York professor calls Iranian cultural centre ‘a fake’

A group of academics wants an Iranian cultural organization based in North York to come clean about where its funding comes from, fearing it’s linked to Iran’s anti-democratic Islamic government, wrote the Toronto Star April 15 in a story about the Center for Iranian Studies, which calls itself a “non-government organization located in the centre of the Iranian district in Toronto, Canada” to support those interested in Iranian culture.

“This is a fake centre,” said Saeed Rahnema, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and one of eight academics who have petitioned the centre for clarity about the directors, funding and the nature of its scholarly work. “They are using it as a front,” Rahnema said. “They are approaching students at York and other universities with offers to fund events and courses because the Iranian government is worried about the growing Iranian student bodies” in Canada.

A York graduate who did not want to be named said two Iranian student groups were approached by “representatives” of the centre last November. “They wanted to fund Farsi courses, but when we asked where they got their money, they wouldn’t tell us. We ended it there.”

Manager Maryam Dousti confirmed the centre has approached York students about helping to fund Iranian events and even create Farsi courses, the Star said.

Birds and bees to be taught from Grade 3

Ontario elementary schoolchildren will learn more detailed sex education in earlier grades under a new provincewide curriculum that begins this September, wrote The Hamilton Spectator April 15.

Sarah Flicker, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies who reviewed the curriculum, says the ministry’s commitment to acknowledge sexual pleasure and desires to youths is innovative and terrific. “Often when we talk to kids about sex-ed, it’s a no-no-no, finger-wagging thing. It doesn’t speak to the reality. Why do kids have sex? Because it feels good.”

So how does one determine what sex information is age appropriate?

Physically, kids hit puberty sooner so it makes sense that it’s taught in an earlier grade, she said.

Psychologically, kids mature at different rates but the key is to provide the information before most kids get sexually active, she said. “If we wait until after they are sexually active, we are missing a key opportunity,” she said.

Lastly, one has to look at youth behaviour. Whether we like it or not, educators need to be pragmatic about what youth are actually doing, said Flicker. Flicker said she’s always hearing from youths about how awful sex-ed is. “I’m really hoping these curriculum shifts will change that discourse,” she said.

Newspaper ordered to identify posters of online comments

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge says Internet anonymity shouldn’t be a shield for legal actions and has ordered a newspaper and Google Inc. to provide the identities of people who posted comments about Halifax’s top firefighters, wrote The Canadian Press April 15.

Justice Heather Robertson of Nova Scotia Supreme Court swiftly granted an uncontested application [by two firefighters who want to sue for libel] Wednesday, noting the Internet shouldn’t provide any cover from legal actions. She said the court doesn’t “condone the conduct of anonymous Internet users who make defamatory comments. They, like other people, have to be accountable for their actions.”

Robertson cited an Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision last year where Bell Canada and Rogers were ordered to provide to York University identifying information of anonymous people who allegedly wrote defamatory e-mails.

Insects in spotlight at gathering

York grad James Kamstra (MES ’87) was the guest speaker at the most recent meeting of the Orillia Naturalists’ Club on April 7, wrote the Orillia Packet & Times April 15.

Kamstra has a BSc in biology and environmental science from Trent University and a master in environmental studies from York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. He currently works as an ecologist/environmental consultant for the engineering firm, AECOM, based in Markham.

Scholar maintained ties with Glendon

Vincent Del Buono (BA Comb. Hons. ’72) passed away peacefully with his family by his side at the Greater Niagara General Hospital on April 13 at the age of 60, wrote the St. Catharines Standard April 15 in a death notice. Del Buono was born May 16, 1949, in Casacalenda, Italy and immigrated to Canada at the age of four (though he retained close ties to his ancestral home, and remained fiercely proud of his Italian heritage). Brought up in the Toronto neighbourhood of St. Clair and the Junction, and educated at York University’s Glendon College and the University of Toronto, Del Buono was called to the bar in Alberta and went on to a distinguished international career in the fields of criminal law reform, justice, security and human rights.

He retained particularly close ties with York University, where he was a visiting scholar and an ongoing senior fellow of the Glendon School of Public & International Affairs, and with Massey College at the University of Toronto, where he had been Don of Hall as a graduate student and more recently was an inaugural recipient of the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson Laureateship in Public Service.

  • Senior counsel with the Department of Justice Vincent Del Buono, a former counsel and senior counsel with the Law Reform Commission of Canada and the Department of Justice of Canada, has died of liver cancer, wrote The Globe and Mail April 15. He was 60.

Sentence handed out in rapist case

A convicted rapist who preyed on young women at York University has been sentenced to eight years in prison, wrote The Canadian Press and the Toronto Star April 14. Daniel Katsnelson (BA ’06), now 27, had pleaded guilty to sexual assault and sexual assault causing bodily harm.

  • “[Katsnelson] and (co-accused Justin Connort) regarded the teenagers living there as sexual prey,” said Justice Ian MacDonnell in sentencing Daniel Katsnelson, a York University graduate, for sexual assault causing bodily harm and sexual assault, wrote the St. Catharines Standard April 15. “The offences were not crimes of opportunity but rather the product of a premeditated trespass into a university dormitory. The vulnerability of the young women whose bedrooms Katsnelson invaded was not unique to them,” said MacDonnell.
  • Stories about the sentence were also carried on radio and television

On air

  • Joel Lexchin, a professor in York’s School of Policy & Health Management, spoke about the Ontario government’s move to cut prices for generic drugs, on BNN-TV April 14.
  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the latest recall by Toyota, on CTV News April 14.