Government’s decision to ignore Khadr ruling is called ‘problematic’

Mere days after the Supreme Court of Canada denounced the federal government for breaching terror suspect Omar Khadr’s rights, the government has called its bluff, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 4. Legal experts said yesterday that the government is on sound legal ground in ignoring a court ruling that was all bluster and no muscle.

In its ruling last Friday, the court found that Canada was party to illegal interrogations when Khadr was 15. It issued a declaration that his Charter rights were violated, but left it up to the government to remedy the ongoing violation. Yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon announced that the government will not ask for Khadr’s repatriation from an American detention centre in Cuba.

“I’m not surprised that the government would give short shrift to the decision,” said Allan Hutchinson, a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “I assume that the government calculated that sympathy for Khadr will not be strong enough to make this a huge problem for it in electoral terms.

“But, for a government to simply ignore the court and the Constitution strikes me as very problematic,” Hutchinson added. “They haven’t even given a justification for why they are breaching the Constitution. They are not even giving the appearance of having taken this seriously.”

Hutchinson said that the judges are too politically canny to walk into an obvious political trap that could cost the court its credibility. “They are smart enough to know that they won’t ultimately be the winner in that kind of shootout,” he said. “You can issue all sorts of orders, but at some point, you have to enforce them. It is very dangerous making orders that you ultimately won’t be able to enforce. You have to be prepared to precipitate a big constitutional crisis.”

Companies look to reduce risk on pension plans

Fewer and fewer people are getting defined pensions, whether with inflation protection or without it, and the trend is likely to continue, says Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 4. More companies are limiting their risk, contributing only a defined amount of money to an employee’s retirement investment plan; or offering no retirement benefits at all.

“For people who don’t have a pension from their job, I recommend they go to an insurance company and say, ‘I want a pension. What do you have that looks like a pension and works like a pension?’”

Meanwhile, you have a further risk to guard against – when the markets tank, as history says they will sooner or later. “When you’re younger, and you’re adding money to your RRSP, and markets decline, well, it doesn’t matter all that much. Next month, you’ll be saving again. You’re buying at lower prices. You’re dollar cost averaging.”

It’s quite another matter, though, when you’ve retired and are starting to pull money out of your investments to finance your lifestyle, says Milevsky. “If you pull money out during a bad market, it doesn’t help when the market finally recovers. The money is out already. And the earlier this happens, the worse it is. You’ve lost that money and the money it could have made over a longer period of time. You’ll never get back to where you started.”

Matt Dusk concert set for Showplace Peterborough on Sunday

York grad Matt Dusk (BFA Spec. Hons. ’02) has seen the world and listened to the top popular music many countries have to offer, wrote The Peterborough Examiner Feb. 4.

That experience turned into the CD Good News, the basis of his concert at Showplace Peterborough on Sunday. Good News contains 13 songs, some written by Dusk, but most are covers that he spent over a year travelling the world to hand-pick and record.

Dusk is a Juno Award nominee who studied piano under Canadian jazz legend Oscar Peterson. Dusk explained that Peterson was chancellor at York University when he attended and was able to get four or five sessions with him.

He called Peterson “Canada’s first music idol.” Dusk credits Peterson’s influence for much of his music, not realizing until much later how extensive it is.

Volleyball player plans to study at York

Robin Peart is a solid volleyball player who has been keeping her Innisdale Invaders team in a good rhythm all season, wrote The Barrie Examiner Feb. 4. Peart, who plays club-level volleyball in Aurora, plans to attend York University in the fall.

Speaker bashes regional subsidies

Economic expert and Schulich grad David MacKinnon (MBA ’69) slammed regional subsidies during a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Belleville, wrote the Belleville Intelligencer Feb. 4.

MacKinnon, a former CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said, “One of Canada’s most sacred cows – regional subsidies – is, in fact, chewing up the country’s economic foundations, national unity and future prospects.”

He asked the audience to imagine for a moment a satellite image of Halifax, NS, over the Belleville and Prince Edward County area and some parts of surrounding counties. “We are talking about two roughly equivalent areas in terms of population. But if we compare the two regions in terms of resources funded by taxpayers, the differences are nothing short of amazing. Halifax is home to no less than five of the 11 universities serving Nova Scotia’s population of 850,000.”

According to MacKinnon, Nova Scotia has 32 hospitals, while this area has eight to serve about 140,000 people.

MacKinnon was awarded a Centennial Fellowship by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and York University to study at the Schulich School of Business at York University, Harvard and Oxford Universities as well as the European Institute of Business Studies. He lives in Toronto with his wife Betsy, a retired teacher for the Toronto Board of Education. He and Betsy will be moving to Wellington in Prince Edward County in April.

Garage band is as polished as your grandma’s silver

“Sparkling acoustic pop.” That’s the Toronto Star, raving about the debut album from Toronto indie pop band Jane’s Party, wrote Here – Fredericton Feb. 4. Their album The Garage Sessions came out last fall to critical accolades; not bad for the York University foursome who started their own band only two years ago.

Drummer Zach Sutton says The Garage Sessions is “an elaborate name for a bunch of buddies just hanging out in a garage, drinking beer and recording some music.”

Yes, it was actually recorded in the garage of the house they share in the Jane and Finch ’hood, hence the band’s name. Mac Pro Tools and a DigiRack did the heavy lifting. But don’t be fooled by Sutton’s laid-back description. The tunes are as polished as your grandma’s silver. It’s original stuff, but there are definite influences at play, from the Beatles to Joel Plaskett.

This is set to be a watershed year for Jane’s Party. There’s talk of a western tour and plans to record again, though probably not in the same garage. The guys are all graduating from York this year. They plan to move downtown, set up a home recording studio and “set up our own little music community.” They’ll continue to live and work together, along with their communal dog Jonesy. “I consider him part of the band,” Sutton laughs.

York historian to visit a familiar Underground Railroad stop

Toronto-born historian and archeologist Karolyn Smardz Frost, a research associate in the York Centre for Education & Community in York’s Faculty of Education, literally unearthed a forgotten chapter when she led the excavation of what proved to be the home of fugitive slaves Thornton and Luci Blackburn, wrote the St. Thomas Times-Journal Feb. 3 in a story about a new display at the St. Thomas Public Library for Black History Month.

Smardz Frost’s 1985 dig was the first on an Underground Railroad site in Canada and her research led to a book, I’ve Got A Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad. It won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

Smardz Frost is a fellow of York’s Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples. She is to present at 7:30pm on Feb. 25, at the library, and part of her talk will be about black history in Elgin. Her books – she’s also co-editor of Ontario’s African-Canadian Heritage: Collected Writings of Fred Landon, 1918-1967 – will be available for sale and signing.

Fine arts grad specializes in photos of ski country

Dan Hudson’s photography reveals a fresh perspective, wrote Alberta’s Canmore Leader Feb. 3. The local artist and photographer made a bit of a name for himself as one of the first, and one of the most successful, backcountry ski and snowboard photographers around.

But when the Edge Gallery in Canmore hosts Lines: Ski and Snowboard Photography as part of the Exposure: Calgary Banff Canmore Photography Festival running throughout February, the context will change.

He’s had thousands of photos published in magazines and by his guess at least 60 covers. But in this exhibit he’ll have 20 prints on display, four 24-inch by 36-inch pieces and 16, 12-inch by 18-inch photographs.

On air

  • Ellen Bialystok, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about her study of bilingualism and children, on OMNI-TV and CFMT-TV Feb. 3.
  • Jianhong Wu, math professor and Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the challenges facing new immigrant professionals who are looking for work, on Radio Canada International’s “The Link” Feb. 3.