One Fare Program to launch Feb. 26

Student walking away from subway on York University Keele Campus

The government of Ontario has partnered with Greater Toronto Area transit providers to make getting to campus more accessible and affordable by integrating fares across systems.

Starting on Feb. 26, transit customers paying with a PRESTO card, PRESTO in Google Wallet, debit or credit card (physical or in a mobile wallet) will be able to transfer for free between the TTC, Brampton Transit, Durham Region Transit, MiWay and York Region Transit, due to Ontario’s new One Fare Program. Also, TTC customers paying single-ride fares connecting to and from GO Transit will benefit from a fare discount, making their TTC fare free.

“York University commends the Ontario government for eliminating the need for double fares by creating a more integrated fare system,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “The new One Fare Program will have a significant impact on our community, as over 74 per cent of our students, and most of our faculty and staff, commute to campus via GO Transit as well as the two subway stations on our Keele Campus. An integrated fare system will not only create a more affordable, accessible and efficient transportation network but also continue to provide a sustainable transportation option that will help to reduce our community’s carbon footprint.”

Metrolinx will be on the Keele Campus for a community engagement event on Monday, Feb. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Vari Hall to discuss the new One Fare Program and the in-progress Finch West Light Rail Transit (LRT) line.

For more information on PRESTO, the electronic fare payment system available across 11 transit agencies in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and Ottawa, and how to obtain a PRESTO card, visit PRESTOcard.ca.

Lecture explores complexities of institutionalized DEI

Rear view of four diverse women

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are intended to create environments where individuals of all backgrounds and abilities feels safe, welcome and valued. York University’s School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies is examining the possibilities and limitations of institutionalized DEI at its annual lecture on Feb. 29, taking place from noon to 2 p.m. in 152 Founders College.

Titled Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): The Good, The Bad & The Performative, the event will touch on fields such as higher education, broadcasting, news organizations and politics. Through a roundtable discussion, it will explore the ways in which racialized and other marginalized people with progressive politics are often initially welcomed into spaces of power, becoming symbols of progress in achieving diversity and inclusion, only to then be gaslighted or vilified or face reprisals for espousing their views.

The event will be moderated and hosted by York University professors Bianca Beauchemin and Nadia Hasan of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. The featured speakers will include: Ginella Massa, a York alumna, broadcast journalist and media consultant; Desmond Cole, a journalist, activist and author of The Skin We’re In; Nadiya Ali, a professor of sociology at Trent University and Chair of the new Anti-Islamophobia Subcommittee of the Canadian Sociological Association; and Somar Abuaziza, York student, activist and president of the Palestine Solidarity Collective.

Register by Feb. 27 to join the fascinating discussion about an issue that impacts the entire community. For more information about the event, contact Melissa Falotico at gswsac@yorku.ca.

Public matters: York partners on project advocating for public education systems

classroom with desks and chairs BANNER

York University has joined together with five other organizations to create the Public Education Exchange (PEX), an initiative to investigate the future of public education by making research more available, providing policymakers with valuable insights and engaging the public.

Sometimes organizations are formed from a single source of inspiration – an idea, a spark, a challenge, a singular moment or movement. PEX’s inception was not triggered by a single event, but a recent shift in public education.

Private actors – whether parents, religious institutions, businesses or other non-governmental organizations – have become increasingly involved in public education systems. In tandem, there has been the emergence of new policies and practices in public schools that risk undermining public education and exacerbating inequalities.

Sue Winton
Sue Winton

With this shift, information and dialogue is needed, but hasn’t always been available. PEX was created to help provide that.

“The decision to pursue the PEX came from the challenges I faced accessing research on education privatization across Canada and concerns about the possibility for accelerated privatization during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Sue Winton, the PEX project director, York Research Chair in Policy Analysis for Democracy and a professor in the Faculty of Education.

PEX is a collaboration between the University of Windsor, the University of Manitoba, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives. The joint effort secured funding from a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Partnership Development Grant in the spring of 2023 to pursue its mission of connecting researchers, advocates, policymakers, and the public to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange. “It’s about making information accessible to everyone and creating spaces for meaningful conversations,” Winton asserts.

education-privatization-illustration
An infographic featured on the PEX website.

The initiative is still in its early stages, with plans to build a network of collaborators, researchers and advocates across the country, but it has already made notable progress. For instance, the project’s website serves as the online hub for the network and features information and resources. However, Winton envisions the PEX as more than just a website; it will be a dynamic network of individuals engaging through online webinars, in-person meetings and community-based dialogues.

Through these offerings, Winton explains, PEX will look to advocate for a robust public education system that prioritizes collective benefits over individual gains. “We believe in highlighting the successes and potentials of public education while pointing out the potential damage caused by privatization policies,” she says. “The focus is on fostering a system that embodies equity, reflects democratic values and prioritizes the collective well-being of society.

“I truly believe that by coming together and sharing our insights, we can shape a future where public education remains a cornerstone of our democratic society,” she adds.

Workshop explores relationship between art and anthropology

Audra Townsend art on display at gallery

Art exhibits can serve as powerful forms of public anthropology, putting on display an individual’s creative exploration of what it means to be human. As part of its Anthropology Beyond the Academy series, the York University Department of Anthropology’s Winter 2024 event will demonstrate just that by featuring the work of abstract and mixed-media artist Audra Townsend, a York alumna.

Audra Townsend
Audra Townsend

Titled Art & Anthropology, the Feb. 9 event will showcase Townsend’s artwork in the Vari Hall Rotunda from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a workshop from 3 to 4 p.m. where Townsend will discuss her professional path and her work in exploring humanity through art. All are welcome to attend.

Townsend is a British-born, Jamaican Canadian artist based in Toronto, who believes art is a manifestation of our curiosity about the material world and an essential part of what it means to be human. A former Ontario public servant, she is a trained sociocultural anthropologist who currently works as a data privacy consultant.

“Anthropologists use art to explore the essence of lived experiences, enabling a more immersive and emotive engagement with the subject of their studies,” explains Othon Alexandrakis, Chair of York’s Department of Anthropology. “By integrating visual storytelling into their research, anthropologists enhance the accessibility and impact of their narratives, fostering cross-cultural empathy and promoting a deeper appreciation for the richness of human diversity.”

When Townsend examines the relationship between art and the human experience, she borrows from intuitive and tactile art forms. Her work is characterized by a dense network of criss-crossing and squiggly lines separating rectangles of multiple shapes made of different materials, earthy and celestial colours, and textures of sand and stone, among others.

“We are excited to welcome Audra back to the department for this exciting workshop,” says Alexandrakis. “Audra’s art is extraordinary. We invite the York University community to come meet Audra, hear about her journey, and learn about art and anthropology.”

To register for the workshop, visit Winter Workshop: Art & Anthropology w/ Audra Townsend. For more information about Townsend’s art, visit her website.

CHREI workshops to spotlight anti-racism and Black inclusion

group of diverse York students

Engaging in the work of equity and inclusion requires reflection and capacity building, which is why in celebration of Black History Month, the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion (CHREI) is offering a series of four workshops (three in English, one in French) throughout the month.

Titled “A Spotlight on Intersectional Anti-Racism Work and Black Inclusion,” the series is tied to CHREI’s ongoing Rights, Equity, Decolonizing, Diversity & Inclusion (REDDI) Mini-Series of workshops. Those who attend three sessions can receive a special course certificate.

The ongoing workshop series focuses on various themes and topics covering human rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion and is open to all faculty, staff and students at York University. Sessions are interactive and instructor-led by members of the CHREI education team.

Acknowledging and Addressing Racism
Feb. 5, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

This workshop will help participants gain an understanding of how to recognize racism, how it can manifest and its impacts. Participants will learn strategies to address barriers to inclusive spaces and become familiar with relevant tools, policies and legislation.

Register for the Acknowledging and Addressing Racism workshop.

Black Inclusion: Historic and Current Efforts to Dismantle Anti-Black Racism
Feb. 14, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

This session will follow the birth and development of anti-Black racism globally and locally, and the efforts to dismantle it. Through case studies and scenarios, participants will gain tools to respond to anti-Black racism in effective and sustainable ways.

Register for the Black Inclusion workshop.

Do the Work: Intervening on Racism
Feb. 26, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

This workshop will be highly participation-based and will ask attendees to design strategies and tools to intervene in moments of racial discrimination, harassment and microaggressions. Prior familiarity with these concepts is recommended.

Note: Participants are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one of the workshops above before attending this session.

Register for the Do the Work workshop.

[En Français/In French] Reconnaître et aborder le racisme
29 février, 10h00 à 11h30

Cet atelier aidera les participants à comprendre comment se manifeste le racisme, et quels sont ses impacts. Les participants découvriront des stratégies visant à éliminer les obstacles aux espaces inclusifs et s’exerceront à interrompre les commentaires racistes.

Register for the Reconnaître et aborder le racisme workshop.

Visit the REDDI Workshop Series website for more details.

Faculty of Health helps students take their learning global

airplane landing at dusk banner

The world, as the saying goes, is a classroom, and a special award from the Faculty of Health is making it easier for students to access it. The Global Health Travel Award provides students with funding to help cover travel and accommodation expenses, empowering them to pursue global learning opportunities that can make an impact on their academic and career paths.

The Global Health Travel Award is among several opportunities the Faculty of Health extends to support its students looking to pursue global learning, and it ties to the University’s larger active efforts to reduce financial barriers to international experiences for students, encouraging the development of global citizenship, interpersonal skills, adaptability and more.

The award is given to Faculty of Health undergraduate students who want to complete a global health project as part of a single-term (11-week) international placement that meets the requirement of their academic program.

During the Winter 2024 term, nine students will be able to travel to countries such as Jordan, Ghana, Kenya, Denmark, Germany and Belize thanks to the award. They will gain experiences echoing those of the following current and past students from the Global Health Promotion & Disease Prevention program within York’s School of Global Health whose journeys illustrate the impact the international opportunity and award can have.

Autumn Langford, current student

Langford, who will be graduating following the completion of her practicum, recently won the travel award to journey to Kenya to focus on HIV prevention, particularly among adolescent girls. There, she’ll observe and seek to understand how Kenyan communities address health issues, acknowledging the unique differences from handling HIV in Toronto.

Langford credits the bursary for being pivotal to the opportunity because she is juggling part-time work to cover her other expenses. Without it, her Kenya plans might have faced a financial roadblock. It covered essential needs and unforeseen expenses, such as mandatory immunization for global travel, ensuring her health and safety during the stay.

Daniel Ramlogan, alumnus

Ramlogan saw his academic journey at York culminate with a global health practicum in the Middle East. With the $5,000 of support from the award, he was able to travel to Amman, Jordan, to pursue a placement with the Jordan Health Aid Society International.

The relief from financial concerns, which he describes as a significant weight lifted off his shoulders, allowed Ramlogan to fully engage in the cultural and learning experience. In the process, his passion for research and program development were sparked, resulting in two successful projects: workshops on gender-based violence and sexual health in Amman, and a grant for the Za’atari refugee camp’s medical facilities. Recognized by the Jordanian government and donors, Ramlogan’s contributions continue to positively impact lives, even after his departure.

Mahilet Girma, alumna

The funding Girma received from his award allowed her to travel to Brazil to pursue an opportunity to work with MSF (Doctors Without Borders). There, she played a key role in crafting a training module for community health workers, and she emerged from the experience more confident and with more polished social and professional skills. Her journey wasn’t just an academic and professional, though – it ignited personal growth.

To learn more about awards issued, visit the Global Learning website.

Osgoode student lawyers save family from deportation

Statue of justice

With only 11 hours to spare, two student lawyers from Osgoode Hall Law School’s Community & Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP) saved the parents of a York University student from family breakup and deportation to Colombia, where they faced potential danger or even death.

When second-year student Brandon Jeffrey Jang and third-year student Emma Sandri learned on Dec. 18 that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) had ordered the parents of a fellow student to be deported on a Colombia-bound plane on Jan. 18, they worked tirelessly over the winter break to prepare about 1,000 pages of legal submissions to stop it – on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Osgoode students Brandon Jeffrey Jang (left) and Emma Sandri (right).
Osgoode students Brandon Jeffrey Jang (left) and Emma Sandri (right).

The student’s father became a target of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the early 1990s when he was a candidate for the country’s Liberal Party, actively working to prevent youth from joining the paramilitary organization. After several threats and acts of physical violence, the family fled to the United States. They returned to Colombia seven years later, but remained in danger and fled again, eventually making their way to Canada in 2009. With the Colombian peace process currently faltering and FARC still a viable force, the family believes their safety could still be threatened if they return to their home country.

The couple’s adult son is a student in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science and their daughter is set to graduate from Queen’s University and plans to study medicine. The son and daughter, who already have permanent residency status in Canada, faced being separated from their parents as well as possible academic repercussions if the deportation had gone ahead as scheduled.

The CLASP team’s request to save this family from deportation was initially denied by the CBSA, so they filed two supporting applications with the Federal Court, under the supervision of CLASP review counsel Subodh Bharati. On Jan. 17, just one day before the scheduled deportation, they appeared in person before a Federal Court judge in Toronto to make their case for the family – and they succeeded.

The parents – who have become actively involved in their Toronto community, volunteering during the pandemic, for example, to deliver food to house-bound, immune-compromised residents – expressed their gratitude to the CLASP team in an emotional email.

“Thank you very much for all the effort that you put in our case,” the mother wrote. “I don’t have enough words to express what I feel right now and to say thank you. You are the best lawyers that Toronto has.”

Their joy was shared by Jang and Sandri.

“We were just so happy,” said Jang about hearing news of the successful stay application. “We’ve built a close connection with the family and we’ve all worked extremely hard on this case.”

Jang said the experience has confirmed his desire to pursue a career in immigration law – and this summer he will work for Toronto immigration law firm Green and Spiegel LLP.

Sandri said preparing hundreds of pages of court applications in a month was a tremendous challenge, but learning that the family can stay in Canada as a result of their efforts was a huge relief and incredibly rewarding.

“It was difficult, in terms of wanting to put out our best work in such a limited time span,” she explained, “and we really felt the pressure of the fact that these people’s lives were possibly at stake.”

As they waited for the court decision, she added, “we both couldn’t sleep because we were thinking about what’s going to happen to this family and we were really stressing about that.”

In the wake of the court decision, Bharati said, the parents can now obtain work permits while they wait for the Federal Court to hear judicial reviews of previous decisions that rejected their applications for permanent residency status.

With the students’ time at CLASP nearing an end, Jang and Sandri expressed special appreciation for Bharati’s guidance and trust.

“All of our experiences at the clinic leading up to this case prepared us for the uphill battle we confronted when fighting for this family,” said Jang. “The result was a total team effort on everybody’s part and it was all worth it.”

New seminar series to advance homelessness prevention

The York University Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) has launched a monthly expert panel series aiming to host engaging community discussions to advance homelessness prevention initiatives in Canada and abroad.

In recent years there has been a fundamental shift in the homelessness sector. Organizations and individuals have often been reactive to the homelessness crisis, but it has become increasingly clear that there needs to be greater focus on prevention – finding ways to eliminate homelessness altogether.

The new COH series, called Prevention Matters!, looks to further advance this approach by helping address the challenge of what prevention means and looks like. What systemic changes can reduce the likelihood that someone will become homeless? What intervention strategies can support those at high risk of homelessness or who have recently become homeless? What can ensure people who have experienced homelessness – and who are now housed – do not experience homelessness again?

The launch of this series was announced this week in a webinar hosted by Faculty of Education Professor Stephen Gaetz, who is also president and chief executive officer of COH, where he discussed “Prevention 101” by unpacking his report, “A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention.”

Moving forward, the series will run on the last Wednesday of the month, from February to June and September to November. Expert researchers and practitioners in the sector will gather to highlight innovative and successful multi-sector prevention initiatives in Canada and beyond. Discussions will run for 60 to 70 minutes and aim to bring attendees a format different from typical webinars by making audience participation central. In an effort to create the open conversation required to explore homelessness prevention, attendees are encouraged to participate in a Q-and-A where they can engage in an open dialogue and help define each session’s discussion.

For those who can’t attend live, all sessions will be recorded and uploaded afterwards to the Homeless Hub’s YouTube channel.

Building pathways to education: a Q-and-A with Professor Carl James

Two Black students outside on York's Keele Campus

Studies have shown that Black students are significantly under-represented on Canadian post-secondary campuses, due in large part to systemic barriers. The Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora, now fully endowed and housed within York University’s Faculty of Education, aims to address this disparity and others by advancing access, equity, and inclusivity to education through community engagement and collaborative action.

Carl James
Carl James

Distinguished Research Professor Carl James, who has held the position of Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora since 2016, met with YFile to discuss the Chair, his role within it and what the recent $1.5 million in federal funding means for its future.

Q: For those who are unfamiliar, can you describe the mandate of the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora?

A: We work with community to enable and support students from racialized and marginalized groups through education; not only through elementary, middle and high school, but through university and college as well.

Q: What is your focus in your role as Chair?

A: I’m very interested in programming because it is a useful reference for knowing about the experiences and concerns of Black community members and students. In this way, we get to know about the research questions we might want to explore. There’s a tendency to separate research from program, but I think Jean Augustine expects the Chair to combine research with programs. It is simply not research for research’s sake. Instead, once you do the research, we should act on it.

I particularly like the participatory action research we do, where we set up a program and then, as the program proceeds, we research the program – is it working, is it not working, and why? And as we conduct the research, we might put into place some adjustments to the program if it’s not heading towards the expected outcome. Hence, when we’re promoting the idea that a particular program works, we will be able to say the program works because we have done the necessary research and have some documented evidence. We use the participants as researchers, as well, collaborating with them about the information we’re trying to gather.

Q: Can you explain what it means that the Chair is now fully funded?

A: The federal government’s recent $1.5-million contribution towards the endowment means that the Chair is well positioned to continue with its activities. It also means that we now have endowment funds to create some of the programs we’ve been wanting to.

Q: What is the Day at York program?

A: The Day at York program, which has hosted over 450 students from Ontario (and some from Halifax, Nova Scotia) in the past year and a half, provides Black students enrolled in Grades 7 to 12 with an opportunity to imagine themselves at a post-secondary institution.

We can tell students to go to university, but it’s difficult to imagine if you don’t have something to stimulate or inform that imagination. This program helps insofar as students are able to attend lectures, workshops, campus tours, and networking sessions with students, alumni and Black faculty members.

When students think of, where should I go to university, sometimes familiarity with an institution might help them to choose a particular university or program. It provides many opportunities that students would not have otherwise had.

Q: What are your proudest accomplishments in this role so far?

A: One of the things I’m particularly pleased with is the Jean Augustine Chair (JAC) Student Network, which involves Black undergraduate and graduate students and recent graduates. The group contributes to the work of the Chair by sharing their experiences navigating university and working to be successful in their respective educational programs. Members act as hosts and mentors to high-school students who come on campus; and they do not only help to inform and contribute to the Chair’s research agenda, they also participate in the research as respondents, research assistants and collaborators. Ultimately, the network provides members with opportunities for personal, educational, team building and work-related skill development in an affirming and supportive post-secondary educational environment.

Also, we have the Jean Augustine Chair’s annual Black History Month event that happens every year in partnership with the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design’s music program. Called Word, Sound, Power: An Annual Celebration of Black Artistic Expression, it is a showcase of talent, creativity and cultural pride. It is taking place this year on Feb. 7. It is held in recognition of one of Jean Augustine’s legacies – that is, the crucial role she played in establishing Black History Month in Canada. Therefore, it seems logical to hold an event at York through the Chair.

Q: What are some other projects you’re working on as part of the Chair?

A: We’re currently conducting research on social capital, a significantly new area to explore. We’re looking at how individuals employ their social capital – that is, their cultural assets, interests, aspirations, education and consciousness of what is possible – to take advantage of opportunities by which they might access training and employment to realize their social, economic, career and other ambitions. In partnership with the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism and York University’s School of Continuing Studies, we will investigate the lived experiences and needs of racialized Canadians, using the three years of the project to collect data that will help to inform educational and employment program initiatives.  

As well, we recently received program funding from the RBC Foundation to put in place Securing Black Futures, a national partnership by which we might collectively work to build pathways for Black youth to pursue their educational goals and attain academic and career success. Led by us at York and working in partnership with colleagues from six universities across the country, the program activities will serve to inform us about relevant and appropriate educational and social interventions and supports for Black youth. We will also get to know how we might best mentor, enable, support and educate Black students in their pursuit of post-secondary education, as well as particular educational and career pathways – particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Q: Looking toward the future, how do you hope the now fully endowed Jean Augustine Chair will impact the lives of Black and marginalized youth in Canada?

A: I think that a fully endowed Chair is nicely positioned to continue with its current local, regional and national initiatives. These include: supporting students in constructing their aspirations, in their decision processes as they journey towards their future selves; facilitating the voices of Black Canadians as they tell of their experiences through the research we will conduct, report and publish; helping to build university-community partnerships through which we might help to address structural and institutional barriers to full inclusion and equity of Black and other racialized people within Canadian society; and making substantial research contributions about Black life in Canada, taking into account education, employment, health and housing needs. 

Q: How important is the York University community to the success of the Chair?

A: We cannot underestimate the support that York University has given the Chair, both financial and otherwise. Neither can we underestimate the contributions of the Faculty of Education, faculty members from across the University, our community advisory committee, and our partners at York University centres such as the Harriet Tubman Institute and the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean. It’s this whole network of people that enables the work of the Chair.

Osgoode leads in applications for third year running

Osgoode Hall Law School

For the third consecutive year, York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School has attracted more applications for its juris doctor (JD) program than any other law school in Ontario – and, according to school administrators, this is no coincidence.

Recently released statistics from the Ontario Law School Application Service, a division of the Ontario University Application Centre in Guelph, Ont., reveal that Osgoode received 2,867 applications in 2023 for its 2024-25 first-year class of 315 students.

Marcos Ramos Jr.
Marcos Ramos Jr.

“I think one powerful thing that our admissions numbers show is that we are highly desired, highly sought after,” said Marcos Ramos Jr., manager of admissions and student financial services at Osgoode.

“But also,” he added, “when you look at our numbers closely, we have one of the most diverse classes of students within Canada, if not the most.”

That impressive diversity, he said, is a reflection of the law school’s long-standing holistic admissions policy – which takes into account more than just grades or Law School Admission Test scores. When considering potential students, Osgoode’s recruiters look beyond strong academic skills to each applicant’s life story and passions.

“Show me the passion,” said Ramos Jr. “Show me how you want to contribute.”

Osgoode also prioritizes a determined effort by recruiters to create Canada’s most diverse law school because, Ramos. Jr said, law students educated in that environment simply become better lawyers.

“Academics are essential,” he noted, “but what makes an excellent lawyer is your social skills. And we’re bringing to students an understanding of different walks of life – be it class, race, or creed.”

In the process, Osgoode hasn’t just created a highly sought after and diverse law school. It’s helping make the legal field – and the world – a better place.