Residence Move-in Day marks the start of Orientation Week for new students

Saturday, Aug. 27 is Residence Move-in Day, and for many new students coming to York University, it also marks the start of a full week of orientation to university life. This year, events will be online and in person, marking a return to pre-pandemic times.

Orientation Week for thousands of new students to York University continues through to Sept. 6. The week brings an energetic blend of social and academic orientation programming planned by the Faculties, the Lassonde School of Engineering, the Schulich School of Business, York International, the Atkinson Centre for Mature and Part-time Students, the University Libraries and York’s 11 colleges. Events are presented both online and in-person and are open to resident and commuter students.

Energy will be high and guiding incoming students through Orientation Week are hundreds of upper-year student leaders who are volunteering their time and experience to make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable time. The Orientation leaders will be ready and waiting on Saturday to help students and their parents move into their residence rooms. Move-in day also includes a parents’ orientation, tours of the campuses, cheer offs, games, BBQs, parties and more.

One of the highly anticipated events of Orientation Week is York Orientation Day, a full-day event on Sept. 6 where students connect with peers and faculty in their program, explore the campus and attend the welcome ceremony in the York Lions Stadium at Keele Campus.

Visit the Orientation website for more details.

McLaughlin College a community partner for Human Rights Watch Canada Film Festival  

film clapper

McLaughlin College is one of this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival (HRWFF) community partners. The festival will hold screenings of five documentaries and will take place at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema from May 26 to 29.  

The five documentaries are:  

The Klabona Keepers 
The Klabona Keepers is an intimate portrait of the dynamic Indigenous community that succeeded in protecting the remote Sacred Headwaters, known as the Klabona, in northwest British Columbia from industrial activities. 
Tamo Campos, a York University master’s of environmental studies student, is the documentary director. 

March For Dignity  
This film follows a small group of brave LGBTI+ activists in Tbilisi, Georgia, as they attempt to conduct the first Pride march in the country, where homosexuality remains highly stigmatized.  

Mujer de Soldado (Soldier’s Woman) 
Mujer de Soldado is a deeply moving picture of female solidarity that finally provides space for the dignity of women’s experiences that has long been denied. 

Tacheles -The Heart of the Matter 
Three generations removed from the Holocaust, Yaar is a young Jewish Berliner desperate to leave the past behind. 

The Last Shelter 
Deep in Mali, in West Africa on the edge of the Sahel Desert, lies the peaceful city of Gao – a quiet way station for passersby with their eyes set on Europe in hopes of finding opportunity, safety and a better future. The Last Shelter is an emotional portrait of this town and the generous people who live in it. 

Human Rights Watch Film Festival logo

All five documentaries will be made available for digital viewing from May 30 to June 2. Each of these films addresses some of the most pressing human rights issues from across the globe. 

“Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s most recognized and respected human rights protection agencies and its annual film festival features award-winning documentaries that illustrate the human rights struggles that people are forced to confront daily. They are not only revealing, insightful but, above all, educative,” says Head of McLaughlin College James C. Simeon. “McLaughlin College is proud to be one of the many Community Partners for this year’s Human Rights Film Festival.” 

For more than 40 years, Human Rights Watch has defended people at risk of abuse by investigating abuses scrupulously, exposing the facts widely, and relentlessly pressing those in power for change that respects people’s rights. Their researchers examine situations in 90 countries around the world, functioning as investigators, journalists and advocates. 

Recently marking its 30th anniversary and currently screening films in more than 20 cities around the world, HRWFF bears witness to human rights violations in direct storytelling and exposé form. They create a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference. Tickets for the film festival are free of charge and can be reserved here. For more information, visit the Human Rights Watch website.  

Global South Forum discusses reconceptualizing Bandung  


York University’s Global South Forum “Reconceptualizing Bandung: Non-Alignment and Third Worldism Today” took place on April 5.  

The virtual event discussed the significance of the “Bandung spirit” associated with the Asian-African Congress of 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia, which was attended by delegates from 29 Asian and African nations, to discuss peace and oppose contemporary colonialism, racism and capitalism. 

Co-organized by the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC), Founders College, the graduate and undergraduate programs in Development Studies and the African Studies program in the Department of Social Science, and the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), the event brought together three globally prominent speakers from diverse backgrounds and different geographies to consider the structural shifts that accompanied decolonization, the continuous exploitation through an international division of labour, and the legacy of resistance as represented by Non-Aligned Movement and Third Worldism.   

The speakers included Su Lin Lewis, an associate professor in modern global history at the University of Bristol; Yao Graham, the coordinator of Third World Network-Africa, based in Accra, Ghana; and Houria Bouteldja, a founding member of le Parti des Indigènes de la République, a decolonial political member organization in France.  

Driving the discussion were the shared structures of feeling among the scholars about the political, social, cultural and ecological problems in the capitalist world economy. 

EUC Professor llan Kapoor says, “Bandung represents the powerful idea of ‘non-alignment,’ that is, a refusal to conform to the mainstream socioeconomic norms on offer today, be they capitalist, liberal democratic or authoritarian – norms that privilege the already privileged and exploit the excluded. The idea is to struggle instead for a new, radically egalitarian world which puts the excluded first.” 

YCAR Director and EUC Professor Abidin Kusno notes, “Today, the context is ‘Asia rising’ a reality which surpasses the dream of Bandung, but it is not clear how the rise of China for instance would challenge European hegemony and the global capitalist economy to build a more democratic and egalitarian world order.”  

Pablo Idahosa, an associate professor in African studies/international development studies at the Department of Social Science at the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies says, “A reassessment of the global order political-military, resource and financial realignments taking place, and the ambivalence of many countries in the global south towards them, would benefit from lenses provided from the global south, and not only because of but perhaps accelerated by, the invasion of Ukraine.” 

“Reconceptualizing Bandung” is the most recent event organized by the Global South Forum at the University, which has presented a series of events brought together since 2019 by Kapoor, Kusno, Idahosa, Viviana Patroni, associate professor of international development studies at the Department of Social Science, along with EUC Associate Professors Stefan Kipfer and Anna Zalik.  

The goal of the forum is to bring together the community of colleagues at the University committed to facilitating conversations about development more inclusive of the critical intellectual contributions from the global south itself.  

For more information about the Global South Forum, visit the YCAR website. To receive notices about upcoming events and other activities contact

York University played key role in Singaporean arts and education leader’s success

York alumnus Venka Purushothaman

Venka Purushothaman, deputy president and provost for LaSalle College of the Arts in Singapore, credits York University with opening his eyes to the potential of the arts, the field in which he has made his career.

By Elaine Smith

From the beginning of his post-secondary journey, it seemed quite likely that Venka Purushothaman, who earned an honours bachelor of arts degree in English literature and mass communication and a master’s degree in English literature from York University, would pursue an academic career, and he has – but not as a professor of English. Instead, Purushothaman’s path led him to arts criticism and administration before he earned a PhD in Singaporean cultural policy and festival culture at the University of Melbourne in Australia. He has since spent 20 years at LaSalle College as a professor and administrator and will be part of the college committee that works with the government to form a national university of the arts in Singapore.

As a secondary school student, Purushothaman was eager to pursue a university degree somewhere different from Singapore, because he needed to see the world. “I spun a globe and put my finger on it and the closest spot to where it landed was Newfoundland, so I decided to come to Canada to study,” he said.

Always curious, Purushothaman began reading extensively about Canada and was inspired. When he arrived, he decided to see the country before applying to university as a way of becoming comfortable with colloquial English and building his confidence; he put on his backpack and travelled.

Purushothaman decided to pursue a liberal arts education focusing on literature because he loved to read. Toronto appealed to him because, like Singapore, it was multicultural, although “Toronto was taking multiculturalism to another level,” he said, noting that York’s curriculum and approach to learning seemed like a good fit, mixing the traditional literary canon with postcolonial works. “The first-year offerings were diverse and wide and opened up new ways of thinking,” he said.

As he absorbed these new ideas, Purushothaman also worked on campus. One of the jobs he had later in his undergraduate career was as senior don for Winters College. At the time, Winters was becoming the fine arts residence, and Purushothaman soon got to know many budding artists.

“It was a bridge to understanding the arts in its many manifestations,” he said. “I went to all kinds of performances and exhibitions to support my friends and I became more in tune with contemporary arts. It was a transformative environment.”

After earning his master’s degree, Purushothaman visited his family in Singapore, intending to return to Canada and find a position in copywriting or editing. However, fate decreed otherwise. The arts were taking root in Singapore, and he was recruited to work as an arts administrator for the Singapore Arts Centre Co. Ltd. to help establish a national arts centre, the first in the country. Purushothaman travelled the world to visit arts facilities, including Harbourfront and Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. All the while, he continued writing, reviewing the visual arts and theatre work, he says, “that fed my soul.”

This job led him to other arts administration positions and, eventually, back to academia: first to his PhD studies and then to LaSalle College, where “I blended my interest in academia and the multi-faceted arts and creative industries.”

“I have been philosophically committed to transformative arts education,” Purushothaman said. “I do not want us to be siloed by history and tradition. Arts education should always be pioneering in that regard. Artists are resourceful and inventive, always looking for creative ways of learning. These modalities are now also valued by the non-arts sector and the place of creativity in many organizations is highly valued.”

Purushothaman believes in learning from the best and has used collaboration to tap into new ways of thinking and educating. In addition to creating the Asia-Pacific Network for Cultural Education (ANCER), he is a founder of a Global Design Initiative that pairs LaSalle with five other universities worldwide who are exploring new approaches to design education. The college is also a member of the Shared Campus Project, a consortium of universities who have a co-operation platform for international education formats and research networks. Purushothaman is also looking forward to making connections with the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design at York University.

“I want to see how we can find a common space to collaborate, because I truly believe in that global exchange,” he said.

Meanwhile, his latest endeavour is assisting in forming an alliance of Singapore’s two arts colleges to create a national university of the arts.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “It fits with the world class universities that Singapore already has. While we are seeing cuts to the arts in many countries, our government has a vision for multiple peaks of excellence. It is giving its stamp of approval to the arts, which is only fitting, because the arts are pervasive in society and help people realize their own potential.”

The arts and his early pursuit of an international education have led Purushothaman to discover and build upon his own potential and generations of artists and students have benefited.

McLaughlin College guest lecturer features Oscar-winning film


On Dec. 8 at 3 p.m., Lesley Sparks, Hot Docs education and youth programs manager, will virtually join McLaughlin College to feature the Academy Award-winning documentary, Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re A Girl). Sparks will then lead a discussion about the success and challenges of offering human rights content in today’s classroom.

Lesley Sparks

Sparks began her career in education with the creation of a national school program for Kodak Canada. She has created and organized major teacher conferences, lectures and events to highlight the power of the image. Since 2000, she has managed the Docs For Schools program curating documentary film programs for elementary and secondary teachers to complement their curriculum.

Docs For Schools the education program of Hot Docs, showcases content related to what is happening in society, culture, and the world. The programs offer documentary content across many subjects and grade levels to inform, offer insight, and bring new perspectives to students.

This event is co-sponsored by the Office of the College Head, McLaughlin College, and Human Rights Watch (HRW). To register in advance, click here.

Deborah E. Anker to deliver McLaughlin College’s Annual Public Policy Lecture

Woman's hand

McLaughlin College at York University will host its Annual Public Policy Lecture, presented by Professor Deborah E. Anker, on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

Deborah E. Anker
Deborah E. Anker

Anker, a clinical professor of law and the founder of the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC), will deliver the talk, “The Development of American Gender Asylum Law; Cross Border Collaboration Between U.S. and Canadian NGOs.”

Anker’s lecture will highlight the development of the body of the gender asylum law, or asylum claims of women subject to persecution over the past two decades and the influence of the international women’s human rights movement, which highlighted violence against women as a human rights issue. Anker will also discuss the urge for Canada to take leadership and reclaim its legacy after establishing a human rights framework for interpreting refugee law and issuing the first guidelines for adjudication of gender asylum claims in the 1990s.

Anker is one of the most widely known asylum practitioners, teachers and scholars in the U.S. and a pioneer in the development of clinical legal education in the immigration field, training students in direct representation of refugees and creating a foundation for clinics at law schools around the U.S. Author of the leading and annually updated treatise, Law of Asylum in the United States, Anker has co-drafted groundbreaking Gender Asylum Guidelines and amicus curiae briefs. Her historical work on U.S. ratification and implementation of the UN Refugee Convention in The Forty Year Crisis: A Legislative History of the Refugee Act of 1980,” is a classic that has shaped the interpretation of U.S. asylum law, especially in an internationalist direction.

Learn more about Anker and register for this event here.

Brain food: McLaughlin Lunch Talk Series serves up four events for October

McLaughlin College invites the York University community to come and listen to interesting speakers as they share their knowledge on a variety of topics during the popular Lunch Talk Series. The long-running series continues this year in a virtual format via Zoom.

Students who attend six or more Lunch Talks throughout the year will receive a Certificate of Participation, while those who attend 10 or more will receive a Certificate of Honour.

There are four events scheduled for October:

Distant States are as Responsible for the Refugees as the Neighbours – Oct. 6, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Presented by Boldizsar Nagy, associate professor at the Central European University, this event explores the argument that countries next to the home countries of the refugees have the duty to take up the refugees, and more distant states may refuse their admission. This talk will show that this is a morally false position that cannot be justified, so neither the “first country of asylum” nor the “safe third country” rule is morally tenable. Naturally, it is not denied that practical reasons may militate in favour of protecting refugees close to their home, but no normative claim can be based on them.

Nagy teaches international law and refugee law. He studied law and later philosphy at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest, and has acted as a practising international lawyer on several occasions, including the Gabčikovo-Nagymaros Project Case at the International Court of Justice. For more on his background, visit this page.

Register for the event here.

Fast-track Removals from the U.S.: Violations of Due Process and Non-Refoulement Obligations at the Southern Border – Oct. 7, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

In recent years, the majority of those deported from the United States each year are sent back to their home countries through summary procedures. Bypassing the immigration court system, these summary removals are improperly punitive, deny due process and violate fundamental non-refoulement obligations under U.S. and international law. This talk, presented by Sabrineh Ardalan, a clinical professor of law, will will provide an overview of recent policy changes that have led to an increase in fast-track removals, the legal framework for these removals and case studies that highlight the impact of these summary procedures on asylum seekers.

Ardalan is the the director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program. At the clinic, Ardalan supervises and trains law students working on applications for asylum and other humanitarian protections, as well as appellate litigation and policy advocacy. She has authored briefs submitted to the Board of Immigration Appeals as well as to the federal district courts, circuit courts of appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court on cutting-edge issues in U.S. asylum law.

Register for the event here.

The New EU Migration and Asylum Pact: Daylight at the End of the Tunnel or a Dead End? – Oct. 14, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

On Sept. 23, 2020, the European Commission proposed the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which is supposed to reform the existing European Union (EU) migration and asylum framework. However, the future of the Migration Pact is far from certain – considering the current stage of negotiations among EU member states, it is questionable whether the legislative proposals put forward by the European Commission will ever be adopted and, if so, what their final versions will look like. The aim of this talk, presented by Iris Goldner Lang, is to address the challenges the increasing number of migrants and refugees and the COVID-19 outbreak have had on the EU migration and asylum policies, and to discuss whether the Migration Pact can respond to these challenges by ensuring efficient and human rights-compliant practices. Special attention will be drawn to the most important novelties proposed by the Migration Pact, the challenges of their implementation and the importance of solidarity among EU member states.

Lang is a Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law at the University of Zagreb. She is the holder of the UNESCO Chair on Free Movement of Persons, Migration and Inter-Cultural Dialogue and an academic co-ordinator of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence “EU’s Global Leadership in the Rule of Law.” She has held visiting positions at University College London and at Harvard Law School, where she was a John Harvey Gregory Visiting Professor of Law and World Organization and a Fulbright Visiting Researcher.

Register for the event here.

The 2021 Canadian Election: The Election No One Wanted – Oct. 18, 12:30 to 2 p.m.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap federal election in the midst of the pandemic in the hopes of winning a majority, the five-week summer election campaign ended with virtually the same results as the last election in 2019. The outcome was another Liberal minority government, which prompted commentators to say, “All this for that?” There were many disappointments during this “pandemic election,” including the fact that it was the most expensive election in Canadian history and it had the lowest turnout on record.

McLaughlin College has assembled a panel of experts to offer their analysis of the 2021 federal election results and to share their thoughts and reflections on what this general election will mean for Canada, both in the short- and long-term.

Moderator: James C. Simeon is head of McLaughlin College and associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA), York University. He is a former director of SPPA. His principal areas of research include public international law, especially, international refugee law, and public policy and administration.


Sylvia Bashevkin is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Some of her scholarly distinctions include fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Political Science Association Prize in International Relations. Title of the talk: Do unnecessary elections invite trouble for governing parties?

Robert Drummond is University Professor Emeritus, Department of Politics and School of Public Policy and Administration, York University. His key areas of expertise are politics and government, public policy, Ontario politics, public politics in an aging society, political parties and elections, pensions and retirement policy, and labour policy.

Denis Pilon is an associate professor in the Department of Politics at York University. He is the author of Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the Twentieth Century West and The Politics of Voting: Reforming Canada’s Electoral System.

Frederick Fletcher is University Professor Emeritus, Communication Studies and Politics, at York University. His research and teaching have focused on the media and politics, with special attention to elections and electoral democracy. His recent research deals with coverage of Indigenous issues in mainstream newspapers and the challenges faced by traditional media in the digital era. Title of the talk: Campaign 2021: News media narratives and images

Register for the event here.

York University’s 2021 Orientation kicks off this weekend. Here’s a look at what’s planned

With fall term classes beginning on Sept. 8, the official start of the new academic year at York University is almost underway – and that means there’s plenty for new and returning students to do, think about and remember.

Luckily, the Orientation 2021 website helps with all of that, providing a schedule of events and corresponding registration information, a college finder tool, a resource guide listing academic and financial supports and student services, information about the York Orientation Welcome Kit and much more.

Due to the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of this year’s Orientation events will be held virtually.

Orientation 2021

This year’s Orientation Week runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 5 and includes a variety of events, workshops and icebreakers during which students will have a chance to meet other first-year students as well as upper-year students in their respective colleges and Faculties.

For more information about the various Orientation programs and how to register, students can visit the college and Faculty website links below. (Students can use the college finder tool to determine which Orientation to sign up for based on their academic program’s college affiliation.)

York University offers a wide variety of Orientation programming for new and incoming students

Orientation Day

One of the most highly anticipated events of the week is always York Orientation Day, a full day of activities on Sept. 3, where incoming students will be introduced to their professors, fellow students and University resources, and get a glimpse into what their first year at York will be like.

Academic Orientation will be hosted by the colleges and Faculties, with most sessions being held in the morning, followed by the 2021 York Orientation Day Welcome Ceremony, which will welcome the incoming undergraduate class with a special video premiering on the Orientation website homepage at 11:30 a.m. For more information about Academic Orientation, click here.

Black Excellence YU Welcome Event

Black Excellence YU (BEYU) provides Black students with the supports they need to transition to university and maximize their student experience on the path to graduation. The BEYU Welcome Event, taking place on Sept. 21 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will foster a sense of community among incoming students so they feel welcomed, seen and supported at York, while equipping new Black students with the knowledge of where to go for a range of academic and personal support. For more information, visit this link.

Indigenous Student Orientation

The Centre for Indigenous Student Services (CISS) welcomes incoming Indigenous Students to York. Meet the staff at CISS, learn about our services and meet other Indigenous students at York on Aug. 24 from noon to 1 p.m. via Zoom.

International Student Orientation

The International Student Virtual Orientation, taking place Aug. 23, 25 and 27, is a great way to start the first semester, prepare for university life and connect with other international students. York International and so many other supports, services and resources at York are all still available, no matter where in the world students are.

Alternatively, for those who are on campus, join for a fun afternoon of activities and food in person at the International Student Picnic taking place on Sept. 2, 6 and 10. This is a great way for first- and second-year students to learn more about the Keele Campus, connect with students from the same Faculty and make new friends. There will be a campus tour towards the end of the picnic.

For more information and to register, visit this link.

Mature and Transfer Student Orientation

In addition to the Mature Student Orientation taking place Aug. 26, all newly admitted mature and transfer students are encouraged to take part in the Mature Student First-Year Experience. The program consists of a series of online stand-alone workshops aimed at supporting mature and transfer students’ transition to York. Students may participate in as few or as many sessions as they would like via Moodle, an interactive learning platform used throughout York to deliver course content online. It is available 24-7 and lets students set their own pace for learning.

Residence Orientation

Residence Orientation will be multifaceted this year. Housing Services will host a video series outlining what it is like to live in residence, followed by individual building Orientation events that will take place during Orientation Week and the first week of school. Students should ask their Don about it when they move in.

YorkFest 2021

Each year the York Federation of Students aims to make YorkFest the largest back-to-school Orientation festival held on a Canadian University campus. Get ready for a week packed with good vibes and fun, Sept. 20 to 24. For more information, visit the YorkFest web page.

A look at what’s planned for York University’s Virtual Winter Orientation

Winter Orientation banner
Winter Orientation banner

Winter term classes begin on Jan. 11, 2021, and with the official start of the new academic term at York University, there’s plenty for new and returning students to do, think about and remember.

York’s official Virtual Winter Orientation takes place on Friday, Jan. 8. The official website launched this week and features a wealth of information for new and incoming students. As with fall orientation, all activities will be virtual and online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, students should visit the website as soon as possible to register for events and explore the resources and videos currently available.

Winter Orientation banner
Winter Orientation banner

Virtual Winter Orientation: Jan. 8, 2021

College/Faculty Orientation will take place on Jan. 8 and includes a variety of College/Faculty-specific events, during which time students will get a chance to meet other first-year students as well as upper-year students in their respective Colleges and Faculties (find your session information here) and participate in workshops, ice-breaker activities, panels and other exciting activities. Students who are uncertain of which College or Faculty they belong to can use the College Finder tool for help.

Virtual Service Fair will take place from 12 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 8, giving incoming and returning students the chance to connect with various student and support services using the EasyVirtualFair platform.

Additionally, two Consent Talks sessions will be offered through York’s Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education. This is a series of vignettes about sex and consent, focusing on the university experience during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the themes include virtual hookups, sexual violence, online harassment, and the impact of social media and physical distancing rules. (Content warning: sexual violence.)

International Student Orientation

A student uses a device at a desk
York University offers a wide variety of Orientation programming, all online in winter 2021, for all new and incoming students. It is a great way to discover campus resources and learn all about your degree while supporting a smooth transition into university

As the designated support office for international students, York International offers crucial services and programs tailored to address the unique needs of international students. The York International team will host a series of virtual orientation events designed specifically for international students on Jan. 7 from 2 to 4 p.m. and Jan. 8 from 8 to 10 a.m. via Zoom. More information can be found on the International Student Virtual Orientation website.

For those students looking to get a head start, there are numerous videos and video series featured on the site that serve to get students acquainted with the overall York community, including:

  • York Welcome Ceremony video
  • YORK 101 video series
  • Zooming Through YorkU series
  • Parents & Family Orientation session

November serves up three more lunch talks, including McLaughlin College Union Debate

McLaughlin College invites the York University community to come and listen to interesting speakers as they share their knowledge on a variety of topics during the popular Lunch Talks Series. The long-running series continues this year in a virtual format via Zoom.

Students who attend six or more lunch talks throughout the year will receive a Certificate of Participation, while those who attend 10 or more will receive a Certificate of Honour.

There are three more events in this series scheduled for this month on Nov. 18, 19 and 25, and all events take place online through Zoom.

Nov. 18 – Emergency Management and Civil Liberties, from 1 to 2 p.m.

Michael Bryant
Michael Bryant

This talk is presented by Michael Bryant, the seventh executive director and general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Canada is a public health emergency which has triggered emergency action on the part of government. Such action has entailed the use of emergency management legislation by all levels of government and resulted in a range of restrictions on a variety of rights. This seminar will canvas the effects of the use of emergency powers on civil liberties and will examine issues concerning the potential overreach of governmental use of these powers. These issues in turn raise questions about the nature of the rule of law and the ethics of the use of emergency powers.

Bryant is a member of the Law Society of Ontario, and was the 35th attorney general of Ontario. He has appeared before all levels of court, from bail courts as duty counsel through the Ontario Court of Appeal and Ontario Review Board as solo practitioner, to the Supreme Court of Canada as counsel at McCarthy Tetrault LLP. A clerk for the former Chief Justice of Canada, he has also been a lecturer in Law at King’s College, London, and adjunct professor at U of T and Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

Register for this event here:

Nov. 19 – The Election of Elections?, from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

Election 2020

This year’s election in the U.S. is one of the most important in the country’s history. One would have to go back 160 years to the election of Nov. 6, 1860, won by Abraham Lincoln, to find a reasonable facsimile. Then, as now, America is divided into two opposing constituencies to the point where the future of the country is at stake. This panel brings together some of York University’s candid political minds to discuss the significance of this election.

Register for this event here:–tpzIqHdNli3TI-qQo28vEbJKrhpZK.

Nov. 25 – AI as an Existential Threat? The second McLaughlin College Union Debate, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Organizers have assembled an exceptional panel for the second McLaughlin College Union Debate that will consider the following proposition: The rapidly accelerating advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could pose, quite likely, a serious existential threat to humankind in the not too distant future.

AI research
AI research

Artificial Intelligence (AI) research is accelerating, and its rapid development, innovations, and discoveries are already having an impact on society in quite dramatic ways such as autonomous vehicles, AI-generated music, poetry and storytelling, customer service bots and portals, and so on. The term “transformative AI” is used to describe a range of advances in AI that could impact on society in dramatic and difficult-to-reverse ways. Government policies and regulations will, undoubtedly, find it extremely difficult to keep up with the pace of technological progress with AI.

Researchers are already working on advanced warning systems for any possible extreme events. However, AI forecasting based on measuring AI progress is at its early stages of development and its utility has been challenged by those who point out that it could never be able to account for the revolutionary breakthroughs and discoveries that have the potential to achieve AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), that will allow machines to adapt to a variety of situations to maximize their potential, or to achieve high-level machine intelligence (HLMI), to perform at the level of an average human adult on key cognitive measures necessary for economically relevant tasks, or to achieve “superintelligence,” that Nick Bostrom, states “greatly exceeds the cognitive performance of humans in virtually all domains of interest.” (Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford University Press, 2014).

Register for this even here: