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5/26/2009 in Headline News Bookmark and Share

Two York students sanctioned over confrontation

Two York University students have been sanctioned for participating in a crowd that “intimidated” and “frightened” members of a Jewish campus group during a tense encounter three months ago, wrote the National Post May 23.

The conduct of Krisna Saravanamuttu and Jesse Zimmerman on Feb. 11 violated the student code, York adjudicator Janet Mosher ruled yesterday in a written letter, setting out penalties including an official reprimand and human rights training, said the Post.

Saravanamuttu, the incoming president of the York Federation of Students, was also handed a $150 fine. The incident occurred after a news conference by the Hillel student group calling for the ouster of the student federation’s executive, who backed the school’s teaching assistants during a recent months-long strike.

Representatives of the federation and members of a pro-Palestinian group interrupted the conference with chants of “Zionism is racism” and “Shame on Hillel,” according to outgoing Hillel @ York president Daniel Ferman.

The conference was shut down but the group of students pursued participants to Hillel’s lounge in York’s Student Centre, swarming outside and shouting taunts.

According to the two letters of sanction obtained by the National Post, Zimmerman “shouted above the noise of the crowd, ‘Shame on the right wing agenda. Shame on the Zionists’.”

In video footage of the incident, Saravanamuttu is shown clapping and apparently leading a chant of “Whose campus? Our campus,” Mosher wrote, calling the slogan “exclusionary and offensive”.

He is also seen participating in a chant of “Racists off campus,” wrote the Post

Students holed up inside the Hillel lounge felt “intimidated, frightened, tense and nervous,” the letters stated. The Hillel members were ultimately escorted off campus by University security and Toronto police.

The conduct and words of both Zimmerman and Saravanamuttu contributed to an atmosphere inconsistent with the Student Code of Conduct, Mosher said. “The atmosphere was charged with disrespect and incivility and there is no doubt...[a number of students] feel unsafe as a result,” she added.

Mosher acknowledged that at one point, Zimmerman encouraged the crowd to move away from the Hillel office so as not to block the door, a move that perhaps factored into his lighter penalty.

Jewish groups yesterday lauded the University’s decision to sanction the two students, and called for Saravanamuttu to resign as president of the student federation in light of the findings. “We commend the adjudicator for recognizing the intimidation and fear felt by students on Feb. 11,” Ferman said.

He called the incident “one of the most scary moments of my life...when the university, a place of civil discourse, turns into a place where students don’t feel safe coming to campus.” Saravanamuttu’s resignation would send a message, he added, “that student government needs to be representative of all students.”

  • York University has reprimanded and fined the incoming president of the York Federation of Students (YFS) $150 for chanting “racists off campus” and other epithets at members of a rival student group after a press conference organized by a group trying to impeach the executive of the YFS was cancelled in February, wrote The Globe and Mail May 23 .

Reports dated yesterday and signed by adjudicator Janet Mosher, associate dean at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, detail the activities of Krisna Saravanamuttu and a second student, Jesse Zimmerman, who was also formally reprimanded, but not fined, said the Globe.

Family of missing York student offers $5,000 reward

From posters now plastered across downtown Toronto, a missing University student looks out with blue eyes, his mouth cocked in a half-smile, wrote The Globe and Mail May 25. It’s as recent a photograph of York student Shane Fair as is possible, taken in the hours before he was last seen, sitting alone at the bar following a formal for his York University residence.

His family printed hundreds of posters using the picture, the third set since reporting him missing last Tuesday. The first were black and white and printed from a home computer. The second in full colour, but with Fair in his Canadian Forces Reserve uniform.

The third version is best, family members said yesterday, because it shows him in the blue dress shirt he was last seen wearing, with his brown hair as it looked that night, closely shaved except for a short mohawk.

Yesterday, a group of about 40 people met outside 51 Division at Front and Parliament Streets to put up the posters and resume a search they started the day before.

Police help has been limited to searching the water around Ontario Place because Fair is an adult and because no foul play is suspected in his disappearance. It was there, in the Atlantis Pavilions, that the year-end celebration for Calumet residence was held on May 15.

Family and friends are desperate to find the young man, described as funny and adventurous but occasionally solitary.

Nicole DeAngelis, a close friend of Fair, said he wasn’t acting out of character the night he was last seen. He had been drinking but wasn’t overly intoxicated. He had a good time but by the end of the night, he was quiet and off by himself. “That’s not unlike him,” she said, adding that she didn’t think he was in a state of mind to “do anything stupid”.

There wasn’t enough room on the buses shuttling students back to York University and Fair, along with about 20 others, was left behind. Others in the same predicament organized cab rides. No one knows where Fair went once he got up from the closed bar where he had been sitting.

Fair’s family is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to his whereabouts.

  • Police will resume the underwater search for missing 19-year-old Shane Fair, who has not been seen since May 16 when he left Ontario Place’s Atlantis Pavilions, wrote the Toronto Star May 25. The marine unit will guide a machine, equipped with sonar and cameras, along the shore near Ontario Place.
  • Shane Fair was last seen at a York University year-end formal at the Atlantis Pavilions at Ontario Place on May 14, wrote The Toronto Sun May 25. He did not board any of the buses headed back to Calumet Residence, where he lived. A search party combed the area near Parliament and Front streets yesterday. Anyone with information should call Toronto Police at 416-808-3100 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS.
  • The parents of a missing York University student and Canadian reservist soldier are offering a $5,000 reward to anyone with information that helps find him, wrote The Canadian Press May 24. It comes on the heels of another unsuccessful search to find him Sunday.

Shane Fair, 19, hasn’t been seen since he attended a formal dinner and dance at the Atlantis Pavilions at Ontario Place last Saturday. His family and friends had already searched for him unsuccessfully on Friday.

“This week has been pretty difficult. It’s a mother’s worst nightmare to have her son go missing and not have any news,’’ said his mother Lisa Malo. His mother said Fair normally checks in with her every couple of days, so disappearing for this long is out of character. “He’s a great kid, he’s always done well in school, he’s never been in any trouble, he’s happy, he’s got a ton of friends,” Malo said. “We really miss you so come back,” she said.

  • The not knowing is the hardest part for the parents of Shane Fair, wrote The Toronto Sun May 24. More than a week has gone by since the 19-year-old reserve soldier disappeared from a York University year-end formal. No phone calls. No Facebook messages. No activity on his bank cards.

The outgoing young man – whose disappearance has brought more than 2,200 people to a Facebook group dedicated to him – had been in Edmonton for nearly two weeks visiting a friend. He returned to Toronto the evening before the formal.

Parents Lisa Malo and Brian Fair spent yesterday putting up “Missing” posters of their son around Toronto, strolling along Cherry Beach for any sign of the teen. “I was concerned and worried and then more worried and then I contacted the police (Tuesday),” Fair said of when his son didn’t return calls last weekend.

  • CP24-TV and CTV News also carried reports on Fair’s disappearance on May 22

Possible to prove murder without body

James Stribopoulos, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, said it can be harder for prosecutors to establish there has been a homicide without a body, especially when dealing with adult victims, wrote the Ottawa Citizen May 23 in a story about the Victoria Stafford case.

“Sometimes when the prosecution is trying to establish murder without a body the defence will take the position: ‘how do we know the person is dead, maybe they've just decided to pick up and disappear, start fresh, make a clean break’ – those are the sorts of arguments that get made when there is no body,'' Stribopoulos said. “It’s difficult for an accused to suggest that a missing child just ran away and is out there somewhere alive,” said Stribopoulos.

York PhD student comes to Congress with a rocking idea

If you follow Tim MacNeill’s argument to its logical conclusion, the Rolling Stones owe some of us a lot of money, wrote the Ottawa Citizen May 23 in a report on the Congress of the Humanities & Social Sciences.

MacNeill, a PhD student in York’s Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, started to think about the role audience plays in “authoring authors” when he stumbled on fame in Halifax as an undergraduate.

MacNeill was the front man for Adlibido, a Halifax band that released two CDs, won 2001 alternative artist of the year at the East Coast Music Awards, appeared on the "Dawson’s Creek" soundtrack, then went down in flames because it got too popular too quickly.

Four years later, while doing a master in economics, MacNeill interviewed artists about how audiences “produce value” for artists. In essence, he found that music creates a community that is crucial to success. “People listen to songs,” he explains. “They don’t know if they like it or not until they see a member of their community liking it or not.”

The audience alone decides the cultural value of a song or other artistic product. Whether or not it becomes culturally valuable is immune to whatever the artist or even marketers do to promote it, he says. Consequently, he argues that those who produce that cultural value should hold the copyright and receive payment for their services. “We the consumers are the rock stars,” says MacNeill. “The artistic genius is all of us. It’s very empowering.”

Exploratory dig exhuming ghosts and glass

It was called the House of Refuge, and its bucolic setting on a hilltop overlooking the Don River matched its nice-sounding name, wrote The Globe and Mail May 25. Somewhat less than nice was how 19th-century Toronto officials described the troubled souls they sent there to be reformed starting in 1860: “vagrant,” “dissolute”, “idiots”.

Under glorious spring skies last Thursday, a team of archeologists continued an exploratory dig for remains of the long-gone yellow-brick facility on a sloping site in the southeast corner of what is now Riverdale Park, off Broadview Avenue. In the process, they are exhuming ghosts of an era when poverty, homelessness, promiscuity and mental illness were seen as sources of public shame, their sufferers as offenders who could use some hard work and straightening out.

In an academic paper written in 1992, nearly 100 years after the facility was burned to the ground, York University researchers Deborah Carter Park and J. David Wood wrote that Ontario’s experiment with houses of refuge ended around the turn of the 20th century, as welfare programs were professionalized.

Although Toronto’s facility has been reduced to broken bits of clay and glass, it nonetheless served a purpose. “The houses of refuge were an improvement over the poorhouses of Dickensian infamy,” the researchers wrote, “but they were only markers along the still unfinished road to an understanding – rather than an intolerance – of poverty.”

Time to ban developers’ campaign gifts

Joe Belanger’s column "Changing donor rules won’t alter council decisions" (May 9) commented on whether or not council should request the Ontario Municipal Elections Act be changed to disallow donations from developers and corporate donations, wrote Gloria McGinn-McTeer in The London Free Press May 23.

Critical pieces of information missing in the discussions were twofold: clearly the trend across the country is moving towards removing corporate and union donations from election campaigns and the results of years of research and analysis by Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts.

MacDermid’s analysis in the GTA clearly denoted a concentration of corporate-funded donations and a high concentration of developers’ donations. There was a strong correlation between successfully elected candidates and a high percentage of corporate donors versus individual donors.

Further, while examining the results of donations vis-a-vis developer activity – for example, planning submissions of all types over a seven-year period for Vaughan councillors to vote upon – 78 of the top 100 corporate donors were involved in these applications. Almost all passed. MacDermid noted lack of recorded votes was significant and intolerable.

The power of a power of attorney

It’s a legal document that may stretch to only 1,100 words. Its execution takes no more than a couple of minutes and when the ink dries on the signature lines, this document usually gets slipped into a file folder, largely forgotten, wrote the National Post May 23.

Despite its innocent beginnings, the document commonly known as a power of attorney only sleeps. And when someone starts digging for it years later, the enormity of the arrangement hits home.

And unless this document is handled carefully, families can tear themselves apart. “You [could have] family members fighting with each other before the individual is even dead. Whereas, in the estate situations, at least you wait until the person dies before they start fighting,” says Toronto estate lawyer and mediator Howard S. Black, a partner with Minden Gross LLP and adjunct professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

There’s no business like gros business

Sam Mellace has possibly the most sophisticated marijuana growing operation in British Columbia, wrote The Globe and Mail May 23. Mellace has been walking with an extra spring in his step since a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada last month. The court refused to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that struck down as unconstitutional a federal regulation permitting a grower to provide marijuana for only one person. Health Canada has not yet indicated whether it intends to introduce new regulations; the department did not respond to repeated requests for an interview with an official.

Alan Young, professor at Osgoode Hall Law School who was involved with the recent landmark case, said the court ruling means the government cannot rely solely on the monopoly it created for the distribution of medicinal marijuana. “It is now a question of political will to comply with the court,” he said in an interview.

Osgoode grad Bryant is leaving politics

Premier Dalton McGuinty will be more involved in the ongoing talks to save Ontario’s ailing auto industry as one of his key ministers, Osgoode grad Michael Bryant (LLB ’92), departs for a plum job at a new corporation tasked with attracting investment to Toronto, wrote The Canadian Press May 23.

Bryant, who will step down as economic development minister on Monday, is leaving politics to take on a similar role as president and CEO of Invest Toronto, McGuinty announced Saturday.

Bryant, 43, has been Ontario’s point man in the auto talks and news of his departure comes as General Motors heads into a crucial week of last-minute deal making to qualify for billions of dollars in government loans.

Born and raised in Victoria, BC, Bryant was educated at the University of British Columbia, York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and Harvard University. He practised law in Toronto, clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada, and taught law and politics at Osgoode the University of Toronto and King’s College in London, England.

  • Ian Roberge, political science professor at Glendon College, spoke about Bryant’s move, on Radio Canada’s “ Radiojournal ” May 24.

Flying in the face of research

Unfortunately, the basic premise of "Good Health to All" is incorrect, wrote Dennis Raphael, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, in a letter to the Toronto Star May 24, commenting on a child poverty report by economist Claire de Oliveira. The statement, “I find little support for the proposal that cash transfers alone are an efficient way to improve children’s health,” flies in the face of hundreds of research articles and a series of reports by the prestigious UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy. What is presented by this economist is an ideological commitment – not based on evidence – against redistribution of wealth and government provision of basic security to families. But heck, she works for the business-oriented C.D. Howe Institute after all.

Plattsburgh student awarded fellowships for study at York

A State University of New York, Plattsburgh student, who was awarded a Killam Fellowship for the 2009-2010 academic year is headed for York University, wrote Targeted News Service May 21.

Emily Rose O’Hara will receive the fellowship, which provides students with $5,000 for one semester and $10,000 for a full academic year of study at a Canadian university. Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis, and selected students must posses at least a 3.5 grade point average.

O’Hara, of Rouses Point, NY, is a junior international business and Canadian studies major with minors in French and international studies. She will be attending York University for the spring 2010 semester.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the new deal between General Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers on CTV Newsnet May 22. Stephen Tufts, professor of geography in York’s Faculty of Arts, also spoke about the deal on BNN-TV May 22.

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