Logging of boreal forests is decimating songbirds

The dramatic decline of such fragile species as songbirds and woodland caribou has been blamed on human intrusion and logging, reported the Red Deer Advocate May 20. Rich pickings for the forest industries, these sensitive woodlands are home to two-thirds of the country’s estimated 140,000 species of plants, animals and micro-organisms – including 60 per cent of all land birds breeding in Canada.

Last week, Bridget Stutchbury, a biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, Canada Research Chair in Ecology & Conservation Biology and one of Canada’s foremost experts on disappearing songbirds, issued a terse warning. Author of Silence of the Songbirds, Stutchbury said the numbers of disappearing birds are "shocking…so shocking they are almost hard to believe." She called the boreal forests a bird nursery for the continent and said "there are dozens of species on a straight-line trajectory to zero.”

Nova Scotia principal ousted over student discipline

Residents in the tiny Nova Scotian community of Cherry Brook are rallying around a junior high school principal at the heart of a racially charged debate on the limits of educational discipline, reported the National Post May 21.  

Ken Fells, a 15-year employee of the Halifax Regional School Board, was dismissed yesterday from his post at Graham Creighton Junior High School after an altercation with a student months earlier. While he remains employed with the board, he is currently without a school.  

The school board has remained mum on the details of Fells’s case, calling it a "personnel matter," but the story has trickled out through parents and students, who have found a collective voice in the provincial Black Educators Association.  

"There was an incident in the cafeteria where a male student was taking inappropriate pictures of a female student," the association’s Brad Barton explained. A couple of teachers asked the student to stop and to hand over the cellphone camera, but the student refused, he said. The principal was called over, but the student also refused to comply, and then "took off," Barton said. Fells followed and attempted to bar the student from leaving, but the young man "pushed on the principal’s arm," prompting Fells to take hold of the student’s shoulders and steer him toward the office.  

No charges were laid in the March 3 incident, which pushed Fells onto administrative leave amid allegations of excessive force. 

Jennifer Connolly, director of York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, said while the principal’s intentions appeared to be in the right place, the question remains whether he overstepped. "It think it’s tough being a teacher in schools today," Connolly said, pointing to increasingly strict guidelines on educational discipline.

Germany‘s velvet chancellor shows some iron

For five years, she has been the velvet chancellor, taking a soft-hands approach to finessing Europe’s various crises and managing often fractious coalitions at home. Now, under intense pressure to resolve a worsening regional debt crisis that began in small, insolvent Greece and threatens to tear apart the 16-country euro zone, German leader Angela Merkel is putting a little iron in her fist, reported The Globe and Mail May 21.

The 55-year-old chancellor has in the past drawn comparisons to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher – not least because of their shared conservative politics, scientific backgrounds and the fact they became the first women to win the top political jobs in their countries. But there the similarities appeared to end.  

"Traditionally she is very much consensus-oriented," says Burkard Eberlein, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business and its Canadian Centre for German & European Studies. "For her, leadership is very much keeping people on board. It is not about saying ‘This is what I want,’ it is the opposite of a Thatcherite leadership."  

Fiat CEO says company could produce Fiat 300 at Chrysler plant in Brampton

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne (LLB ’83) says the Italian automaker is still weighing whether to build cars at an Ontario Chrysler plant as the company looks at North American expansion while its traditional markets are squeezed by the European debt crisis, reported the Canadian Press May 20. 

“We’re interested in seeing what we can do with the platform for the (Fiat) 300 here and in the US,” he said, adding that Fiat “might still”’ build the car at its partner Chrysler’s plant in Brampton, Ont.

Marchionne became Chrysler’s CEO last year after Fiat reached a partnership agreement with the ailing automaker while it was still under bankruptcy protection in the US. Fiat currently has a controlling 20 per cent stake in Chrysler LLC and plans to raise that stake to 35 per cent.

The deal raised plenty of speculation about what Fiat’s involvement would mean for Chrysler’s Canadian operations. Marchionne spent much of his youth in Canada, attending the University of Windsor, the University of Toronto and York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

York teacher delivers positive message

Keynote speaker Chris D’Souza gave an inspirational 30-minute speech Thursday on looking at life in a positive way to help change and shape the world, reported the Welland Tribune May 21 in a story about the graduation ceremony for more than 2,000 students in the Niagara Catholic District School Board. 

D’Souza, a course director in York’s Faculty of Education, is a strong believer in karma and being rewarded for positive actions. The Canadian-born Indian shared a number of his experiences in life – some positive and some negative. He is on a 21-city tour of the province lecturing people on eradicating discrimination.

Dancers share One World

Mississauga’s Sampradaya Dance Academy, celebrating its 20th anniversary, was to host a show focusing on the environment Sunday at Meadowvale Theatre, reported the Mississauga News May 20. 

The 60-minute show, One World Our World, "is a fun-filled production filled with plenty of humour," said academy director Lata Pada (MFA ’96), the show’s choreographer. She is also a Member of the Order of Canada and adjunct professor of dance in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. 

On air

  • Perry Sadorsky, an economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, talked about the turmoil in global markets that sent stocks and the loonie tumbling again, on The Stafford Show, on AM640 in Toronto May 20.
  • Relatives of George Peter Lynch (BAS Spec. Hons ’00, BA ’03), who was killed May 5 in a drive-by shooting in Bermuda want the federal government to get involved, reported CKCO-TV in Kitchener May 20.
  • Ro Velasquez, a queer activist and student at York, outlined protest plans for the upcoming G-8 and G-20 Summits in Ontario, on CP24-TV and CTV News in Toronto and CFRA-AM in Ottawa May 20.