Party platforms on food leave York prof hungry for more

On Monday, the parties will hash out their respective policies at a debate in Ottawa, wrote The Globe and Mail April 10. But one food policy critic said none of the platforms are detailed enough to take seriously.

“None of them really link the food story to health care that well, or to social-policy reform,” said Rod MacRae, a professor at York University [Faculty of Environmental Studies] who is one of Canada’s foremost experts on the subject. “What they’ve done is pick the low-hanging fruit – the things that are more part of the public consciousness right now.”

Still, strong federal leadership in the national food policy process is critical, he said. “The federal role is to act as the animator, the facilitator, and to use its usual package of sticks and carrots to try and get everybody on board.”

Professor: Bullies need help

Punishment isn’t the answer for kids who learned to bully at home, says a Toronto psychology professor, wrote Halifax’s Chronicle-Herald April 9.

"If a child is bullied at home by his or her parents or siblings, they’re going to learn the patterns they need to learn about the use of power and aggression in relationships," says Debra Pepler [Distinguished Research Professor in psychology at York’s LaMarsh Centre for Child & Youth Research].

These "children who are morally disengaged tend to think that the other child is just deserving of it, that they’re not human. They really disregard that child’s basic rights."

Pepler, who works at York University [Faculty of Health] and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, co-founded the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network.

She says that for most kids, bullying or being bullied are minor problems that pass with time. But 10 to 15 per cent require extra support, and chronic bullies need help from mental health experts.

Her findings show that chronic bullies are more likely to skip school, abuse substances, sexually harass others, use violence in romantic relationships and eventually get into crime. "They don’t have that voice inside that says, ‘Is this a good idea, should I do this?’ They’re really willing to go along to keep their friends, to keep their status and do all sorts of negative things when they’re exposed to peer pressure.

"If we wanted to identify and help those children who are going to cost society the most in terms of criminal behaviour…we would be looking at the children who are involved in high rates of bullying."

Don’t forget prevention and health promotion, writes Skinner

David Dodge and the C.D. Howe Institute open an important debate about sustainable health care in Canada, wrote Harvey Skinner, dean of York’s Faculty of Health, in a letter to The Globe and Mail April 9. They point out the alarming rise in health costs relative to our GDP and attendant tradeoffs in funding for other key sectors such as social services and the environment. Yet, we cannot address the looming health care "crisis" by only focusing on the supply side – increasing services.

We must also address the demand side by prevention and health promotion. Currently, less than five cents on the dollar of our more than $190-billion health-care expenditure goes to these.

Many factors contribute to healthy life years and reducing health costs. Key avenues include poverty, lifestyle, genetics and environmental exposures. Canadians do not have equal access to health care, let alone the conditions for good health.

Our goal is to keep more people healthier longer – maximizing years lived in good health versus years lived in less than good health due to disability, disease and injury.

York president condemns attack

An incident at York University where a woman alleges she was attacked because of her gender and sexual orientation has been strongly condemned by the school’s administration, wrote the Toronto Star April 9.

Valerie Bustros said she was verbally assaulted and beaten by three males at the University’s Absinthe Pub last Tuesday night.

According to a news release issued by groups affiliated with York’s gay community, Bustros was walking to the women’s washroom when a man approached her and said she was using the wrong washroom. She explained to the man that she was a woman and a lesbian.

While leaving the washroom, the man once again questioned her gender. The situation escalated and the suspect pushed Bustros and proceeded to punch and kick her with the aid of two males, the news release said.

York University President Mamdouh Shoukri issued a statement on Friday condemning the attack, saying “we will not tolerate any actions or forms of speech that advocate violence or hatred.”

Detective Rick Ramjattan of Toronto police confirmed the attack took place after reviewing security footage retrieved by investigators from the campus pub.

All three suspects have been described by police as South Asian males in their mid-20s.

Ramjattan said there are currently no leads in the investigation.

Shoukri added in his statement that it’s imperative for the community to embrace diversity. “It is essential to recognize and respect the different beliefs that exist within our University.”

  • Surveillance images taken before York University eatery worker Valerie Bustros was assaulted after telling a man she is a lesbian have been released by Toronto police, wrote the Toronto Sun April 9.

Bustros, an Underground Restaurant employee, reviewed the photos with investigators before police released them late Friday night. A supervisor at 31 Division on Saturday afternoon said the suspects are “identifiable”.

  • A community meeting was held last night at York University in response to the assault, wrote CP24 News April 9.

Several people spoke at the meeting, including the victim of the assault. Valerie Bustros says a man questioned her gender when she was entering a bathroom. She was then confronted when she left the bathroom. Bustros isn’t a student at York but works at the University.

  •  CTV’s Tamara Cherry reported that [Valerie] Bustros did not know if she was attacked because she’s a woman, because she’s a lesbian or because a few men were looking for a fight, wrote CTV News April 9.

"A gentleman opens the door and he says, ‘hey, this is a ladies room.’ And I say, ‘dude, I’m not a guy, I’m just a lesbian, leave me alone," said Bustros. "I just remember I was telling him over and over again that I was a girl and it didn’t seem to sink in."

Bustros didn’t have much to say to the men who attacked her. "Yeah I’m mad at them, I’m angry, but I also feel sorry for them. Clearly they’re not educated enough," she said.

But Bustros hopes something comes out of the beating she took. "Getting jumped for using the bathroom, yeah it sucks, and hopefully one day we won’t have to get jumped for that."

York University president Mamdouh Shoukri released a statement saying he was deeply disturbed to hear about the assault. "I can assure you that we will not tolerate any actions or forms of speech that advocate violence or hatred," he said.

Alastair Woods, a representative of the Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gays Allies at York (TBLGAY), believes the incident was motivated by homophobia. "While obviously I welcome all the physical improvements to our school to make it safer, none of that could have stopped what happened to Valerie. It was obviously motivated by homophobia and something that needs to be tackled ahead of time, instead of retroactively," he said.

  • On Friday, [Valerie] Bustros said that when she saw the security camera video of the attack it brought back the deep anger she felt during the attack, wrote CBC News online April 9. "The rage that I saw in myself, because I was very angry. I didn’t expect it. It was interesting to watch, to see again and how the whole thing played back and I remember how I felt after the end of it, like I felt so broken and rattled," she said.
  • Bustros and Allistair Woods, of TBLGAY, spoke about the incident on Citytv and CTV News April 8. 

Newmarket-Aurora frequently re-paints its political colour

Voters sometimes feel a little blue on election day. Other times, we paint the riding red, wrote April 8, in a story about the election in the Aurora-Newmarket area.

And that’s not all that unusual, according to York University political science Professor Robert Drummond [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. In the vast majority of the 905’s ridings, the election boils down to a heavyweight bout between the Conservatives and Liberals, he said, adding the New Democratic Party, Green Party and other candidates can often only jockey for third place. "I think it is not atypical of the 905 area or at least of York Region," he said. "Many of its voters seem willing to switch from election to election between the Liberals and Conservatives, with only a small number supporting the NDP and even fewer willing to take a change on Green or other smaller parties," Drummond said in an e-mail last week.

Conservative MP Lois Brown has represented the riding since 2008 and, if the latest poll numbers are to be believed, Liberal candidate Kyle Peterson may have his work cut out for him in this campaign, Drummond said.

"If the riding is following national poll trends, one might expect that Brown can anticipate re-election," he said. "Unless (the Liberal) candidate has some special appeal, or (Liberal Leader Michael) Ignatieff begins to make inroads on (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper’s lead, I don’t think Brown is threatened, even though I think it is fair to say she has not been a prominent voice in Conservative Party ranks."

Duelling for downtown votes

Nena Hardie, 69, retired from teaching sociology at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] last year and now works as a psychologist, wrote the Toronto Star April 8, in an election story about the riding of Trinity-Spadina. She has lived in her Annex home since 1974, and in the neighbourhood for a decade before that. She always votes NDP, and says incumbent Olivia Chow is "particularly good" because she cares about issues in the community. Hardie loves that she is politically aligned with many of her neighbours. "It’s politically progressive, this area."

Giant vote-buying machine springs into action

There’s something important Michael Ignatieff doesn’t know about public spending in Canada, wrote columnist John Robson in the Ottawa Sun April 10: He doesn’t know Canada’s government is a nearly perfect vote-buying machine.

OK, he also doesn’t know 40 years of social engineering failed at enormous cost. He still wants some sweeping "game changer" social program to transform Canada. I don’t blame him [for] being out of the country, by the way. Jack Layton was here the whole time. I blame them being out to lunch. Ignatieff was at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and Jack Layton [MA ’72, PhD ’83] has a PhD in political science from York University. But neither seems to be interested in how government actually works. 

Image consultants evaluate leaders on campaign trail

In today’s world, where image is everything, politicians play the selling game just like everyone from Lady Gaga to Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen, wrote news April 11.

"Today’s elections are played out in a very different battleground," said Alan Middleton, a professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto. "Over the years, policy used to figure dominantly in our national elections. Now it’s all about the leader," Middleton explained.

"Right from the start the Conservatives painted Ignatieff as an academic who doesn’t get the average Canadian. They tried to convince Canadians that a vote for Ignatieff would send our fragile economy into a tailspin. But that negativity they’ve tried to create may have done Ignatieff a favour," he said.

Campaign financing has changed in Vaughan

When it comes to corporate political campaign donations, there has been a sea of change in Vaughan, according to a York University professor who heaped criticism on heavy developer influence on the city’s politics in the past, wrote April 11.

“It’s a good change. The candidates have recognized that the source of contributions to their campaign should be individuals, not corporations, and that’s a big step for Vaughan. It, at least, removes some of the opportunity of developers to influence the decisions of council members,” said political science expert Robert MacDermid [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies].

New rules from the province in October 2009 capped donations by a single donor to $5,000 per municipality.

“Just in terms of rejected donations from corporations, it’s amazing. The mayor didn’t take any,” MacDermid said of Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua.

“It’s good this time that they said, ‘We will not take money from corporations or trade unions. We’ll only take money from individuals.’ It’s a huge improvement. It’s recognizing that citizens should be the ones who fund candidates, not corporations,” MacDermid said.

The Municipal Elections Act has…been changed to allow a four-year time period to lay charges. The compliance cases certainly must have had an impact on how careful candidates were this time around, according to MacDermid. “I think it had a huge impact. Just the way the forms were filled out this year. Last time around, there were numerous violations of the rules. There was a widespread ignoring of the rules on filling out forms. This time, it’s not true. I was surprised. People have recognized that their jobs could be on the line if they’re not more careful complying with the rules,” he added.

Dusk records his first live album in Las Vegas

Las Vegas was the odds-on favourite as the location Matt Dusk would choose to record his first live special, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press April 9.

The 32-year-old Toronto native hit the jackpot in Sin City as a cast member in the 2004 Mark Burnett-produced reality show The Casino, filmed at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas, so it was only natural his first live album would be recorded in the desert playground.

"I love Vegas, that’s where I got my start," Dusk says over the phone from Hamilton prior to a sound check. "Everyone goes to Vegas. It’s the best place in the world. That’s my 20-year-plan: to be there golfing during the days and singing at night before going out for cocktails."

Last summer he moved over to the Crown Theatre at the Rio Hotel to record the album/concert DVD Live From Las Vegas with a full 18-piece band. The show has been airing on PBS in the United States and will be released commercially later this month.

Dusk studied music under jazz legend Oscar Peterson at York University [Faculty of Fine Arts] and released four independent albums before getting signed to a record deal and moving to Las Vegas in 2004.

A quiet, humble man who shaped Canadian dynasties

In the days since John Tory [BARR ’54] died in Florida on April 2, 2011, following a stroke at age 81, pundits and reporters have been trying to assess the specific nature of his role in the Thomson empire, wrote The Globe and Mail April 9 in an obituary. It began as long ago as 1955, when he first acted for Roy Thomson as a young lawyer in his own father’s practice.

As their father had done before them, [John and James Tory] went to University of Toronto Schools, an academically elite private boys’ school. After graduating in 1946, when they were barely 16, he sent them to Phillips Exeter Academy in Andover, Mass., for a year of maturing before they joined the floods of returning veterans at the University of Toronto. In those days you could study law in the upper years of an undergraduate degree followed by a year at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Harry and the chocolate factory

Some people believe there isn’t a human problem that can’t be solved with the right amount of chocolate.

About 1,000 people turned out Saturday to learn a little about this wondrous product at the semi-annual open house of Walker’s Chocolates, the local mini-empire that has been carving an independent niche for itself for almost 30 years, wrote the Hamilton Spectator April 11.

Of course, the tours of the company’s Harvester Road production plant ended with fans passing through the company’s factory outlet store.

“We had just over 1,000 people come through, our guides worked steadily all day,” said Harry Walker, founder of the company that now has stores in Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville, as well as the production plant. “On the retail side, we did pretty good.”

Before jumping into his own business, the York University MBA grad did his homework, studying the business with candy makers across Ontario and the northeastern United States, learning the tricks of the trade.

York social work grad has her own tale of survival

When Vivian Del Valle [MSW ’08] moved to Toronto from her native Mexico 15 years ago, she had to start all over again, wrote the Town Crier April 8. Today, the North York resident helps abused women do the same. Her efforts helping Spanish-speaking victims of trauma and abuse was recently recognized with the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in community support.

Receiving the Woman of Distinction award has only given her more fuel to continue doing what she loves – helping women start anew. “It is wonderful to feel that the community recognizes what I love to do,” she said.

Renowned concussion doctor has hockey on the brain

He’s taken on the likes of Don Cherry and Wayne Gretzky, wrote the Toronto Star April 9 in a feature story about Dr. Charles Tator. He’s been the target of hate mail and critics have accused him of trying to kill the game of hockey. His view is that he’s trying to save it.

He’s a neurosurgeon, a scientist and a researcher, founder of the safety group ThinkFirst Canada and currently the go-to guy on the issue of concussions in hockey and sport.

He met his wife Carol Tator when they were teenaged counsellors at Camp Tamakwa in Algonquin Park. She’s a course instructor in the Department of Anthropology at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] and former president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

Julien Cyr is achieving acting success in Toronto

Through tenacity and hard work, Julien Cyr is making his dreams come true, wrote April 9.

He took one year of photography study. While he loves taking portraitures he knew it wasn’t something he wanted to do as a career. Next he enrolled in the theatre program at York University [Faculty of Fine Arts]. He is now in his third year of study.

Each day he is awake at 7am and gets ready to catch the subway to make it to the University where he is in classes all day.

Now he is about to take on his directorial debut as part of a production company he’s started called Speakeasy Productions. He started the production company with a colleague so he could provide opportunities for talented people who haven’t had a chance to be involved in theatre.

He is about to stage a show called Oedipus which is based on Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. It will open in June.

Financial literacy idea nets students a windfall

Two York University business students are $10,000 richer after placing first in the postsecondary category of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario’s Save the World contest, wrote April 8.

The third annual contest, open to high school and university students, focuses on coming up with business cases for revolutionary ideas for making the world a better place.

This year, 16 high school and six university submissions were received.

Karen Geng and Seymour Korman, both second-year students at the Schulich School of Business at York University, won for their “Money Tree” submission, a financial literacy program teaching students in Grades 3, 9 and 12 money management and personal finance skills through classroom presentations.

The duo received $10,000, with up to $5,000 going towards making their idea reality and the remaining $5,000 towards their choosing.

York hosts international conference Staging Sustainability

York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts will present international conference Staging Sustainability to create dialogue about sustainable performance practices, wrote April 8.

The two-day conference will run April 20 to 22 at York’s Fine Arts Complex, 4700 Keele St. at Steeles Avenue.

"It’s one of its kind," Barbara Sellers-Young, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, said of the conference. "The goal is to consider the issue of environmental and cultural sustainability and how the arts create conversation around those issues."

Westray returns to his alma mater to perform recital

Ron Westray, an alumnus of Eastern Illinois University, is returning to his alma mater on April 14 to perform a recital at 7:30pm in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Black Box Theater, wrote Chicago’s Journal Gazette and Times Courier, April 8.

Westray…is a professor in the Department of Music [Faculty of Fine Arts] at York University. In 2009, he was given the title of Oscar Peterson Chair, a position given by the Ontario Government to commemorate Canadian jazz artist Oscar Peterson.

On air

  • Bob Drummond, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the federal election on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” and CBC TV Toronto April 8.
  • Faroukh Zandi, associate director of the iBBA and BBA programs at the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the Canadian dollar and what is driving its market value higher, on 680 News radio, April 9. Schulich Professor Perry Sadorsky also spoke about the dollar on Global Television April 8.
  • York grad Suzanne Desrochers [BA Hons. ’00, MA ’07] and her historical novel Bride of New France, were discussed on CBC Radio Montreal, April 10.
  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, took part in a panel discussion about the electoral system, on TVO’s “The Agenda” April 8.
  • Krisna Saravanamuttu, president of the York Federation of Students, spoke about a tuition fee protest held at Dundas Square, on CP24-TV April 9.