More Saudi students are choosing Canada

In Toronto, I met with 25-year-old Saudi student Mohammad Al-harthi from York University, wrote Maya Jarjour on June 1, in a story about students from Saudi Arabia studying in Canada. Al-harthi came on the [King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program] and is currently enrolled at the York University English Language Institute (YUELI) to improve his English skills. This is his first year, and he plans to do a master’s degree in media and communication.

He said he chose Canada as his first choice for several reasons: his friends recommended him to study there, it is safe and it is multicultural.

“Studying in Canada is great and I strongly recommend everyone to study here. It is a good opportunity to be in a multicultural country, as you can meet different people and learn about their cultures. Learning English has also given me the wonderful chance to communicate with people and exchange cultures. Moreover, it gives me the opportunity to choose different kinds of subject to study in the future. Finally, being in a Western country, like Canada, is the best way to build knowledge and bring it back home,” he added.

Al-harthi is a member of the Saudi student association at York and has also done some social work with the Saudi association at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto. His future plans are to become a professor at Taibah University, where he earned his bachelor’s, and to bring his experience back home to improve the media.

A second chance

Anyone who believes in second chances will be heartened by the story of Kathryn Smithen [JD ’08], wrote the Toronto Star June 2 in an editorial.

As a teenager and young adult, she stole credit cards, forged documents and committed fraud. She was sent to jail for 18 months. Later she supported herself as an escort, until one day in January 2004 when her teenaged daughter learned her mother’s secret. “She was devastated and she was ashamed,” Smithen recalled.

That led Smithen to change her life radically. She applied to [York’s] Osgoode Hall Law School, making no secret of her troubled history. She made it through, and passed her bar exams. Then, on her 49th birthday, a panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada decided she has the necessary good character to practise law in Ontario. It accepted that she has comes to terms with her past and resolved to act with “honesty and integrity” from now on.

Good for Osgoode and the Law Society for showing faith in a woman so clearly determined to turn her life around – even after decades of wrong and tawdry behaviour. In an interview with the Law Times, Smithen expressed gratitude that the society decided that “the sum total of my life experience surpassed my less than admirable moments.” It sounds like a wise ruling.

Most of all, good for Smithen for persevering in the face of obstacles that would have crushed almost anyone else – and for speaking publicly about experiences that must still cause her pain. She intends to practise family law, an area that often involves people in crisis. If the bravery she has shown so far is any indication, she should bring empathy and understanding to her new profession.

York instructor calls her singing style ‘sprawl’

Twice nominated as Vocalist of the Year for the National Jazz Awards with four albums to her credit, Rita di Ghent [BFA Hons. ’83] is a Hamilton native now teaching at Toronto’s York University [Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts], wrote the Hamilton Spectator June 1. She sings bold, brassy and seductive songs in a style she calls “sprawl”. Di Ghent makes a rare hometown appearance Friday at the intimate Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne St., at James Street North. Opening act is The MJs, with Mark Tharme (Respectables), John Davis, Judy Boswell and MJ Russell.

Lifetime-income promise fuels surge in variable annuities 

US insurers’ sales of variable annuities jumped 24 per cent in the first quarter, led by policies that promise lifetime income and protect against market declines, at a time when investors are still wary of stocks, wrote Bloomberg News June 1.

The retirement products’ growth is driven in part by concerns that another stock market drop like the one in 2008 could wipe out savings, said Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. Consumers “fear that the S&P at 1,300 is a mirage and it’s going to go back to 700 for the rest of our lives,” he said.