York grad helps cure SickKids’ fundraising ills

Ted Garrard’s [appointment] as a caretaker for [Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital] came at a pivotal moment for the [SickKids] foundation, whose reputation had taken a beating from a series of embarrassments, wrote Paul Waldie in The Globe and Mail May 6. A botched fundraising effort, a scandal over severance payments to the departing CEO and questions about a host of senior departures added to the pain of sagging donations and soaring fundraising costs.

So when the foundation’s board asked if he would take on the job of CEO, Garrard [BA Spec. Hons. ’80, MA ’81] could have easily declined. After all, he had a secure position at the University of Western Ontario, where he had spent 13 years as vice-president of development and raised more than $600 million. But Garrard jumped at the chance. “I love challenges,” he says. “Fundraising is all about a challenge.”

One of his first moves at SickKids was to organize a press conference with board chair Patsy Anderson to address the scandals head-on. “We had to get it out there, get the story over with and then start moving on to the other great things that we are supposed to be doing,” he says.

The strategy worked. Within weeks, the scandal stories faded, donors returned and the SickKids Foundation started regaining its footing. Last year, the foundation had its best fundraising year ever, pulling in $107 million.

Garrard believes charities must be more accountable to donors. He is part of a pilot project with Imagine Canada, an umbrella group for Canada’s charitable sector, to introduce accreditation standards for charities. The standards include financial management, governance, fundraising and many other areas. Participating charities would be subject to audits to ensure they comply. “It is the world’s first self-regulation of charities and not-for-profit [organizations],” he says.

Curriculum vitae:

BA and MA degrees in political science and economics from Ontario’s York University.

Man arrested over sexual assault at Seneca @ York

A 30-year-old man was arrested Saturday in connection with a sexual assault inside a building at York University, wrote the Toronto Star May 7.

Police said the suspect was arrested Saturday and charged with sexual assault and committing an indecent act.

His name has not been released. He lives near the campus but is not a student, police said.

Police would also like to speak to the two women who spoke to the officer at Keele Street and Murray Ross Parkway on Thursday.

  • The victim was allegedly assaulted twice at 4pm last Thursday afternoon in the main hall of the Seneca @ York building, reported The Globe and Mail May 9.

Toronto police said the woman was walking to the building when she became aware that someone was following her. Once inside the building, the man attacked her in the main hall. The woman tried to escape by going into an office in search of a teacher, police said. They say the man continued to follow her and assaulted her a second time in the hall. Police said her attacker fled after she ran into another office, closing the door behind her.

It was by happenstance that police were able to make an arrest so quickly. The description of the accused matched that of a man who was questioned by an off-duty police officer on Thursday afternoon, after two women complained he was following them. The officer, who was performing paid duties that day at a construction site, took down the man’s name and address.

On Saturday, when the officer returned to his regular police duties, he discovered that the man had been named in another incident that took place at noon the same Thursday. As a result, the man is also facing indecent exposure charges in connection with the earlier incident.

York spokesman Wallace Pidgeon said Seneca operates its own security service [and] he declined to comment further on the incident.

  • Michael Scholars, editor of Excalibur, and Vanessa Hunt, incoming president of the York Federation of Students spoke about the incident, on CTV News and Global Television May 7. York student Jess Morton was also interviewed on Citytv May 7.

Officials grappling with rooming house issue

Rooming house, boarding house, student house – by any name, cheap accommodations are a real necessity for many people living in Toronto, wrote the Toronto Star May 7, in a story about The Village, south of York’s Keele campus. In many parts of the city, they’re also illegal.

While it’s impossible to know for sure, city Councillor Gord Perks estimates that as many as 10,000 people are living in illegally rented rooms across the city.

They face very real risks. During a recent meeting about safety concerns with rooming houses being operated in The Village at York University, a fire official stated that it is only a matter of time before there is a serious fire in The Village.

“They’re becoming worse as the housing crisis in Toronto has increased,” Deputy Fire Chief Frank Lamie said in an interview. “They’re a bigger problem than they used to be.”

Fire officials try to enforce regulations as much as possible, ensuring fire alarms and extinguishers are in place, Lamie says. But they can only pass reports of zoning bylaw infractions along to the city.

According to the Ontario Fire Code, a rooming house is defined as a living accommodation in which more than four people are renting rooms in a house that is not higher than three storeys or larger than 600 square meters.

Rooming houses are licensed and regulated in Toronto, but preamalgamation rules banning them are still in place in Scarborough and North York, where The Village is located. Toronto’s public health department licenses lodging houses in Etobicoke.

Since amalgamation, councillors have been unable to reach an agreement that would harmonize bylaws across the city. In July 2010, they deferred a decision on the issue. It has yet to return to the table.

“It is the worst kind of politics that I can think of,” says Perks, who says rooming houses will continue to exist whether they are regulated or not. “People just want to turn a blind eye and hope that the problem goes away.”

Even before [York student] Qian Liu’s murder, residents in The Village were concerned about rooming houses. In March 2011, their local councillor, Anthony Perruzza, moved a motion asking the Municipal Licensing and Standards Division to meet with police, fire and York University officials to develop a strategy for dealing with illegal housing in The Village.

Perruzza, who has heard of residences housing up to 20 students, says the report should be complete “fairly soon.” “We need to be able to get in there, to properly inspect and to regulate those kinds of things,” he says. “We don’t want students who come here from abroad to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords.”

Such inspections sound simple, but they’re actually quite difficult in North York, says Lance Cumberbatch, director of investigation services at the Municipal Licensing and Standards Division. “They realize they can just close the door,” he says of owners visited by officials from his department. “If you’re refused entry, you would have to get a search warrant and the courts require a lot of evidence.”

That evidence requires identifying tenants, knowing they are unrelated and knowing that they are paying rent separately, he says. “It’s very complicated.”

  • This neighbourhood is where Qian Liu, a 23-year-old York student from China, was found dead in the basement apartment of a suspected rooming house, wrote the Toronto Star May 7, in another story about The Village. Brian Dickson, 29, is charged with first-degree murder. He was renting a room on the main floor and would have had direct access to Liu’s suite by using the home’s original staircase, according to people who visited the home.

Now residents are questioning the safety of letting people rent rooms for as little as $30 a night. Some, like Dickson, are not students.

Students, many of whom are international visitors, pile into these units for hundreds of dollars less than they pay on campus. In doing so, renters accept significant and potentially fatal risks, according to officials from the city, fire and police services. Meanwhile, University dorm rooms are sitting vacant: York recently announced at least one of its residences is closing this year because it can’t fill the beds.

On average, a single room in residence at York University costs around $5,000 for eight months. A meal plan costs an extra $3,000 to $4,000. The price is comparable to other universities.

With 400 rooms sitting empty on campus, York recently decided to close its Founders College residence building. The facility would remain open if there was enough demand, said Wallace Pidgeon, a spokesman for York.

But there isn’t. “Residence is out of the question for those who simply can’t afford it,” said Sarah Moteelall, who rents one of two rooms crammed into the garage of another house in The Village.

NDP softens stand on Israel-Palestine issue

Today two of the strongest voices in the [NDP] caucus, Thomas Mulcair and Winnipeg MP Pat Martin, are staunchly pro-Israel and the party’s official position is the “recognition of the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace in viable, independent states with negotiated and agreed-upon borders,” wrote National Post columnist Kevin Libin May 9.

If you go back far enough, says Greg Albo, a York University political economy professor [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], the NDP’s still more sympathetic to Palestinian rights now than when it enthusiastically backed the early Zionist project. And, in many ways, he believes, the party exhibits today more concern for “social justice” abroad than ever, though it has also made some peace with international structures, such as NATO and NAFTA. With experience until now only in provincial power, foreign affairs is a “key test ground” for the NDP, he says, which must appear responsible enough to look like a government-in-waiting, yet activist enough to ensure morale in its caucus and among its base.

But, Albo says, the Conservatives have staked out relatively stark positions on foreign affairs, leaving plenty of room for the NDP to criticize without stepping wide of the mainstream: greater deference to the UN, for example; a slightly softer line on Israel.

Allan Blakeney’s leadership remembered

A pantheon of past and present Canadian politicians spoke as one to celebrate the life and achievements of former premier Allan Blakeney, wrote Regina, Sask.’s The Leader-Post May 9, in a story about the funeral for the former York professor May 7.

Blakeney died peacefully at his Saskatoon home on April 16 after a short battle with cancer. He was 85.

Throughout the 90-minute service, Blakeney was described as a great statesman who represented his province and country with wisdom, skill and civility.

Born on Sept. 7, 1925, in Bridgewater, NS, Blakeney earned a gold medal in law from Halifax’s Dalhousie University in 1947. For two years he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University before joining the Saskatchewan public service in 1950. A decade later, he was elected to the Saskatchewan Legislature as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF).

Appointed to the cabinet of premier Tommy Douglas, the 34-year-old served as education minister. From 1961 to 1964, he was finance minister and health minister in the cabinet of Premier Woodrow Lloyd. When the CCF-NDP lost power in 1964, Blakeney sat as an MLA and practised law. In 1970, he was elected leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party.

Following the 1971 election, the NDP formed government and Blakeney became premier. He held that position through three majority governments before the party was defeated in 1982. Blakeney continued to serve as an MLA until 1988, when he retired from politics.

He went on to teach constitutional law, first at York University from 1988 to 1990, and then at the college of law at the University of Saskatchewan from 1990 to 1992. He remained at the University of Saskatchewan as a visiting scholar until his death.

Man behind York’s name was a Rhodes Scholar

Brantford Collegiate Institute [BCI] boasts three Rhodes Scholars among its graduates from the late 1920s and early 1930s [including] Moffatt St. Andrew Woodside, wrote The Brantford Expositor May 7 in a feature on the school.

Woodside [1906-1970] graduated from BCI in 1924 and went on the University of Toronto to study classics. He was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1928. He became a professor of ancient history and, later, registrar of Victoria College in Toronto and acting president of the University of Toronto.

Woodside was the man behind the selection of the name of York University. He was invited to take part in organizational meetings for the new institution and, in 1958, he suggested the name of York, asserting that a name grounded in geography would set firm and long-lasting roots.

Osgoode grad writes tragic story about two fellow grads

It’s a helluva story, and the author of this true-crime story has the advantage of having known both principals from his student days at [York’s] Osgoode Hall Law School, wrote Mike Stimpson in a review of Tip and Trade: How Two Lawyers Made Millions from Insider Trading for the Winnipeg Free Press May 7.

Hamilton writer Mark Coakley [LLB ’95] recalls Stan Grmovsek [LLB ’93] and Gil Cornblum [MBA/LLB ’94] as practically inseparable buddies who penned provocative right-wing pieces for Osgoode Hall [Law School]’s student paper in the early ’90s.

Fired, disgraced and worried about going to prison, Cornblum committed suicide by jumping off a bridge shortly before he was to be formally charged in October 2009.

Grmovsek pleaded guilty to three charges and began a 39-month prison sentence last year at the maximum-security Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ont. The book concludes with him awaiting transfer to a minimum-security facility.

Was Ford bash a campaign event or a fundraiser?

In the week prior to the launch of Rob Ford’s mayoral bid, the outspoken Etobicoke councillor distributed recipe-card-sized invitations to a “complimentary” wine and cheese at the Toronto Congress Centre, set for March 26, wrote The Globe and Mail May 9. The cards, some sent in Ford’s council office envelopes and obtained by The Globe and Mail, made no mention of a mayoral run or any kind of fundraising activity. The event was billed as an opportunity to celebrate his 10 years of public service.

The event, of course, turned out to be the splashy kick-off for Ford’s campaign. Thousands of well-wishers listened as a parade of speakers sung his praises. Among them was Ford’s designated fundraiser Stephen Sparling, who told the crowd that the run would be “a big-budget campaign” and urged them not just to volunteer but also to contribute cash using cheques, credit cards or debit cards at sign-up tables near the door.

The question is, was the complimentary wine and cheese party that night a campaign event or a fundraiser?

Municipal election experts like York University’s Robert MacDermid describe the existing rules as “vague” and encourage candidates of all political stripes to exempt a wide array of ordinary campaign expenses from the spending caps.

Much more than a mystic

The world has yet to fully appreciate [Rabindranath] Tagore’s vision, wrote Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, professor of political science and director of South Asian Studies at York University, in the Toronto Star May 8, in a story about Tagore, the first non-European Nobel laureate (Literature, 1913) and Asia’s iconic poet and humanist whose 150th birth anniversary fell on May 7.

Our youth, if they knew him, would deeply value his message of freeing creativity from every form of domination. This year’s celebrations offer wonderful opportunities to know Tagore: York University is planning Echoes of Tagore, an event that will explore Tagore’s influence in the Muslim world.

York staffer likes Hamilton’s West Harbour area

On Saturday a few dozen of the curious strode out for a Jane’s Walk to see “a historic district in transition,” even if no one is quite sure what that transition will be – maybe a velodrome for the 2015 Pan Am Games or an influx of new housing, wrote the  Hamilton Spectator May 8, in a story about the Jane’s Walk held in Hamilton’s West Harbour area on Saturday.

“I can’t believe the [Canadian Football League’s Hamilton] Ticats would say no to this fantastic location,” says Ilpo Lehto, the tour guide for the walk. He’s an ex-Torontonian, who moved into the West Harbour area of Hamilton three years ago, choosing to take the GO bus into Toronto each day to get to his job at York University [recording secretary & benefits specialist, CUPE 1356]. “I would certainly hope something gets put there now that the land has been assembled. There is a great opportunity for it to be developed.”

A West Harbour opportunity like Hamilton’s would be gobbled up in a second if it was in Toronto, he says.

Survey focuses on York Region

Living in York Region: Our Community Check-up, a snapshot of the quality of life from your perspective across a series of community, environment and economic indicators, was unveiled at a dignitary-dense launch at Seneca College’s Markham campus Friday, wrote the Aurora Banner May 8.

A York Region Community Foundation initiative, in partnership with York University‘s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, with $164,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the survey will collect online responses and in-print forms until mid-June.

York prof speaks at KidsFirst! Conference

One of several keynote speakers during the KidsFirst! Conference organized by Sault Ste. Marie Best for Kids Committee and the Algoma branch of Association for Early Childhood Educators of Ontario…included Stuart Shankar, professor of philosophy and psychology at York University [Faculty of Health], wrote The Sault Star May 9.

London will be in cultural spotlight

As about 130 municipal staff from across the country gather in London, Ont., next week for the Creative City Summit, they’ll look at culture from many angles, wrote The London Free Press May 6.

The Creative City Network of Canada and the city have organized the three-day conference with the theme, The New Old: Culture as a Revitalizing Tool in Your Community.

Also on Tuesday, Paul Hoffert, a York University media professor (and founding member of Lighthouse), will speak at the opening reception with his address, SECT in the City: Soul, Entertainment, Culture and Tourism.

On air

  • Alison Macpherson, epidemiologist in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, talked about the Ontario Hockey Federation’s move to ban bodychecking for house league players on numerous radio stations across Canada, including an interview on Toronto’s FAN 590, May 6.