Canadians’ flag-waving patriotism is selective, says York prof

Despite decades of efforts, some of them controversial, to get more Canadians to fly the flag as much as our neighbours to the south do, we still have an ambivalent relationship with the Maple Leaf, loving what it stands for but not wanting to make too much of it, wrote The Globe and Mail July 1.

If more people don’t fly flags throughout the year, it’s because Canadian patriotism of the flag-waving type is "selective", says Myra Rutherdale, professor of history at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. "During sporting events, particularly hockey, we tend to cheer and become nationalistic about hockey," she says.

Our patriotism is also pluralistic, Rutherdale says: Just look at how many different flags are waved around during an event such as the World Cup. As well, she says, Canadians become patriotic when travelling abroad. Most of us wouldn’t sew a Canadian flag onto our bags to walk around our own city, but many of us would to walk around Paris, London or any place where it might be critical not to be mistaken for, ahem, an American.

The beaver as national symbol

So is the beaver still a potent image of what it means to be Canadian? Or are we clearly due for a new and improved national symbol? asked July 1.

Robert Kozinets, a professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says he doesn’t necessarily see [the] connotation [from a ribald reference in the satirical film Naked Gun] as a negative.

“I think it’s a mixed blessing in a way. It imbues it with a certain appeal it didn’t have before, so it allows for all sorts of opportunity in terms of double entendre and innuendo and memorability,” says Kozinets. “I think it works for us probably more than it works against us. And we’re known for very good-looking women, which is not a bad thing to be known for.”

Kozinets also adds that the beaver has been extremely successful as an image for at least one Canadian company. “Roots, the Canadian clothing brand, has really leveraged the beaver logo very successfully,” he says. “It says outdoors, it says woods, it says camps, it says nature, and they’ve done it well. It has been used successfully as a brand and there is potential to use the symbol further.”

Though he acknowledges that it’s not entirely a modern image for Canada, he says that a symbol of the country should be about heritage rather than attempting to make it hip. “What are we going to symbolize ourselves with? The BlackBerry tablet? The tar sands? Do we really want the CN Tower as our national logo? No, I don’t think so,” he says. “The beaver is a family animal, it’s protective, there are a lot of positive aspects. And if we’re stuck with the beaver, we might as well make the best of it.”

Local food movement goes national

Shifting even a small fraction of grocery offerings to local food can have a big economic and environmental impact, according to calculations done for advocacy group Local Food Plus by Rod MacRae, a York University food policy expert [Faculty of Environmental Studies] and head of the agency’s standards development team, wrote The Globe and Mail July 1.

For example, in Toronto, replacing one 10-tonne truck loaded with California-grown produce with an Ontario-grown load (from within 200 kilometres of Toronto) is the environmental equivalent of taking two cars off the road for an entire year.

If 10,000 Toronto families shifted $10 of their weekly food purchases to local for a year, it would equate to taking 908 cars off the road for a year; on a per-family basis, carbon savings are equivalent to not driving a car for a month.

In economic terms, if 10,000 families in a province shift $10 per week to local, that means $5.2 million would shift away from imports and directly into local economies.

  • Rod MacRae, a York University food expert and director of standards development at Local Food Plus, crunched the numbers to compare the environmental and economic ripple effects of buying food produced within 200 kilometres of four major Canadian cities versus food transported from Florida or California, wrote The Globe and Mail July 1.

The science of calculating carbon footprints is imperfect, though, and some assumptions were necessary to simplify the food math. Specific numbers will vary in real-life situations depending on factors such as age and maintenance of the truck, and methods by which produce was grown. MacRae’s calculations are designed to illustrate a general picture.

Using the results of these calculations, MacRae was able to illustrate the environmental impact of shifting just one truck per week during feasible growing season (he allowed 30 weeks) to locally grown food.

Where have all the girls gone? They’ve been aborted

In the chapter "The Feminist", [author Mara] Hvistendahl quotes Sharada Srinivasan, a feminist sociologist at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], wrote Claudia Casper in a review of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men for The Globe and Mail July 2: "It’s very important to establish up front that whether it is sex-selective abortion, female genital mutilation or domestic violence, it is a form of patriarchal oppression. There is something common that runs through all of this."

Former hockey referee calls misconduct on cartoonist

When newspapers across North America ran a comic strip last month that referred to [former NHL referee Andy] Van Hellemond as “the worst and most evil ref ever,” Van Hellemond hired a lawyer, wrote the Toronto Star July 1. The creators of the strip, Adam@Home, and numerous newspapers that published it, including the Star, have since been served with notices of Van Hellemond’s intention to sue for libel.

Experts on libel law were divided on the merits of Van Hellemond’s potential case. Jamie Cameron, a professor at [York’s] Osgoode Hall Law School, said she would be “surprised if the lawsuit goes very far…. This particular comic strip might not have been very funny, but that does not make it defamatory,” Cameron wrote in an e-mail. “The law of defamation has the common sense to recognize that comic strips and cartoons are not taken at face value.”

Ottawa man gets chance to challenge anti-terrorism law before Supreme Court

The first man convicted under Canada’s anti-terrorism law will have a chance to appeal his conviction to Canada’s highest court, wrote Postmedia News July 1.

The Supreme Court of Canada announced yesterday that Mohammad Momin Khawaja will be granted leave to appeal his conviction and the dismissal of his constitutional challenge to the anti-terrorism law.

Bruce Ryder, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the Ontario Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the definition of terrorism did not involve any restrictions on constitutional rights was not consistent with past Supreme Court judgments protecting non-violent means of religious expression. "To the extent that the terrorism offences capture expressive activity short of actual violence, they should have to be justified by the government as ‘reasonable limits’ on charter rights," Ryder said. "The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling did not put the government to that test."

I played the news today, oh boy

Even games that oversimplify or stretch the facts…often succeed at motivating players to seek out more information on the topic at hand, wrote the Boston Globe July 3, in a story about video games developed in recent years for the specific aim of delivering news.

A recent study by graduate student Stephanie Fisher [BA Spec. Hons. ’07, MEd ’10] of York University [Faculty of Education] found that teens who played World War II video games were more interested in learning about history – looking up historical terminology, identifying costume and weaponry, and researching particular battles – than teens who did not play the games. So at the very least, playing a game might encourage us to read the news.

Tagore and the idea of Cooperation

In a compelling set of essays written between 1915 and 1940, Rabindranath Tagore articulated a social vision where exploitation would give way to a just, humane, collectively owned economy, wrote Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, professor and chair of political science/development studies in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in India’s The Hindu July 1. At the core of his thought was the cooperative principle. This is an idea worth revisiting on the International Day of Cooperatives, which this year falls on July 2, and even more so during the lead-up to 2012, which is the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives.

Written some eight decades ago, Tagore’s thoughts stemmed from these concerns: the growing concentration of economic power and the destruction of rural India. He wrote: “Today our villages are half-dead. If we imagine we can just/ continue to live, that would be a mistake. The dying can pull/ the living only towards death.” (from The Neglected Villages, 1934).

Indeed, in the cooperative principle, Tagore saw the possibility of challenging power, of altering power relations. Ordinary people, whose work constituted what was "the real capital", could only do so if they collectively owned that "capital". Many economists may well reject this as the misplaced idealism of an ill-informed poet. But it will resonate readily with the struggles for producer-ownership in the world today.

Ships ready to leave Greece on Monday

They’re prepared for tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and worse in the event of a boarding by Israeli forces, wrote the Toronto Star July 2. But it is politicking and paperwork that have left the pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Canadian boat and other ships in Freedom Flotilla II stuck in Greek ports this weekend, stranded by a government edict they say was issued under pressure from Israel.

The 22 Canadians aboard the Tahrir, along with delegates from Australia, Belgium, Denmark and Turkey, spent Saturday pondering their options in the Cretan seaside town of Agios Nikolaos. Four of the Canadians are from the Toronto area [and include] John Greyson, 51, (filmmaker and York University professor [Faculty of Fine Arts]).

Dissecting a nation’s history

Willem Van Schendel’s A History of Bangladesh is an introductory book on a subject that is quite possibly the best of its kind, wrote Afsan Chowdhury, research associate in the York Centre for Asian Research, in a review for Bangladesh’s The Daily Star July 2. It is hugely informative, scholarly in its foundation and yet an eminently readable book [wrote Chowdhury]. Through this book the writer has filled a gap that has been there since Bangladesh came into being.

Bangladesh historiography may have an impressive number of books in its list, but not all are impressive. Often they are emotional narratives with little authenticity or are academic works, mostly doctoral dissertations, not attuned to the reading public. But this book, based on proper and extensive academic research, reads as breezily as a work of light fiction. One learns as one is entertained. This is how history books should be written.

If you were to read one book to understand Bangladesh and its history, this would be it.

Fine Arts grad plans to celebrate Jamaica’s 50th year of independence

Art is an ever-shifting imitation of life for Peter Chin [BFA ’85], wrote the Jamaica Observer July 3. Tagged an "interdisciplinary artist" by the art crowd in Canada where he’s resident, the Rock-born, globe-trotting Chin ingeniously melds his classical music, visual arts and dance backgrounds into his craft and along the way, has transformed himself into a celebrated figure on the performing arts scene.

Catching up recently with SO (he’s on the island for his biennial two-week vacay with his Jamaican fam) we’re taken by the fact that Chin, artistic director of his own performing arts company Tribal Crackling Wind, oozes passion about his craft; it embodies his very being. He speaks with unabashed joy and in almost reverential tones when discussing his creative process.

A true multi-tasker, he choreographs, composes the musical scores and designs costumes. Audience reaction for Chin’s visionary, Asian-influenced dance pieces is consistently favourable and his peers have recognised him accordingly. Chin is a four-time winner of Canada’s prestigious DORA Awards – that honour the country’s artistes in opera, theatre and dance.

On the immediate horizon for Chin is his new production, Fluency, set to premiere this November at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

Chin is also eager to share in Jamaica’s Independence celebrations next year in an artistic manner. He too will be commemorating his big day when the Rock turns 50 next Aug. 6 [2012]. As he is unlikely to be on the Rock then, Chin says the Jamaican community in Toronto is planning a big celebration of their own and hopes to participate by presenting a special performance by his company.

The gap between two solitudes

Muslim youth in Canada don’t practise the faith in any one way, wrote The Globe and Mail July 4. Some follow the schedule for five prayers a day with rigour…while others visit their mosque only a few times a year with their families.

But some young Muslims are reluctant to label or rank their level of orthodoxy.

"Every label has connotations around it, right? I’m not a fan of words like moderate and everything like that," said Sabour Baray, the 20-year-old president of York University’s Muslim Students’ Association.

On air

  • Fred Lazar, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about a ranking by oil executives that said British Columbia was “a mediocre place to do business,” on CBC Radio in Prince Rupert June 30.
  • Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about the sale of Atomic Energy Canada Limited’s Candu Reactor division to SNC-Lavalin, on Vancouver’s Fairchild News June 30.
  • Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, spoke about Ontario’s refusal to cover a new drug treatment for a woman with cancer, on Global Television News June 30.
  • Schulich/Osgoode grad Irv Studin [BBA Spec. Hons. ’85, PhD ’11], editor-in-chief and publisher of Glendon-based Global Brief,  spoke about visions of Canada as a global power of 100 million people, on TVO’s “The Agenda” July 1.