God’s place in charter challenged

When a judge last month ruled that a Catholic high school in Montreal could choose its own religious curriculum, in defiance of an order by the Quebec government, he wrote that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically referred to “the supremacy of God” in its preamble, wrote the National Post July 9. Now, in the ruling’s aftermath, some are wondering whether that language is out of place in a society that has grown increasingly secular.

The phrase was cited by Superior Court Judge Gerard Dugre in June, as he ruled that Loyola High School, a Jesuit private school, did not have to use the provincial religion curriculum and could teach ethics and religion from a Roman Catholic point of view. He called Quebec’s demand on the high school “totalitarian”, using the preamble to the charter to make his case. The clause has rarely been invoked in Canadian jurisprudence, perhaps only once before.

Lorne Sossin, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said there is clear reason it has been used so rarely. “Both because the preamble is secondary to the text of the charter and because the public neither expects nor is comfortable with open expressions of religious views by judges.”

An incendiary Web site may put Canada’s hate laws to the test

The crime of advocating genocide is a strange creature – one that, in the eyes of the law, has never been committed in Canada, wrote the National Post July 9 in a story about an announcement by the Ontario Provincial Police of hate crime charges laid against a Mississauga man who maintained a Web site that advocated violence against Jews.

There have been plenty of high-profile test cases for the other of Canada’s main criminal hate laws, which prohibits the wilful promotion of hatred, under Section 319 of the Criminal Code. These include the failed prosecutions of native leader David Ahenakew in Saskatchewan, which signalled that the bar for criminal hatred, fuzzy as it often seems, remains high. But advocating genocide, under Section 318, with its five-year maximum sentence, is the odder of the big guns in the anti-hate arsenal, much discussed, sometimes threatened, but, until now, never prosecuted.

Bruce Ryder, assistant dean and professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the prosecution will be novel in another sense. “Almost all of the discussion in Canada of war crimes, genocide, incitement to genocide and crimes against humanity has focused on getting people out of Canada who had committed atrocities elsewhere. Most Canadian government activity in the area has focused on seeking deportation, not criminal prosecution,” he said.

Theatre comes alive this summer by ‘jazzing up’ its stage

The Academy Theatre for Performing Arts is “jazzing up the summer” when one of the most exciting groups in Canadian jazz takes centre stage on Thursday, wrote MyKawartha.com July 8.

The Kelly Jefferson Quartet has received critical acclaim since the release of their debut recording, Spark, in 2005 and continues to focus on music that stems from a variety of influences. Joining saxophonist Kelly Jefferson for the concert, which begins at 8pm, are pianist David Braid, Marc Rogers on bass and Ted Warren on drums.

Music has been a big part of Jefferson’s life for as long as he can remember. Having held teaching positions at Humber College and McGill University, Jefferson is currently an instructor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

When asked which he finds more of a challenge – performing in front of a crowd or “performing” in front of students – Jefferson feels the rewards far outweigh the challenges, “and there are many challenges to being both a musician and teacher.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to do both, and I feel fortunate to be in situations where one continually influences the other,” continued Jefferson. “I like being able to tell a class or a student about an experience on a gig that I feel might be helpful to their development. With both teaching and playing, it’s important for me to be aware of my surroundings and approach every situation in the best way I can. My motto is, it’s not what you do, it’s ‘how’ you do what you do.”

Jefferson has also adjudicated at music festivals across Canada and has given numerous workshops throughout Canada, the United States and China. He had the following advice for budding local musicians: “First, you have to love it. Work hard, keep an open mind and be patient. There are no shortcuts. Seek out as many opportunities to play as you can.” And last, but not least for Jefferson: “Never stop learning.”

Charity begins to roam

Andres Livov-Macklin (BFA Spec. Hons. ’04) perches on the edge of a plastic chair in his producer’s cement backyard in Toronto, wrote the National Post July 9. It’s at least 30 degrees this morning – the sun glaring, humidity suffocating – but the filmmaker continues to sip at his coffee. Perhaps he’s a believer in the old logic that drinking hot beverages when it’s hot outside helps the body cool down.

This is debatable, of course, but so is much of the logic in his film, A Place Called Los Pereyra, which looks at what happens when a group of privileged high-school teenagers descend upon a poor village in rural Argentina with charitable intentions but unforeseen consequences.

It’s Livov-Macklin’s first documentary. The filmmaker is originally from Buenos Aires but studied at York University and now lives in Montreal.

Study discovers how drug interferes with neuronal cell function

A York University study has shown for the first time how the drug misoprostol, which has been linked to neurodevelopmental defects associated with autism, interferes with neuronal cell function, wrote MedicalNewsToday.com.

York University Professor Dorota Crawford, of the School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Science & Enginering, and graduate student Javaneh Tamiji, who undertook the research for her master’s thesis in the Neuroscience Graduate Diploma Program at York, co-authored a study published online in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications: “Prostaglandin E2 and misoprostol induce neurite retraction in Neuro-2a cells”.

On air

  • David McNally, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about his move in conjunction with another York professor to post bail for a G20 protestor accused of helping to organize violent protest during the summit weekend, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” July 8.
  • Robert Macdermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, commented on the announcement that David Johnston, president & vice-chancello of the University of Waterloo, would be Canada’s next governor general, on 680 News Radio July 8.
  • Bridget Stutchbury, Distinguished Research Professor in Biology in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the danger to migratory birds this year headed for the oil-soaked Gulf of Mexico, on CBC Radio across Canada July 8.
  • James Walker, professor of sociolinguistics in York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about his latest research into how ethnicity affects the way one speaks English, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” July 8.
  • Radio stations in Edmonton reported that Al Rosen, professor emeritus in York’s Schulich School of Business and an expert in forensic accounting, has been appointed as an adviser to Capital Power from Epcor July 8