Hard to assess impact of premier’s ban on religious tribunals, says York prof

Five years ago, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced, “There will be no sharia law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians,” wrote Harvey Simmons, professor emeritus of political science in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in the Toronto Star Sept. 14.

The premier was referring to the fact that since 1991, arbitration decisions made according to religious laws were enforceable in Ontario courts and he was now going to rescind the law that made this possible.

McGuinty’s declaration ended a heated 20-month controversy sparked by Toronto lawyer Syed Mumtaz Ali’s 2004 announcement that an “Islamic Institute of Civil Justice” would shortly begin arbitrating family matters on the basis of sharia law, accompanied by a warning that Muslims who did not submit cases to Islamic arbitration panels were not “good Muslims”.

Exactly why [McGuinty] took this decision is not clear. Some felt the premier foresaw his whole legislative agenda being derailed by endless fighting over religious arbitration. Others felt he agreed with the anti-tribunal forces over the putative threat to women’s rights.

Once taken, the decision was greeted by anti-tribunal groups as an example of how multicultural societies draw lines around the illiberal activities and beliefs of minority communities and say, “this far and no farther.” The pro-tribunal groups, however, saw it as proof of Islamophobia and as a violation of religious freedom.

Ironically, because religious arbitration now takes place mainly outside the scrutiny of the Ontario courts, there is no way to tell whether women are being treated well or badly in informal religious arbitrations conducted by imams, rabbis or, indeed, any other arbitrator chosen by the parties involved.

Five years on, there is simply no way to pass judgment on the premier’s fateful decision.

York grad Cockburn showcases film at Toronto film fest

Today, we profile Daniel Cockburn (BFA Spec. Hons. ’99), who is at the Toronto International Film Festival with You Are Here, wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 13.

Hometown: Tweed, a cozy town in eastern Ontario, located roughly 30 kilometres from Belleville, where Cockburn attended high school before moving to Toronto.

In a nutshell: A mindbending detective puzzle steeped in paranoia.

Star Wattage: Tracy Wright, Shannon Beckner, Nadia Litz.

In the director’s words: “When I was a student at York University [in the Faculty of Fine Arts], my first couple years anyway, I would buy a book of 25 tickets (for the Toronto International Film Festival) and I would just gorge. The festival experience was just such an exciting thing as a viewer…. I mean, there’s just so many different vectors coming together for me personally and emotionally for this screening at TIFF and they’re all generally very gratifying.”

Facebook users study ‘doesn’t hold back’, says Texas TV station

Hundreds of millions of people log on to Facebook everyday. Some for communication, some for relationships and some, according to a new study, for self-promotion, reported NBC News online (KETK-TV, Tyler, Texas) Sept. 13.

The study from York University in Canada doesn’t hold back against frequent Facebook users, calling them insecure, narcissistic and with a low self-esteem. Some East Texas psychologists disagree with the study’s findings.

The study also says men and woman promote themselves differently on Facebook. Men generally promoted themselves by written posts whereas women carefully select the pictures in their profile.

On air

  • Younes Benslimane, a faculty member in York’s School of Information Technology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the difficulties internationally educated professionals face in finding employment in Canada, on CBC-TV’s "The National" and other CBC news broadcasts across the country Sept. 10.
  • Lynne Van Buskirk, a contract faculty member in the School of Human Resource Management in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the impact immigration has on a person’s professional life, on Radio Canada International’s "The Link" Sept. 13.
  • Joel Lexchin, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, spoke about new calls for a national drug plan, on CPAC-TV’s "PrimeTime Politics" Sept. 13.