Ontario ombudsman takes note of complaint by York professors

Ombudsman André Marin is investigating controversial security regulations secretly changed by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government on the eve of the G20 summit after a flurry of complaints from the public, wrote the Toronto Star July 10.

Marin vowed Friday to leave no stone unturned and noted he has the legal authority to force anyone to testify – including McGuinty and Community Safety & Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci.

Marin said he has had 60 complaints relating to the G20, including one detailed letter signed by 129 professors at York University expressing alarm at the government’s actions.

  • Friday, ombudsman André Marin announced a probe into the controversial regulation to the Public Works Protection Act that was quietly put in place by the McGuinty government prior to the G20 summit, wrote columnist Christina Blizzard in the Ottawa Sun and the Toronto Sun July 12.

In a phone interview, Marin said he’s received 24 complaints, including one signed by 129 professors at York University that alleged because of the miscommunication people refrained from being five metres from the fence.

  • The Canadian Press also reported on the York professors’ petition July 10 in a story quoting ombudsman André Marin, whose office received 24 complaints related to the G20, including one signed by a group of 129 academics from Toronto’s York University. “It’s something that you can’t ignore,” Marin said.
  • Global TV, CBC News, CBC Radio om Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Toronto (French) also reported on Morin’s investigation July 9.
  • Student, labour and community groups will hold a rally in Toronto on Saturday, calling for a public inquiry into the chain of command among various police forces during the summit of world leaders, wrote The Globe and Mail July 10.

“Who were the Montreal police taking orders from? Who were the Calgary police taking orders from?” said Hamid Osman (BA ’09), a rally organizer and political science grad from York University. “These are some outstanding questions only an independent inquiry can answer.”

Crusading Ontario ombudsman André Marin says investigating the province’s secretive Regulation 233 – used by police during the G20 summit to confront citizens near the security perimeter fence – is now a top priority for his office, wrote the St. Catharines Standard July 10.

His office had received 24 complaints related to the G20 as of Friday morning, including one signed by 129 York University professors.

Slow pace of justice riles parents, but G20 accused take it in stride

For the young people accused of planning G20 havoc on the streets of Toronto, the wheels of justice are grinding slowly, wrote the Toronto Star July 12 in a story about the processing of people who were arrested.

Syed Hussan, was released on Thursday on $55,000 bail. A Pakistani native, he has no family in Canada. Bail conditions include residing in the homes of two York University professors acting as his sureties, an 11pm-to-6am curfew, a surrendering of travel documents, a ban on attending – or planning – public protests or demonstrations, and a ban on any contact with people known to him as members of Anti-War @ Laurier or the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance group (SOAR).

In the run-up to the G20 summit, Hussan was described in media reports as spokesperson for the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, which helped coordinate various protest groups. He is also an activist with No One is Illegal, which calls for a more open immigration policy. As a condition of bail, he can continue to work at York’s Centre for Feminist Research.

No-name officers investigated

Toronto Police are investigating whether many officers on G20 duty failed to wear proper identification, wrote the Toronto Star July 10.

At issue is whether officers violated a force requirement to wear epaulettes with their badge numbers and name tags on their uniforms, regardless of whether they’re wearing riot equipment or standard police outfits.

The decision to require name and number tags, backed by Chief of Police Bill Blair, followed a drawn-out, contentious debate. Multiple reports, including a highly critical review of the police justice system by a former Superior Court chief justice, called for visible name tags to be part of police uniforms.

At a 2004 meeting, the board dismissed the argument of York University Professor Emeritus Harvey Simmons that names are easier to remember than badge numbers. “Even when badge numbers are visible, given the charged atmosphere in which encounters with the police often take place…an average member of the public is highly unlikely to remember to note, memorize or write down an officer’s badge number,” he said.

New mobile player would battle Rogers in courtroom

Wireless newcomer Mobilicity is prepared to take legal action against Rogers Communications Inc. for unfair competition over its recently introduced brand Chatr, wrote the Timmins Daily Press July 10 quoting Mobilicity chair John Bitove.

First announced on June 30, Chatr has been labelled a “fighter brand” designed to keep existing Rogers customers from moving to the competition with contract-free, unlimited, low-cost cellphone plans.

Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, said Chatr is a natural evolution of the industry and it’s not anti-competitive. “Nobody in the cell industry brings in brands temporarily. It’s far too expensive,” Middleton said. “The world is full of fighter brands,” he added.

Multimedia age dulls lustre of iconic anchors

John McCullough, York University media professor, agrees today’s media fragmentation and greater competition offer a wider choice for viewers, even though quality can be lost, wrote the Toronto Star July 10 in a story about the retirement of CTV anchor Lloyd Robertson. In the past, he says, anchors were respected authority figures, with a gravitas to their work.

Today, “media” and “respected” don’t seem to roll easily off the tongue in the same sentence.

McCullough cites the influence of Michael Deaver, former US president Ronald Reagan’s deputy chief of staff, with pushing for control of the political message – something consecutive governments in both the US and Canada have mastered. These days, spin doctors appear to have more clout than news anchors.

McCullough notes viewers can get their news from a variety of newscasters, from the investigative anchor Anderson Cooper on CNN, to Katie Couric on a traditional newscast to the satirical takes of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or Bill Maher.

Vale’s Ontario operations to be smaller

Mining giant Vale says it won’t replace about 500 workers who retired during a year-long strike at the former Inco’s operations in Ontario, wrote The Canadian Press July 9 in a story about the settlement details.

Vale “is definitely the winner here,” said Stephanie Ross, a professor and coordinator of the Work & Labour Studies Program in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

She said the creation of a defined-benefit contribution plan is an important concession because it creates a division between new employees and existing ones. “If there are people in the union who feel like the union only represents some but not all of the members, that has implications for whether they continue to be engaged in the union’s decision-making, whether or not they give support to the union leadership and whether or not they feel they have a voice that’s heard,” Ross said.

  • Both the strike [at Sudbury’s Vale Inco nickel mine] and the resulting contract have raised questions about foreign ownership of natural resources in Canada as well as the country’s labour movement, wrote The New York Times July 10.

“With multinationals from emerging economies we see a different style of dealing with issues,” said Dirk Matten, the Hewlett Packard Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Schulich School of Business at York University. “There’s now a big problem of union legitimacy.”

Iranian’s execution set to go ahead despite ‘Western propaganda’

In a push back against international efforts to save a 45-year-old woman from death by stoning, an Iranian justice official insists that “Western media propaganda” will not prevent him from carrying out the execution as soon as he gets final judicial approval, wrote The Globe and Mail July 12 in a story that quotes an official saying stoning is a rarely used form of execution.

[Stoning] is rarely used for a reason, says Saeed Rahnema, a professor of political science in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “It’s not at all popular with the people of Iran and it gives the country an international black eye…. The regime is really trying to rein in their number,” Rahnema said.

The sentence is so unpopular, he added, “the authorities often resort to a rent-a-crowd to carry them out…promising the 20 or 30 people heavenly rewards, as well some financial inducement.”

Truth commission appoints Osgoode grad as new director

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on Indian residential schools is in the midst of another shakeup of its senior ranks following the resignation of the director of research and the appointment of a new executive director, wrote The Globe and Mail July 12.

The commission’s executive director, Tom McMahon, has been replaced by Kim Murray (LLB ’93), a lawyer and law professor from the Kanesatake First Nation of Oka.

Murray is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School who won an award for her work advocating for the rights of Aboriginal people who have been detained or incarcerated. She had recently joined the commission as special adviser of “statement gathering and regional liaisons.”

Anxiety can lead to radical religious beliefs: study

Anxiety can lead people to become more radical in their religious beliefs, a York University study says, wrote the St. Catharines Standard July 10.

Lead researcher Ian McGregor said a basic motivational process called reactive approach motivation (RAM) is responsible. “Approach motivation is a tenacious state in which people become ‘locked and loaded’ on whatever goal or ideal they are promoting. They feel powerful, and thoughts and feelings related to other issues recede,” he said in a release.

Xcelsior makes transit trendy

A sleek and ultra trendy bus – Xcelsior – that’s creating waves, will make its debut on Brampton roads soon, wrote the Brampton Guardian July 11.

Twenty-five hybrid-electric models of the new buses from Winnipeg-based New Flyer Industries are now in production stages and are being built for the city’s proposed bus rapid transit, Züm.

The first phase will kick off sometime this year providing service along Queen Street from downtown Brampton to York University.

On Air

  • Bridget Stutchbury, Distinguished Research Professor in Biology in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the danger posed by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to migrating birds, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” and other local programs across Canada July 9.
  • Anna St. Onge, archivist, digital projects & outreach at York’s Scott Library, spoke about a new online digital exhibit about the Mariposa Folk Festival, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” July 9.
  • Irena Knezevic, a researcher and graduate student at York University, spoke about increasing the number of locations for sellers of organic food, on CFQC Radio in Saskatoon, Sask., July 10.