Parents of Qian Liu describe their grief at funeral

The father of a slain York University international student laid his grief bare Wednesday morning at his daughter’s funeral, sobbing uncontrollably as he eulogized his only child’s “vibrant” and ambitious life, wrote the Toronto Star April 27.

“The pain in our heart is indescribable, our tears cannot be stopped,” said Jianhui Liu, father of Qian Liu, during a service at the Jerrett Funeral Home on Yonge Street, just south of Steeles Avenue.

Speaking in Mandarin through an English translator, Liu struggled through gasps of tears. “The drizzle outside is like the tears from all her loved ones,” he said, adding his daughter “loved Canada, loved Toronto” and was excited about her future. “How could she be gone in a flash?” he asked, removing his glasses to wipe his eyes with a white handkerchief.

“We have even thought of joining her,” Liu said, describing an overwhelming grief. “But we have to be strong and bring her home” to her grandmother, who could not travel to Canada.

Before the service, Liu and his wife, Zheng Yaru, dutifully shook hands with those who had come to pay their respects.

Eyes downcast and shoulders slumped, they held each other’s hands, breaking only to dab their wet eyes. They did not look at their daughter’s body, dressed in pink satin in the open casket beside them, and paid little attention to the video screen which scrolled through pictures of their daughter and her artwork.

During the service, Liu, who teaches and trains Communist Party officials at Beijing’s Central Party School, spoke of his daughter’s academic and artistic achievements — she was a talented painter and was planning to pursue a master of fine arts in new media once she upgraded her English — but it was her kindness, generosity and “almost silly” selflessness that was most remarkable.

“I mention all of this not to boast about how great our child was; what I want to say is that this is such a vibrant life, our daughter had such hope for the future.”

Dozens of York University students, mostly of Chinese descent, arrived at the service in three buses.

Liu thanked them, and the York University and Chinese-Canadian communities. He also thanked the Toronto police, adding the family believes “justice will prevail in due course.”

York University announced Wednesday a $5,000 scholarship in Liu’s honour to be given to a student in the school’s English Language Institute.

  • Several hundred mourners gathered at a Toronto funeral home Wednesday to remember Qian Liu, the 23-year-old York University student whose bizarre death two weeks ago has garnered international scrutiny, wrote PostMedia News online April 27.

Friends and teachers remembered Liu as a kind-hearted soul who excelled as both a student and an artist, but the most moving tribute came from her father, who struggled to make it through an emotional speech.

Liu profusely thanked officials from York, along with all of Liu’s friends and peers who came to remember his daughter. “If she were still alive…it would have really warmed her heart,” he said.

York president Mamdouh Shoukri and Donald Smith, co-ordinator of the English Language Institute where Liu was studying, also addressed the assembled.

Shoukri lauded Liu’s “incredible ability” for learning languages and her talent as an artist. She was a beautiful gift that was taken away too soon,” he said.

Smith said she had the potential to be a “true intellectual and cultural ambassador.” "Qian was interested in everything, quite independent and courageous,” he said.

In a short but emotional speech, one of Liu’s classmates, Xinying Feng, recalled how they used to talk about hairstyles, shopping and music. They had plans to go to Lake Ontario together and visit a bookstore in Beijing.

Since Liu died, Feng says, she has dreamed about her friend. “It was as real as it was before,” she said through a Chinese translator, her voice breaking. “We joked and we talked together.”

Big turnout at advance polls is no big deal: York prof

More than 59,500 York Region residents voted in three advance polls, a 57-per-cent increase in early ballots cast compared to the last federal vote, Elections Canada says, with one of the biggest jumps in one of Markham’s ridings, wrote April 28.

While it sounds like a huge statistical phenomenon, numerically, it’s quite mundane, York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] said of the 21,600 extra votes cast in the region. “It’s tempting to say that this all means more people will turn out on voting day, but really, spread over seven districts, that’s an average of 3,000 more voters each.

“We hope it foretells of a big turnout on election day, but what I think it means is that people who wanted to vote wanted to do so early.”

The record advance poll numbers creating party gain predictions amongst pundits is mere hype, MacDermid said. “Our best hope is that we get at least 60 per cent of eligible voters,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll leap beyond that.”

When the ballots are counted, experts many be surprised, he added. “A lot of people are turned off by the negative (advertising) campaigns,” he said. “That traditionally suppresses turnout.”

Where did the idealists go?

Every election campaign season, experts suggest that the best way for political parties to rock the youth vote is to focus on “the student issues” – often defined as tuition and the environment, wrote the Toronto Star April 27, in a story about a survey of students’ thoughts on what issues are important to them in the federal election campaign.

Omeed Asadi, a third-year communications student at York University, hears it all the time. “In Vari Hall, which you have to cross to get to pretty much every class, there’s always the York Federation of Students rallying against high tuition, or green activists against pollution,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong. I respect those issues. But I don’t think that’s all there is to it.” Asadi also cares about health care, the tenor of parliamentary discourse and fiscal responsibility.

Turns out the average young voter is a lot more like Asadi than the student activists making all the noise.

The most common concern for youth? “That my standard of living will be lower than my parents’,” which 63 per cent ranked in their top three concerns. This was consistent across party lines and from coast to coast, although it was significantly more common among young people in the economically stagnant Atlantic region (75 per cent).

“It’s so short-sighted to focus only on tuition,” says Asadi. “I’m only in school for one more year. Then everything affects me.”

Would-be Osgoode-Schulich student seeing campaign trail up close

Former district resident Douglas Judson has held a unique job for the past four weeks – acting as an advance to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s national tour, wrote the Fort Frances Times online April 27.

Judson and his colleagues have been on hand to greet the campaign plane when it arrives. Then they accompany the leader, his staff and national media travelling with them to each venue that has been confirmed prior to their arrival.

This is not Judson’s first “political” job, having worked for former Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff [MES ’75] as well as MP Bob Rae previously.

Judson will continue his job with Ignatieff until Monday’s election. Then he’s slated to enrol in the joint law/MBA program offered by [York’s] Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business. “I am very excited about the program, and look forward to what new opportunity or adventure it may bring my way,” Judson enthused.

York’s dean of education says ‘lab schools’ like UTS are rare for a reason

A high school created a century ago as a unique testing lab for would-be teachers and a haven for the academically gifted has to pack up and find new digs after the University of Toronto said it will need the downtown space for itself, wrote The Globe and Mail April 28, in a story about the University of Toronto Schools.

Experiments with “laboratory” schools like this have been cropping up for a century or more. Alice Pitt, dean of York University’s Faculty of Education and herself a graduate of U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, said it’s a seductive idea: Postsecondary institutions get a unique environment and a control group to foster new teachers while giving gifted students special academic attention. But they’re rare for a reason. And, in this case, OISE has grown so much it would need to add more schools to the program.

“They don’t need a lab school; they need a lab school board,” she said. “It’s probably hard because of the different mandates of institutions.… It’s so complicated to work out these relationships.”

Wanted: straight talk on pensions

Older voters hold the key to success in this election, wrote Thomas Klassen, political science professor in York’s School of Public Policy & Administration, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in the Toronto Star April 27, 2011. There are more of them than ever before, and most cast a ballot. The Conservatives, Liberals and NDP are vigorously courting them with promises of expanded pensions and health care.

Our politicians should be praised for putting the concerns of older citizens at the forefront of the campaign. After all, even those who will not retire for a decade or more should know that they will not need to unduly worry.

However, along with the recognition of the problem of inadequate pensions and the promises to fix it, frank accounting is needed. To keep the promise of better pensions will require Canadians to work longer, wrote Klassen.

Schulich prof all set to strum along in concert

Talk of the Town features two local artists in a concert this weekend at Louise’s Lounge, a.k.a. The Huronia Arts Academy, wrote the Barrie Examiner April 28.

For David Johnston, the concert marks his first solo gig in his hometown. Performing solo, instead of in a band, is a change in direction for the Oro-Medonte singer/ songwriter. Even though he’s played in bands as an adult, his original music is better suited to a house concert setting than a bar.

"As an artist who wants to be heard, a house concert is great – people who come to a house concert come to listen," said Johnston, who also likes to interact with the audience in between songs.

He currently teaches [management science in the] Schulich School of Business at York University.

Variable-rate mortgages carry some risk, says Schulich prof

In 2001, Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at York University  [Schulich School of Business], released a detailed statistical study showing that variable-rate mortgages saved borrowers money 88.6 per cent of the time over fixed rates, wrote the Toronto Star April 28.

An update in 2008 also came down on the side of variable rates. "That study has to be taken with caution. It is a probability argument," Milevsky said. "It’s a lot like buying stocks and bonds. While overwhelming research shows that stocks outperform bonds most of the time, there will be prolonged periods of time when bonds do better.

"That’s why we always tell people with investments, if you can’t take the chance of losing money and you don’t have the risk appetite, don’t put all your money in stocks."

When you vote, keep our children in mind

Critics of social spending tell us that it’s up to individual families to care for their children, wrote Jennifer Charlesworth, executive director of the Federation of Community Social Services of BC, in Victoria’s Times Colonist April 28, in an opinion piece about the federal election. But as York University health policy Professor Dennis Raphael noted in an article for Paediatrics & Child Health last year, governments play a major role.

"Governmental authorities shape children’s living circumstances by influencing how income is distributed and determining the availability of affordable housing and early childhood education and care," wrote Raphael. "Governments shape parents’ payment security and working conditions through legislation and regulation."

On air

  • Alexandre Brassard Desjardins, political scientist and research director at York’s Glendon College, spoke about demands by a lobby group for Auditor General Sheila Fraser to release her report on G8 conference expenses, on Radio Canada April 27.