Osgoode dean says it’s OK for PM to promote oil pipeline

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government isn’t overstepping its authority by aggressively promoting the Northern Gateway pipeline and attacking the mega-project’s opponents while it is before a quasi-judicial tribunal, wrote the Vancouver Sun Jan. 12, in a story that cited comments by Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Lorne Sossin.

The government’s assault on environmentalists opposed to Northern Gateway “may be politically motivated, but does not in itself undermine the NEB [National Energy Board] process,” said Sossin. “It is arguable that the government, by making clear the pipeline is in the national interest, is seeking to influence the outcome,” Sossin said in an e-mail interview. “That said, the government has a responsibility to indicate its position on matters of public policy – which this clearly is – as long as it does so in the context of respecting the NEB, its independence and its process.”

AGYU pays tribute to artist who was a much-loved cultural force in city

Like almost everything with Will Munro, it starts with the underpants, a set of glorious Y-fronts festooned with almost heraldic symbolism of Munro’s fabulous, seamlessly multidisciplinary oeuvre, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 12.

This is the front door of Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic, the Art Gallery of York University‘s expansive take on the Munro’s hectically productive life and career, snuffed out tragically and far too soon in May of 2010 when he succumbed to a two-year struggle with brain cancer at 35.

As the show makes clear, Munro’s life and career were one and the same: Will…was, to attempt a defining term, a social/cultural/political hub, a remarkable, gifted bi-part creative engine and easygoing charm machine with the effortless gravitational force to pull the like-minded into close orbit.

His magnetism wasn’t exclusive to his closest community in gay and lesbian circles, which he openly and passionately championed and supported. Will had the rare gift to create inclusive spaces across the divides of the city’s disparate and often siloed-off independent culture communities, creating, in brief flashes, a resounding all-for-oneness in the urban night-time world.

The AGYU recreates his first show out of school, 2001’s Boys Do First Aid, a boy scout-inspired show of occasional cartoon gore – one work is a close-up of a bloody wound to which direct pressure is being applied – rendered entirely out of knit-together underpants.

Truth be told, Will had little interest in being neutral…. The AGYU show is emblematic of that sensibility, his good humour and his remarkable production. It’s also a quiet tribute to a force of nature quelled before his time.

  • For a sector of the Toronto queer community, Will Munro’s death was a bit like Sept. 11 and the 2003 blackout combined, wrote Xtra Jan. 12. The queer club promoter, activist and visual artist’s passing was met with profound shock and sadness, but was mixed with a surprising and unexpected joy at the recognition of the community he helped build.

Whether Will Munro was an unknown commodity or a personal friend, the Art Gallery of York University’s expansive retrospective, fittingly titled Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic, will prove an enlightening look at the contemporary queer icon. Curated by Philip Monk and Emelie Chhangur, it spans Munro’s creative output from his time at the Ontario College of Art & Design until his death. Incorporating drawings, posters, films, photographs, installations and, of course, his infamous salvaged underwear textile assemblages, the exhibition captures Munro’s essence, drawing little distinction between art, life and activism.

Monk and Chhangur were longtime friends and collaborators of Munro’s. (The AGYU presented his work several times, and opening-night parties were held at The Beaver.) Their decision to mount the exhibition was made the day after he died.

“There wasn’t really a conversation about whether or not we should do a show,” says Chhangur. “It was something we immediately knew we had to do.”

“We reacted emotionally with our desire to present his work, but there was also an intellectual reason,” Monk adds. “We felt we would be the only gallery that could do a proper, comprehensive exhibition that would give Will his full credit.”

York Region ponders small-business investment

York Region is looking at investing $100,000 per year in helping local businesses bring their high-tech ideas to market, wrote the Vaughan Citizen Jan. 12. Regional council will review a proposal to give the money to VentureLAB, a Markham-based agency that is itself part of a province-wide network of incubators helping entrepreneurs commercialize technological innovations.

VentureLAB was created just more than a year ago from the merger of two incubators, YORKbiotech and the York Synergy Centre. It works in concert with numerous other local organizations including York University and the Markham Board of Trade. The region was already contributing $20,000 a year to YORKbiotech.

The business case for reading novels

I’ve been a devoted, even fanatical reader of fiction my whole life, but sometimes I feel like I’m wasting time, wrote Anne Kreamer in the Harvard Business Review Jan. 11.

That slight feeling of self-indulgence that haunts me when I’m reading fake stories about fake people is what made me so grateful to stumble on a piece in Scientific American Mind by cognitive psychologist Keith Oatley [professor emeritus, University of Toronto] extolling the practical benefits to be derived particularly from consuming fiction.

Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University [Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health] have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion – improving his or her overall social skillfulness. For instance, in fMRI studies of people reading fiction, neuroscientists detect activity in the pre-frontal cortex – a part of the brain involved with setting goals — when the participants read about characters setting a new goal. It turns out that when Henry James, more than a century ago, defended the value of fiction by saying that “a novel is a direct impression of life,” he was more right than he knew.

In one of Oatley and Mar’s studies in 2006, 94 subjects were asked to guess the emotional state of a person from a photograph of their eyes. “The more fiction people [had] read,” they discovered, “the better they were at perceiving emotion in the eyes, and…correctly interpreting social cues.”

York instructor takes over as CAO of Gravenhurst

Mayor Paisley Donaldson announced Tuesday morning that Frank Miele, Meaford’s current chief administrative officer (CAO), will be taking on that role with Gravenhurst, effective Feb. 13, wrote the Gravenhurst Banner Jan. 11.

Miele, who has an undergraduate degree in planning and a master’s degree in local economic development from the University of Waterloo, also currently teaches economic development at York University’s School of Public Policy & Administration [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies].

York candidate ponders why PhD students suffer from depression

“From November to March is prime time for academic burn-out in graduate programs – I’m convinced of that,” says Melonie Fullick, a PhD candidate at York University, Toronto, in a posting on her Speculative Diction blog, that was featured in Times Higher Education’s column THE Scholarly Web Jan. 12.

One might put this down to the general drooping of spirits during the winter months – something that may hit particularly hard in the dark and icy Canadian winters.

However, Fullick believes there is more to it than this. “Clinical depression, extreme anxiety and other mental-health issues are becoming more common in graduate programs as well as in undergraduate education,” she writes.

Fullick used social media platforms to examine the question, asking others on Twitter to share their thoughts on depression in academia. She received numerous responses…. Reflecting on these comments, Fullick argues that mental-health issues can never be attributed solely to the “individual’s propensities and ‘weaknesses’.”

Rather, she believes that doctoral students are in particular danger because they suddenly find themselves under great stress, both as a result of a change of pace and a change of environment, that can leave the less confident feeling like charlatans. “Students face a more intense workload than in their undergraduate degrees,” she writes, “and they may, for the first time, be around students with as much academic aptitude as themselves. These factors can contribute to ‘impostor syndrome’, the sense that one is about to be ‘found out’ for not being smart enough.”

The switch to a truly autonomous way of working is also often a new challenge, as are “the lack of structure, and unclear boundaries about responsibilities.”

Fullick adds: “This is compounded by the lengthy isolation from peers that often occurs in the later stages of research.”

York artist sees the big picture

Kingston’s Michelle MacKinnon [BFA Spec. Hons. ’11] has big plans. And even bigger art. She’s a visual artist who specializes in large-scale hyperrealist portraiture, wrote Kingston EMC Jan. 12.

The 23-year-old is creating like a seasoned pro. Few young people know where their vocational calling is taking them. MacKinnon’s known since she was a toddler. “Basically, I knew just as soon as I could hold a crayon,” she said.

Art is no frivolous matter to her. “Art is a silent force that can comment without ever saying a word,” she said. “Art can evoke every emotion, political standpoint and make diverse subject matter thinkable without overtly telling an audience what to feel. Art is everywhere in life, and life can and will always be reflected in art.”

MacKinnon graduated from Kingston’s Queen Elizabeth Collegiate & Vocational Institute in 2007 and York University in 2011 with a bachelor of fine arts honours degree cum laude. She entered York University with a $21,000 scholarship. Recently she was awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Award for $17,000 as an emerging international artist. She won the Kingston Arts Council 2011 Nan Yeomans Grant for Artistic Development.

“The grants allow me to continue my work,” she said. “Now I can afford the studio space and supplies.”

In MacKinnon’s case, that’s a lot of space. Her works are huge. Her art is serious, but she’s got quite a sense of humor. She laughed at the question, “Why should someone pay attention to your work?” “Well, first of all, it’s kind of huge, isn’t it?”

Although MacKinnon seems destined for success in the artistic world, she has a realistic side. She plans on completing a master of fine arts degree. “I’d love to be a practising artist, but I want to be able to have a backup,” she said. “So I want to have the qualifications to teach.”

BlackCreek music festival suspends 2012 season

Music legends Tony Bennett, James Taylor and Placido Domingo failed to draw the audiences last summer that organizers of the BlackCreek Summer Music Festival had anticipated and there won’t be a second edition of the event in 2012, wrote Citytv.com Jan. 12.

The organization said in a statement on its website that “the lower than expected ticket sales revenue proved too great of a financial challenge to move forward at this time with the 2012 season.”

The festival launched with an impressive lineup of acts that also included Diana Krall, Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons. But fans didn’t flock to the Rexall Centre at York University in the numbers organizers had hoped.

Police looking for voyeur at York

Toronto police are looking for a man who allegedly snuck into women’s washrooms at York University, stuck his cellphone under one stall and leered over another, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 12.

The incidents happened in separate washrooms at Curtis Lecture Hall on Monday. The first occurred at 6pm when two women noticed a man in the next stall reach under with a cellphone in his hand. They left and the man fled. At 8:30pm, a woman using a different washroom in the same building saw a man looking over the stall. He fled again.

Wallace Pidgeon, director of media relations at York, said the University notified police when the women contacted campus security. Police were provided with a grainy security camera shot. “This is not something that I’m aware, that we’re aware, has happened before on campus,” Pidgeon said.

The University has drawn criticism in the past for its handling of sexual assaults, with students claiming officials have not done enough to warn the community.

Pidgeon said the University issued bulletins about the latest incident through the student website YU Connect, an alert on the York mobile application, and messages on campus TV screens and posters.

It e-mailed students living on campus but does not issue mass e-mails because students have asked the University to refrain from doing so.

“When things do happen, we let the community know,” he said. “We are vigilant. We are doing what we can on a day-to-day basis.”

Vanessa Hunt, president of the York Federation of Students, said York has made a greater effort recently to disseminate information, but there’s always room for improvement.

  • The suspect is described as dark skinned, 20 to 25 years old, 5′ 8″ tall, 170 to 180 pounds with a thin face, chinstrap beard, dark eyes and black hair, wrote the North York Mirror Jan. 12. He was last seen wearing a grey knitted sweater, blue jeans, grey sneakers with two straps and a grey toque.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 416-808-3100 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.

  • Recent reports of a man filming women in bathroom stalls at York University point to a “culture problem” on campus, says a student representative, wrote 24 Hours Toronto Jan. 12.

“It’s appalling to think that something like this is happening at the University,” said Vanessa Hunt, president of the York University Federation of Students.

She said the incident highlights an issue with campus culture. The school has been the site of numerous sexual assaults and homophobic attacks over the past few years, and Hunt said these types of crimes occur when an attacker views their victim as “lesser”.

To shift the mindset on campus, Hunt is calling for equity classes to be mandatory for all students.

The courses would be intended to help open students’ minds and dispel any misogynistic, racist or homophobic dogmas they may have, she said.

Meanwhile, police continue to search for the voyeur.

He is described as brown with a thin face, chinstrap beard, dark eyes and black hair. He is estimated to be between 20 and 25 years old, about five-foot-nine and between 169-180 lbs.

  • “It’s just downright wrong. It’s just heinous,” York University spokesperson Wallace Pidgeon said of the incidents, in the National Post Jan. 12. “To my knowledge this has never happened before at York.” Closed-circuit camera images of the suspect have been released to police.