First Nation people’s rights compromised, writes Osgoode prof

The cumulative impact of the relentless release of pollutants into the air from Canada’s "Chemical Valley" affects the members of Aamjiwnaang in a way that is fundamentally unfair, and is now argued to be unconstitutional, wrote Dayna Nadine Scott, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and co-director of the National Network on Environments & Women’s Health in The Sarnia Observer Nov. 8.

The mantra of the environmental justice movement that “some of us live more downstream than others” is a stark and obvious truth in the Chemical Valley. This area houses one of Canada’s largest concentrations of industry, including several large petrochemical, polymer and chemical industrial plants, as well as coal-fired utilities on both sides of the border.

When we consider this pollution and its effects on the health of residents in the context of their status as First Nations people on the reserve, then the violation of their constitutional rights comes into sharp relief.

The First Nation is tied to the land, confined to a small portion of their traditional territory. To this legacy of colonialism, they add the legacy of a century of petrochemical production. That they should be expected to endure these threats to their well-being, perpetuated by the ministry’s failure to enact an effective, health-protective air pollution regime, is unconscionable. That they should be forced to choose between subjecting themselves and their families to these risks or leaving the reserve at great social, economic and cultural cost, demonstrates that their equality rights are clearly infringed.

Climate change prosperity or disparity?

As Timothy Leduc of York University notes in his work Climate, Culture, Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North (forthcoming from University of Ottawa Press), economic approaches accenting prosperity are appealing because they can allow us to sidestep the “deep soul-searching” necessary to change from a profligate fossil-fuel-based economy to a sustainable one, wrote Stephen Bede Scharper in the Toronto Star Nov. 8. Bede Scarper, a professor at the University of Toronto, was writing about Climate Refugees: The Human Face of Climate Change, which kicks off Amnesty International’s Fifth Annual “Reel Awareness” Film Festival Nov. 18 at the National Film Board (NFB) Cinema in Toronto.

Convicted woman’s case at heart of debate over evidence

Evidence that might help Amina Chaudhary establish her innocence is missing, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 6. The evidence is autopsy photographs of eight-year-old [1982 murder victim] Rajesh Gupta’s skull have not been seen since 1984, when pathologist Charles Smith testified about them at Chaudhary’s trial.

Lawyers for a chapter of the Innocence Project at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School are seeking a broad judicial order next month that would compel the Crown to retain all murder exhibits unless an inmate has approved their destruction. The application does not seek to exonerate Chaudhary but uses her case as an illustration of why the retention of evidence is vital.

The lawyer spearheading the application, York law Professor Alan Young, argued in a legal brief that police and the Crown have always treated trial evidence as a possession they can either archive or dispose of once a trial is over. He said the Innocence Project has had to abandon seven cases in the past 13 years simply because potentially significant evidence could not be found.

“In wrongful conviction work, you have to go beneath the surface because there was obviously enough evidence at the trial to convict,” Young said in an interview. “I have found it enormously frustrating to be given the runaround over the past 15 years. In the digital era, I find it astonishing that there is so much confusion over storage of items and people don’t know where exhibits are.”

The Innocence Project is proposing that evidence be destroyed if a defendant states that he had no interest in it being retained. A formal court order would be made to reflect that.

Canadian schools head to India to recruit students

York University’s Schulich School of Business in January started a joint master of business administration degree program with Mumbai’s S.P. Jain Institute of Management Research, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 7 in a story about a trip to India by a delegation from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Schulich also has plans to build an independent campus in Hyderabad with the GMR Group, a consortium of mostly real estate and construction companies.

  • Before long, hundreds of thousands of Indian students will fan out across the globe in search of the best higher education. Unless something changes, many won’t think twice about Canada, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 5.

Individual Canadian universities have long sent representatives to India, but even as York University prepares to open one of the country’s first foreign campuses, those visits have yet to leave an indelible maple-leaf mark.

Is it a bird? A plane? Sarnian snaps UFO images

A series of recent UFO sightings in the skies over Sarnia are more likely pieces of meteors falling to Earth than little green men out for an evening flight, wrote The Sarnia Observer Nov. 6.

So says astronomer Paul Delaney, director of York University’s Natural Sciences Division in the Faculty of Science & Engineering.

Meteors, the international space station and debris falling from space are among the likely explanations for reported UFO sightings over Sarnia last month, he said. “We’re being bombarded every day from space,” Delaney said. “The Earth picks up nearly a 100 kilograms of material every single day from impacts. Those vary from just grains of stuff just sifting into the atmosphere to much larger pieces that are potentially metres in diameter.”

Tactics ‘out of whack’ with threat to police

Drunk driver Hafeez Mohamed was pinned under two officers, face down on the ground when Durham Region Constable Prasanth Tella slammed a fist into his head, neck and shoulder at least seven times, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 6.

Within hours one of Mohamed’s eyes swelled shut and golf-ball-sized bumps protruded above both eyes. He had “facial fractures,” spent many days in a coma during a 57-day stay in intensive care, and a tracheotomy had to be performed on his throat so he could breathe. The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which was six days late in starting its probe, cleared the officers.

Alan Young, a criminal law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who is not involved in the case, said police beatings are abuses of power. “The whole idea of having police officers is so you don’t have vigilante justice,” he said. “It’s an enormously difficult job, policing, but that’s why we have highly trained police and don’t leave law enforcement to private citizens.”

Dorland pushes the limits of painting

Mike Weiss Gallery presents New Material, Kim Dorland’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, wrote  Nov. 7. Consisting of paintings, watercolours, assemblage on paper and taxidermy animals, New Material pushes the limits of painting to visually narrate Dorland’s experience growing up in rural Canada. In his most ambitious work to date, Dorland continues his emphatic exploration of materiality through thick layering of paint, wood, feathers, fur and glitter.

Dorland (MFA ’03) was born in Wainwright, Alta. and currently lives and works in Toronto. He attended the Emily Carr Institute of Art and received his master’s degree from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Getting T&T women up and moving

If York grad Kameela Ramsubeik (BSc Spec.  Hons.’03) had a mantra for her clients, it would be, “Get off your butt,” wrote the Trinidad Guardian Nov. 7. The 35-year-old kinesiologist and nutritional consultant is a walking billboard for her own services, as she barely looks 25. She’s trim and fit, and her skin and eyes have the kind of glow you can’t buy at the cosmetics counter.

At her practice at [Trinidad & Tobago’s] Long Circular Club, she attends to clients of all ages, fitness levels and lifestyles.

She says women seem more likely than men to take the wrong approach to their fitness. While men are more clinical, reading up on different training programmes and techniques, women listen to their friends and share tips. They think if something works for their friend, it will work for them. “In essence,” Ramsubeik says, “they’re training for another woman’s body, and another woman’s lifestyle.”

McAdams’ ‘Morning’ just dawning

You’re going to be seeing a lot of Rachel McAdams, wrote the Toronto Sun Nov. 7.

McAdams, 32, has just finished filming one movie and has already begun working on the next, and there are two or three others in the pipeline that will keep her front and centre in theatres through 2012. On Wednesday, when the comedy Morning Glory opens, many are predicting that it will be the film to launch McAdams into the stratosphere.

Over the phone from Oklahoma, where she’s filming an as-yet untitled Terrence Malick movie, McAdams says she doesn’t focus too much on predictions of fame and fortune. “I’m really excited about Morning Glory and I really hope it reaches an audience and people enjoy it, because so many people put so much into it. But that’s all I’m thinking about,” she says. “I had a really great time doing it and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. That’s kind of where my head’s at with everything these days – you never know what’s really going to happen.”

Morning Glory is her only movie in 2010, but McAdams has at least three movies coming in the new year and three others the year after that. And then there’s We Bought a Zoo on the horizon, a Cameron Crowe film based on the Benjamin Mee memoir. Matt Damon has been cast as the American who moves to the UK to run a zoo, but the female lead is undecided. It has been announced that four actresses are being considered: McAdams, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Why the drop in fund price?

Morton Abramson, professor emeritus of mathematics in York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, is a former trustee of that institution’s pension fund, a former stock market letter writer and an avid investor, wrote the Financial Post Nov. 6.

Abramson is mightily concerned at recent events at FirstAsset PowerGen Fund, a fund that recently received a takeover offer from Sprott Power Corp. Abramson’s question: Why has there been a sharp drop in the fund’s net asset value?

And he has a follow-up: Why has there been no disclosure about the drop in NAV? “It should have been disclosed. They are certainly aware of the discrepancy in net asset value,” said Abramson, who has written to the fund and talked to one of its executives but not received any satisfaction. He has also written to the Ontario Securities Commission requesting their help. The OSC said it would take a few days to assess the situation before getting back to him.

On air

  • York grad Lynn Gehl (BA Hons. ‘02), spoke about Indian registration and unstated and unknown paternity in the Indian Act, on Winnipeg’s APTN-TV Nov. 5.