FES prof says study of urban growth raises important questions

York University environmental studies Professor Mark Winfield of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, who sits on a provincial smart growth advisory panel and studies urban sustainability, said the Star’s analysis – the first of its kind – raises important questions about how the 2006 Places to Grow plan is playing out, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 15, in a story about growth plans recently unveiled by the GTA’s four regions and 25 municipalities, and Ontario’s Places to Grow scheme to curb urban sprawl.

“On the surface, (the plan) may have given municipalities too much flexibility and enabled some of them to deviate less from the traditional path than the plan sought to and they needed to,” said Winfield. “You’ve got some strong responses in places like Markham. Toronto itself has stepped up. But in other places the response is somewhat weaker,” he said, after poring over the Star’s numbers. “Mississauga is quite striking. You clearly have leaders thinking in a more ambitious and creative way, and you have others who are basically wedded to the sprawl model and trying to respond to the province within that framework.”

Brampton, Winfield points out, pre-empted the growth plan by designating the entire area inside its city limits for urban expansion – including vast stretches of farmland – so it wouldn’t have to justify allowing new growth outside what’s termed the “urban boundary.”

Winfield said the province still needs to do a deeper analysis that looks at what’s happening across the GTA: not just the densities being planned, but also the population allocations and the kind of communities being planned.

He says it’s time to assess the impact of the province’s massive interventions in regional planning, including creating the Greenbelt – which made a huge swath a no-go zone for developers – and Places to Grow, which oversees what’s left.

Sri Lanka floods provide chance for government, Tamil reconciliation

The 2004 tsunami presented the government in Colombo, then at war with the separatist Tamils, with a similar opportunity to repair relations. But the initial goodwill quickly broke down into squabbles over the spoils of foreign aid and unequal restrictions on beachfront redevelopment, wrote staff writer Ben Arnoldy in the Christian Science Monitor Jan. 14.

As this latest disaster unfolds, Colombo has won the war. But in the eyes of many Tamils and foreign governments, Colombo has yet to win the peace. The flooding disaster, if handled well, could help repair the decades of distrust.

“This has been a part of the world which has been hit so hard,” says Jennifer Hyndman, a social science professor in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and a resident faculty member at York’s Centre for Refugee Studies. “I think the government has a chance to impress the people affected by this disaster as well as much of the world and prove it is not dispossessing its Tamil people.”

Divisions between the government and the Tamil separatists in the wake of the tsunami contributed to the dismantling of a ceasefire agreement, says Hyndman, a researcher whose forthcoming book, Dual Disasters, looks at how tsunami relief impacted conflicts in Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

This time, there’s another chance for peacebuilding, she says. “My hope is they will go in and build some precarious ground for trust.”

  • In the wake of the recent floods in parts of the country, many political observers are of the opinion that the Sri Lankan government could improve its image damaged by war crimes allegations, by undertaking reconciliation measures for the safety of the Tamil minorities in the country, wrote a number of Indian newspapers Jan. 15 in stories about the Christian Science Monitor‘s coverage.

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Jennifer Hyndman, a resident faculty member in York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, as saying that although the Sri Lankan Government had won its fight against the the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), it [has] yet to establish peace in the country. She believes that handling the flood disaster could help repair the decades of mistrust between the minority and the government, according to the stories.

  • The article’s author, Ben Arnoldy, quotes Hyndman as saying that although post-tsunami "reconciliation" between the Government and the LTTE failed, this is a second chance, wrote a columnist for Sri Lanka’s Daily News Jan. 17.

Both Ben and Jeniffer [sic] are clearly living in cloud cuckoo land and their assertions make the Christian Science Monitor and York University respectively the laughingstock of anyone who has more than a second-grader’s knowledge of Sri Lanka, wrote the columnist. I don’t blame them. Their careless conflations are derived from an uncritical acceptance of a pernicious misleader. [Sri Lankan peace advocate] Jehan Perera.

Quote him as authority and guess what happens? Well, you turn yourself into a clown. I think both the Christian Science Monitor and York University deserve better.

Making time for dance

York grad Sarah Douglas (BFA Spec. Hons. ’09) is passionate about politics and dance, wrote Halifax’s The Chronicle-Herald Jan. 15. “I’d love to marry the two but time will tell,” says the 23-year old dancer-choreographer and constituency assistant for MLA Andrew Younger.

Time – of which she has little – is the subject of her new dance piece, “A Lumine Motus”, which is Latin for moved by light. “I’m looking at how conventional calculations of time relate to internal and biological senses of time,” she says.

When Douglas studied dance for her bachelor of fine arts in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts she became fascinated with modern dance and choreographing in modern dance. “I think it’s a fantastic creative outlet that doesn’t compare to anything else for me. It was like this whole new world opened up for me and the endless possibilities are enticing and exciting…. As soon as I graduated, that’s what I knew I wanted to do but it took me a while to figure out how to do that in Halifax. I’ve had some growing pains.”

York grad exhibits at Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art

In the face of the global resource shift, Geoffrey PugensSahara Sahara depicts speculative pre-apocalyptic myth-making, wrote the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in New York’s e-flux online newsletter Jan. 17. The two-channel video follows a small organized group of misfits that are vandalizing local technologies and the fossil fuel industry. Cinematic and absurd, the video occupies the heist, action and dance genres to seductively address machismo and the recent economic crisis.

A film & video graduate of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and the Ontario College of Art & Design, Pugen (MFA ’10) specializes in photography and video, and shows internationally. With theatrical absurdity, he explores the relationship between the real and the perceived, the natural and the virtual, man and animal; all through altering and manipulating media. Insightful, yet humorous, Geoffrey asks us to question what we think we know, society’s perceptions of us and our preconceived notion of self through fictitious construct.

Dance professor sees the work behind Shen Yun

While many who attended the Shen Yun Performing Arts performance on Friday left the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts impressed, the trained eye of dance professor Norma Sue Fisher-Stitt saw more than the bright colours and beautiful dancing, wrote the Epoch Times Jan. 14.

“They’re all very, very well trained and lovely performers. They’re outstanding,” she said during the intermission. “When you’ve seen a lot of dance you can really pick up on when something is done with a lot of precision and when its done with a good understanding of what it is you are trying to do and that you operate always at a very high skill level every time, so it’s not hit and miss; every performance is very solid and every number is very well done…. They obviously have a real joy in what they’re doing, and that’s what’s important, is the joy of the dance.”

A graduate of Canada’s National Ballet School, Fisher-Stitt danced with the National Ballet of Canada for four years before attending York University.

Currently a professor of dance at York University, she has in the past served as chair of the Department of Dance, associate dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and associate dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

She is currently associate vice-president, Academic Learning Initiatives at York University.

Limited gallery resources won’t stop York grad from dreaming

Ideas flow from Catharine Mastin (BA Spec. Hons. ‘86, MA ‘88) like an artist at her canvas, wrote The Windsor Star Jan. 15. But she doesn’t just paint pretty pictures of her plans as the new director of the Art Gallery of Windsor. Job 1 is protecting the legacy of the permanent collection for future generations.

After graduating with a bachelor of fine arts from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Mastin worked as a programmer and educator at both the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg and at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She added, in 1988, a master’s degree from York in art history and architecture.

She has credentials to burn, and if that weren’t enough, Mastin is also the granddaughter of Group of Seven co-founder Franklin Carmichael. She has given lectures on his art around the country.

Fine arts grad receives high award from India

A prominent member of Mississauga’s South Asian arts community, York grad Lata Pada (MA ’96) has received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award – India’s highest honour for overseas Indians, wrote The Mississauga News Jan. 14.

Pada was recognized for her contributions to the promotion of Indian dance in Canada as well as for her role in pressing for an inquiry into the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182.

The ceremony last Sunday in New Delhi was hosted by the president of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

“My life’s work has been committed to showcasing the richness, complexity and beauty of classical dance with the highest standard for all audiences. The loss of my family in the 1985 Air India terrorist bombing compelled me to advocate for anti-terrorism legislation and I will continue to do what I can to prevent such acts from happening again,” she said in a statement.

First Person: Life of a beauty pageant contestant

I never dreamed of becoming a beauty queen, wrote York grad Hazel Lorraine (BA ’02), in a first-person article for Yahoo News Jan 14. But when opportunity knocks, sometimes you have to open the door and let it in.

In 2002, I had just finished my bachelor’s degree in psychology and communications at York University. At the time, I worked as a model in Toronto when one of my trainers phoned to tell me about the audition for Miss Universe Canada. At first, I was shocked; I never thought of myself as beauty queen material – after all, I am only 5-foot-2…. But I decided to try my luck.

I didn’t make the top 10, however. But I did receive a prize for “Most Improved Delegate.” (It was so loud on stage, I didn’t hear the host tell me I’d won this award; instead, I froze with the spotlight on me.)

The award in itself was a great achievement, so even if I didn’t make the finals, I was grateful to the Miss Universe Organization for giving me this opportunity. I still apply pageant lessons in my life today (including overcoming a fear of public speaking).

On air

  • Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the need for a coordinated world plan in case earth is contacted by aliens, on Kitchener’s 570News Radio Jan. 14.
  • Debra Pepler, Distinguished Research Professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health and the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, spoke about the suicide of 16 children in the UK, on CBC Radio’s “Ideas” Jan. 14.
  • Briana  Sim, liaison coordinator of York’s Bridging Program for Internationally Educated Professionals, spoke about career tips for foreign professionals, on CBC TV Toronto, Jan. 14.
  • Michael Jenkin, computer science & engineering professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the Aqua robot project, on Discovery TV’s “Daily Planet” Jan. 14.