When employers police your private life

Online opinions can go viral; they can incite anger and create groundswells large enough to destroy and exploit lives, or, in Amanda Todd’s case, play a tragic role in the end of a life, reported Maclean’s Oct. 25. Labour legislation explicitly addressing the consequences of posting offensive, radical content online may be a solution for dealing with cases like these, suggests David Doorey, professor of employment law at York University, but such a move would stir debate over an individual’s right to free speech. “The law struggles with a case like this, because what matters is whether the employer’s economic interests were harmed by the employee’s conduct, and not whether the employer disagreed with the content of the employee’s expression,” says Doorey. 

Tories defeat last minute push for hearings on Canada-China investment treaty
Conservative MPs defeated a last minute push for Parliamentary hearings on a Canada-China investment treaty, reported The Globe and Mail Oct. 25. Critics of the deal express concern that it will allow Chinese companies to sue Canadian governments at all levels for alleged breaches of the treaty’s terms. Gus Van Harten, who teaches international investment law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, has been one of the more outspoken voices expressing concern about the treaty’s investor-state dispute resolution provisions. “I don’t think there’s been really enough time for enough people to kind of even grasp the complexity of the issue such that they see how important it is,” he said. 

The upside of slow growth in the labour force
The Finance Department’s long-awaited study on the economic and fiscal implications of our aging population was finally released on Oct. 23. It’s a gloomy outlook that underpins the Harper government’s view that we have to cut government spending today to maintain costly social programs tomorrow. What the report fails to look at is the positive impacts of slower growth in the labour force, namely the prospect of better jobs and higher productivity, wrote Andrew Jackson, Packer Professor of Social Justice at York University, in The Globe and Mail Oct. 25.

Lawyer welcomes Supreme Court decision to hear bawdy house appeal
A lawyer campaigning to free sex workers from risky street strolls welcomed a Supreme Court of Canada decision to consider an Ontario ruling that would legalize brothels, reported the Toronto Sun Oct. 25. “This is what everyone expected,” Prof. Alan Young, of the Osgoode Law School at York University, said Thursday after Canada’s top court announced it will consider a federal appeal.

A baby comes to dinner providing much food for thought: Fed
I’ve just learned something terrifying about [my eight-month-old niece’s] cognitive development, thanks to my guest Kristin Andrews, associate professor of philosophy at York University, wrote columnist Corey Mintz in the Toronto Star Oct. 26. Within another month, she will be able to distinguish between an adult who is unable to help and one who is unwilling to help. “It’s the nine-month revolution,” says Andrews,  who’s just published Do Apes Read Minds? which challenges the accepted view of folk psychology; our understanding and prediction of others’ behaviour based on their beliefs and desires. 

Ally Financial’s self-mocking ads a funny money withdrawal
In 2009, Ally Financial Inc.’s commercials attracted attention for mocking its own industry with scenarios in which innocent children were subjected to arbitrary and unfair rules, reported The Globe and Mail Oct. 26. In perhaps the most memorable one, a chubby youngster looks devastated after failing to notice the fine print saying his toy truck would be taken away. But not everyone liked the ads. Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, believes they were “painfully laboured,” mean-spirited, and “a touch offensive.” 

McMaster, HHS lose $100m in drug research cash
The loss of more than 15 per cent of research dollars at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences comes at the same time drug companies are pulling research dollars out of Canada, reported the Hamilton Spectator Oct. 26. “It’s unusual,” said Joel Lexchin, professor of health policy and management at York University. “It’s not unexpected.” Lexchin says pharmaceutical companies have halved the dollars going to research and development in Canada to about six per cent of sales in roughly the past two years.