Layton’s leftist nationalism wins hearts and minds in Quebec

For the first time, many voters are flirting with a party that’s been an afterthought for decades, wrote The Globe and Mail April 25. So why Jack Layton’s NDP, and why now?

“It’s the big mystery, in the sense that no one saw this coming,” said York University Professor Marcel Martel [Avie Bennett Historica-Dominion Institute Chair in Canadian History in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. For people who thought the election would be a repeat of 2008, the NDP surge offers the possibility of something “very exciting” in federal politics, he said.

  • Martel also spoke about the surge in support for the NDP in Quebec, on CTV News April 22.

Politicians try to generate dinner table buzz as election hits holiday pause

Political junkies will likely stay plugged in to the federal race, even if the subject is verboten during the holidays, said Bob Drummond, a political science professor at Toronto’s York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] , wrote The Canadian Press April 21.

"My guess is the distractions are not as distracting as perhaps we think they are," he said. "Although I do think that people will not think about, or not talk about, politics very much during particularly Passover and Easter because if they’re religious, they’re heavily involved in those events."

More York grads running in federal election

A round-up of York grads who are running for parliament in the May 2 election.

  • For [York graduate student] James Ede [MA ’07], there is no party but the New Democratic Party, wrote the Oakville Beaver April 21. The 31-year-old has been politically active since his first year in political science at Western University and has always voted for the NDP, which he is now representing in the Oakville riding.

"I always wanted to be involved in trying to change the world for the better as well as to study politics," the married, father of two said. His children are five and three years old.

He received his master’s degree at York University, where he is working on his PhD.

  • Terence Young [BA ’75] says he brings a wide range of experiences that help him deal with multiple issues in Parliament, wrote the Oakville Beaver April 21.

The incumbent MP for Oakville and current Conservative candidate has worked in auto sales, managed rock bands, had an executive role at Bell Canada before he was elected as a politician and says those past experiences have helped him in his current capacity. "Everything I’ve done in my career has helped make me a better member of Parliament," he said. "I try to provide the best service centre for my constituents possible. In my background with Bell Canada, I learned about providing service."

The married father of two grown children, plus one more whom he lost to an adverse prescription drug reaction, has lived in Oakville for more than 25 years.

Though he’s worked in a range of fields, Young says there was nothing before politics for him. When he was in Grade 10 he helped his teacher campaign to become school trustee. At age 21, while studying political science at York University in 1974, he ran as an independent in Toronto’s Parkdale riding.

Family in China ‘ripped apart’ as student’s dream turns to tragedy

From this tiny desk in a sunlit bedroom at her parents’ home in west Beijing — not far from the Western Mountains and the Little Clearwater River — Qian Liu used to dream of studying overseas, wrote the Toronto Star April 21, 2011.

Last year on Sept. 9 — her 23rd birthday — she got her wish: Her Mom and Dad drove her to Beijing’s Capital Airport and saw her off to Toronto to pursue her dream.

But last week it ended tragically, when Liu was found murdered in an apartment near York University.

Back in Beijing, Sun Huanmei, Liu’s 85-year-old grandmother, is in shock.

She and her granddaughter were incredibly close and, until last September, shared this bedroom with its double bunk bed: Grandma had the lower berth, Qian Liu the upper.

Now, the gray-haired and grieving Sun sits in the lower berth and stares out saying nothing — emitting an occasional sigh.

“You have to understand,” explains Jianliang Liu, the dead woman’s uncle, “from the very moment (Qian Liu) was born, her Grandma was right there caring for her. As a result, this has been a very heavy blow for her, both physically and emotionally.”

Everyone knew the bond between Qian Liu and her grandmother was something “very special,” he says.

And Qian Liu herself was special, the proud uncle adds.

  • The man accused of killing a York University student, whose last moments were recorded via webcam, intends to plead not guilty, his lawyer said Friday, wrote The Canadian Press April 23.

Steven Krys, who is representing 29-year-old Brian Dickson, said there is much "confusion" surrounding what actually happened to the victim, Qian Liu, who was found dead a week ago.

Police have not yet determined the cause of death and there were no obvious signs of trauma, but Dickson was charged with first-degree murder days after Liu died.

Dickson, who appeared in court Thursday, will be back next week, but it is not clear whether he will formally enter a plea on that date.

"If there is a plea to be entered, it will absolutely, 100 per cent be not guilty," Krys said.

  • In September of last year, Liu Qian’s parents bid their 23-year-old daughter farewell, and she set off on a 10,000-kilometre journey to attend university in Canada, wrote The Globe and Mail April 22. This week, they made the same trip to retrieve her body, after she was killed in a horrific incident partly witnessed on a webcam by her long-time boyfriend.

Over 200,000 international students, about a quarter of them from China, study in Canada every year, sought after by postsecondary institutions eager to tap their brainpower and expand with the help of their tuition dollars.

Liu was just such a student: The daughter of a successful academic, she already held a degree from a private university in her home country, and hoped to improve her English skills and attend a Canadian graduate school.

The story of her death has been told around the world, including in broadcasts on Chinese television, hitting a nerve among other parents with children overseas.

Liu, an only child, studied at Beijing City College and hoped to earn a master’s in media, applying to universities in Toronto and Windsor. Her grandmother tried to talk her out of it, telling her Canada was too far away, but Liu was determined to go. It would be easier, she said, to find work.

Liu enrolled in an English program at York University and settled into The Village, a neighbourhood south of [Keele] campus where large, cookie-cutter red-brick homes are divided into eight or nine suites and rented to students. Her sweet personality earned her new friends.

In addition to studying, Liu drew and painted. Many of her pencil sketches, some of which depict friends, are skilled studies of women, all with delicate shading. Her watercolours tended toward nature themes, particularly the sea. Her first attempt at oil painting was an impressionistic take on a sun-dappled river in summer.

In January of this year, she moved to another apartment in the area.

In China, her family reacted with disbelief. The reality sank in when they tried to contact her.

“We were praying for the possibility that the victim was a different person with the same name,” said her father, Liu Jianhui, research director of Communist Party history at the school that trains party officials. “Soon, we found that we could no longer reach my daughter.”

There was no sign of trauma on her body, and the cause of death has not been determined. But police decided within days they had enough to charge Brian Dickson with first-degree murder.

A 29-year-old with a chiselled jaw and reddish hair, Dickson spent a decade at York without earning his undergraduate degree. A perennial dabbler, he had been involved in the school’s model NATO club, briefly served on [his college] student union, appeared in small-time theatre productions and worked for several months at a think tank. His lawyer said he would plead not guilty.

  • The man accused of murdering York University student Qian Liu was heavily active in the school’s political scene and a well-known face on campus in years past, friends say, wrote PostMedia News April 23.

Dickson was twice re-elected vice-president of the undergraduate political science council, and served as a councillor representing McLaughlin College in the York Federation of Students.

Between 2008 and 2009, Dickson interned as executive assistant to the president of the Atlantic Council of Canada, a non-profit, non-governmental organization designed to promote knowledge about NATO.

[Toronto Police] Constable Tony Vella said Dickson was “known to police,” but would not elaborate. The accused is scheduled to return to court on April 26.

  • Vanessa Hunt, president-elect of the York Federation of Students, was among several students who spoke about security concerns on campus and in The Village, following the death of Qian Liu, on radio and television April 21.

Dundas-Sherbourne poised for a surprising rebirth

Roger Keil, director of The City Institute at York University, is concerned about the heightened pressure [of development near and around Toronto’s Dundas-Sherbourne area and what it] means for an already vulnerable community, wrote the Toronto Star April 25, in a story about the gentrification of the troubled neighbourhood.

“The remarkable thing here is the scale and speed at which these things are happening,” said Keil. “This is not the small-scale gentrification that’s happening in other areas, encroaching step by step, block by block, abandoned building by abandoned building.”

Maran Fashions distinctly European for 25 years

Andre and Marisa Proia say the 25th anniversary of their downtown clothing store is an opportunity to expand their business with a full list of new services for Sarnia-Lambton, wrote The Sarnia Observer April 23.

They are about to launch Medusa Imports, which offers a wide assortment of European products ranging from Sicilian wine and fine art to travel packages in Italy and culinary specialties.

The 25th anniversary of Maran Fashions is also good reason to celebrate with a gala event planned for Saturday May 28 at the Imperial Theatre.

Andre [BAS ’82] met Marisa while at York University earning a business administration degree. She has had a lifelong love for retail and studied fashion merchandising.

Put Canada back on the map

In every Canadian election, the media wonder what issues will bring young people to the polls, wrote York student Shahbaz Mir in a letter to the Toronto Star April 24. As a young Canadian voter, I want to hear each party comment on specific strategies to fix Canadian foreign assistance and put Canada back on the map as a global leader in overseas development assistance. At my university, there is a large group of young people following the election to listen to what each candidate has to say about Canada’s role in reducing global poverty.

On air

  • Anne Russon, psychology professor at York’s Glendon College, spoke about her latest research that shows orangutans have conquered their fear of water so they can fish for food, on CBC Radio’s “Quirks & Quarks” April 23.
  • Martin Shadwick, research associate in the York Centre for International & Security Studies, spoke about the proposed purchase of new fighter jets for the Canadian Forces, on Radio Canada (Montreal) April 24.