Blood ruling stirs fears of ‘charter-free zone’, says Osgoode prof

A court ruling limiting the right of gays to donate blood has raised fears that governments can “contract out” of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms simply by setting up agencies and corporations at arm’s length, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 10.

In a 188-page ruling on Thursday, Madam Justice Catherine Aitken ruled that Kyle Freeman cannot invoke the Canadian Charter of Rights And Freedoms’ equality provision to challenge the constitutionality of the questionnaire. She said that the agency’s bureaucratic structure and the fact that it does not take day-to-day direction from government means that it is too distant from government for the charter to apply.

Bruce Ryder, a professor in York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said that the decision “is very dangerous because it makes it so easy for governments to avoid their charter responsibilities. All they have to do is create an arm’s-length body and refrain from dictating policy. Presto! Charter-free zone.”

Ryder said that Judge Aitken was wrong to focus on the fact that CBS develops its own screening procedures. “It’s not relevant whether the government is dictating the screening policy,” he said. “What is relevant is that we have a body that is implementing a government program.”

Frequent Facebook posters may find themselves tuned out

We all have a couple of them on our friends list, Facebook users who are constantly updating their status and posting photos of themselves and their surroundings, wrote Reka Szekely in a column for Sept. 9.

So when York University student Soraya Mehdizadeh recently published an undergraduate psychology thesis on the topic of frequent Facebooking and narcissism, the story was picked up by major media outlets and made headlines around the world.

  • According to the study [by] Soraya Mehdizadeh from York University in Canada, those who scored higher on the narcissism test checked their Facebook pages more often per day than those who did not, wrote The Daily Targum, the newspaper of New Jersey’s Rutgers University Sept. 9 in an editorial. This study asked 100 students between 18 and 25 about their Facebook habits, so we find it highly inconclusive. From almost 500 million users, 100 seems an awfully small number for any reports to be based on – in the end, perhaps it the study that deserves the dart.

Judge dismisses student lawsuit against York University

A judge has dismissed a motion to certify a $250-million class-action lawsuit against York University for damages arising from a bitter three-month strike that prevented 50,000 students from attending classes, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 10.

Student Jonathan Turner was the representative plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in January 2009 just before the Liberal government forced an end to the dispute between York and 3,340 teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants.

The suit alleges York breached its contract and consumer-protection obligations to students by cancelling all classes and then, after the strike ended, providing compressed academic periods with watered-down educational standards.

“The plaintiff is seeking to have the court make qualitative assessments of the effect on educational standards of York’s response to the strike and of the remedial measures introduced. These are matters that fall within the discretion of the University,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Maurice Cullity said in his decision, made public Thursday.

  • CBC News online and Maclean’s online also reported on the ruling Sept. 9. 

Spreading the word of healthy intimacy

How often do you stop to ask a date if they are comfortable with sexual advances? asked the North York Mirror Sept. 9 in a story about dating and relationship educator Mike Domitrz’s appearance at York’s Keele campus Sept. 8.

Domitrz, founder and executive director of the Date Safe Project, brought his “Can I Kiss You?” show to a packed crowd during orientation week.

“Most people in an intimate situation make a move and hope it’s right,” he told the Mirror following his York University talk. “They don’t seek permission. Usually people ask after if it was OK. Our show deals with how to ask for a simple kiss. Unfortunately, tradition does not include talking about these things. The male makes the move until the female stops them.”

“The responsibility must fall on the person who initiates this type of personal contact,” said Noöl Badiou, director of York’s Centre for Human Rights and the organizer of the event. “We want audience members to understand the importance of respecting each other’s boundaries.”

Professor emerita comments on new study of couples and degrees

The proportion of university-educated men marrying women with degrees has surged over a 25-year period, but it’s a different story for female grads tying the knot with well-educated males, according to a report released Thursday, wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 9.

One of the consequences for university-educated women cohabiting with someone less educated is that they will have fewer financial resources compared to couples with a shared level of education, said Anne-Marie Ambert, a retired sociology professor from York University in Toronto.

“You’re getting to have a social stratification system where those who have the most are couples who are married because they’re more likely to both have education and therefore the higher salaries that come with that,” said Ambert, author of Changing Families: Relationships in Context.

“We know from the statistics that there is less money in couples who cohabit than in married couples,” Ambert added. “Therefore, we also know that couples who are married share financially, where in fact it’s the norm; whereas people who cohabit very often they don’t share their finances. It’s his money and her money and there is much less that is pooled together.”

York student plays with battle of the bands winner The Box Tiger

Indie band The Box Tiger hasn’t exactly come roaring out of the gates, but the group is happy about the way its musical career is unfolding, wrote the Vaughan Citizen Sept. 9.

Since forming in late 2009, the band, which includes York student Sonia Sturino (lead vocals, guitar), Glenn Tavas (lead guitar, back-up vocals), Massimo Decaro (bass), Victor Xu (keyboards) and Jesse Horvath, has logged a lot of time performing in Toronto clubs and recently took top prize in the Maplefest Battle of the Bands.

“I’m very much inspired by visuals,” said Sturino. “And what I usually do is take something I’ve seen and experienced visually and I’ll take what the emotion was that I felt, that I saw, and I kind of tie it back to an experience I’ve had personally and, in kind of an ambiguous way put it into song. It’s more about portraying a feeling through these images and then through this abstract manner that makes it art versus just a song where it’s very direct and you talk about a direct experience and a direct story.”

Staff member Collins-Mrakas won’t seek re-election in Aurora

Aurora Councillor Alison Collins-Mrakas won’t seek re-election, wrote the Aurora Banner Sept. 9.

On her decision, Collins-Mrakas, senior manager & policy adviser, research ethics, in York University’s Office of Research Ethics, said the combination of her personal and professional commitments make it unrealistic to fit in the demands of a second term on council at this time.

“It’s been a very difficult decision and, even a few weeks ago, I wasn’t 100 per cent on it,” she said. “But, frankly, the last (council) meeting was what made my decision pretty final.”

Schulich/Osgoode grad puts her stamp on Four Seasons

Visitors to the Four Seasons Hotels Inc. headquarters in Toronto are greeted by a larger-than-life portrait of founder Isadore Sharp, a tribute to his decades of leadership and his legendary commitment to luxurious quality, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 10.

The giant canvas suggests he’s gone and needs to be remembered, but nothing could be further from the truth. Company veteran Katie Taylor (JD & MBA’84), who took over for the business icon as chief executive officer last month and is now responsible for overseeing the most rapid expansion in the chain’s history, knows she will continue to work under his watchful eye.