How to speed up the justice system

A review of cases decided in Ontario in the 1960s suggests that 12 to 18 months was the usual time frame for ordinary civil cases to go from commencement to trial. By contrast, today in Toronto a civil case will take two-and-a-half years from commencement to trial; many cases take much longer, wrote James Morton (LLB ’86), an adjunct professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and past president of the Ontario Bar Association, in an opinion piece published May 6 in the Toronto Star.

Delay in courts is an unqualified evil. Speedy justice is a right of citizens and delayed trials suffer from a deterioration of evidence and bring justice into disrepute, wrote Morton. In town halls held by the Ontario Bar Association across Ontario in the last few years, legal delays ranked as a consistent and urgent complaint of the general public.

The usual reasons given for the delays in civil courts are a lack of court resources, greedy lawyers and an increasingly complex world. None of these reasons hold up under scrutiny, argued Morton.

No, the real problem leading to delay is the uncertainty and hazard of trial. The result of losing a case is commonly utter ruin and yet predicting the outcome of a case is almost impossible. As a result, litigation, rather than being a process designed to lead to trial, has become an elaborate game of chicken.

The costs and risks of going to trial are real and cannot be eliminated by a magic wand. However, there are legislative steps that can help. In family law, litigation over the amount of child support almost vanished once the federal child support guidelines were introduced – instead of litigating the issue, lawyers now look up the answer in a table. Certainty and a limit on the amount paid out reduced the need for family law trials; the same can be done in civil matters through legislation. Second, requiring cases to be brought to trial within a fixed time frame and with identified milestones along the way (something Ontario has been implementing in stages) can help cut back delay. A deadline is a wonderful tool for focusing the mind, wrote Morton.

Man dies while fleeing police near Keele campus

A man died of an apparent heart attack Wednesday night allegedly while trying to run from police near York University, reported the Toronto Sun May 6.

Toronto police were attempting to pull over a vehicle on Founders Road – just west of Keele Street and Steeles Avenue West, at the north end of the campus – around 6:30 when it suddenly stopped and two men jumped out and ran off.

Police officers chased the men. Toronto Emergency Medical Services reported that during the pursuit one of the men went into cardiac arrest. The man had no vital signs when rushed to a nearby hospital.

Police closed off a section of Steeles, but few details were immediately available, reported the Sun.

The province’s Special Investigations Unit, which probes any serious injury or death involving police, will likely be called in, police said.

  • The incident was also reported in Toronto newscasts May 5 and 6 on CTV, Citytv, Global TV and CP24, CBC Radio and CFTR-AM.

Mayoral rivals clash over Toronto transit

In the first major debate of Toronto mayoral candidates Wednesday, Joe Pantalone took aim at George Smitherman, reported the Toronto Star May 6. Pantalone said that in five years as the most powerful Toronto MPP, Smitherman was “unable or unwilling to do something for Toronto and the GTA in terms of transportation systems, in terms of GO Transit, Transit City and finally the TTC.”

Smitherman shot back, listing ways he helped Toronto as health minister and noting Toronto has done little with provincial dollars it got four years ago to expand the subway to York University. "Why have you only managed to move a water main, Joe?" Smitherman shot back.

Average tenured Canadian professors earn north of $100,000: StatsCan

The average salary for full-time tenured professors at many leading Canadian universities is well above $100,000, according to new figures from Statistics Canada, reported Canwest News Service May 5.  

The figures – released in a report Wednesday – included salaries from nearly 100 education institutions from 2007-2008. They showed that tenured professors from 14 universities earned in excess of $130,000 annually, including York University where the average was $136,609.

Average salaries at the University of Toronto were the highest in the country at $157,566 for full-time professors.

The interplay between art and Ikea

In a Toronto Star essay published May 2 about the Ikea catalogue-inspired photography of Kota Ezawa, Ryan Bigge cites York film studies Professor Janine Marchessault, Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media & Globalization.

Ezawa’s work is titled NEW! ($2.99/EA) and is currently being shown as part of CONTACT, a photography festival held every May in Toronto. This year’s event is subtitled "Pervasive Influence" and indicates our current era of photographic saturation. Ezawa is one of a dozen or so photographers in a curated exhibit titled The Mechanical Bride now at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. This refers not to a screwball robot comedy from the 1930s, but to the (occasionally) screwball ideas of the late media and literary theorist Marshall McLuhan. In his first book, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man, McLuhan analyzed various forms of print culture, including newspapers and advertisements, and tried to tease out hidden meanings.

In an essay about CONTACT’s The Mechanical Bride exhibit, Marchessault, a film studies professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, argues that artists like Ezawa are continuing McLuhan’s project: "The mechanisms of persuasion in mass media are revealed through a focus on its conventions and politics behind the scenes." 

A hot medium, like photography, is typically information-rich and well-defined, thus requiring less interpretative work on the part of the viewer. What Ezawa has done, McLuhan might argue, is take the hot medium of photography and rework it into a cool medium (like illustration), making the artwork more participatory. This "unphotograph" requires the viewer to more actively interpret the image. Or, as Marchessault writes, Ezawa’s "large-scale transparencies in light boxes, that mimic advertising displays, are no longer recognizable as photographs."  

Students head south to chase tornadoes

On a hot, humid afternoon with the air heavy and ready to burst, Brad Rousseau sits in his parents’ Marc Boulevard kitchen checking North American weather patterns on his laptop, reported The Welland Tribune May 6. 

The 22-year-old York University meteorology student was home for a couple of days. He was between classes and a job with Environment Canada as a storm analyzer. He is about to join veteran storm chaser Mark Robinson and three York students for a two-week adventure in Tornado Alley. The middle weeks of May "are considered ripe for a clash of air masses" as cold air systems push up warm ones to stir thunderstorms that create tornadoes.  

Tornado Alley, a wide band of wild weather, stretches from northern Texas to North Dakota.  

The five will drive to Nebraska, watch weather Web sites and head toward an area with greatest potential of super cell thunderstorms, which produce tornadoes. "We look for a humid area and something that forces the air up," Rousseau says. The team will chase storms for the excitement and to gather information about the development and effects of thunderstorms.  

Even with high-tech equipment and specialized weather knowledge, getting to the right place at the right time doesn’t happen often. "A twister may last from 30 seconds to two hours," Rousseau says. "But it’s usually short. If you turn up five minutes late you’ve missed it."  

Rousseau has chased storms locally for years. Because of the influence of the Great Lakes, Niagara and southern Ontario are prime thunderstorm areas. He did, however, miss Welland’s most recent tornado, on Aug. 20, 2009.  

York plans to build business school in India

Canada’s Schulich School of Business is planning to build an Indian campus, reported The Economist in its May 4 issue. Although many business schools offer programs in India, the move is unusual because it is rare for a respected Western institution to set up its own campus – most prefer to partner with Indian schools or to hire smaller offices. Schulich plans to offer an MBA and executive programs. 

Grad’s small online firm helps clients find apartments

After working their 9-to-5 jobs, most people go home to relax. But that’s when Pavel Tchourliaev really starts working, reported the Toronto Star May 6. 

Tchourliaev (BAS Spec. Hons. ’07), a 25-year-old chartered accountant with Bulmash Cullemore LLP by day, turns into an entrepreneur at night as a partner in, a free online service specifically for apartment rentals that works like craigslist.  

After graduating from York University with an accounting degree, Tchourliaev and three friends started up in their spare time. Profits come from advertisements and premium listings. In less than a year, the company has already broken even.  

On air

  • Molly Ladd-Taylor, York history professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and co-editor of the anthology Women Health and Nation: Canada and the United States Since 1945, discussed the impact of the birth control pill since it came on the market 50 years ago, in interviews on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” in Toronto and other local programs across Canada May 5.
  • Theodore Tolias, economics instructor at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed the financial crisis in Greece, on Radio Canada International’s “The Link” May 5.