Calls for improved safety after assault off campus

York University students are calling for improved campus safety after the violent sexual assault of a 20-year-old student by three strangers outside her North York apartment, wrote the Toronto Star April 22.

“Sexual violence is sadly becoming an all-too-common event around York University’s [Keele] campus,” said Darshika Selvasivam, vice-president of Campaigns & Advocacy for the York Federation of Students.

The attack took place late Tuesday as the woman walked to her apartment just south of the campus in an area where many students live known as The Village, near Keele Street and Finch Avenue West. The victim was forced to a grassy area next to a footpath, and eventually fled after suffering serious injuries.

Selvasivam said the attack was preventable and accused the University of holding up the release of a campus safety report. The report is being prepared by the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women & Children, a non-profit, community-based organization, in consultation with a committee of University and student representatives.

However, York spokesperson Keith Marnoch, associate director of media relations, said the school is eager to have the final draft of the safety report. “We would have expected to have it in hand by now,” Marnoch said. “We are anxiously awaiting it.”

Marnoch said York’s administration is constantly trying to improve safety on the 185-hectare Keele campus and the 35-hectare [Glendon] Bayview campus, and noted students can receive escorts to work across campus or have access to shuttle buses.  

  • There have been several sexual assaults on or near the York campus in recent years, and the University has put in place a number of security measures, wrote The Globe and Mail April 22. These include 24-hour-a-day security patrols, closed-circuit cameras, and a service where students can be accompanied to and from locations on the campus.

“For us, security is a major focus, one that is constantly evolving rather than [a] reaction to individual events,” said York University spokesperson Keith Marnoch. But that’s not good enough, said Darshika Selvasivam, vice-president of Campaigns & Advocacy for the York Federation of Students. “The University needs to make safety a priority. There needs to be a more aggressive approach.”

  • Toronto police say they are searching for three men who are believed to have been involved in the attack, wrote The Canadian Press April 21.

The young woman was approached by three men she didn’t know as she entered her residence late Tuesday night. The residence is not officially affiliated with the University, though it houses many students and is located adjacent to the campus.

  • Homeowner Mark Winkler believes he heard the young woman but, like many in The Village at York University subdivision, thought it was just another boisterous student party, wrote the Toronto Sun April 22.
  • Screams for help from a 20-year-old York University student went unanswered as she was dragged to a grassy area nearby her North York apartment building and sexually assaulted by three men on Tuesday, wrote the National Post April 22.

“I thought it was a woman and it sounded like possibly she was in distress or they were partying,” said neighbour Mark Winkler. The suspects are described as in their early twenties wearing hooded sweatshirts and dark pants.

Just last week, the area crime prevention association presented a report to police suggesting the apartment’s location next to a ravine where criminals could hide was a danger.

  • Reports of the assault were also carried on most Toronto radio stations.

Aboriginal leaders girding for HST battle with Ottawa, provinces

A new report commissioned by the Chiefs of Ontario suggests that the harmonized sales tax will cost First Nations between $85 million to $120 million in the first year and will increase each year, wrote The Canadian Press April 21 in a story about aboriginal opposition to the move.

There’s nothing stopping Premier Dalton McGuinty from preserving the exemption, said Fred Lazar, an economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, who prepared the report for the Chiefs of Ontario.

There’s still room in the five per cent limit on point-of-sale exemptions in the agreement Ontario signed with Ottawa, and vendors already keep the point-of-sale data that can easily be transmitted to tax collectors, he said.

“There are no problems whatsoever facing the provincial government from following through on its statement,” Lazar said. “At the end of the day, it’s simply the political goodwill and thus far, they haven’t shown that.”

He said he believes it’s actually the government’s way of making First Nations pay for aboriginal protests such as the ongoing occupation in Caledonia over disputed land. The simmering four-year land dispute, which has erupted in violent clashes between protesters and local residents in the town south of Hamilton, has cost taxpayers $64.3 million so far.

“The province, in my personal view, is reluctant to actually follow through on its words for fear that the media will catch on to this, they’ll make an issue saying, ‘Well, this is another giveaway to First Nations,”’ Lazar said.

  • Fred Lazar also spoke about opposition to the new harmonized sales tax by Ontario’s Aboriginal Peoples on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” April 21.

Students are growing Earth Day from the grassroots level

For the late Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, the university campus was the natural setting from which to raise awareness and promote Earth Day’s inaugural debut, on this day in 1970, wrote the Toronto Star April 22.

York University student Dave Vasey, 31, is like-minded, and captured headlines last October when he and 120 protestors shut down Parliament with a climate change protest. He also marched in the protest against RBC’s financial support of the tar sands. “Protests are effective in showing that there is passion,” Vasey says. “Policy-makers need to know that we’re not going to go away quietly.”

The allure of Titanic

The sinking of the Titanic, routinely explored in books and movies, is one of pop culture’s familiar touchstones, wrote Victoria, BC’s Times Colonist April 22. Yet the century-old catastrophe retains the power to capture our imagination in a visceral manner. Toronto’s Allyson McMackon (MFA ’92) was deeply moved upon reading the list of those who died when the great ship went down.

McMackon says even as a little girl, she was drawn to the Titanic disaster.

April 14, 1912, has an early incarnation, titled Bride’s Albatross. McMackon staged it at the San Francisco Fringe Festival in 1998.

Before creating Bride’s Albatross, she had trained to be an actor, taking a graduate degree in theatre performance in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Yet eventually, McMackon’s dreams of being a professional actor faded. Trained also in dance, she wanted to re-embrace movement. She wanted to create her own original work, something to “make my heart sing.”

York musical director helps on The Spitfire Grill

The Spitfire Grill marks Sandi Laplante’s first time at the helm of a play, directing, wrote The Barrie Examiner April 22 in a story about a new production at South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown. For this one she also works with musical director Michael Leach, who is the accompanist for York’s Department of Dance in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

The Spitfire Grill runs at the Old Town Hall, 1 Hamilton St., Cookstown, from April 22 to May 9. Performances are Thursday to Saturday at 8pm; with Sunday matinees at 2pm.

On air

  • Rob Bowman, professor of ethnomusicology in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, spoke about a new DVD series that chronicles the British music invasion of North America in the 1960s, on Toronto’s CFTR Radio and Calgary’s CFFR Radio April 21.
  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about General Motors’ progress since repaying $8 billion in government loans, on CTV News April 21.