York’s dean of health featured in CBC report about peace initiative

CBC reporter Mary Wiens featured  Harvey Skinner, dean of York’s Faculty of Health, in one of a series of reports on the non-violence movement in the Middle East, that aired on CBC Radio’s "Metro Morning" March 31.  Below is a text summary from CBC News online. An audio file of the full report is available on the CBC News website.

Non-violent revolutions don’t happen overnight. It is only in the last stage – as we saw in Egypt, or in the peaceful overthrow of many governments in Eastern Europe – that they seem spontaneous – maybe even inevitable.

One place where the revolution is still very much in the making is along the fault lines between Israelis and Palestinians, where many individuals and groups, in their own way, are committed to non-violence in many different forms.

It includes a very quiet initiative by a group of Canadians. CISEPO, founded by Mount Sinai’s Dr. Arnie Noyek, is now headed by Dr. Harvey Skinner, dean of health at York University. Call them the Quiet Canadians.

The Canada International Scientific Exchange Program (CISEPO) doesn’t hold rallies, or put up posters. Instead the group holds academic meetings and publishes papers in academic journals, like The Lancet. They’ve built cooperation between these very different groups through projects with universal appeal, like an infant heath screening program.

"A lot of cooperation occurs," says Skinner. "But it occurs very quietly. If we can, as Canadians, create an umbrella for (Israeli and Palestinian) colleagues to meet and then do this again and again, it’s doing a little a lot. If you sit across a table, you find out we have more in common, especially those of us who are in health, and it can build over time, respect, trust, co-operation. And we keep doing this again and again."

"We’re building what we call a network of co-operation. Doing it quietly. Not front page in the media. Nothing’s bleeding here, right? You get a terrorist attack in the region, instantly you get press. We hold a meeting like this – quite remarkable. Not even that much interest in the press."

The audio file of the full report runs 6 minutes 27 seconds.

Drake’s writer-friends from York were behind hilarious Juno Awards skits

They got venerable news anchor Lloyd Robertson to say "Drizzy" and "homey" on camera, made viewers across Canada howl and have critics hailing this year’s Juno Awards bash as one of the best ever, wrote The Canadian Press March 31.

Surely the writers behind Sunday’s hilarious skits, which starred rapper-host Drake, are veterans who’ve worked on scores of shows, right?

Turns out the three main scribes – York students Mazin Elsadig, Jonathan Malen and Al Mukadam – are up-and-comers, aged 25 and under, who’d never written for a show as big as the Junos.

Insight Productions hired the trio, who make up Toronto-based BAMN Productions (By Any Means Necessary Productions), about a month ago on the recommendation of Aubrey (Drake) Graham, their old high-school pal with whom they’d already acted, written, produced and directed.

"One of the producers, Louise Wood, we sat down with her and Aubrey was the one who reached out to her and told her: ‘I’d love these guys to be my writing team,’" Elsadig, 23, said in an interview this week. "I think a lot of people were urging him to initially hire experienced writers, people who had written for variety shows," added Elsadig. "And I think he felt like he really wanted someone to get it right for him."

Elsadig was even in the opening skit for Sunday’s broadcast, which CTV says was the most-watched Juno Awards on record with 2.4 million viewers. He played Kevion, a flippant stage manager who chatted with Drake backstage before the show began.

Mukaddam, 25, directed and Malen, 23, produced the skits, which have landed tens of thousands of hits on YouTube.

Insight gave them "free rein" to do what they wanted, as long as they got the proper clearances, they said. "We wrote as in ‘the sky’s the limit,’" said Elsadig, who has also acted on "Degrassi" and attends York University (he even had a paper due the day after the Junos). "That was our way of thinking, and when you write like that…there are so many possibilities."

York U residences race to cut energy

Students living in York University residences have less energy. And that’s a good thing, wrote InsideToronto.com March 31.

The University has just completed its third annual Res Race to Zero, which challenges students in residence to cut their energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint from March 1 to 28.

Winning the challenge this year were students at Wood residence at Glendon College at Bayview and Lawrence avenues. They reduced their energy consumption by 13.4 per cent over last year.

Wood students will get $2,000 to donate to the environmental initiative of their choice.

Since the first year the race was introduced, energy use at the University’s residences during the month of March has gone down 30 per cent.

Meanwhile, energy consumption at Calumet residence at the main campus on Keele Street south of Steeles Avenue dropped by 17 per cent during Earth Hour from 8:30 to 9:30pm on March 26.

By comparison, Toronto’s energy use decreased five per cent during Earth Hour. That’s the same amount York’s residences combined reduced their energy consumption during the 60-minute event.

"As a whole, we did as good as Toronto, but some residences did better," said Pavel Graymason, residence life coordinator for Pond Road residence.  "We’re definitely making an impact."

When the University was looking for green initiatives, Graymason came up with the idea of Res Race to Zero as a fun way of engaging students in energy conservation.  "My personal passion is for the environment. I did my master’s (degree) in environmental studies," he said.

"The idea was to have a competition to save energy, but it would be about (student) behaviour change rather than retrofitting (the residences)."

Cassandra Brennan, residence environmental ambassador of Bethune residence, said the competition is a way to capture students’ attention. "The Res Race to Zero is so great because it heightens the sense of awareness within the residence community of the impact we have on our environment," she said. "This year, if I can change even one person’s habits, making them consistently aware of the more sustainable options out there, I will have achieved my goal."

Schulich grad wins Horatio Alger Association International Award

Scotiabank today congratulates President and CEO Rick Waugh [MBA ’74, Hon. LLD ’07] on his selection for a Horatio Alger Association International Award, wrote The Globe and Mail’s Globe Advisor March 31. In receiving this recognition, Waugh is announcing that he plans to develop a scholarship program in Canada based on the ideals of the Horatio Alger Association.

Waugh says he is honoured to receive the Horatio Alger Association’s International Award, and he hopes to bring some of this award home to Canada. "A solid education was an important factor in my success. We have an exceptional education system in Canada and I believe that scholarships could give determined young people access to the tools they need both to succeed and to contribute to our society."

Waugh earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce (with honours) [University of Manitoba], and then earned a master’s degree in business administration at [the Schulich School of Business at York University], which he attended at night school while working full-time at Scotiabank.

T-Bird enthusiast’s collection grows with home improvements

Ford Thunderbird enthusiast Barry Carson [BA ’85] reacted to our first meeting by turning a whiter shade of pale, then a sort of 1960s’ Jaguar light willow green, wrote automotive reporter Bob English in The Globe and Mail April 1.

I’d thoughtlessly taken him for a considerably quicker than brisk, first-thing-in-the-morning wake-up ride on the test circuit at last fall’s AJAC TestFest – in a 525-hp Audi R8 Spyder.

And it turns out that classic Thunderbird guys tend to be more cruising than cruise-missile oriented. It was also his first time on a track. Oops.

Carson and wife Paula obviously have their marital quid-pro-quo thing firing smoothly on all cylinders though, as his current T-Bird, a 1965 version, apparently "cost" him a redecorated family room when he purchased it four years ago.

Carson, now 48, was born and grew up in the Willowdale area of Toronto and owes his interest in cars to his uncle Bill who took him to car shows and cruise nights. His introduction to auto ownership was a series of 1960s machines, starting with a ’63 Chevy II followed by ’66 and ’67 Chevy Novas. And while acquiring an economics degree from York University, he also owned a number of motorcycles.

Weather specialist brings sunny disposition to Sun News

Michelle Jobin‘s sunny disposition is a perfect fit for being the national weather specialist for Sun News Network, wrote QMI Agency March 31.

The 34-year-old Whitby native joins Sun News with a wealth of broadcast experience, not only in weather but entertainment and lifestyle programming and behind the scenes as a producer.

The York University [Faculty of] Fine Arts and Seneca College journalism graduate will be seen on air, updating the weather four times an hour. But Jobin will also be partaking in great conversations and sharing her opinions on the Sun News shows "First Look" from 6 to 8am and "Round Table" from 8 to 11am, and contributing lifestyle and entertainment segments to both the shows.

Defection, debate challenge may signal seismic shift in Canadian politics

Last year, Philip Resnick, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia, and York University Professor Emeritus Reg Whitaker issued an open letter to the Liberal, NDP and Green leaders urging them to negotiate non-compete agreements and run just one candidate in ridings where Conservatives are most likely to benefit from vote-splitting, wrote Postmedia News March 31.

Their appeal was ignored by the leaders, including [Michael] Ignatieff, who has criticized his predecessor Stephane Dion’s decision to bar Liberals from running against [Elizabeth] May during her failed October 2008 election bid to unseat Defence Minister Peter MacKay in his Nova Scotia riding.

Former York staffer joins Guelph Business Association as executive director

The Downtown Guelph Business Association ended its search for a new executive director with the appointment of Marty Williams to the role, wrote the Guelph Tribune March 31.

Williams, who lives in Guelph with his wife and son, will take over the position on April 26.

“I see my role as promoting the city centre as a vibrant and vital part of Guelph, and to look for opportunities to make it more attractive to people,” said Williams in an e-mail.

Williams comes to the job from York University, where he has worked as the director of the Office of Student Conflict [Resolution] and senior policy analyst.

On air

  • Filmmaker Luo Li [BFA Spec. Hons. ’05, MFA ’05], a graduate of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, spoke about his new film based on his father’s memoirs of his life in China, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” March 31.
  • Thabit Abdullah, history professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, took part in a panel discussion about recent events in the Middle East, on TVO’s “The Agenda” March 31.