Osgoode prof calls for US-style shield law for journalists

The Supreme Court of Canada has endorsed the public need to shield whistleblowers and bolstered the ability of journalists in Quebec to protect confidential sources, a significant ruling for media rights in this country, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 23 in a story about the case of journalist Daniel Leblanc.

In the judgment, the court outlined a series of steps for judges to use in weighing disclosure of confidential sources against the public right to benefit from investigative reporting. The court stopped short, however, of recognizing a constitutionally embedded right to shield confidential sources.

Jamie Cameron, a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said that the court’s refusal to recognize “the constitutional status of the newsgathering relationship” was disappointing.

She said that confidentiality is so critical to investigative reporting that it cannot be left to uncertainty of being decided on a case-by-case basis.

What is needed, Cameron said, is the creation of a shield law, “that will give this confidential newsgathering relationship the legal protection it requires.”

  • The Supreme Court of Canada concluded its extended examination of press freedom Friday by handing a qualified victory to a Globe and Mail reporter, whose fight to protect a confidential source continues, wrote The Canadian Press Oct. 22.

But Osgoode Hall law Professor Jamie Cameron said that although the case is clearly a win for Daniel Leblanc and all journalists, the Supreme Court has still been reluctant to grant Canadian reporters some of the same protections as their foreign counterparts.

“The problem is that the privilege does not have constitutional status and is left to the uncertainties of case-by-case decision making,” said Cameron, who represented the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which was granted intervener status in the case.

“The time has come for Canada to follow the lead of the US and other countries, and adopt a shield law that would protect the journalist-source privilege.”

In a case involving the National Post newspaper earlier this spring, the court recognized the right of reporters to protect confidential sources, but concluded it was not an absolute right.

Cameron said the recent Supreme Court rulings have produced mixed results for journalists.  “There have been positive developments as well as setbacks, in cases such as the National Post [case]. The court has been supportive of press freedom, but only to a point. Changes for the benefit of the media and the press are set in a framework of caution and incremental change,” she said.

Election campaigns take nasty turns in races’ final hours

Like political weeds sprouting from toxic campaign soil, hateful election signs that sprang up across the GTA this weekend are no surprise, say election experts, at the end of two of the most vicious mayoral races in memory, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 25.

Makeshift attack ads appeared suddenly Saturday and Sunday across Toronto and Vaughan on lawn signs and on radio commercials, slamming a number of mayoral candidates in a last-ditch bid to sway voters at the polls Monday.

Two ads drew attention to Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman for being homosexual, something for which it is illegal to discriminate against in Ontario, Siemiatycki noted.

A Tamil radio station ran a commercial Saturday in which a man stated that as a Tamil with his own religion and culture, he will vote for mayoral candidate Rob Ford because he is “married to a woman.”

But the ad may have backfired; it sparked many complaints from the Tamil community, which is largely Hindu, and the ad was taken off the air. “That ad in no way reflects the views of Tamil Canadians, who embrace inclusion and diversity,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, national youth representative of the National Council of Canadian Tamils [and president of the York Federation of Students].

Added York University student Amiththan Sebarajah, also a Tamil, “let’s face it; this ad isn’t just about the values of the Tamil community; it’s about Toronto, and Rob Ford should say he’s not behind it.”

While it is not clear who paid for the ad – station officials could not be reached for comment – Ford issued a statement saying “I do not condone the recent Tamil radio ad. I support diversity and have no issue with others’ lifestyle choices.”

  • Amiththan Sebarajah, 28, says he and his circle of friends and family were outraged upon hearing the radio advertisements, wrote the National Post Oct. 25. “We were offended by the assumption that something anti-gay would resonate with our community,” says Sebarajah, who is currently completing his MA in English at York University. “Many of us came to Canada specifically because it is tolerant and because it is a place where differences are encouraged.”

In Oshawa, move to at-large council stirs controversy

Twenty-five other people are vying for the seats as the city tries a new system of governance, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 24. The City of Oshawa has abandoned the ward system and is going for at-large representation for every level of council, making it one of the only cities of its size in Ontario to run a government this way.

Candidates might also suffer the “ballot effect” – voters ticking off names at the top of an alphabetized ballot and ignoring those closer to the bottom, said Robert McDiarmid, a professor of political science in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, who studies municipal election finance.

“What letter your last name begins with should not be a factor,” he said. “We already know it’s a huge challenge for constituents to know where candidates stand because there are no parties.”

He fears the vast choices may overwhelm people and discourage them from voting at all.

Horror show for former patients

Bizarre things happen around Halloween. But this story is stranger – and more troubling – than most, wrote Carol Goar in the Toronto Star Oct. 22 in a story about a local charity’s use of a former psychiatric facility in Etobicoke as part of a house of horrors that was eventually closed down.

One of its “terrifying attractions” was The Asylum. “Once you enter The Asylum, there is no escape. Whatever you do, stay together and do not make eye contact if you want to survive,” its website said.

Last weekend, a group of psychiatric survivors heard about The Asylum. Its members and their friends swung into action, using Facebook, e-mail and the phone.

Geoffrey Reaume, professor of disability studies in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, wrote: “How disgusting that a hospital known for its compassionate care of children would seek to raise money by promoting damaging and grossly inaccurate depictions of people who experience psychiatric difficulty.”

Tiger, tiger

While I share your concern that tigers are endangered, you erred in suggesting that the extinct “Tasmanian tiger” was a subspecies of Panthera tigris. In the scientific taxonomy of animals, they’re not even members of the same order, wrote Benjamin Richardson, graduate program director in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a letter to The Globe and Mail Oct. 25 about an editorial.

Officially known as the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), it was an Australian marsupial more closely related to the kangaroo than the tiger, a placental mammal. It became known colloquially as a “tiger” because of its striped back.

But like the threats facing true tigers today, the thylacine’s demise was precipitated by relentless hunting and loss of habitat. The last known specimen perished in a Tasmanian zoo in 1936 and, despite various alleged sightings since, the creature was officially declared extinct in 1986.

Local resident writes book about unusual educational tool

A new age is dawning in education, and Gary Woodill’s book The Mobile Learning Edge describes it, with a mobile phone as its vehicle, wrote NorthumberlandToday.com Oct. 25.

Published by McGraw Hill in September, it’s not an academic book, not a textbook but a trade book – or a primer, Woodill said in a recent interview at his Cobourg office.

One good idea [in the book] is to use the mobile phone as an observational and data-gathering tool, as his wife did at York University. She was irritated by her sociology students using their mobile phones in class, but turned their skills into an assignment by dispatching each one to a corner of the campus. They all met later, each with his or her own slice of the pie to produce a snapshot of York at a given moment in time.

The missing pieces in banks’ mortgage math

The housing affordability measures used by bankers are strikingly simplistic, wrote GlobeAdvisor.ca and CTV News online Oct. 25. It’s a critical question because these mathematical affordability measures are the margin of safety on which the housing market depends at a time when people are paying near-record prices and facing higher mortgage rates ahead.

Look to the United States to see what happens when people suddenly can’t afford the home they own. “In the back of our minds, we all worry about the US scenario, where we have large groups of people in society who cannot afford to make the payments on their house,” said Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “They’re under water, they’re stuck, and that can lead to larger problems.”

When it’s right to rent a home

Buying a home isn’t always the best way to go, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 25. Renting can offer the ultimate in hassle-free living, the flexibility to just pack up and go if your job takes you elsewhere. And you’re not responsible for repairs or maintenance of the property.

Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, advises his students not to buy right out of school. “You might be going to Shanghai to work in a few years time for all you know. It doesn’t make sense,” says Milevsky. “The market could also be down in a year or two and that would wipe out your down payment.”

Milevsky says you should look at a house much like you would an appliance, such as a fridge. “You’re using it for something, and you’re getting something out of it,” he says.

Milevksy married in 1990 and much to his wife’s chagrin they rented for 10 years because he was worried about job security. “Now she argues we should have bought earlier because we would have got the property cheaper,” he says. “But it could have gone the other way and we would have lost money. Those are the issues you have to factor in with any decision.”

Variety of events in Thornhill mark Holocaust Education Week

One of the most powerful and meaningful tools used in Holocaust education is the firsthand testimony of eyewitnesses – the survivors, wrote YorkRegion.com Oct. 24. What means do we use to convey to future generations the experiences of the survivors before, during and after the Holocaust? How best can their stories be perpetuated, so that they and their message are never forgotten?

Speaking will be Elly Gotz, a concentration camp survivor; Professor Sara Horowitz who teaches Holocaust literature and film in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts; and Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt, world authority on the Auschwitz death camp. The panel will be moderated by Howard Adelman, professor emeritus of philosophy at York University and host of the weekly television program Israel Today.

Murder she wrote: In 140 characters or less

Osgoode Hall Law School professor and criminal lawyer Alan Young shrugs off any potential Twitter effect, wrote media critic Antonia Zerbisias in the Toronto Star Oct. 22 in a column about the impact of the court’s decision to allow the use of social media during the proceedings in the Russell Williams case.

“Is it any different from any other media?” he wonders. “It’s just more instantaneous and faster. I don’t see a problem except that it seems to be very distracting in court to have people texting or tweeting or whatever. But you’d be doing the same thing if you’re writing in a notebook and running out (to report). I just find it strange as counsel to be facing the court talking and having people clicking away.”

What Young does find to be a major shift is the sudden availability of images, the kind that were under publication ban during the Bernardo case, with which he was involved.

"I find it ironic,” he says. “I remember back in 1995, in doing Bernardo, the media were ravenous to get visual images. They set up this whole scaffolding system for all the media down there because OJ was going on at the time.

“Everyone overlooked the fact that you couldn’t have cameras in the court (in Canada). They had no visuals for their news stories and they couldn’t get them because of publication bans, because it was a trial. Now there’s a glut of visual information (with the release of photographic evidence in the Williams case) and the media is not sure what to do with it. There’s great controversy over how much should be released. Suddenly you’ve got the images you’ve wanted, but you’re not really sure how to present them in a way that’s respectful of everyone’s interest.”

But, as Young notes, the Bernardo case was a trial – not what was, essentially for Williams, a sentencing hearing. The rules were different.

  • James Morton, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the Russell Williams trial on Brantford’s AM1380 Radio Oct. 22.

UN asks countries to put out their welcome mats for refugees

“We talk about burden sharing and it’s a total fraud,” said refugee expert Howard Adelman, in the Toronto Star Oct. 23 insisting that Western countries aren’t doing nearly enough to help [accept refugees].

Adelman is professor emeritus of philosophy in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and founder of its Centre for Refugee Studies. He insists repatriation is not an option for many refugees. “You’ve got to give up this empty cant that the best solution for most refugees is to return them to their homes. It’s meaningless and it’s not true,” he says, adding that’s especially the case with victims of “ethnic cleansing,” where opposing groups attempt to destroy or at least force out people of a different ethnic group, as occurred in Darfur and the former Yugoslavia.

Adelman argues developed countries could take in almost all of the 10.4 million under UNHCR’s responsibility within several years if they had the political will. (A separate UN agency, UNRWA, is responsible for 4.5 million Palestinian refugees.)

[In response to a suggestion that refugees can often become militants] Adelman notes it’s the opposite, people turned into “quasi zombies” by prolonged stays in camps. It’s a form of warehousing, he argues, “benign indifference covered over by humanitarianism.”

“We have to say: ‘No, you can’t put people in warehouses,’” he says. “It’s immoral. It’s the most horrifying thing we do in this world, next to genocide.”

BHP’s Potash bid puts pro-business Ottawa to test

Canada’s Conservative government will put its pro-business reputation on the line when it decides whether to let a foreign firm buy up resource giant PotashCorp – and Ottawa will win enemies whichever way it turns, wrote Reuters Oct. 22.

Critics have noted management and labour problems at other resource firms taken over by foreigners, wrote Reuters. “Why would we allow (PotashCorp) to be sold?… My betting would be that (the bid) is going to be denied federally,” James Gillies, professor emeritus at in the Schulich School of Business at York University, told BNN-TV.

  • Bill Dimma, honorary governor of York’s Board of Governors and chair emeritus of Home Capital Group Inc., and James Gillies, professor emeritus in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the impending sale of Saskatchewan’s PotashCorp on BNN-TV Oct. 22.

Counting the costs: financing an executive EMBA

Studying for an executive MBA is not just about keeping your business skills up to date – these days it is crucial your passport is current too, wrote FT.com Oct. 2. Over the years, a range of global EMBAs have surfaced, enabling students to study abroad for a period: tuition fees typically cover flights, accommodation, cultural events, meals and course materials. But, with some fees costing a hefty six-figure sum, who covers the expense? In an age of austerity, no one wants to be overseas and overdrawn.

Su-Lan Tenn, program director of the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA at York University in Toronto, says more students were sponsored by their employers before the financial crisis: “We have seen a decrease in…company sponsorship, albeit slight.” Tenn adds that some are willing to invest their own money – including those who want a career change and fund themselves to avoid being beholden to a company.

With a tuition fee of C$110,000 for 2011-2012, self-funding can be a huge undertaking. Before applying for the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA, checks are made in a pre-application interview to ensure applicants can cope with the financial commitment. However, students can take a leave of absence while they resolve any financial difficulties, provided they are in good academic standing.

Flyways and byways

Migrating birds often travel at amazing speeds. In a recent study conducted by researchers at York University in Toronto, wood thrushes and purple martins fitted with tiny geolocators flew more than 300 miles a day from Pennsylvania to their winter destination in South America, wrote Virginia’s Richmond Times Dispatch Oct. 23. The researchers found that birds heading north travel even faster to reach their breeding grounds.

For example, one purple martin took 43 days to reach Brazil during fall migration, but in spring it returned to its breeding colony in just 13 days.

Nelson family brings show close to home

The magical Nelson family of Bensalem will bring their “Nelson Illusions Smoke and Mystery Tour” to the Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township for four shows starting Friday, wrote Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Courier Times Oct. 25.

Jeff Nelson (BA Spec. Hons. ’79), his wife, Lynn (BFA ’77), and daughter, Sharii, 17, live in the Creekside Apartments in Bensalem and have been performing together since Sharii – who is home schooled – was 8.

Before that, it was Jeff and Lynn, who have made a full-time living from performing – mostly magic – since both graduated from York University. They even did shows together in college.

“It started for me when I was 5 and saw a magician perform,” said Jeff Nelson, who grew up near Buffalo, NY. “I just fell in love with the idea you weren’t limited in what you could think of or try,” he continued. “It was beautiful. Lynn and I started doing shows together after we met at the university and it eventually got into illusions.”

He said the troupe does about 100 shows a year all around the country and has performed as far away as China.

Art of the matter

Cassian Lau (BFA Spec. Hons. ’92) says he’s not in it for the money. The 39-year-old artist just wants to make people happy, wrote Hong Kong’s The Standard Oct. 22. “My goal is very simple. I just want my viewer to smile a bit more and think a bit more,” says the Hong Kong-born Chinese-Canadian, who took his degree in fine arts at York University in Toronto.

His colorful, almost childlike art is featured in his latest exhibition, Anybody Left Under Lion Rock? “The title comes from an old TV show from the 1970s. The Lion Rock people basically means the grassroots people, who weren’t that rich, who, for example, worked at a dai pai dong,” Lau says. “Not many appreciate the rich cultural history from the ’70s and ’80s so it will bring back memories precious to our cultural identity.”

In his trademark black fedora, Lau looks like an artist. He lives and breathes the particular collection he’s working on, regularly putting in 10-hour days until satisfied with the outer reflection of his inner thoughts. “I can’t stop making art,” he confesses.

Having run a modestly successful clothing retail shop as well as a wholesale business along with his wife, Lau made the switch to his dream of creating art full-time three years ago because he felt like he “wasn’t contributing enough to society.”

Now, living on savings and the proceeds of his artwork (he was commissioned to do a series of paintings for Wan Chai District Council last year), he regards his sacrifice as that of a consummate artist. “I’m living hand-to- mouth,” he says with a laugh.

“Anybody Left Under Lion Rock?” is on display at the OC Gallery at Olympian City until November 1.

Heady homecoming

Mackenzie Micks has had Oct. 30 circled on his calendar for months, wrote the Orillia Packet & Times Oct. 23. “I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since I heard we’re coming to Orillia,” said Micks, a second-year forward with the York University Lions, who will clash with the rival Lakehead University Thunderwolves next Saturday night.

An Orillia native who starred with the now-defunct Orillia Terriers, Micks is now a key player with the Lions, who currently have a 2-2 record in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) action. Micks and the Lions know the Orillia date is a key one for the up-and-coming team.

Micks admits it’s been a big adjustment stepping from Tier II Jr. hockey to the CIS ranks, where many players are quite a bit older, more experienced and faster. “I think the biggest adjustment – besides trying to keep up my grades and having to go to school – is the speed,” said Micks, 22. “Everything happens so much faster. You don’t have a lot of time. And if you take too much time, you get hammered.”

Lions coach Jim Wells said Micks has adapted quickly to the university game and, as a second-year player, is starting to be counted on more and more. “Mackenzie is a real catalyst on and off the ice and is a major part of this team moving forward,” said Wells, who recruited Micks before he even officially took over behind the bench last year. “His character and his ability speak for itself.”

Micks, a second-year kinesiology and health science student, was named the York University athlete of the week earlier this season after recording two goals and two assists in a two-game sweep of the University of Windsor.

On air

  • Comments by Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, about George Smitherman’s decision not to reveal his list of campaign contributors, were featured on Toronto’s AM640 and Q107 Radio Oct. 22.
  • Lisa Sandlos, doctoral candidate in women’s studies in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, spoke about increasingly sexual dance styles for young children, on Global Television Oct. 22.
  • Bernie Wolf, professor of economics in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the federal government’s management of the Canadian econcomy on CPAC-TV’s “Goldhawk Live” Oct. 24.