Would legislating gender parity work in Canada?

Even though women are entering university in greater numbers than men and now make up at least 50 per cent of the workforce in many western countries, they remain a minority at most boardroom tables, wrote the Financial Post Nov. 14. This is largely because nominating committees are still mainly made up of men who draw from an elite club also largely made up of men: CEOs.

This was one of the key themes coming out of the International Board Impact Conference in October when 120 board members, executives, investors, researchers and politicians met in Oslo to learn how Norway boosted the number of women directors in 400 of its leading companies from 6 per cent in 2002 to more than 40 per cent now since a quota has been introduced.

Richard Leblanc doesn’t buy the notion that being a CEO is the only competency necessary to be an effective board member. “Norway’s legislation should be a prompt to listed companies that we need to move in this direction,” says the professor of law, governance & ethics in York’s School of Administrative Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “There is a strong case for the decision-making effectiveness of more diverse boards. Groupthink means you vote the same way because of social connectedness. A woman who isn’t part of a specific social network will have an independent voice. And that is critical, because a good board is the sum total of each director. It is formally independent from management and psychologically independent in terms of judgment.

“When assembling a board, you have to look at specifics,” says Leblanc. “What does this company in this industry with this strategy need? At the end of the day, shareholders want the best possible board members. There is an untapped candidate pool that could be a strategic advantage. The challenge is to tap into that network.”

Is your child a bully?

There are many forms of bullying and many factors that explain why a particular child is bullying at a particular time, wrote Joanne Cummings, post-doctoral fellow in York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, in a reply to a reader’s question at Sweetspot.ca Nov.16.

The first thing to do is to educate yourself about bullying, and a great place to start is www.prevnet.ca, the Canadian network dedicated to bullying prevention, wrote Cummings.

The second thing to do is discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher. Because bullying is hidden from adults, the teacher may be unaware of an issue, but he or she is in an ideal position to observe and monitor peer group dynamics. Make plans for ongoing communication with the teacher. Make it clear that you want to work together closely (and constructively) to help your child learn positive relationship skills, such as empathy, acceptance of differences and respect for the rights of others. Find out what the school is doing about bullying and if necessary, become an advocate for school-wide prevention initiatives. Talk to the other adults in your child’s life who are in a position to observe him/her in a peer group and enlist their help in guiding your child to use social power positively.

The third thing to do is to open the lines of communication with your child about healthy and unhealthy peer relationships. If you know about your child’s involvement in a specific bullying incident, use it as a teachable moment. Try to understand how your child sees the issue. Are they minimizing the problem? Do they see their behaviour as justifiable payback? Are they trying to cope with their own painful feelings by causing pain to others? Help your child understand and appreciate how much it hurts to be on the receiving end of bullying. Ensure that your child understands that key adults will be watching closely for bullying behaviour and it will not be tolerated.

Long history of judicial social tinkering

Conrad Black observes that a "swarm of meddlesome judges … ignore the intention of the legislators and impose their own faddish and often perverse notions of social tinkering." He makes this allegation concerning Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, wrote Michael Robinson, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a letter to the National Post Nov. 16.

He picked the wrong period. In 1937, the law lords of the Privy Council of England, then Canada’s ultimate appeal court, did that in the "Labour Conventions" case. Those judges wouldn’t have understood a federal constitution if they had fallen over one, England and Scotland having had a single parliament at Westminster since 1705. So they decided that Canada could incur international obligations — sign international treaties — but if any should affect "property and civil rights" within provinces, each would have to enact their own legislation adopting them.

That case has never been overruled, wrote Robinson. This hoary old Labour Conventions case is still relevant today. Witness the position taken by Newfoundland & Labrador on its expropriation of AbitibiBowater assets in that province in 2008. Canada has agreed to pay the $130-million settlement in the NAFTA case AbitibiBowater brought. That’s because that province never signed NAFTA. (None of the provinces have.)

Premier Williams observed "that’s a cost of being a federation" when he said that his province would contribute nothing toward the settlement.

Canada is now being sued by Japan, the EU, the United States (and other countries may join in) at the WTO over Ontario’s discriminatory green energy legislation and its feed-in-tariffs. If Canada loses that claim and Ontario refuses to change this law, the WTO could decide that injured countries may retaliate against Canada, not Ontario.

Stephen Harper has said that he won’t allow another AbitibiBowater result. It remains to be seen how he can accomplish that. We may yet give our Supreme Court a crack at the Labour Conventions case.

Port filmmaker wins Gemini

For Port Colborne native Jason Gatt (BFA Spec. Hons. ‘96), all the late nights and time away from his family have paid off after the production of Fire Jammers, a documentary that follows Tom Comet and Circus Orange as they battle time and the elements to produce a pyrotechnic spectacle show known as Jump Jet, wrote Niagara This Week Nov. 15.

Gatt worked for eight weeks behind the scenes as an editor of the documentary. The creativity which led to the final product of Fire Jammers garnered Gatt a Gemini Award for Best Picture Editing in a Comedy, Variety or Performing Arts Program or Series.

“It makes me feel proud and confident,” Gatt said from his home in Toronto. “We are seldom recognized for our achievements in life, and I’m savouring every minute of it.  I would like to re-live the moment I received the award over and over again. That moment was especially great because I received it alongside a gentleman by the name of Jeff Warren, highly respected editor who gave me my very first assistant editing job after I graduated from York University.”

First Nations University of Canada appoints York prof to board

A group of nine individuals have been chosen to lead the First Nations University of Canada as the new board of governors, including Peter Homenuck, professor emeritus of environmental studies in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies and a professional planner, wrote Saskatchewan Sage online Nov. 16 . He has more than 30 years combined experience teaching at the university level and consulting with First Nations on a range of strategic, economic and environmental projects.

Aboriginal teen aims for shot at WNBA

Veteran York University women’s head coach Bill Pangos said high school basketball player Cheyenne Roger knows what to do with a basketball, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 16 in a feature on the young player.

“I saw her play, and despite her age she’s a legitimate high-end prospect,” said Pangos. “She can do a lot of nice things with a basketball. I just wouldn’t want to be playing against her.”

On air

  • Debra Pepler, distinguished research professor in psychology in York’s Faculty of Health and the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, spoke about bullying during bullying awareness week, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” Nov. 15.
  • James Gillies, professor emeritus in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about Saskatchewan’s PotashCorp, on CBC Radio Nov. 15.
  • Ian Roberge, political science professor at York’s Glendon College, spoke about a new initiative to give Ontario’s ombudsperson more power, on Radio Canada Nov. 16.
  • Paul Dennis, a sports psychologist who teaches in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, spoke about a new mentoring program in the National Hockey League, on Radio Canada Nov. 15.