Caledonia.

Stribopolous said it would be “a prudent move” for the Ministry of the Attorney General to hire independent counsel. “It’s a grey area, but I would think they’d bring in a special prosecutor for the sake of optics,” he said, adding Fantino would benefit from such a decision. “That way, if the charges are dropped, then it would not look like he was getting any favours. If I were Fantino, I’d want exoneration from an independent prosecutor.”

Whether the attorney general decides to hire a special prosecutor might affect Fantino’s decision to stay on as commissioner, Stribopoulos said. “He’ll probably want to see what happens at the first court appearance,” he said. “It might be unseemly to stay on as commissioner, but there’s no hard and fast rule.”

Coroner’s move to limit Smith inquest is called ‘myopic’

The family of a teenager who strangled herself in a Kitchener prison cell while seven guards watched is boycotting the inquest into her death, saying its narrow scope “lacks credibility”, wrote the Waterloo Region Record Jan. 9.

The Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario decided to limit the inquest to the 13 weeks Ashley Smith spent in Ontario, where the New Brunswick teen ultimately died at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener in 2007. Smith filed numerous complaints about her treatment, which were ignored or rejected. Her family claims her mental health deteriorated with each institutional transfer and that her escalating attempts at self-harm were a direct result of her mistreatment.

Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Alan Young is puzzled by the coroner’s “myopic” position. “Law works best when it’s put in a proper context,” he said. “Decontextualizing events leads to misunderstanding events.”

What price for feminism?

The Toronto Women’s Bookstore (TWB), a fixture for more than 35 years and a historic focal point for feminism in the city, is desperately appealing for $40,000 in donations, or it could close its doors, reported the National Post Jan. 9.

Enakshi Dua, a professor of women’s studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and director of the Centre for Feminist Research at York, said the bookstore’s writing workshops have enabled young writers to become established.

Tamara De Szegheo Lang is a graduate student in women’s studies at York. She finds better service at TWB than if she were to go to Chapters. “These bookstores care about these subjects and know about these subjects and not just think about the money they’re going to get out of it,” De Szegheo Lang said.

Food before suburbia

A groundbreaking plan to freeze Markham’s expansion onto prime farmland could voluntarily take the fast-growing suburban powerhouse where no GTA municipality has dared go: upward but not outward, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 9.

Several councillors are pushing for a permanent “food belt” within the town’s borders that would be preserved for agriculture until at least 2031. This is land politicians and developers have typically considered ripe for development. Markham already has one of the most ambitious sprawl-fighting plans in the GTA, and this experiment is being watched closely by other municipalities.

Mark Winfield, a professor of environmental studies at York University, says Markham planners and politicians have seen what’s happened in such places as Mississauga and are repelled. “They are also recognizing that the urban form they had developed was becoming a problem in terms of economic development, particularly traffic congestion due to extremely low-density housing” that makes public transit untenable, Winfield says.

Tai chi can cheer you up

Tai chi can help mitigate musculoskeletal disorders caused by extended computer use and provide a lift in mood, says a study led by York University researchers, wrote the Brampton Guardian Jan. 8.

“Overall, the program [involving York staff members] was effective in improving both musculoskeletal fitness and psychological well-being,” says study lead author Hala Tamim, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health. “We’re excited about these results, especially given the difficulty in treating musculoskeletal disorders using traditional methods,” she says.

Musculoskeletal disorders, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, are painful disorders of muscles, nerves and tendons, often caused by work activities that are repetitive or involve awkward postures. Women suffer from these complications at a higher rate than men do, which makes early intervention for women particularly important, according to Tamim.

Tamim says the simplicity of tai chi makes it especially beneficial for office workers. “It’s something that can easily fit into a working day. You don’t need any specialized equipment, and you’re not perspiring heavily, so there’s no need to shower before going back to work,” she says.

The study, “Tai chi workplace program for improving musculoskeletal fitness among female computer users”, is published in the Dec. 23 issue of WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation.

It is co-authored by kinesiology & health science graduate student Evan S. Castel, York Professors Veronica Jamnik, Sherry Grace, Norman Gledhill and Alison Macpherson, and McMaster University Professor Peter Keir.

Reporter touts novel by his York prof brother

There’s also a new novel coming from one Michael Helm, who by bloodlines alone must be a very fine writer indeed, wrote Richard Helm in a book notice for Canwest News Service Jan. 9. In April, watch for Cities of Refuge by Helm, the author of The Projectionist and In the Place of Last Things, and also, as it happens, my little brother. Now an English professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University, Helm has fashioned a story that follows the repercussions of a single act of violence in the lives of its several characters.

KAIROS is committed to promoting human rights

If Michael Sona is serious about how taxpayer dollars are spent, then I suggest he listen to a Jewish perspective, wrote Arnold Bethune in a letter to the Guelph Mercury Jan. 9 about comments that the ecumenical human rights group KAIROS was anti-Semitic. Ricardo Grinspun, of York University’s Department of Economics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in a Dec. 19 letter to the Toronto Star, wrote – among other things: “As a Jewish academic who knows closely the horrifying reality of anti-Semitism, I am outraged by the systematic effort to confuse it with legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies.”

The Strip set to release Long-Gone Lonesome Lullabies

“It is so hard to make money in Toronto because there are so many bands that will play for free that bars don’t want to pay you,” said Darrin Davis (BFA Spec. Hons. ’02), The Strip’s lead vocalist, saxophone and banjo player, in the Bloor West Villager Jan. 8 in a story about the Parkdale-based gypsy/folk/rockers. “There are so many bands that need work, if (a bar) offers you 10 cents a day and you say no, you know that the next band in line will do it.”

But now, as The Strip gears up to release their second album in the span of a year things seem to be falling into place for this west-end based band.

Band members, Davis, Kevin Robinson (BA Hons.’03), Matt Blackie and Greg Plant are all originally from Ontario. Davis, now a resident of Bloor West, and Robinson, who lives in the east end of the city, met while attending York University. “I did visual arts at York and (Robinson) did English, so for my final project I did a bunch of paintings and I wanted to put them to music,” Davis explained. “I wanted someone to back me up and I asked him and it went over really well. That is how it all kind of started.”

Candidate seeks to upset veteran councillor

Jose Pablo Bustamante (MBA ’05) says dirty diapers made him the first person to file nomination papers to compete in the Oct. 25 municipal election, wrote the Stoney Creek News Jan. 8.

The 44-year-old Stoney Creek resident was inspired to challenge Ward 10 incumbent councillor Maria Pearson after reading a column in the Stoney Creek News by managing editor Mark Cripps that stated politicians are like dirty diapers – they should be changed regularly.

“I really liked that,” said Bustamante, who relocated his family to Stoney Creek three years ago from Toronto. “I really liked (the column). Hamilton council needs a diaper change. I’m not satisfied by the job. They are not making the right decisions.”

Osgoode grad opens own law firm

Well-known local lawyer Robbie Sheffman (BA Hons. ’86) has opened his own immigration and business law practice after a six-year stint as partner at Cook Roberts LLP, wrote Victoria, BC’s Times Colonist Jan. 9. A University of Victoria law grad in 1991, Sheffman was a sports analyst and associate producer at TSN and helped to establish an FM radio station at York University in Toronto, where he completed his undergrad degree in communications.

Big chill takes toll on TTC

The current cold snap is making crowding worse and the going slower on the TTC, transit system staff and commuters agree, wrote the National Post Jan. 9. Marie Abdo, a York University student, said yesterday it took two hours on the Pape 25 bus from her home near Don Mills and Eglinton Avenue to York University.

‘White knight’ led unorthodox winery

Gabe Magnotta was a trailblazer in Ontario’s wine industry, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 11. In his business life, he battled what he considered an unfair marketing system. And in his private life, he fought Lyme disease, which he had contracted in 2006.

His wife Rossana Magnotta said her husband’s adversaries sometimes referred to him as the black sheep of the wine business. “Gabe liked to correct them and say, with a chuckle, that he was the white knight leading the way,” she said.

Magnotta died Dec. 30, at home, with his family at his side.

Born in the Italian village of Andretta in 1949, Magnotta moved to Canada at the age of 11. He attended York University, playing goal on its soccer team, and became a teacher for a short time after graduating.

Jersey Girl by way of small-town Ontario

In Hollywood they think of Rachel McAdams (BFA Spec. Hons. ’01) when they’re looking for a sweet love interest who needs a bit more TLC, wrote the Edmonton Journal Jan. 10 in an article from The New York Times Syndicate. In the current Sherlock Holmes, however, her Irene Adler is anything but a wilting flower.

“I’m from New Jersey in the film,” the 31-year-old Canadian says with a laugh, “so I can be very headstrong. I don’t like to be told what to do!”

McAdams plays a sophisticated actor who doesn’t flinch at the sight of blood, who is capable of outwitting even Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and earns the admiration of the seemingly emotionless detective.

She majored in theatre at York University in Toronto, and more or less skipped the starving-actor period of her career. “I pretty much got noticed right out of school,” McAdams admits. “York University is great for showcasing their talent and their students. They bring the agents in.”

Late professor ended his career at York

Peter S. McHugh, of New York City, died at home on Jan. 5 after a protracted battle with prostate cancer, wrote his family in a death notice in The New York Times Jan. 11. Born in 1929, McHugh spent his youth in Los Angeles. As a young man he took up the family business, working as an actor both on stage and in early television. He often toured summer stock and appeared regularly opposite his father, Frank McHugh, in shows such as Ah, Wilderness.

His work as a professor led him from the University of Delaware to Columbia University to Goldsmiths, University of London, and finally to York University [from 1972 to 1990]. A frequent contributor to scholarly journals, Peter also authored or co-authored a number of influential books in his field including: Defining The Situation: The Organization of Meaning in Social Interaction and On The Beginning of Social Inquiry.