BlackBerry’s woes draw Canada’s contrarian mogul into spotlight

Throughout the first weekend of November, V. Prem Watsa, the Canadian immigrant success story and chairman of Fairfax Financial Holdings, was huddled in the offices of his Toronto law firm, Torys, trying to salvage the biggest bet of his career. . . . Aside from the lack of an obvious strategy for BlackBerry, turning the company around while it remains publicly traded will be an enormous challenge, said Douglas Cumming, a professor of finance at York University in Toronto, in the New York Times Nov. 10. “If they think they can get this all sorted out in the public eye, that’s going to be a pretty rare event,” said Cumming, adding that the glare on BlackBerry’s problems will further erode confidence in the brand. Read full story.

Canada draws on deep ties to Philippines in pledging millions for typhoon relief

Canada has deep connections with the Philippines that could affect the size and speed of federal relief efforts as the scope of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan becomes more clear. . . . “There’s clearly a lot of very worried people in [Canada’s Filipino] community who are undoubtedly wanting to see the federal government act,” said York University geography Professor Philip Kelly in The Globe and Mail Nov. 10. “I think where there is a significant immigrant community from a particular place, then the interest is always going to be heightened in the Canadian context.” Read full story.

Munk Debates: Will any men be on hand?
Caitlin Moran, a columnist with the Times of London, will be appearing alongside the Amazonian Camille Paglia at Friday’s Munk Debates, arguing against the stunt line resolution: Be it resolved, men are obsolete. . . . The thesis of the Munk resolution can be distilled thusly: Women are “fast emerging” as the “more successful sex of the species,” reported the Toronto Star Nov. 8 . . . At York University’s Schulich School of Business, 36 per cent of total enrollment last year was made up of women. A decade earlier, in 2001, that number stood at 39 per cent. Read full story.

Toronto Star Poetry Week brings in hundreds of submissions
In all, the Toronto Star’s Poetry Week contest received nearly 1,000 poems. . . . Judge Priscila Uppal, whose memoir, Projection: Encounters With My Runaway Mother, is nominated for the upcoming Governor General’s Awards, has written nine books of poetry. She thought several [contest] submissions were publishable in anthologies. “It’s always impressive when you see non-professionals who are able to rise to the occasion because of the inspiration that the contest gives to them,” said Uppal in the Toronto Star Nov. 9. . . . Unfortunately, exposure to poetry has declined in schools, but Uppal – also a York University professor – thinks that should change. “It’s a valuable way to explore how our hearts and minds and souls are feeling about these subjects. We shouldn’t ignore that part of the self.” Read full story.

Risky acne drug Diane-35 underscores Health Canada’s limitations
Health Canada has approved more than 10,000 prescription drugs for use across the country, but the federal health department does not have the power to recall a single one if it is found to be unsafe. That little-known but long-standing regulatory flaw was recently highlighted again in a government-commissioned report on faulty birth control pills. . . . “Although one would hope a commercial company would act appropriately, I don’t know that you can always rely on them to do so,” said York University health policy Professor Joel Lexchin in the Toronto Star Nov. 9, who has just completed a second study of drugs withdrawn from the Canadian market for safety reasons, to be published shortly in Open Medicine. “Safety around drugs is something that should be a public responsibility, not the responsibility of a private, for-profit company,” said Lexchin. Read full story.

Don’t censor street art
“For some years now, the Jamaican police have been painting out murals in working-class communities in a symbolic battle with residents. Now the story has gone global,” wrote York University environmental studies Professor Honor Ford-Smith in The Gleaner Nov. 10. “According to tongue-in-cheek news stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post and elsewhere, police wearing battle fatigues and carrying paintbrushes have entered Kingston’s ‘notorious slums’ and covered images ‘celebrating leaders of Jamaica’s violent underworld’. Police claim that the murals ‘immortalise criminal elements and dons. In an interview on Jamaica’s CVM TV, the police commissioner stated that they plan to remove everything symbolic of gang presence. Judging by the public silence, many agree that destroying the murals will somehow help to obliterate donmanship.” Read full story.