York is not ‘sitting’ on safety report, says spokesperson

Following the off-campus sexual assault of a 20-year-old female student by three suspects this week, the York Federation of Students is accusing York University of delaying the release of a much-anticipated safety audit, wrote the North York Mirror April 22.

But University spokesperson Keith Marnoch, associate director of media relations, said York is as eager as anyone to get its hands on the report, which he said has yet to be submitted to the University.

York’s safety audit committee appointed the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women & Children (METRAC) to conduct the audit in 2008 following concerns from students about security on campus.

But the report has been delayed several times, Marnoch said. “We’re doing what we can to push through on the final report,” he said. “It’s not a case of us sitting on a final report. We don’t have a final report. We’re waiting like everyone else in the community to get our hands on that report.”

A spokesperson for METRAC could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Darshika Selvasivam, vice-president of Campaigns & Advocacy for the York Federation of Students, who accused York of “dragging its feet” on the release of the METRAC report, could not be reached for further comment yesterday.

According to Marnoch, York runs a shuttle service to the off-campus residence and has a number of safety measures in place on campus. The University is continuously reviewing its procedures to try to make York as safe as possible, he said.

At the same time, with 450 acres, York, Marnoch said, is a large campus to police and while the University works with the community, there are limits to its authority over acts that happen off campus.

When York gets the audit, it will release the findings and work to implement recommendations if possible, he added.

  • CBC and CFRB Radio also reported on the story April 21.

Poverty ‘rebranded’

The plight of Canada’s working poor is the focus of a new, surprisingly upbeat activist documentary, Poor No More, currently doing the rounds in Canadian theatres and town-hall settings, wrote The Globe and Mail April 23. The film balances its serious subject with the lively presence of “anchor” Mary Walsh – a long-time supporter of organizations like Make Poverty History – and also takes a whirlwind road trip to see how two European countries have tackled the problem.

The film’s producer-director team, Suzanne Babin and Bert Deveaux, former CBC producers who now make social-issue docs, first connected with executive producer David Langille, a contract faculty member who teaches social science in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and co-chairs the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice, at an anti-poverty rally held before the 2007 Ontario election.

The pair had filmed vignettes about the province’s working poor to show at the rally – good raw material for a documentary, or so they all thought. But when they approached potential broadcasters, the reception was chilly.

“They said things like ‘Poverty is boring,’ or ‘We’ve covered that already,’” Langille recalls. “So we sat down with some marketing people and brainstormed on how to rebrand poverty, if you will, and how we could connect directly with the folks the film is really about.”

And so Poor No More is funded entirely by contributions from “main street”, as Langille likes to say – more than 50 organizations such as worker associations and union chapters, representing as many as five million Canadians.

York kinesiologist to speak at Kidd retirement lectures

Parissa Safai, a professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science in York University’s Faculty of Health, will talk about "Change Rooms and Change Agents: The Struggle against Barriers to Opportunities for Ethnocultural Communities in Toronto", wrote Toronto Sun columnist Steve Buffery April 23 in a story about retirement lectures for Bruce Kidd of the University of Toronto.

Again, I have no idea what any of that means, wrote Buffery. But I have a sneaking suspicion that, when it’s over, I’ll feel guilt and shame.

Looking out for a rare and important bird in Carden

This year is a particularly exciting year as the Shrike Recovery Team anxiously awaits the return of a few of the 49 shrike that are part of a geolocator study, wrote The Lindsay Post April 23 in a story about the Couchiching Conservancy’s breeding & release project. Geolocators are small devices that read and record light levels and day length to determine the exact location of the bird on a specific date.

A significant amount of work has been done with geolocators by Bridget Stutchbury, Distinguished Research Professor of Biology in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, on purple martins and wood thrush, which has allowed some insight into the migratory patterns of these species. She is also collaborating on the shrike work.

Limit growth to improve environment, save jobs, says York prof

Peter Victor, a professor in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, recently published the book Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster, which argues economic growth is actually hurting the environment and has been unable to eliminate poverty and provide full employment, wrote the Hamilton Mountain News April 22.

“We need a new measure of success,” said Victor, who was the keynote speaker at Environment Hamilton’s annual general meeting earlier this month at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board auditorium. “We have to knock the concept of economic growth off its pedestal. We are being sold a bill of goods that growth reduces poverty.”

He argues that as richer western nations pursue ever higher gross domestic product figures, they consume more land and energy, which only depletes the world’s resources, contributing to peak oil and climate change. If poorer nations, such as China, India and other so-called Third World countries follow the western nation economic model, the world’s finite resources will be consumed ever faster, just to meet the ideal western lifestyle. “Growth doesn’t solve the poverty problem,” he says.

Victor says western governments must change how they do business if the planet is to survive. He points out, for instance, that to help reduce poverty, western countries should look toward establishing full-employment measures, as some European countries have done. It means more people work, while receiving less in salary. “There would be less work, but more leisure,” he said.

Consumers should also start paying the correct price for products, he says. Victor advises that a carbon tax be added to goods so that prices “become more meaningful” in the marketplace. “(The goods) would become more durable (rather than continue what has become a throw-away culture). You would repair products. And there would be fewer status goods,” he said.

  • York University economics Professor Peter Victor takes up the idea, writing Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster, wrote the Ancaster News April 22. He argues that growth isn’t achieving expected goals: eliminating or reducing poverty, protecting the environment and providing full employment.

But at the moment, the idea of changing our capitalist system is only talk and a far-off idea that no person or institution wants to think about, wrote the News. But the day will come when our blue planet will revolt and impose a harsher penalty to our profligate material needs than anything we as a society could impose on ourselves.

On air

  • Perry Sadorsky, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the Canadian dollar, on Toronto’s AM640 Radio April 22.
  • Stuart Shanker, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology/Philosophy and and director of the Milton & Ethel Harris Research Initiative at York, spoke about how babies learn, on CBC Radio’s “Ideas” April 22.
  • Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the sun, on CTV National News April 22.