‘We really aren’t doing a good job’ fighting bullying, says York prof

Canada is not doing a good job of addressing bullying so it remains a major problem, says one of the country’s leading experts on the issue, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 28, in a story about a court case about the death of an 11-year-old Mitchell Wilson, who was bullied and subsequently committed suicide.

"Here we are, a country that has an international reputation of being so nice and dealing with issues of diversity, inclusion and equity, and yet at the level of children, we really aren’t doing a good job," said Professor Debra Pepler of York University [Faculty of Health], who is also a scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children.

"We are not keeping them safe. We are not providing them with the necessary supports to learn how to live in healthy relationships," added Pepler, a founder of PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network), a national network of researchers.

Pepler said the responsibility to address bullying is a national one; it can’t simply fall to schools to solve. When compared against other nations on levels of bullying, Canada falls in the middle. "In the countries that have improved or done better, there’s been a national initiative to look at this issue," she said. "This is not a problem with schools, it’s a problem everywhere we bring children together. It’s a problem in the workplace, a problem in families."

The issue is getting a lot of attention in the US, with President Barack Obama hosting an anti-bullying conference and launching a website. Pop star Lady Gaga also recently tweeted that bullying must be made illegal and called it a "hate crime" after a middle schooler killed himself over gay bullying.

"Obama stood up and said this is an issue we are going to deal with, and everybody needs to be on board," said Pepler, adding that an agency like Health Canada could take the lead in this country.

Before Mitchell died he wrote and signed an affidavit swearing to what happened last November, but the Crown attorney’s office has told his parents that it likely won’t be enough to make the charges stick.

"In general, the only evidence that is acceptable in courts is the testimony of witnesses," said lawyer James Morton, who teaches evidence at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. An affidavit cannot be cross-examined, he explained.

Morton said the accused’s age and the relatively minor nature of the assault – despite what happened afterward – make a trial unlikely. "The truth is even though it’s a dreadful situation…legally, it’s not the most significant case."

Debate was no game-changer, says York commentator

York University Professor Bob Drummond [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] said all camps will likely feel they got their point across, although there was nothing in the [provincial leaders’] debate that would change anyone’s minds ahead of the vote, wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 28.

"(There were) no really bad performances or really excellent performances," said Drummond.

Hudak, said Drummond, was the most repetitive, McGuinty was a bit overenthusiastic and Horwath appeared the most personable.

"If anything, the premier was a little less effective than I thought he would be, but I think, on the whole, he did defend a lot of aspects of the government," said Drummond.

  • Drummond also spoke about the debate on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” and Global Television Sept. 27.

Tory majority bent on imposing its will, says York prof

York University political scientist Daniel Drache [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] agreed the Conservatives have returned to Parliament for the fall sittings bent on imposing their will on the opposition, now that they have the power to do it, wrote The Hill Times Sept. 27.

He said the Conservatives are set on taking advantage of the fact that former NDP Leader Jack Layton’s political instinct and mastery is no longer there for the Official Opposition party to rely on, following his death in August from cancer, and, as Prof. Drache put it, the fact that the third-party Liberals “are nowhere.”

“Harper’s most important adversary is no longer there. There’s a lot of disorganization, and I think they are leaping to take advantage and be very aggressive with their legislative agenda,” Mr. Drache told The Hill Times.

“The nature of the executive power of the prime minister is enormous and it’s more concentrated this time, with this government, than any other comparable government,” he said. “I think they will argue that public consultation [on the crime bill] is a waste of money. They’re going to say that they’ve heard it before and they should get on with it, but to run roughshod over the Parliamentary process and just make it economies of silence.”

Kurdish Romeo and Juliet set for Toronto stage

The last time I saw Fethi Karakecili [MA ’08], he was new to Toronto. There was trouble in Kurdistan, and he’d come here as a result, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 28.

Fethi is a dance historian and a teacher; what kind of trouble could he possibly have been in? He reminded me the other night: "I was a professor in Turkey for seven years, researching Kurdish culture, dance, music. At that time, it was illegal there just to use the term ‘Kurdish.’ "

As a result of his work, he was harassed, and detained for a week without being charged with any crime, and much of his research was destroyed.

He had to leave.

These days he is both teaching and studying dance at York University [Faculty of Fine Arts]. He has also founded the Dilan Dance Company. Lately, he has been preparing his dancers for the world premiere of Mem u Zin.

You may think of them as the Kurdish Romeo and Juliet. The story is ancient, its beginnings are oral, and it forms the basis for Kurdish culture and politics: lovers who are killed before they can be united.

Dream attracts high-profile speakers

On Friday, Sept. 30, at 7pm in the Dunnville Secondary School cafeteria, DREAM presents It’s all about Power: Wind or No wind, a debate on Industrial Wind Turbines, wrote The Dunnville Chronicle Sept. 28.

DREAM’s seventh annual Raising Awareness Film and Speaker Series kicks off with a controlled debate between speakers Jose Etcheverry and John Laforet. Etcheverry is a professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.

Jenicek claims Canadian judo crown

It has been a dream season for Nicole Jenicek on the judo mat, wrote the Brampton Guardian Sept. 27. Not only has she been unbeaten against competitors her own age in Canada, but she has not given up a single point to them.

She topped things off by winning her first Canadian junior judo title. Now the Brampton resident is aiming for her biggest tournament yet. In November she heads to South Africa for the World Junior Judo Championships. Not only is she the top ranked Canadian junior (aged 20 and younger) at the 57 kilograms division, but Jenicek competed at the Canadian senior nationals and finished second there.

She has also completed her first year of kinesiology at York University [Faculty of Health] and works part time at Sport Chek in the Bramalea City Centre, which means she has to be good at time management.

Kitchener poet, musician sees poetry as a connection to religious feeling

Don’t let the French surname fool you, wrote the Waterloo Region Record Sept. 28. Although born in Quebec, Nicole Aube [BA Spec. Hons. ’05] is Kitchener to the bone.

She has lived most of her life here, graduating from Forest Heights Collegiate Institute before studying at York University {Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], publishing her new poetry collection at Pandora Press and recording her debut CD at Cedartree Recording Studios.

Raised a Christian, Aube left the church in her teens and transferred a spiritual attitude to her writing. "Poetry became a means of expressing my spirituality," she observes. "Practising the art of poetry is an abstract connection to religious feeling."

Peking opera was once banned in China

Chairman Mao banned the Peking opera during China’s Cultural Revolution, but Ottawa’s William Lau [MFA ’91] is bringing it back, this time to the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage, wrote The Ottawa Sun Sept. 28.

Lau will perform two excerpts from operatic classics, The Cosmic Blade, about a beautiful young girl who pretends to be mad rather than be forced to become the emperor’s concubine, and The Drunken Beauty, about a proud young woman whose romantic rendezvous with the emperor gets off to a bad start. Appearing with Lau will be performers from Vancouver and Toronto.

He’ll sing in the original Mandarin, but will provide English subtitles and an animatrice to explain what’s going on. "Even though it dates back 200 years, and is the national opera of China, it was banned during Mao’s cultural revolution of the 1950s but it is unlike anything you see in Western arts," says Lau, who is a program officer for the Canada Council for the Arts.

Lau’s fascination with Peking opera began while studying dance at York University [Faculty of Fine Arts], where he first founded his theatre company, Little Pear Garden Collective.

He says he knew that this was his life path, and that it wasn’t what his parents had hoped for him. "They wanted me to become an MBA, but I chose to be an artist," says Lau. "Not what a Chinese parent wants to hear."

Son of Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy studied at York

On the title track of his new solo album, Skyscraper Soul, Jim Cuddy croons about a city [Toronto] that "can bring you down" but one which he cannot leave because underneath it, "there’s a heart beating," wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 27.

Playing piano on the song is his 24-year-old son, Devin Cuddy, who studied jazz at York University and noodled a bit on Cuddy’s last solo album, 2006’s The Light That Guides You Home.

On air

  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the Ontario election campaign on 680 News Radio Sept. 27.
  • Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about how the various parties have handled the energy issue during the election campaign, on Ottaw’s 580 CFRA News Radio, Sept. 27.