Osgoode prof advocates for access to legal information

Office clerk searching for files in a filing cabinet drawer

Osgoode Hall Law School Assistant Professor Patricia McMahon is calling for key changes to Canada’s Access to Information Act after it took her more than five years to acquire information about a significant court case that dates back more than 100 years.

Patricia McMahon
Patricia McMahon

McMahon said certain provisions in the law are stifling research and she is organizing an interdisciplinary group of fellow academics to advocate for changes to the law.

“When I started this project, I had no idea that it would be harder to get information about what happened during the First World War than it was to get access to the documents I relied on to do my PhD dissertation on nuclear policy,” she said. “We’re trying to come up with some easy fixes that could make a big difference in the way access-to-information claims are processed.”

McMahon filed the first of several access requests in 2011, when she started researching an article about the use of habeas corpus during the First World War. She decided to focus on two cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1918 and filed an access-to-information request for the respective Department of Justice files. The cases were brought by two farmers – George Gray from Ontario and Norman Lewis from Alberta – who challenged the federal government’s move to revoke exemptions from compulsory military service when conscription failed to raise a sufficient number of troops to fight overseas.

She received almost the entire file on the Gray case but nothing for the Lewis case because, the government stated, it contained personal information. When she challenged that finding, she received about half the file. The rest was withheld on the grounds of solicitor-client privilege. It took five years to get the full file.

McMahon said different government officials review different access-to-information requests, even ones that are related like hers, and often come up with different conclusions as to what and how much can be released. That’s why she received most of the Gray file but had problems getting documents from the Lewis file, notwithstanding that each contained the same types of records.

“When in doubt, people typically take the cautious and most conservative approach and don’t release documents,” she said. “Everybody is afraid of releasing something that shouldn’t have been released.”

She said the interdisciplinary group of scholars she has helped to organize is hoping to shed light on the problems that the Access to Information Act is posing for researchers.

“It’s not just about access for journalists, which is really important,” she said, “but it’s also affecting the work that social scientists and others can do.”

McMahon said the group hopes to hold a symposium in the spring that will give researchers an opportunity to discuss the access-to-information problems they’re facing and some possible solutions.  

For McMahon’s research, the challenge was the way government relied on solicitor-client privilege to withhold select documents.

“Solicitor-client privilege survives for all time and belongs to the client,” she explained. “In the case of government lawyers, the government is the client. Solicitor-client privilege is a discretionary ground under the Access to Information Act, which simply means that government may withhold documents but has the discretion to release them, too.”

In McMahon’s view, solicitor-client privilege should not be used to protect government documents from permanent scrutiny. Even a temporal limit – like 20 or 30 years – would go a long way toward improving the situation.

“Whether the right amount of time is 20 or 30 years is a matter of debate,” she said, “but few could think it justified to withhold documents from researchers that are almost 100 years old.”

York alum, faculty among Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100

Group of diverse women entrepreneurs

Seven York University alum and one faculty member have been recognized as female leaders in Canada who work to build positive change and empower others. The women are recipients of the WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards for 2023.

WXN is a Canadian national organization that celebrates the advancement of women. Launched in 2003, the Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Awards celebrate the incredible accomplishments of Canada’s top female executive talent as well as their organizations and networks.

The 2023 winners will be celebrated in person at the 21st annual Top 100 Awards Gala, hosted at the Fairmont Royal York Toronto on Nov. 30.

The Top 100 Awards span the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, with the winners selected by WXN’s Diversity Council of Canada. The awards are presented to remarkable women in 12 categories. York recipients earned awards in five of those categories.

Below are this year’s winners and the categories for which they were recognized.

Amex Emerging Leaders

This award recognizes women between the ages of 30 to 40 years, who have been targeted for successive leadership positions within their organizations and have a proven passion for learning and innovation.

Rochelle Atizado
Rochelle Atizado

A master connector, Rochelle Atizado is senior advisor, partnerships and special initiatives at the United Nations Foundation and leads social impact partnerships with purpose-driven companies, creative community, civil society, young people and the UN to propel the sustainable development goals forward. Atizado is also a UN published writer. A Filipino Canadian hailing from Toronto, Atizado holds a bilingual masters of public and international affairs from Glendon College, York University. Having worked in Canada, Switzerland and the U.S., Atizado is now based in New York City.

Brittany Straitton
Brittany Straitton

Brittany Straitton is a dynamic leader with retail experience that spans merchandising, marketing, financial planning and replenishment. As vice-president of forecasting, replenishment and planning at the Canadian Tire Corporation, Ltd., Straitton is responsible for the correct timing of the $11-billion flow of goods from vendors to Canadian Tire stores at the right quantities. Passionate for promoting diversity and inclusion, she was one of the founders of CTC’s Families Employee Resource Group. Straitton holds an honours BBA from Brock University and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Compass Rose Entrepreneurs

This award recognizes women who own and operate thriving businesses.

Lisa Melchior
Lisa Melchior

Lisa Melchior, a Schulich School of Business alumna, has been a successful private equity investor for more than 25 years and has global investing expertise in enterprise software. Melchior is a thought leader in her sector and has sat on numerous public and private boards across North America and Europe. She is the first woman in Canada to launch a private equity fund, as she is the founder and manager partner of Vertu Capital, a technology private equity fund supporting the growth of the Canadian tech ecosystem.


This award recognizes women who are professionals in practice and play a leadership role within their organizations.

Poonam Puri
Poonam Puri

A full professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School, Poonam Puri is an internationally recognized scholar of corporate law, corporate governance and capital markets regulation. She is the York Research Chair in corporate governance, investor protection and financial markets. Co-founder and director of the Osgoode Investor Protection Clinic, she chairs the board of directors of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto and serves on the board of the Canada Infrastructure Bank and Colliers.


This award recognizes women in STEM roles who are challenging the status quo for knowledge and female empowerment.

Victoria Granova
Victoria Granova

An alumna of the Schulich School of Business, Victoria Granova is an industry leader, educator and passionate advocate for diversity and gender inclusion in the cybersecurity industry. Granova is a PhD student researching human-centric cybersecurity at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Cybersecurity Research Lab. She is also an instructor at Queen’s University, Toronto Metropolitan University and York University teaching enterprise cybersecurity and financial data privacy. Outside of teaching, Granova is a security technical program manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS), managing global vendor security, as well as the founder of CyberToronto, an edtech startup.

Women of Courage, presented by Richardson Wealth

This award recognizes women who champion Canada and its values across a diverse range of causes, with courage and compassion, even as it means risking their careers, reputations and, sometimes, their lives.

Domanique Grant
Domanique Grant

Domanique Grant, an alumna of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, leads Grant Creativity Inc., a BIPOC-owned, female-led Canadian social enterprise dedicated to increasing access and development for equity-seeking groups through wellness and entertainment-based programming. Her music has been at the forefront of some of the largest global movements of our time. Through Grant Creativity Inc., her work as a social entrepreneur includes founding The Imagine Summit, Canada’s first visualization, mental wellness and professional development summit. The Imagine Summit supports youth and entrepreneurs from underserved communities.

Lily Pourzand
Lily Pourzand

Lily Pourzand came to Canada as an asylum seeker from Iran at age 24 after graduating from law school. She continued her education in women’s studies and graduated with an LLM in feminism and law from Osgoode Hall Law School. Through her work as a director of programs for violence against women shelters, she provides services to women, children, immigrants and has become a leader in Social Services in York Region. Since 2021, Pourzand began to share her life experience in the media to shed light on women’s challenges and braveries.

Lisa Raitt
Lisa Raitt

An alumna of Osgoode Hall Law School, Lisa Raitt joined CIBC Capital Markets in January 2020, after careers in the public and private sectors. Her focus is on senior client coverage and business development with clients in the energy, infrastructure and industrial sectors. Previously, Raitt was the president and CEO of the Toronto Port Authority. She was elected into the House of Commons in 2008, and held three senior portfolios. Raitt was the deputy leader of the Official Opposition and the Conservative Party of Canada. She is currently the vice-chair and managing director, global investment banking at CIBC Capital Markets, as well as the co-chair of a Coalition for a Better Future.

About the Women’s Executive Network (WXN)

WXN (Women’s Executive Network), a member-based organization, is North America’s No. 1 and only organization that meaningfully propels and celebrates the advancement of professional women at all levels, in all sectors, and of all ages. WXN delivers this advancement through training, events, mentoring, networking and award and recognition programs for members and partners. WXN operates in Canada and the U.S.

York hosts basketball tournament to promote BIPOC inclusion

womens lions basketball

York University will host a three-day tournament, Oct. 20 to 22, to promote greater inclusion of Black, Indigenous and racialized women in collegiate basketball.

The Athlete Women Empowered Classic is a U Sports women’s basketball tournament featuring teams from York, Concordia, Trinity Western and the University of Toronto – the only teams currently led by Black women coaches.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, York’s women’s basketball head coach Christa Eniojukan, along with Concordia’s Tenicha Gittens, Trinity Western’s Cheryl Jean-Paul and U of T’s Tamara Tatham, designed the pre-season tournament with the goal of establishing a pathway for BIPOC women to step into leadership roles in sport.

christa eniojukan and women's lions basketball
York University Lions women’s basketball head coach Christa Eniojukan.

In addition to the five-game schedule, the event held at York’s Keele Campus will offer workshops, panel discussions and networking session that provide opportunities to interact with coaches, athletes and industry leaders. Attendees will have the chance to observe top athletes showcasing their skills and competing in various awe-inspiring sports. From heart-pounding races to jaw-dropping stunts, this event promises non-stop action and unforgettable moments.

On Friday, Oct. 20, York will face Concordia for an 11 a.m. game, followed by a 1 p.m. game featuring Trinity Western and U of T.

On Saturday, Oct. 21 at 11 a.m., York will take on Trinity Western and at 1 p.m., U of T and Concordia will play each other.

The final day, Sunday, Oct. 22, will have an early start with a 9 a.m. game between Concordia and Trinity Western.

Tickets are free and are available online.

More about Christa Eniojukan

The York University Lions women’s basketball head coach has been coaching youth teams and student-athletes for more than a decade, most notably with Ontario’s U17 provincial team from 2014-17. 

In July, the former Lion guard (2003-05), who has won six national medals, including four gold, earned a silver as the head coach of Canada’s women’s team at the second annual GLOBL Jam, a tournament featuring some of the best U-23 talent in the world. The Lions boss is entering her third season at the helm.

Eniojukan and the Lions kick off their 2023-24 season on Nov. 3 when they welcome the Waterloo Warriors to Tait McKenzie Centre for a 6 p.m. tip.

Read more about Eniojukan here.

Women with York affiliations earn recognition as trailblazers

Group of women professionals posed boldly in office setting, stock image

Thirteen women with affiliations to York University are recognized as key figures in how the city of Toronto is shaped as part of the Myseum of Toronto’s latest project, The 52: Stories of Women Who Transformed Toronto.

The multi-year project celebrates the contributions of women to the city of Toronto in art, culture, politics, sports, technology, business and more, and debuted Sept. 23 during Nuit Blanche.

The work premiered as a participatory performance where the stories of the 52 women were brought to life through original monologues written by 24 playwrights. Participants had the opportunity to step into the shoes of one of the 52 women by reading excerpts from the monologues.

Among those honoured were six York alum, one former faculty member and six honorary degree recipients.

York University alum

Jill Andrew
Jill Andrew

Jillian Andrew (BA ‘01, ‘02, BEd ‘03, PhD ‘18) – MPP, Toronto-St. Paul’s
Jillian Andrew is the first Black and queer person elected to the Ontario legislature. She was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as an Ontario New Democratic Party member of provincial parliament in 2018. Since elected to office, Andrew has hosted several initiatives in support of arts and culture, housing, education, health care, gender equity, environment and more.

Cheri DiNovo
Cheri DiNovo

Cheri DiNovo (BA ‘94) – United Church of Canada minister, activist and politician
Cheri DiNovo is an ordained United Church minister who performed Canada’s first legalized same-sex marriage. DiNovo is a member of the Order of Canada, recognized for her contributions to politics in Ontario and for her dedication to championing social justice. As the former member of provincial parliament for Parkdale–High Park in Ontario, DiNovo passed into law more pro-LGBTQ2+ legislation than anyone in Canadian history, including Toby’s Act, which added transgender rights to Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

Saadia Muzaffar
Saadia Muzaffar (image by Saadia Muzaffar)

Saadia Muzaffar (BA ‘01) – tech entrepreneur and author
Saadia Muzaffar is the founder of TechGirls Canada, a leading platform for women in science, technology, engineering and math in Canada. Additionally, she co-founded Tech Reset Canada, a collective of business leaders, technologists and other residents advocating for innovation that benefits the public good.

Rosemary Sadlier close-up portrait
Rosemary Sadlier

Rosemary Sadlier (BA ‘75)social justice advocate, researcher and author
Rosemary Sadlier served as president of the Ontario Black History Society for 22 years. She played a key role in the national declaration of February as Black History Month. She also successfully secured Emancipation Day (now, Emancipation Month) commemorations municipally in 1994, provincially in 2008 and nationally in 2021. Sadlier is also known for her contributions to the development of the African-Canadian curriculum and books on African-Canadian history.

Judith Snow (MA ‘76) – independent living advocate, community organizer and disability justice activist
The late Judith Snow was the first Canadian to receive government-mandated individualized care funding for personal assistance. Her activism enabled an additional 600-plus people in Ontario to receive funding. In the 1970s, Snow founded the Centre for Special Services for Handicapped Students at York University – Canada’s first post-secondary learning support program.

Kathleen Taylor
Kathleen Taylor

Kathleen Taylor (JD ‘84, MBA ‘84, LLD ‘14)Chair of the Board of Directors of Royal Bank of Canada/ business executive, York University’s 14th chancellor
Kathleen Taylor is a Canadian business leader who became Chair of Royal Bank’s Board of Directors in 2014, making her the first woman to lead a major Canadian bank. She was appointed as a director of the board in 2001 and as Chair from 2014 to 2023, helping to oversee a period of significant growth and international expansion for the bank. Prior to this role, Taylor was the president and chief executive officer of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, where she was instrumental in building Four Seasons’ global portfolio and international brand over almost 24 years with the company. 

Former faculty

Menaka Thakkar (DLitt ‘93) – dancer and choreographer
The late Menaka Thakkar was instrumental in Canada’s appreciation for Indian classical dance with her establishment of Canada’s first professional Indian dance company, Nrtyakala: The Canadian Academy of Indian Dance. An accomplished choreographer and dancer, she later founded the Menaka Thakkar Dance Company in Toronto, where she continued to train new generations of dancers. Thakkar taught in cities across Canada, in York University’s Department of Dance and at the National Ballet of Canada.

Honorary degree recipients

Roberta Bondar
Roberta Bondar

Roberta L. Bondar (DSc ‘92) – Canadian astronaut and neurologist
Roberta L. Bondar is Canada’s first female astronaut and neurologist in space. Following her space mission, she led an international space medicine research team, working with the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) for over a decade. In recognition of her contributions, she earned the NASA Space Flight Medal as well as induction into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

Adrienne Clarkson

Adrienne Clarkson (LLD ‘03) – governor general, journalist and author
Adrienne Clarkson, the Right Honourable 26th Governor General of Canada (1999-2005), was the first racialized person, the first individual of Asian heritage, and the first without a political or military background to be appointed to the vice-regal position. Prior to her appointment, Clarkson had an award-winning career in broadcast and print journalism as host and reporter of CBC’s “The Fifth Estate.”

Cathy Crowe
Cathy Crowe

Cathy Crowe (LLD ‘10) – nurse and health-care activist
Cathy Crowe is one of Canada’s first street nurses who dedicated her career to social justice with a focus on addressing homelessness. In 1998, she co-founded the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, which declared homelessness a national disaster. In 2018, Crowe was honoured with the Order of Canada.

Karen Kain (LLD ‘79) – ballet dancer and artistic director
Karen Kain joined the National Ballet of Canada in 1969 at the age of 18 as a member of the Corps de Ballet and became one of its most celebrated principal dancers. Her talent was recognized internationally and earned her a reputation as one of the best classical dancers of her time. In 2005 she was appointed artistic director of the National Ballet, which she served as until 2021, making her the longest-serving artistic director since the National Ballet’s founder, Celia Franca.

Rosalie Silberman Abella
Rosalie Silberman Abella

Rosalie Silberman Abella (LLD ‘91) – Canadian Supreme Court justice
Rosalie Silberman Abella became Canada’s youngest judge with her appointment to the Ontario Family Court at the age of 29. In 2004 she made history again by becoming the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. She is best known for her significant contributions to Canadian law such as developing the concept of “employment equity” and shaping the first decision made under the 1989 Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Min Sook Lee (MES ‘14) – filmmaker and activist
Min Sook Lee is an industry-recognized filmmaker and an associate professor at OCAD University who is an advocate for social justice through art and social change. She has directed numerous critically acclaimed works, including: Tiger Spirit; Hot Docs’ Best Canadian Feature winner, Hogtown; El Contrato; and the Canadian Screen Award-winning The Real Inglorious Bastards. As an academic, Lee’s area of research and practice focuses on the critical intersections of art and social change in labour, border politics, migration and social justice movements.

Alumni Awards recipients powerful examples of positive change

Audience clapping

For more than two decades, the York U Alumni Awards have been a platform for celebrating alum who embody the principles of York University, have left an indelible mark on their respective fields and have contributed positively to the world.

This tradition of recognizing the remarkable accomplishments of alum will continue Nov. 15, when this year’s distinguished awardees will be honoured at a ceremony.

Each year, the York University Alumni Awards recognize outstanding alum who have achieved the extraordinary and are working to right the future by creating positive change in their fields. The Awards celebrate the broad York alum community of innovators, activists and researchers and its long-standing commitment to the public good.  

This year’s recipients are Harry S. LaForme (LLB ‘77, LLD ‘08), Fatima Israel (MBA ‘06), Flavien P. Joubert (MES ‘03) and Temo Primrose Gare (BA ‘12).

“This year’s recipients represent the positive contributions York alumni are making around the world,” says Julie Lafford, assistant vice-president, Alumni Engagement. “In addition to their many accomplishments, exceptional leadership, philanthropic support and meaningful engagement with the alumni community, the 2023 award recipients continue to set an example for future generations of students and alumni alike. It will be a pleasure to honour them this fall at the Alumni Awards ceremony.” 

Outstanding Contribution: Harry S. LaForme (LLB ‘77, LLD ‘08) OC, IPC, senior counsel, Olthius Kleer Townshend LL.P 

This award goes to an alum who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of York and its students through exceptional service, commitment and/or philanthropic contributions.

Harry S. LaForme
Harry S. LaForme

Harry S. LaForme is a retired judge who received a bachelor of laws and a doctor of laws from Osgoode Hall Law School. In 1994, he was appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice, making him one of three Indigenous judges to be designated to this level of trial court in Canada at the time. He dedicated his career to furthering the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada’s 2SLGBTQ2IA+ communities and the rights of all other marginalized groups living in Canada. In 2004, LaForme became the first Indigenous judge to be appointed to an appellate court in Canada with his appointment to the Ontario Court of Appeal. 

During his tenure, LaForme specialized in Indigenous law with a focus on Constitutional and Charter issues and represented Canadian Indigenous interests internationally. In 2018, LaForme retired from the judiciary and currently works as senior counsel with Olthius Kleer Townshend. LaForme has received honorary degrees from various universities and numerous accolades, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Law & Justice and the Order of Canada. He’s also published numerous articles on issues related to Indigenous law and justice and speaks frequently on Indigenous issues, Indigenous law, constitutional law, and civil, equality and human rights.

Outstanding Achievement: Fatima Israel (MBA ‘06), EY Canada chief marketing officer

This award goes to an alum who has achieved distinction in their field and whose integrity and ability inspire alumni, faculty, staff and students.

Fatima Israel
Fatima Israel

Fatima Israel is a marketing officer with a master of business administration degree from the Schulich School of Business who is transforming the industry with her expertise in professional services, telecommunications, technology, health services and fintech. Israel is an advocate for putting people at the heart of transformation to drive innovation, catalyze progress and deliver on purpose. She boldly combines ambitious ideas with insights to build a better working world for her clients and communities. 

Her passion for leadership and advancing the marketing community has earned her awards from the Canadian Marketing Association and the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business. Israel strives to channel this passion to support the next generation as an executive mentor and advisory council member for the American Marketing Association, a mentor for the EY Women’s Athlete Business Network and a regular judge for marketing industry award programs.

Tentanda Via: Flavien P. Jourbert (MES ‘03), minister for agriculture, climate change and environment on the island of Seychelles

This award goes to an alum who has demonstrated innovative, unconventional, and daring leadership and success, reflecting the University’s motto “The way must be tried.”

Flavien P. Jourbert
Flavien P. Jourbert

Flavien P. Joubert currently serves as the minister for agriculture, climate change and environment on the island of Seychelles. Before attaining his master’s degree in environmental studies at York University, Joubert completed his higher national diploma and graduate studies at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom. During his studies, Joubert rediscovered one of the rarest bat species in the country and co-wrote two research papers on the subject. In his role as minister, Joubert has continued to promote research and conservation on bat species.  

Joubert’s career with the Ministry of Environment began in 1996, where he held several key positions, including director general for Wildlife Enforcement and Permits, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Seychelles National Parks Authority and CEO of the Landscape & Waste Management Authority. Internationally, Joubert has represented Seychelles in many fora related to chemicals and waste, and he served as a prominent figure in the Basel and Stockholm Conventions. He also played instrumental roles in initiatives around chemical safety in Seychelles. In 2015, Joubert was recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme for his leadership at the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the Nairobi Convention. In 2020, he was appointed minister for agriculture, climate change and energy.

One to Watch: Temo Primrose Gare (BA ‘12), journalist, television host, executive producer, Fibe TV; founder, Okavango Media

This award goes to an alum who has made a significant impact in their field and/or community within 15 years of a bachelor’s degree or 10 years of a professional/graduate degree.

Temo Primrose Gare
Temo Primrose Gare

Temo Primrose Gare is a journalist, accomplished television host and executive producer with years of experience in the media industry. Gare received a bachelor of arts from York University, where she laid the foundation for her passion for journalism and communication. She later pursued her master of media in journalism and communication at Western University. In 2018, Gare was honoured with the Raveena Aulakh Memorial Award in recognition of her academic achievements and contributions to journalism and communication.

Since completing her studies, Gare has worked at CTV News, BNN Bloomberg and NewsTalk, and produced two television shows for Rogers Communications and Bell Media. Gare currently serves as the host and executive producer of the television show “Our Stories” and is the founder of Okavango Media, her production company that provides a space for her to shape and amplify compelling stories that resonate with audiences on a deeper level.

About the awards

The York U Alumni Awards were inspired by Bruce Bryden, who was an exceptionally committed and influential leader at York University for many years. He was a member of York’s first undergraduate class, was the founding president of the York University Alumni Association (now the York University Alumni Board/YUAB) and was a member of the York University Board of Governors. The York U Alumni Awards recognize and honour his vision, exemplary leadership and extraordinary achievements.

For information about The York U Alumni Awards, visit yorku.ca/alumniandfriends/connect/events/yorku-alumni-awards.

Faculty of Health shines spotlight on educational leadership

gold and red stars

York University’s Faculty of Health recognized six early-career faculty members on Oct. 4 for their accomplishments in curricular innovation, teaching, research and service during the annual Dean’s Awards.

Recipients this year are: Lynda van Dreumel – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership, Pedagogical and/or Curricular Innovation; Jodi Martin – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; Jessica Vorstermans  – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; Skye Fitzpatrick – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award; Andria Phillips – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award; and Tarra Penney – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research.

The annual awards alternate each year between “early career” faculty and “established career” faculty in the categories of Teaching, Research and Service. This year’s awards cover the 2022-23 academic year for early-career faculty.

“This year the Faculty of Health is recognizing the extraordinary accomplishments of six faculty members whose dedication and leadership are contributing to positive change at York, and beyond, through outstanding research, service, or teaching. On behalf of all faculty, staff, students and community partners, I’d like to congratulate and thank this year’s award recipients,” said Faculty of Health Dean David Peters.

Award recipients picture left to right: Jessica Vorstermans, Jodi Martin, Skye Fitzpatrick, Dean David Peters, Tarra Penney, Lynda van Dreumel (absent is Andria Phillips).
Award recipients picture left to right: Jessica Vorstermans, Jodi Martin, Skye Fitzpatrick, Dean David Peters, Tarra Penney, Lynda van Dreumel.(Absent is Andria Phillips).

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership, Pedagogical and/or Curricular Innovation

Award recipient: Lynda van Dreumel, School of Health Policy and Management
This award recognizes outstanding educational leadership, pedagogical and/or curricular innovation.

Lynda van Dreumel
Lynda van Dreumel

Van Dreumel’s contribution to educational leadership, pedagogical and curricular innovation has been substantive and significant. Over the past four years her primary focus has been to create enabling opportunities to support students as they transition into and out of their undergraduate program.

Van Dreumel was at the forefront of the University’s transition to online education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the delivery of education. She curated multiple resources, collected lessons learned and developed a document with links to resources, tips and decision-making considerations for course design and delivery. This document was invaluable to the School of Health Policy & Management to successfully transition to online learning. Van Dreumel made herself available to share her expertise with CUPE instructors, new faculty hires and PhD students who were teaching courses. She guided them through important considerations for course and assessment design and served as a mentor to many through out the semesters. As the University was preparing for in-person learning, van Dreumel was one of the first to volunteer for the Hyflex Pilot Program. She co-authored a guidance document to assist instructors and schools on applying pedagogical theory to make student-centred decisions around course delivery format.

Van Dreumel re-designed an undergraduate course to focus on foundational personal leadership and system leadership capacities necessary for success. She played a key role in the development of a new undergraduate program – Racialized Health and Disability Justice (RHDJ) – specifically with supporting an integrated and collaborative curricular model that will work with the school’s existing undergraduate program.

“Congratulations on receiving this award. You clearly demonstrate excellence in faculty and student mentorship and contribute in innovative ways to the enhancement of pedagogy, curriculum and teaching and learning in the Faculty and York as a whole,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Award recipient: Jodi Martin, Department of Psychology
This award recognizes outstanding commitment to high quality teaching.

Jodi Martin
Jodi Martin

Martin is an outstanding and committed educator who creates a high-quality and inclusive teaching environment, fosters collaborative approaches to teaching and contributes to an excellent experience for students. Martin creates a safe and welcoming classroom environment which enables students to master the core skills and leave with a sense of pride in how much they have been able to learn and accomplish.

Martin uses many different approaches to foster learning of challenging subject areas. For example, she uses asynchronous and in-person components. All students are expected to engage with asynchronous course material prior to in-person class time, as this time is used to apply learned material via active learning such as working on problems individually or in small groups. She incorporates formative assessment by using low-stake quizzes rather than anxiety-producing large exams.

Martin joined York in 2019 (in the teaching stream) and since then has supervised four specialized honours thesis students, 10 independent research project students and three undergraduate research assistants, in addition to her teaching load. These opportunities have led to publications and/or conference presentations.

Martin has consistently received excellent teaching evaluations from her students and leaves an indelible mark on their future.

“Congratulations on receiving this award. Your commitment to high-quality and innovative teaching and evidence-based practices in the scholarship of teaching and learning are making a lasting impact on students and ensuring York University meets its academic plan for 21st Century Learning,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Award recipient: Jessica Vorstermans, School of Health Policy and Management
This award recognizes outstanding commitment to high quality teaching.

Professor Jessica Vorstermans
Jessica Vorstermans

Vorstermans’ teaching pedagogy and practice are grounded in the practice of anti-oppression by building a space for all students to belong in the classroom and curriculum. In 2021, Vorstermans co-founded York’s first community of practice on decolonization, equity, inclusion and diversity (DEDI) with two members of the Teaching Commons. They convene monthly community meetings on topics related to their mandate.

Vorstermans has demonstrated exceptional qualities related to teaching; she focuses on creating student-centred approaches to course work to ensure successes for all types of learners. The courses are thoughtfully designed so that students have class presentations and group projects as means to engage with the content. She works tirelessly at decolonizing learning of the course material, by emphasizing how colonialism is a central process in the creation of our world, and how this shows up in the spaces of health, disability and all other social systems.

Vorstermans, in partnership with SweetGrass Roots Collective, provides experiential learning engagement for both graduate and undergraduate students to collaborate with Black Creek Community Farm. This provides students with unique community-engaged learning experiences of harvesting sweet water at the farm, which is used by Indigenous community members in ceremony.

Vorstermans ensures that all of her students accessibility needs are met as she employs various course assessment criteria. She played a key role in the development of the new proposed undergraduate program Racialized Health and Disability Justice (RHJD), by leading the framing of an equity-based and supportive approach to academic integrity within the program.

Vorstermans consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations.

“Congratulations for your dedication to students at York University and ensuring we are achieving our academic priorities of 21st Century Leaning, From Access to Success and Living Well Together,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award

Award recipient: Skye Fitzpatrick, Department of Psychology
This award recognizes the outstanding service and impact of faculty members in the Faculty of Health who have gone beyond the usual service expectations.

skye fitzpatrick
Skye Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick received this award for her high-impact service to the unit, Faculty and York University where she brings her particular focus on equity, diversity, inclusion and justice (EDIJ) to the task at hand. Fitzpatrick joined York University in 2019 and immediately set out to increase York’s reputation in the field of psychology nationally and internationally.

Fitzpatrick, as a member of the Clinical Area Admissions Committee, developed and implemented a novel method of reviewing clinical psychology graduate student applications, that reduced workload for faculty reviewers and human error. This process has enabled the graduate clinical program to evaluate approximately 500 applications per year. Her efforts on the committee resulted in an important advancement for EDIJ. Fitzpatrick undertook the task of investigating how the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) – an admission requirement for graduate psychology programs at York – is predictive of graduate student success and whether it results in biased decision-making against applicants from marginalized backgrounds. She then developed a proposal for clinical area faculty to alter the graduate admission process, based on her findings; the clinical area is in the process of implementing several changes as a result.

Another area where Fitzpatrick has made an impact is in the role of Chair of the Senate Appeals Committee (SAC). She formed an EDIJ-focused working group within SAC to ensure that their procedures were equitable. In addition, they have been working on methods of collecting voluntary, deidentified demographic data from appellants to identify whether there are issues of systemic bias in the SAC procedures.

“Congratulations on receiving this award. Your service and engagement makes York University a welcoming and equitable community for all,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award

Award recipient: Andria Phillips, School of Nursing
This award recognizes the outstanding service and impact of faculty members in the Faculty of Health who have gone beyond the usual service expectations.

Andria Phillips
Andria Phillips

Phillips is committed to the success of the School of Nursing (SON) as evidenced by the many service activities she undertakes. She is associate director of undergraduate education at SON, where she provides academic leadership, strategic direction in program planning and curriculum design, delivery and evaluation. She is currently working with a team of people to create a new innovative approach to orientation of new clinical faculty that includes online interactive videos and an in-person simulations component that helps to prepare clinical faculty to manage real-life situations while teaching practicum and lab.

Phillips, along with other faculty members, contributed to a new direction in experiential education efforts by developing the Virtual Escape Room for teaching and learning. The Virtual Escape Room is a series of escape rooms where groups of students must work together to apply their knowledge from a course to solve puzzles and accomplish tasks to unlock the room and escape. For this work she received the Ministry of Colleges and University Award of Excellence in the category of Future-Proofing Ontario Students.

Phillips’ creative problem solving is visible in her various approaches to student success; she organizes in-person creative workshops in the Nursing Simulation Centre titled Halloween Skiller Night, All About the Beats Valentine, an event that helps nursing students identify knowledge gaps such as post operative complications. These events are valuable in developing students’ competency and confidence as they work towards successfully completing the licensing exam.

“Congratulations Professor Phillips – your drive, passion, knowledge, leadership and dedication is truly valued in the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and York University,” said Peters.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research

Award recipient: Tarra Penney, School of Global Health
This award recognizes outstanding contribution to research by faculty members in the Faculty of Health.

Tarra Penney
Tarra Penney

Penney’s research focuses on the application of novel methods in global food systems and disease prevention policy and a commitment to sharing these novel methods with global organizations and policymakers. Her research characterizes disease as an emergent property of a set of complex social, economic, political and environment systems.

Penney’s research is collaborative and multidisciplinary, and often includes extensive consortia style projects with collaboration between several multidisciplinary academic colleagues within and across institutions, international academic colleagues working in lower middle-income countries (LMIC) (e.g., Philippines, Senegal, DRC, India) and a range of government partners.

Penney is committed to sharing the outcomes from her novel research methods with global organizations and policymakers. She worked with the WHO Department of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD) Prevention Office to develop and publish international guidance on the use of systems thinking for chronic disease prevention policy. This evidence was then used to develop guidance that could facilitate moving systems approaches into practice throughout the policy process to support member states.

Penney is a prolific researcher. Since she joined York in 2019, she has received 14 external research grants totaling over $25 million, with seven projects as nominated principal investigator totalling nearly $1.2 million. She is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), World Health Organization (WHO), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Wellcome Trust and others, demonstrating the wide appeal of her research and the potential for informing policy as evidenced by the collaborative nature of the grants. During this time, she has had 33 peer-reviewed publications in prominent journals in her field including PLOS Medicine, Journal of Community Health Epidemiology and BMJ. Penney has also published book chapters in BMC Public Health.

“Congratulations on receiving this award. Your dedication, expertise and leadership in your field of research is contributing to York University being recognized as a global leader in global health policy and practice,” said Peters.

Four leaders to receive honorary degrees during Fall Convocation


York University will award honorary degrees to four outstanding individuals recognized as exemplary changemakers during the 2023 Fall Convocation.

From Oct. 11 to 20, graduates will cross the stage at six different ceremonies, with an additional ceremony for the School of Continuing Studies.

Below are the honorary degree recipients in order of the Faculty ceremonies at which they will be honoured:

Itah Sadu, author, entrepreneur
Honorary doctor of laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies I, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
Thursday, Oct. 12, 10:30 a.m.

Itah Sadu
Itah Sadu

Itah Sadu is an international, award-winning storyteller and bestselling children’s author. Her children’s books have been translated into various languages, and have been adopted for curriculum development and film adaptations.

She is the co-owner of the independent bookstore A Different Booklist with her husband, Miguel San Vicente. Their bookstore is a Toronto destination specializing in African and Caribbean-Canadian literature and diverse resources from around the world. She is also a founder of the Blackhurst Cultural Centre, formerly known as A Different Booklist Cultural Centre.

A dynamic entrepreneur and community builder, Sadu uses creativity, leadership and teamwork to create infrastructure and legacy in communities.

Her innovation has brought the city of Toronto the annual Walk With Excellence and the Emancipation Day Underground Freedom Train Ride in collaboration with the Toronto Transit Commission.

Wes Hall, Chair and founder of WeShall Investments, television personality
Honorary doctor of laws
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies II
Thursday, Oct. 12, 3:30 p.m.

Wes Hall
Wes Hall

As the Chair and founder of WeShall Investments, a private equity firm with a diverse portfolio of companies predominantly supporting Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) entrepreneurs, Wes Hall comes from humble beginnings in rural Jamaica. He grew up in a plantation worker’s shack as one of several children supported by his grandmother. In 1985, Hall immigrated to Canada, where he set out to become the businessman he is today. Dressed daily in a suit, Wes started as a mail clerk at a leading law firm in Toronto. His curiosity, intelligence and ability to spot opportunities allowed him to turn a $100,000 loan from the bank to start his first business, Kingsdale Advisors, into Canada’s pre-eminent shareholder advisory firm.  

A staunch philanthropist, Hall is deeply committed to community betterment. He founded the ambitious and highly successful BlackNorth Initiative to help end systemic anti-Black racism in Canada. He has instructed the Black Entrepreneurship & Leadership course at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, a first-of-its-kind course in North America.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce named Hall the Canadian Business Leader of 2022. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, Toronto Metropolitan University, the University of Ottawa and the University of the West Indies. He also received the Medal of Distinction from Huron University in 2022. 

Other accomplishments include penning a bestselling memoir, No Bootstraps When You’re Barefoot. He launched a podcast in partnership with the Toronto Star, “Between Us with Wes Hall,” and is also on the hit CBC series “Dragons’ Den.” 

Andromache Karakatsanis, justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
Honorary doctor of laws
Schulich School of Business, Osgoode Hall Law School
Friday, Oct. 13, 10:30 a.m.

Andromache Karakatsanis
Andromache Karakatsanis

Justice Andromache Karakatsanis is the longest serving justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, appointed in 2011. A judge since 2002, she served first as a trial judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and then as a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Before her appointment to the bench, she worked in the justice system in diverse capacities over two decades: as a lawyer in private practice; as Chair and CEO of a regulatory tribunal; as secretary of Native Affairs for Ontario; and as deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of Ontario. She subsequently served as deputy minister to the premier and head of the Ontario Public Service, providing leadership to the deputy ministers and to 60,000 public servants.   

Throughout her career, Karakatsanis has volunteered extensively and served on the boards of many community and professional associations. She has been recognized with numerous medals and awards in her profession and community. She currently serves as Chair of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.  

Nnimmo Bassey, architect, poet and environmental activist
Honorary doctor of laws
Glendon College, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, Faculty of Education, Lassonde School of Engineering, Faculty of Science
Friday, Oct. 13, 3:30 p.m.

Nnimmo Bassey
Nnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo Bassey is an architect, poet, director of the ecological think tank Health of Mother Earth Foundation (based in Nigeria) and member of the steering committee of Oilwatch International – a network resisting the expansion of fossil fuels extraction in the Global South.  

Bassey’s books include To Cook a Continent – Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa, Oil Politics – Echoes of Ecological War and I will Not Dance to Your Beat (poetry). 

He chaired Friends of the Earth International (2008-12) and was a co-recipient of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “alternative Nobel Prize”. In 2012, he received the Rafto Human Rights Award.  

Bassey received Nigeria’s national honour, Member of the Federal Republic, in 2014 and became a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Architects in the same year. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of York, U.K., in 2019. 

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness to co-host event exploring youth transitions

Hand reaching out for help

York University’s Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) will co-host an international symposium on youth transitions from child protection services that will bring together over 100 policymakers, researchers and service providers from across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

From Oct. 12 to 13, the International Transitions from Child Protection Symposium in Richmond, B.C., will examine the challenges associated when youth “age out” of the child protection system and lose the supports they once received.

This transition often finds youth without appropriate housing, education, employment or emotional support, making them susceptible to homelessness and other adverse outcomes. A COH study called “Without a Home”  found that 57.8 per cent of youth experiencing homelessness were involved with child protection services in the past. Furthermore, Indigenous children make up a disproportionately large percentage of children in care, with those experiencing homelessness even more likely (70.5 per cent) to report involvement with child protection services. 

The symposium, co-hosted with A Way Home Canada, will further consider the subject, as well as the gaps and challenges within the systems meant to protect and support vulnerable youth. Addressing the transition experience requires a comprehensive, multi-sector approach that spans government at all levels and various sectors, including social services, health care, policing and justice.

The event’s sessions will explore how to improve transitions by bringing together decision-makers, researchers, policymakers, service providers, and people with lived experience in child protection and youth homelessness. The goal is to identify promising practices and opportunities for action, ensuring successful transitions to adulthood, preventing youth homelessness and fostering positive life outcomes.

The symposium represents a first-of-its-kind opportunity for governments, communities and researchers to learn, grow and work together to co-design what partnerships, actions and shared responsibility can look like. It is sponsored by the Home Depot Canada Foundation and Porticus.

Those interested in attending can see the full agenda here and register here. Those with questions are encouraged to contact David French at dfrench@awayhome.ca.

Facility renaming honours long-serving Schulich dean

Dezsö J. Horváth Executive Learning Centre

On Sept. 28, York University’s Schulich School of Business hosted a milestone event celebrating the renaming of the school’s Executive Learning Centre in honour of Dean Emeritus Dezsö J. Horváth.

Dezsö J. Horváth
Dezsö J. Horváth

Horváth led the school for 32 years, making him the longest-serving dean of any major business school in the world. As dean, Horváth helped Schulich attain international prominence and renown. He transformed Schulich into a global business school and expanded its reach and influence around the world. He also spearheaded the development of innovative degrees and pioneering programs and helped make Schulich a world leader in the field of responsible business, among others.

The renaming of the Executive Learning Centre as the Dezsö J. Horváth Executive Learning Centre is the latest of many honours for the former dean. Other awards and recognitions he has received over the course of his career include being named International Dean of the Year in 2004 by the Academy of International Business in recognition of his “outstanding leadership in various aspects of internationalization” and being appointed to the Order of Canada in 2008 for his academic leadership and sustained commitment to business education.

“Serving as dean of the Schulich School of Business was the greatest accomplishment of my career – and also the most satisfying and enriching,” said Horváth in his keynote address. “Throughout my career, I was fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly talented and capable people. I had a strong faculty, tremendous advisory boards, a loyal and successful alumni network and, most of all, a dedicated and highly professional team of staff members.”

He concluded his remarks by addressing the members of the Schulich global community: “You cared about our school. You believed in what we were trying to achieve. And you made us successful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Current Schulich Dean Detlev Zwick presented Horváth with a plaque in recognition of the honorific naming, describing it as “a proclamation of the high esteem in which you are held by the Schulich and York communities and as a sign of the sincere gratitude we share for all that you have done.”

Schulich Dean Detlev Zwick presents Dean Emeritus Dezsö J. Horváth with a replica plaque in recognition of the honorific naming.

A number of leading members of the Schulich community attended the event and paid tribute to Horváth, including: Seymour Schulich, OC (Hon. LLD ’03), the school’s chief benefactor and one of Canada’s greatest entrepreneurs; Robert Krembil, CM (MBA ’71, Hon. LLD ’00), an individual synonymous with health-care research and philanthropy in Canada; Rob McEwen, CM (MBA ’78, Hon. LLD ‘05) and Cheryl McEwen (Hon. LLD ’19), benefactors of the school’s Rob and Cheryl McEwen Graduate Study & Research Building; Leslie Dan, CM, O Ont (Hon. LLD ’10), one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurs in the field of health and medicine; Bill Graham (MBA ’86), former president of Schulich’s Global Alumni Network; and Paul Tsaparis (MBA ’84), Chair of York University’s Board of Governors. Other prominent members of the Schulich community who attended the event include Rick Waugh, OC (MBA ’74, Hon. LLD ’07), former deputy Chair, president and chief executive officer of Scotiabank.

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, who was on business overseas, provided a special videotaped message, as did a number of other individuals who worked closely with Horváth, including: John Hunkin (MBA ’69, Hon. LLD ’04), former Chair of the Schulich Dean’s Advisory Council; G.M. Rao (Hon. LLD ’11), Chair of the School’s India Advisory Council; and, representing Schulich students from over the years, former Graduate Business Council President Kiki Oyerinde (IMBA ’20). Lisa Philipps, York University provost and vice-president, academic, gave a toast at a special private luncheon following the naming celebration.

One of the highlights of the naming ceremony was the announcement of the prestigious Dezsö J. Horváth Visionary Leadership Award, to be awarded annually to an entering Schulich MBA or Tech MBA student who demonstrates academic excellence, leadership and potential. The inaugural recipient of the award, Asma Afrin Hassan, a student in Schulich’s new Tech MBA program, was announced during the ceremony.

The building renaming was made possible thanks to the generous support provided by Seymour Schulich and the Schulich Foundation, Robert Krembil and the Krembil Foundation, Rob and Cheryl McEwen, and Leslie Dan, among others. Zwick and Tsaparis co-chaired the event. Marcia Annisette, professor of accounting at Schulich and York’s newly named vice-provost academic, served as the master of ceremonies.

The newly renamed Dezsö J. Horváth Executive Learning Centre first opened in 2003 and includes an 11-storey hotel, lecture halls, breakout rooms, a fireside lounge, a penthouse boardroom and an 80-seat private dining room.

Professor receives patent to improve AI machine learning


Steven Xiaogang Wang, a professor in York University’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics at the Faculty of Science, and a member of the Laboratory of Mathematical Parallel Systems, has had a U.S. patent approved for an algorithm that will reduce the training time of artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning (ML).

The patent, titled “Parallel Residual Neural Network Architecture and System and Method for Training a Residual Neural Network,” was inspired by a 2018 paper titled “Decoupling the Layers in Residual Network.” Both were based on collaborations with Ricky Fok, a former postdoctoral Fellow student; Aijun An, a professor in the Department of Engineering & Computer Science; and Zana Rashidi, a former graduate research assistant who carried out some of the computing experiments.

Steven Wang

The now-patented algorithm, approved this year, was a result of six months of research at York. It was submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2019. The algorithm’s framework is based on mathematical arguments that helps significantly reduce the training time of machine learning, as it absorbs, processes and analyzes new information. It does so by using a mathematical formula to allow residual networks – responsible for the training of AI – to compute in parallel to each other, thereby enabling faster simultaneous learning.

Wang’s desire to accelerate machine learning’s abilities is driven, in part, by a specific area of AI applications. “I want to apply all the algorithms I develop to health care,” Wang says. “This is my dream and mission.”

Wang has especially focused on using AI to improve care for seniors and that work has previously earned him the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Award from the House of Commons for initiatives during COVID-19 to mitigate the spread of the virus in long-term care facilities.

Wang plans to use the patented algorithm in ongoing projects that aim to provide smart monitoring of biological signals for seniors. For example, it could be used in long-term care to continuously monitor electrocardiogram signals at night to register heartbeats that have stopped. To move towards that goal, Wang is also working on building an AI platform that will complement those ambitions, and expects it to be ready in several years.

He is deeply invested in the social impact of AI as a member of the York organized research unit Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Society, where researchers at York who are collectively advancing the state of the art in the theory and practice of AI systems, governance and public policy. 

“I can use the machine learning to help the long-term care facilities improve the quality of care, but also help out with the struggles of the Canadian health-care system,” says Wang.