City-run program at airport welcomes foreign students

Shine Issac walked around Pearson airport with two suitcases in tow, exhausted after a 19-hour trip from India, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 27. He knew no one, and had nowhere to go. His only lifeline was a small information booth welcoming – and helping – foreign students.  

"I have no place to stay," Issac, enrolled in Humber’s wireless telecommunications program, told the helpers at the International Student Welcome Program. "I just got my student visa last week and have not made any accommodation arrangement."  

The 26-year-old is one of many foreign students who will be aided by staff at the program’s information booths, launched by the City of Toronto and local colleges on Aug. 23 at Terminals 1 and 3, and remaining open until Sept. 5.  

Nontokozo Langwenya (BSc Hons. ’11), a foreign student herself from Swaziland, started making calls to Humber’s international students’ office and local hotels.  

The welcome program, modelled on similar projects in Australia, the UK and even Montreal, is part of a strategy to make Greater Toronto a friendlier and more competitive destination for international students. Students are informed by their colleges and universities before they arrive about the help available at Pearson.  

Langwenya, 23, vividly remembers arriving in Toronto four years ago. "I had never travelled overseas. It was nerve-wracking," said the York University chemistry major.  

Private pain, public grieving

Mourning someone in the public eye can be a complex and bittersweet act, one that might at once comfort and uplift a family and thrust them under the microscope as they set out on a personal journey of grief, reported the National Post Aug. 27. 

The intent of a large, state funeral is to "provide an opportunity for the public to participate in demonstrations of national grief," the Government of Canada says. But for the family, it’s more complex than that, said Stephen Fleming, a clinical psychologist and psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health. 

"It’s very difficult in a state funeral for anyone to show a profound expression of pain," he said. "There’s immense pressure to perform, to be stoic à la Jackie Kennedy. It’s grieving in a fishbowl, you don’t feel you have that permission to collapse." 

Ontario regulator stops trading of Sino-Forest shares

The Ontario Securities Commission accused Chinese timberland company Sino-Forest Corp. of fraud and stopped trading of the company’s Canadian-listed shares on Friday, reported The Canadian Press Aug. 26.  

"Sino-Forest and certain of its officers and directors appear to have misrepresented some of its revenue and/or exaggerated some of its timber holdings," the Ontario regulator alleged in a temporary order. 

The regulator had also initially ordered that Sino-Forest chief executive Allan Chan and four other executives resign, but later backed away from the requirement as it was not allowed to make the demand under an only temporary order. Temporary orders last for 15 days, but may be extended if a hearing is started within the period. A hearing would also allow the regulator to order Chan and other executives to resign. 

Allan Hutchinson, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said temporary orders are normally used to puts things on hold, but what the OSC initially tried to do was more than that. 

Shares in Sino-Forest last traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange for $4.81, however the stock plunged 70 per cent in US trading. 

Other York professors also commented on the decision:

  • The OSC has “definitely” taken a more aggressive stance with Sino-Forest than the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said Dirk Matten, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, reported Bloomberg News Aug. 26. “Making decisions about who steps down and gets appointed, that’s beyond the reach of a regulator,” Matten said. “To order that was outlandish and is now embarrassing to retract it.”
  • “The Securities Act is quite clear about which orders can be issued on a temporary basis and which require a hearing,” said Poonam Puri, co-director of the Hennick Centre for Business & Law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Puri said the OSC was within its rights to halt trading in Sino-Forest shares before a hearing, but that it couldn’t do the same for a resignation order. 

Innocence Project is lauded in tales of justice miscarried

A parade of quite unknown Canadians have been targeted, abused by the justice system, and parked in some dark area of confinement for lengthy periods, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Aug. 27 in a review of Helna Katz’s book Justice Miscarried: Inside Wrongful Convictions in Canada.  

Justice Miscarried is a hard read, and not just because of its judicial content. It’s difficult to be unmoved by Katz’s stories. Katz spells out the combination of attitudes and practices that lay menacingly below the fabric of the Canadian system of so-called justice. The effect can seem, at times, like a kind of serial conspiracy.

On the plus side, Katz tells about the Innocence Project at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. In 1997 the project began in order to involve law students in investigating cases where there is a claim of wrongful conviction.  

Prof in Manhattan describes Irene’s impact

In a report Aug. 29 about the progress of Hurricane Irene, Anne Bayefsky of Toronto, who lives in Manhattan, told Postmedia News the city that doesn’t sleep was in lockdown mode as public transportation systems and many shops remained closed Saturday after 12pm.  

"(Saturday), water was sold out at Costco and then subsequently with new shipments, they were rationed," said Bayefsky. The York University professor said streets were eerily quiet and residents were advised to stock up and not sleep near windows at night for precautionary reasons.  

Deadline for proposals extended for new Pan Am facilities

Councillors meeting Monday to discuss a new stadium and a permanent velodrome for the Pan Am Games want more information from staff about the developments’ long-term cost impacts reported the Hamilton Spectator Aug. 29. 

City staff issued two updates about the 2015 Games to councillors late Friday. One recommended a permanent cycling track facility at Mohawk College that could cost $22.5 million, about four times council’s original commitment.  The other report indicated officials had agreed on building new north stands at Ivor Wynne Stadium instead of renovating the section.  

Infrastructure Ontario, the arm’s-length provincial agency in charge of construction for the 2015 Games, planned to issue a request for proposals for the velodrome, Ivor Wynne stadium and York University stadium on Aug. 30. That deadline was changed to Sept. 15.  

York grad co-hosts ‘Daily Planet’

It’s not just "Two and a Half Men" that’s rebranding this season: Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet” is joined by Edmonton biologist Dan Riskin (MSc ’00), who takes over as cohost from Jay Ingram, a veteran with the series since its inception in 1995, reported the Ottawa Citizen and other major Canadian newspapers Aug. 29. 

Riskin joins co-host Ziya Tong on the nightly science and technology series, which premieres its 17th season tonight with a brand-new set.  

Unlike Kutcher, Riskin is far from just a pretty face. He is an award-winning evolutionary biologist and bat expert, with a bachelor’s in zoology (University of Alberta), a master’s in biology (York University), a PhD in zoology (Cornell University) and postdoctorate studies (Brown University).  

He is also no stranger to TV, given his previous hosting gig on “Monsters Inside Me” on Discovery Science as well as stints on “Evolve” and “Curiosity: The Questions of Life”.

On air

  • Mamdouh Shoukri, York president & vice-chancellor, discussed new steps the University is taking to increase security on campus, on CBC Radio One’s “Metro Morning” Aug. 29. Hear the interview.
  • Norman Yan, biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, talked about the spiney water flea in a series on invasive species on CBC Radio’s “Information Radio” in Winnipeg, Aug. 26.