York prof says offshore environmental assessment process needs to change

With catastrophe ongoing in the Gulf of Mexico, how rigorous is Canada’s environmental regulation of offshore oil and gas, asked Gail Fraser, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in a letter to The Globe and Mail May 5.

While offshore environmental assessments that consider the impact and probability of oil spills are a public process, the methods used to determine the impact of a spill are not available to the public. Why does the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act allow the petroleum industry to conceal environmental information relevant to the protection of marine ecosystems from the public?

Offshore petroleum boards in Canada are in a conflict of interest: They both promote the offshore industry and oversee environmental protection. This needs to change, wrote Fraser.

The protection of marine ecosystems is of interest to all Canadians. One improvement on the current system is to require complete transparency in the environmental management of the offshore oil and gas industry in Canada.

Arizona’s ‘real and serious problem’

Three thousand miles or so away from what has become to many Arizonians a nightmare of drug-related beatings, rapes, kidnappings, home invasions and murders, it is easy to play the armchair civil libertarian and denounce Arizona’s statute as racist and bigoted, wrote Terry Heinrichs, professor and chair of political science at Glendon College, in a letter to the National Post May 5 responding to an editorial condemning a new immigration law. But ask yourself: If Toronto had Arizona’s problems, how long would it be before the armchair would be forsaken for the safe room?

Arizona’s narrowly crafted law is an attempt to deal with the very real and serious problems created by the illegal traffic in persons. It may not be the best and wisest solution to a complex problem; but in the absence of federal action to control its borders, it is theirs. What’s yours?

Public safety minister debunks double-bunking concerns in Canada’s prisons

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says double-bunking in Canadian prisons “is not a big deal” but critics say his plan to impose more cell sharing contradicts the government’s own policy and is bound to breed more penitentiary violence, wrote Canwest News Service May 5.

More than half of Canada’s 54 federal prisons recently applied to the Correctional Service of Canada to double-bunk, according to a Toronto researcher.

Double-bunking dipped for three years, from 2003 to 2006, until it crept back up again, according to figures obtained by researcher Mike Larsen, of the York Centre for International & Security Studies, through the federal Access to Information Act.

The report also showed that 29 of 54 institutions applied to double-bunk for the six-month period ending Sept. 30, 2009. Prisons are required to reapply every six months to seek exemptions to the federal directive against double-bunking.

On air

  • Fred Lazar, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about Shaw Communications’ purchase of the television assets of Canwest Global, on CBC Radio May 4.
  • Peter Cumming, humanities professor in York’s Children’s Studies Program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about “sexting” –  young people sending sexually explicit text messages – on TFO’s “Panorama” May 3.