Canada budget rebuff sets up election

Canadians may face their fourth federal election in seven years as early as May, after opposition parties said they wouldn’t back Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s fiscal plan, wrote Bloomberg News March 23.

Opposition lawmakers are seeking to benefit from what they say have been ethics violations by Harper’s administration. “The opposition parties are going to talk about contempt of Parliament and ethics” to weaken the government’s position, said Robert Drummond, a political scientist at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. The Conservatives “are going to want to talk about their economic record.”

The healing arts

Is it really such a stretch to think of art as a sort of medicine, or at least as a healing tool that can literally affect our health? wrote the Ottawa Citizen March 23.

That’s how art is used by Sarah Flicker, a professor in [the Faculty of Environmental Studies] at York University, who studies HIV prevention in aboriginal communities across Canada and uses art to get the interest of young natives.

Flicker is one of three professors who will be a part of "Café Scientifique," a public roundtable of sorts that will consider how the arts are being used in health programs these days.

Flicker starts by telling me that aboriginals represent three per cent of Canada’s population, but have nine per cent of HIV infections – and at a younger age. Flicker’s project is to find ways of having a meaningful conversation about HIV with young natives. Problem is, some native communities are not interested in "traditional research methods."

"What’s incredible is how the themes have resonated from one community to another."

They resonated so well that the art of some communities is used in others to get the health message across – such as a hip-hop song composed by young natives in Kettle Creek, near Sarnia. Another group made a stop-motion film, using photography to show how HIV was affecting their community.

"It’s in their words that art is healing," Flicker says. "The idea is to make health research accessible to the public."

Pitch made for universal pharmacare program

Of great interest to members of the Ontario Society Coalition of Senior Citizens, was to learn first-hand from keynote speaker, Dr. Joel Lexchin, about issues and trends in pharmacare that impact seniors, wrote Kenora’s Daily Miner & News March 22. Lexchin is with the School of Health Policy & Management at York University [Faculty of Health] and also a practicing physician.

"Too many people are under insured, or not at all, and in Canada four million have no insurance,” said Lexchin. “They are the ones who are at the lower end of the economic spectrum. There was a better drug coverage plan in place back in 2006 but this came and went’ as the Harper government lost interest in expanding drug coverage," he added.

How to pay for universal Pharmacare was discussed. "Is it our tax dollars, co-pay or user fees?"

Lexchin said he opted for spending through public dollars, but not all at once. "Phase it in, and it should work. This requires federal leadership and provincial administration. It will mean a lot of action by the people, especially seniors, to make sure this message gets through."

Halton Catholic board committee rejects gay-straight alliances

Meanwhile, the Toronto Catholic District School Board has cancelled a symposium scheduled for Saturday, as well as a subsequent public session March 30, to discuss its draft equity and inclusive policy – even though invitations have already been sent out, wrote the Toronto Star blog March 23.

Board spokesperson Emmy Milne said the change was due to scheduling difficulties; both events will be rescheduled but no dates have been set. However, some Catholic community members were upset over speaker Chris D’Souza, a well-regarded expert in equity education who has spoken to many boards – including Catholic ones.

D’Souza was the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board’s equity and diversity officer and is now a course director with York University’s Faculty of Education.

He said his talks don’t cover same-sex marriage, as [an] online magazine states, but that his message is clear: “Every child has a right to get an education in Ontario, free of any form of bias, harassment, bullying…. My stance, very firmly, is that in publicly funded education, educators must welcome and value all their students.”

You say Spa-deenah, we say Spa-dinah

Some people think the TTC robo-announcer’s way of saying Spa-deenah is correct, and the rest of us who say Spa-dinah are wrong, wrote Toronto Star columnist Jack Lakey March 22, in a column about the debate over how the street and historic home’s names should be pronounced.

“It is true that language changes according to use,” said Amy Lavender Harris, an author and geography teacher at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. “But the Star does a disservice to Toronto’s history when it labels Spa-deenah an incorrect pronunciation.”

Award-winning Mariposa magazine drew on York archives for material

Orillia Today‘s commemorative magazine, ’50 Years of Mariposa’, has been honoured by Suburban Newspapers of America (SNA).

The publication traces the history of the event, with rare interviews from folk music legends like Pete Seeger, John Hammond, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Maria Muldaur. It incorporates many photographs that have never been seen before, depicting performers like Joni Mitchell, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Son House and Bruce Cockburn, among others, sourced largely from a private collection and the festival archives at York University [Clara  Thomas Archives & Special Collections].

Social media teachers, students learn together

At Langara College, Alex Samur [MA ’07] teaches the college’s first online-journalism class, wrote Vancouver, BC’s Georgia Straight March 22. She has a master’s degree in communication & culture and wrote her thesis about online community activism. By the time she’d graduated from York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] a few years ago, though, she’d been offered just one course in Web 2.0—on blogging and virtual worlds. Facebook and Twitter were then what Foursquare is now.

“I’d say I’m self-taught in social media,” Samur told the Straight in a phone interview from Langara.

As managing editor of the early-adapting progressive news site Rabble, Samur reflected, she’s learned a lot. “The technical stuff is evolving, so the important thing is being open to communicating via the networks and being open to new technology in general,” she said.

Samur noted her class has students who are already social-media experts. But some students started out with no idea what Twitter is.

Apartheid week motion deferred by Markham council

A motion to condemn Israeli Apartheid Week activities on university and college campuses will undergo further editing before it will get Markham council’s thumbs up or down, wrote March 22.

After devoting more than two hours to dealing with a revised motion, which steered clear of singling out York University’s Israeli Apartheid Week, the town’s general committee voted Monday to defer the issue until next month.

Mayor Frank Scarpitti said the town has a “terrific and amazing” relationship with York University – one he wouldn’t want to jeopardize by mentioning the University in the motion. He said it would be appropriate to take additional time to review the information and have further dialogue with the University.

Howard Shore [BA ’86], who called Israel “the democracy in the Middle East”, said council has an obligation to stand by the Jewish community. “Sometimes, people have an obligation to influence their best friend,” Shore said, alluding to York University, of which he’s an alumnus.

However, the mayor said he is not sure to what extent the University can police an event organized by students. “That’s where I have the issue,” Scarpitti said.

Despite having been called antisemitic, Deidre Kavanagh [MES ’04, BA Hons. ’05], a recent graduate of York University, said she supports Israeli Apartheid Week and urged councillors to reject Shore’s motion. “I’m not antisemitic,” she said. “The world needs more dialogue not silence.”

NDP nominates Osgoode grad

The Bramalea-Gore-Malton NDP riding association has nominated Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal [LLB ’05] as its candidate for the next federal election, wrote The Mississauga News March 22.

“I’m looking forward to officially launching my campaign and getting to work,” Singh told supporters following the nomination meeting on Saturday.

A Mississauga resident, Singh, 32, graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School and practises criminal law in the Greater Toronto Area.

On air

  • Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the latest list of trips by MPs presented by the Canadian Commissioner for Conflict of Interest & Ethics, on Radio Canada International’s “The Link” March 22.