Irwin Cotler: Canada can do more to help prisoners of conscience in Iran

Today, York University will confer an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Nasrin Sotoudeh, the imprisoned Iranian human rights lawyer now in her third year of imprisonment and who is both the embodiment of the struggle for human rights in Iran as well as the symbol of the Iranian regime’s massive domestic repression, reported the National Post June 12. Nasrin Sotoudeh has emerged for Iranians as the iconic lawyer defending the hundreds of Iranian citizens arrested, detained, tortured, imprisoned and executed for nothing other than exercising their rights to freedom of expression and human dignity. York is to be commended on its choice of such a passionate advocate for the rights of others. Read full story.

What a bird-brained idea! Artist creates unnerving taxidermy statues with animals for heads
These statues may look human but look more closely and you might find a dramatic difference. The heads of the unnerving figures, dressed in hooded tops and trousers, were created out of stuffed animals, reported the Daily Mail June 12. Instead of a face on each model there is a bundle of taxidermic ducklings, raccoons, skunks and squirrels.  The statues are works of art by the sculptor Brandon Vickerd, a professor of visual arts at York University in Toronto. Most of the stuffed animals were bought from a taxidermist in Toronto but the ducklings had to be imported from China. Read full story.

Prostitution appeal finally gets its day in court
Six years and 25,000 pages of evidence after it began, a landmark Charter challenge to the country’s prostitution laws reaches the Supreme Court of Canada Thursday….The appeal court gave one victory to the Crown in 2012, ruling in a 3-2 split that communicating for the purposes of prostitution will remain illegal – a finding that Alan Young, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and his co-counsel are asking the Supreme Court to reverse….Young said that what began as a mission to end an epidemic of prostitutes killed or abused by violent clients has been increasingly misrepresented by opponents. “Various naysayers have tried to recast this security claim as a veiled attempt to industrialize and commercialize the sex trade,” he said in The Globe and Mail June 13. Read full story.

Midnight marauders
If you’ve lived in Toronto for more than a few days, you’ll know that stories about raccoons causing chaos are as common as TTC complaints or gridlock griping….So, why Toronto? Well, technically, they were here first. “This is the raccoon ecosystem,” said York University psychology professor and animal behavior specialist Suzanne MacDonald in The Grid June 12….Unlike cities such as Montreal, Edmonton and Ottawa, Toronto winters are milder and we typically don’t get buried by the kind of snow that makes it hard for raccoons to forage. The city’s network of ravines also connects neighbourhoods, MacDonald says, which offers raccoons a safe place to retreat, if necessary. Read full story.

Prisoner correspondence project
Prison is a place that few people ever want to go to. It is seen as an exile, the solution, to remove criminals from society so that they will not harm anymore. So what happens to the prisoner once they are locked up? Should they get any help from outside, or do they get nothing but menial tasks to complete? Swathi Sekhar, a recent graduate of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, believes that one way to create long-term change is by connecting prisoners on the inside with regular citizens, creating a pen pal system. “You just don’t know what has driven a person to such a low point, and it’s our [society’s] responsibility to give them the support to heal,” said Sekhar in South Asian Generation Next June 13. “These groups are already extremely marginalized in society; they face even more danger in this tense environment, and they have little to no support at all.” Read full story.

Frequent Twitter and Facebook users: You might be narcissists
A new study from the University of Michigan found that frequent social media use could be fuelling narcissistic tendencies in social media users of all ages, reported Mashable June 12. The study analyzed how much the subjects posted to Facebook and Twitter each day, as well as time spent on those sites reading posts and comments. It also surveyed the participants about their social media use and took personality traits into account….This subject has also been studied in the past, with similar results, by researchers at Toronto’s York University and San Diego State University. Read full story.

Burlington looks to cash in on the name game
A local law firm has purchased the right to hang its name on the city’s newest recreation centre, reported the Hamilton Spectator July 13. Haber and Associates will pay more than $1.3 million over the next 20 years for the privilege….Selling naming rights is an old story in the university world, especially in naming business schools. In 2001, for example, Hamilton native Melvin Goodes paid $10 million to name the new business school at Queen’s University for himself. The University of Toronto, York University, Western University and McMaster have struck similar deals with wealthy donors. Read full story.