Monahan applauds speaker’s decision on Afghanistan papers

Commons Speaker Peter Milliken gave the Conservatives 14 days to end the impasse over documents [relating to the release of detainees in Afghanistan] or risk being found in contempt of Parliament by opposition parties in the Commons. Milliken can’t himself declare the government in contempt, wrote The Globe and Mail April 28.

There are big risks for all parties if after two weeks the opposition is allowed to proceed with a vote that finds the Tory government in contempt. This would all but certainly trigger an election. “How can a government that’s been found in contempt continue to govern?” said Patrick Monahan, legal scholar and vice-president academic & provost of York University.

Monahan said it would make sense for an independent party with no political stake in the outcome to scrutinize records and determine if some can be released without affecting national security. He suggested a refashioned mandate for retired Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci, already hired by the Tories to report back to the government on the subject.

  • “I think it was an outstanding ruling,” said Patrick Monahan, a constitutional scholar and vice-president academic & provost at York University, wrote Canwest News Service April 28. “It’s significant for its recognition of the need for all parties in a political system such as ours to work together and reach accommodations. Our system works best when those types of compromises are found.”
  • Monahan also spoke about the Speaker’s decision, on CBC Radio and Television April 28.

Lack of aid no shock: Sociologists

Experts say witnesses are often reluctant to help someone in obvious distress because they either fear for their own safety or figure someone else will help if others are around, wrote Canwest News Service April 28 in a story about two such cases over the weekend. Some feel they lack the competence to intervene or worry about the embarrassment of helping someone when it might not be necessary. Others just don’t want to get caught up in the criminal justice system.

As long as these factors exist, “bystanders will remain bystanders,” said Desmond Ellis, a professor emeritus of sociology in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and Glendon College and past director of the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution. “Perhaps we should be pleased that we have not regressed over time to the point where bystanders actually join in as participants in the ongoing assaults and robberies they witness as bystanders,” he said.

Jane’s Walk goes global

In a testament to its diverse appeal, Jane’s Walk will be introduced to South America on Sunday by the “very last person” York University planning student Alejandra Perdomo Ibanez expected to be interested in it: her little brother, wrote the Toronto Star April 28.

Jane’s Walk, named for the legendary urban thinker Jane Jacobs, was founded in Toronto, Jacobs’ adopted home, in 2007. It debuted in India in 2009. This year, it will spread to Zambia, Spain, Germany, Ireland and, thanks to a family connection, Uruguay.

Perdomo Ibanez, 25, is from the small Uruguay ocean town of La Paloma. She is an admirer of Jacobs. Her brother Leandro Perdomo is a 20-year-old La Paloma surfer-musician who dropped out of high school to pursue a pro soccer career. He cares not a whit about Jacobs. He does care, however, about the natural environment in his community, which is threatened by large beachside vacation homes and a proposed deepwater port.

Out of the box, the history of Rush movies

Good thing Geddy Lee is a pack rat, wrote the Toronto Star April 28.

Had the singer/bassist for legendary Canadian power-rock trio Rush not amassed boxes and boxes of band lore, Toronto filmmakers Sam Dunn (MA ’01) and Scot McFadyen may have missed their opportunity to unveil an Ali Baba’s cave of rock history in their new documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.

The doc – made by the team who paid homage to the rock gods with docs Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Global Metal and Iron Maiden: Flight 666 – co-opens the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival Thursday, fresh off a triumphant world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York last Saturday. The movie opens in theatres in June.

Dunn and McFadyen tell the story of one of rock’s most influential groups, what Lee archly calls “the world’s biggest cult band” in one of many interviews with Rush that weave through the two-hour movie. Fans will drool over the gold mine of artifacts, from drummer Neil Peart’s artful handwritten lyrics, to what McFadyen calls a Holy Grail find: never-before-seen film of a high-school performance by Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson with the original Rush drummer, John Rutsey.

How did they find all of it?

“A lot of it came from Geddy,” says Dunn, who has a degree in anthropology from York University. “He has boxes and boxes in his house of old memorabilia from the band, from lyric sheets to a ton of photographs. A lot of fans helped us out, too. If there’s one group of fans that know how to collect, it’s Rush fans. And we stumbled on some real gems.”

York professor took six years to write his third novel

It has been 13 years since Michael Helm was unexpectedly thrust into the literary spotlight when his debut novel, The Projectionist, was nominated for the Giller Prize alongside titles by Canadian literary icons Mordecai Richler and Carol Shields, wrote the Toronto Star April 28.

Although he now lives in the country near Dundas, Helm regularly commutes into the city to teach creative writing in the Department of English in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Some writers view the financial necessity of a day job as an obstacle that keeps them from writing fulltime. Helm not only enjoys teaching, he largely views its demands as a help rather than a hindrance to his literary efforts. “Teaching slows down the writing process maybe more than I want it to, but better that than to speed it up out of a necessity to make money off my writing,” he reasons.

A flush of inspiration

As a rule, composer Christopher Butterfield doesn’t spend much time thinking about washrooms – public or otherwise, wrote The Globe and Mail April 28. But these days he is positively flush with bathroom knowledge, able to rhyme off little-known facts about public facilities the world over, historical and contemporary.

Butterfield’s immersion into the topic follows one of the more out-there commissions he has received over his musical career: a site-specific voice work for two women, about public washrooms.

He did some extensive bathroom reading too – about, not in them – including the books Dirt: Filth and Decay in a New World Arcadia and Filth: Dirt, Disgust and Modern Life. He also pored over academic essays exploring topics such as the desperate state of women’s facilities in India and the differences in graffiti in men’s and women’s washrooms at Toronto’s York University.

He took his assignment very seriously, determined that the project not be seen as a stunt. “Immediately the moment you say this to anybody, they’ll just think it’s a joke,” he says. “It’ll be a lot of fart noises or something.”

On air

  • Professor Marcel Martel, Avie Bennett Historica Chair in Canadian History in York’s Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, spoke about the history of Canadian health insurance, on TFO-TV’s “Panorama” April 26.
  • Sergei Plekhanov, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, took part in a panel discussion about the new Europe, on TVO-TV’s “The Agenda” April 27.