Osgoode prof questions Canada’s stance in trade talks with EU

Even as Canadian and European Union negotiators sit down this week for the sixth round of free trade talks, a series of sensitive issues – both political and technical – are causing delays, wrote Embassy, Canada’s foreign policy newspaper, Jan. 19.

A Canadian request for inclusion of a dispute settlement mechanism, similar to NAFTA’s controversial Chapter 11, is stalling part of the talks, as the European Commission must obtain an extended negotiating mandate from member states.

Gus Van Harten, professor of international investment law in York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said he was “scratching his head” trying to understand why Canada would be pushing for such a provision, since “it is quite likely we will see a significant number of claims by European companies seeking to challenge often legitimate regulatory measures on the part of the governments.”

Furthermore, Van Harten said that out of 15 finalized cases Canadian investors brought around the world, none ended with compensations.

Lessons on disaster management from Haiti

One of the country’s leading academics has said that there are valuable lessons to be learned on disaster management and mitigation from Haiti, wrote the North American online edition of Jamaica’s The Gleaner in its issue dated Jan. 25.

Ali Asgary, professor in York’s School of Administrative Studies and director of the graduate program in Disaster & Emergency Management at York, said representatives of non-governmental organizations, government officials and others who went to Haiti in the weeks and months following the initial disaster met at York University to discuss what the emergency management sector has learned from the tragedy and how risk reduction strategies can be improved based on these lessons.

“These events are going to be repeated if we really don’t plan for mitigation; if we don’t enforce our building codes. First of all, we should have them. After that, the implementation is an important aspect,” said Asgary.

He further said countries in the Caribbean should come together to discuss whether they are ready to deal with disasters like this in the future. “All these cities are on the same geological structure. They would face the same issues,” he said.

“I think the Haitian redevelopment and reconstruction cannot be done by Haiti only, but it is necessary and important that countries in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic come together and do something to help Haiti recover,” said Asgary.

An Islamic republic’s un-Islamic blasphemy laws

What is apparent today is that while the anti-blasphemy laws [in Pakistan] may once have succeeded in upholding the honour of the Prophet, those same laws have become little more than tools for personal revenge and state-sanctioned persecution of religious minorities, wrote Mohsina Islam, a student in the Professional Writing program in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in the National Post’s religion blog “Holy Post” Jan. 18.

Over the years, numerous Pakistanis have exploited the anti-blasphemy laws by turning in neighbours who may have spoken ill of them or landlords who may have forcefully requested overdue rent. For religious minorities like Hindus, Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, the blasphemy laws have carried heavy penalties. Dozens of minorities have died innocent deaths over accusations of defiling the Koran or the Prophet. Rarely, if ever, have such accusations been taken to court, and rarely have the accused been given a fair trial.

Contrary to what the Pakistani government and many fundamentalist Muslims believe (and militantly argue), Allah has not vested the authority to punish a blasphemer in any Muslim. Therefore, Pakistan, as an Islamic Republic, should repeal the anti-blasphemy laws immediately. The Governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, should not have been killed trying to fight for repeal, and the Pope should not have had to urge Pakistan to repeal the blasphemy laws. The fact that Taseer has died trying to change the system and the Pope has enjoined Pakistan to repeal the laws should be a matter of deep shame and reason enough for a country that fancies itself an Islamic Republic to abolish laws that are wholly un-Islamic.

On air

  • Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the federal government’s new rules for home mortgages, on CBC Radio Calgary Jan. 18.