After moving to San Francisco, YSDN alumnus Payam Rajabi (BDes ‘10) decided send a special Valentine’s Day to his girlfriend Clare back in Toronto. On his bike with an iPhone and GPS app, he mapped out a big heart through the SF city streets. Picked up by bloggers and eventually an ad agency working for telecom giant Verizon. Read more in the Globe and Mail
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February 16, 2013
Please be aware that there will be two short network service interruptions
on Sunday February 17th between 08:00-11:00.
Each interruption will last about 15 minutes and will affect all network
traffic leaving and entering the campus.
The first interruption will affect all academic buildings, the second
interruption will affect all residence buildings.
This interruption in service is required to implement an upgrade to the
network border bandwidth capacity and introduce a new network Intrusion
Thanks for your patience and understanding.
It was wonderful to meet Cory Rubin, the 2013 Dean for a Day, and to reflect on his winning essay which focuses on the heart and soul of the student experience at Law School. The idea behind the Dean for a Day is to encourage students to submit essays on how they would improve/change Osgoode, with the winning candidate taking on the Dean’s duty for a day in February while I take the student’s courses. Cory’s essay (reproduced at the bottom of this blog post), asks whether students are receiving the feedback on exams, essays and assignments that they want and need.
An enduring puzzle for me is precisely this moment in the relationship between faculty and students. The class, in effect, is over at the time I feel most engaged with every student in the class – while some speak more than others in the class discussion or post more than others in a chat room, every student’s voice is contributing to the conversation that is the exam process. Yet, it is too often dual monologues rather than a dialogue. Students write exams. Faculty grade them often writing detailed comments on each. But when students do not read the comments or faculty do not have the opportunity to elaborate on them in a follow up meeting, the process is left wanting. So, I very much share Cory’s call to action, and I share his sense that there is more we can do with relatively modest improvements.
I particularly endorse the proactive approach rather than the passive one. In other words, rather than waiting for students to pursue feedback from faculty individually, why not reserve a room in which any student could drop by and read the feedback on any exam as part of an “exam return week” along the lines of the Windsor approach (though, to be realistic, with close to sixty full time faculty and over one hundred adjuncts and the most diverse curriculum in the country, any initiative at Osgoode will have to tackle complexity and volume on a scale that is different from smaller law schools)? Why not schedule one meeting (optional attendance) of a class just after grades come out to provide an opportunity to understand the alignment or lack of it between the students’ performance and faculty expectations? Why not post “model” answers from the very best students (assuming they consent, etc)? Why not include a grading rubric or matrix so as to make the comparative assessments more transparent, or simply designate more classes that are “grade-free” and evaluated on a credit basis?
One idea I love is to have assessment include both a writing assignment, an opportunity to take up the assignment in class and then a further requirement that students write a brief critique of their own original paper – it is the critique that is actually then graded by the faculty member. A mix of assessment models, less reliance on 100% finals, more engagement following mid-terms or shorter assignments, etc, all mitigate the kinds of concerns Cory has raised. I know faculty pursuing each of these approaches (the one just mentioned was introduced to me by my colleague Bruce Ryder) – and several others – on an individual basis.
I wonder, though, if at the end of the day Cory is really calling for modest concrete reforms or a broader culture change. The culture change would move from one of widely varying practice to one of shared institutional commitment to proactive feedback and engagement. I believe and hope it is just such an evolution of our culture to which the concrete ideas proposed by Cory would give rise.
Thanks again to Cory for his initiative and his ideas – Imagine what might happen if we moved to “Dean for a Week”!
Dean for a Day Submission from Cory Rubin
My Dean for a Day idea is focused on improving the student learning experience. As many students can probably attest, many times after receiving a grade it is unclear as to how the mark was actually determined. My proposal is focused on improving the feedback process that currently exists when exams, essays and assignments are returned.
I believe that it would be beneficial to have an exam return week, much like at other law schools such as Windsor. This would entail a full week in which students can come in and review their exams at their convenience. In my experience it has not always been convenient meeting with professors as a result of both of our busy schedules. At times I have had to meet with professors outside of the school setting and I believe that this acts as a deterrent for many students to go in and review their exam. By offering students a full week to see their exams it creates an opportunity that many students would otherwise not have.
To ensure that this system is truly convenient, what would be required is quick access to every exam. Students would be required to come to a specific room with their exam number. They would provide an individual with their exam number and their courses. The person would then sort through the appropriate courses and exams and then provide the student with their exams. The students can then go to a desk and review their exam and make any notes they deem appropriate. Obviously desk space would be limited but due to classes it would be unlikely that everyone would come at once. Additionally, a full week allows every student ample opportunity to wait and review their exams.
As the students review their exams, they should also be provided with a general outline of what the professor was looking for in an answer. This will allow the students an opportunity to review their answers before deciding whether they should arrange a meeting with their professor. This will allow students time to actually process what they did wrong. At the same time, if a student believes an error has been made, it will provide them with an opportunity to go home and formulate a response to their teacher when it comes time to meet. This would also ensure that both the students and teachers’ time is best spent by ensuring the meetings have merit.
As for feedback, as it relates to exams, assignments and essays, there have been times in which I received very little, if any, comments when my work was returned. I believe that professors should be required to provide students detailed feedback wherein students can understand their mark, and more importantly they can understand where to improve. As an example, where possible, it would be preferable if essays and assignments were returned with a marking rubric that has comments relating to the specific work.
These ideas, although not radical, would greatly improve the academic experience at Osgoode.
February 15, 2013
In his stirring and memorable speech in the Senate yesterday, Senior Conservative Senator Hugh Segal didn’t say anything that hasn’t already be said by newspaper columnists, academics, unions, the Canadian Bar Association, and many others.
However, the fact that it was a respected Conservative pointing out that recent attacks against unions by the Federal Conservatives are little more politically motivated, transparent attempts to silence dissent is very striking.
Read Senator Segal’s speech from Senate yesterday here. It makes for great reading, and probably will be quoted for years to come.
He was speaking about Bill C-377, which is the private member’s bill that singles out unions as the only organization in Canada that would be required to publicly disclose every single purchase made over $5000, as well as the precise amount of time spent on something called “political activities” by every union employee. I’ve talked about the Bill before.
Here’s some quotes from Conservative Senator Segal:
On the waste of taxpayer money, and Canada Revenue Agency personnel:
Dispatching CRA to police how trade unions spend their money, in denominations of $5,000 or more, is to increase the role of CRA and of the state in ways that create a bigger, nosier and more expensive government. As a taxpayer and as a Conservative, I oppose that kind of increase in any government’s power or expenditures.
At the disclosure level that is now in the bill — $5,000 — a two- year supply of coffee, a used car, a new computer system or printer, or the replacement of plumbing or a boiler at a union headquarters would qualify for explicit disclosure. Is this all that CRA has to do? Do we want to take people who might be working on tax evasion and have them assess which union local bought a new boiler for its headquarters? That is what this bill would produce….
Have we decided that CRA has lots of employees with little to do? When did that meeting happen? Who came to that conclusion? To manage the new nosey mission, CRA would need new employees and up to $2.5 million in operating funds, plus an extra $800,000 a year. That is CRA’s own estimate. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says the number will be much higher.
On the discrimination of singling out only one type of association, trade unions, who the Tories want to silence from political debate:
If this is to apply to trade unions, why would it not apply to rotary clubs, the Fraser Institute, Christian, Muslim and Jewish congregations across Canada, the Council of Chief Executives, local car dealers or the many farming groups, like the cattlemen’s associations or the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, all of whom do great work? How about local constituency associations, food banks, soup kitchens, or anglers and hunters clubs?
All of these groups express views on policy. All have the right, under election law, to volunteer in municipal, provincial or federal elections, and all come to Ottawa to lobby and press government on issues important to them. They do so along with representatives of the defence industry, our First Nations and various cultural groups. Are they all to be swept into the CRA bureaucratic remit? That is what this bill would lead to. If CRA is to become the political judge of what expenses are appropriate, what are the guiding criteria? The bill is silent on that….
Honourable senators, this bill is about a nanny state; it has an anti-labour bias running rampant; and it diminishes the imperative of free speech, freedom of assembly and free collective bargaining.
I imagine that, were it to pass, subsequent legislation from the other place from private members might be aimed at newspapers; networks, TV and otherwise; student groups; universities; junior baseball leagues; and even, God forbid, community soccer. Where we are headed with this bill is down a dark alley to a very dark place indeed.
If the unions should disclose, so should the auto dealers, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, all the local Legions and all of the various local organizations.
On the importance of unions having strong rights to participate in political debate free from state interference:
As a Tory, I believe that society prospers when different views about the public agenda, on the left and the right, are advanced by different groups, individuals and interests. Debate between opposing groups in this chamber, in the other place and in broader society is the essence of democracy. Limiting that debate as to scope and breadth is never in the long-term interest of a free and orderly society…
Honourable senators, the very growth of Canada, the successive waves of immigrants from the British Isles that built Canada in the early days, depended in some measure on protecting legitimate union rights. Honourable senators, they did so then and they do now.
On why the Conservative government’s plan to force unions to provide free services to non-members (right to work laws–see my discussion here) that the Tories are expected to move on next is un-Canadian:
The negative effect of this bill, either in deploying CRA on political missions or on limiting freedoms, is debilitating and offensive. The bill before us today, as well as right-to-work legislation that is being proposed in the other place as a private member’s bill, is not who we are as Canadians. It is time this chamber said so.
On why taxation law should not be used to regulate political speech, and why laws that do govern political activities should apply across the political perspective, and not just to a particular government’s political opponents:
Honourable senators, I know union leaders whom I dislike and do not trust. Some have been mean, narrow, divisive and unconstructive, but I defend their right to advance what they consider to be their members’ interests. I know corporate, political and not-for-profit leaders who suffer from the same faults. As for soft-sounding, labour-financed coalitions that campaign against Conservatives at various points in provincial elections, we have seen that. It is the election laws that should be changed to limit anybody’s right to do so on the right or the left without spending limits and full, timely disclosure, not the Income Tax Act of Canada. This is a matter of election law, not CRA inquisition.
In the interests of free, collective bargaining; strong, competitive environments; safe workplaces; and the fair treatment of working men and women, socially, economic and politically, this bill should be either readily revamped or set aside. If it has been quoted on other matters in this place that “the best social policy is a job,” then people who seek union support in the workplace — as is their right in a free society — should be protected, and the unions who serve them should not be singled- out unfairly
Senator Segal cuts to the chase here when he argues that this law is about punishing the Conservative Party’s political foe–unions, and little else. He notes that once we allow governments to start misuing the law to try and silence their political opponents, democracy and freedom of expression dies. That is an apolitical observation, and at the root of his dire and memorable warning: “Where we are headed with this bill is down a dark alley to a very dark place indeed.”
Questions for Discussion
Why do you think that a Senior Conservative party member would chose to make such a public and thoughtful condemndation of his own party’s legislative actions?
Do these arguments against Bill C-377 and “right to work” laws seem more convincing when made by a Conservative Senator than when made by unions and academics?
Do you think Senator Segal’s shot across the bow to his own party will slow Harper and Tim Hudak’s big plans to silence and undermine unions?
Do you agree with his arguments?
York University PhD candidate Sheila Colla has spent her summers stalking the rusty-patched bumblebee, which in 2012 became the first bee to be listed as endangered in Canada, largely due to her research, reported the March issue of The Walrus.
Will York University's new Intranet be named Entre YU, Huddle, Shareyork or YU Link? Submit your vote by Friday, Feb. 22.
Faculty members in the studio program in the Department of Visual Art & Art History are showing their work at a number of public and private galleries this season.
York PhD psychology student Stefania Moro is the first student researcher to study auditory and visual processing in those whom have had one eye surgically removed at a young age due to cancer.
The Micheline Saint-Cyr Prize is an annual short story contest that celebrates writing produced by York students. The deadline for entry is Feb. 25. The winning story will be published in the journal Virages.
Who has the best groove and the best moves? The Keele and Glendon campus got on the Harlam Shake train last week. Who did the best job?
The York University Student Centre is hosting an art competition open to all York students worth $20,000 in awards and art materials.
The February 2013 issue of the History of the Human Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are a number of all new articles that address topics that range from Latour, Péguy, and the history of science to the instincts of insects and boundary work in social psychology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The materiality of things? Bruno Latour, Charles Péguy and the history of science,” by Henning Schmidgen. The abstract reads,
This article sheds new light on Bruno Latour’s sociology of science and technology by looking at his early study of the French writer, philosopher and editor Charles Péguy (1873–1914). In the early 1970s, Latour engaged in a comparative study of Péguy’s Clio and the four gospels of the New Testament. His 1973 contribution to a Péguy colloquium (published in 1977) offers rich insights into his interest in questions of time, history, tradition and translation. Inspired by Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of difference, Latour reads Clio as spelling out and illustrating the following argument: ‘Repetition is a machine to produce differences with identity’. However, in contrast to Deleuze’s work (together with Félix Guattari) on the materiality of machines, or assemblages [agencements], Latour emphasizes the semiotic aspects of the repetition/difference process. As in Péguy, the main model for this process is the Roman Catholic tradition of religious events. The article argues that it is this reading of Péguy and Latour’s early interest in biblical exegesis that inspired much of Latour’s later work. In Laboratory Life (Latour and Woolgar, 1979) and The Pasteurization of France (1988) in particular, problems of exegesis and tradition provide important stimuli for the analysis of scientific texts. In this context, Latour gradually transforms the question of tradition into the problem of reference. In a first step, he shifts the event that is transmitted and translated from the temporal dimension (i.e. the past) to the spatial (i.e. from one part of the laboratory to another). It is only in a second step that Latour resituates scientific events in time. As facts they are ‘constructed’ but nevertheless ‘irreducible’. They result, according to Latour, from the tradition of the future. As a consequence, the Latourian approach to science distances itself from the materialism of Deleuze and other innovative theoreticians.
“Oikonomia in the age of empires,” by Dotan Leshem. The abstract reads,
The article reviews the uses of the term ‘oikonomia’ in Greek-speaking antiquity and illustrates how the term was used in all spheres of human existence and in various arts and sciences, usually denoting the prudent dispensation of the field resources. In this era the arts and sciences also received their own economies, and the term oikonomia, designating in most cases the prudent management of resources, appears in political theory, military strategy, law, finance, medicine, literary criticism, architecture, music, history and rhetoric. Among all the spheres, arts and sciences that were economized, the story of oikonomia in the field of rhetoric is at the center of this article’s attention. As shown, the concept of oikonomia took an intermediate form between the realm of thought – that is, the domain of philosophy – and the realm of public speech – the domain of politics.
“Adam Ferguson and ethnocentrism in the science of man,” by Craig Smith. The abstract reads,
The Scottish moral philosopher Adam Ferguson (1723–1816) is recognized as one of the founding fathers of sociology and social science more generally. This article examines his early ruminations on what has come to be seen as one of the most pressing methodological concerns for social science: the problem of ethnocentrism. The article explores Ferguson’s attempts to deal with this problem and his attempt to plot the relationship between empirical research, theory formation and normative moral judgement. It argues that Ferguson was well aware of the danger of cultural bias and that his understanding of moral science is marked by a concern that empirical and normative judgements are freed from the danger of such bias.
“Insects, instincts and boundary work in early social psychology,” by Diane M. Rodgers. The abstract reads,
Insects factored as ‘symbols of instinct’, necessary as a rhetorical device in the boundary work of early social psychology. They were symbolically used to draw a dividing line between humans and animals, clarifying views on instinct and consciousness. These debates were also waged to determine if social psychology was a subfield of sociology or psychology. The exchange between psychologist James Mark Baldwin and sociologist Charles Abram Ellwood exemplifies this particular aspect of boundary work. After providing a general background of the debates, I turn specifically to the writings of Baldwin and Ellwood between 1890 and 1936, tracing the use of insects as ‘symbols of instinct’.
“Between the vertical and the horizontal: Time and space in archaeology,” by Cristián Simonetti. The abstract reads,
Archaeology, like most sciences that rely on stratigraphic excavation for studying the past, tends to conceptualize this past as lying deep underneath the ground. Accordingly, chronologies tend to be depicted as a movement from bottom to top, which contrast with sciences that illustrate the passage of time horizontally. By paying attention to the development of the visual language of disciplines that follow stratigraphy, I show how chronologies get entangled with other temporalities, particularly those of writing. Relying on recent ethnographic work with archaeologists, the analysis reveals that excavation emerges as a double vertical movement of downward destruction and upward reconstruction that coincides with a systematic dissociation of time and space that has important effects for the understanding of the formation of sites. I conclude by looking at some of the implications of this dissociation for contemporary theoretical discussions, particularly those that emerged after the phenomenological push to horizontalize the discipline. Challenging this dissociation, I argue that the conceptualization of time in science should be understood as a process that depends on the body and unfolds in movement.
“The mind is a brittle object: The abortion law and therapeutic legitimation,” by Merethe Flatseth and Ole Jacob Madsen. The abstract reads,
This article takes a historical look at abortion in Norway, especially the parliamentary debates and the legislation on selective abortion. By using metaphor theory and discourse analysis we disclose that mental health issues came into practice as a legitimate cause for selective abortion for women in Norway from the 1960s and recur in more recent debates about important amendments in 1996 and 2003. In order to abort, women must simultaneously adopt a psychological means of self-representation. The history of the discourse on selective abortion in Norway thus illustrates the often ambiguous relationship between reproductive policy and ‘psy’. The analysis also shows that a therapeutic discourse today creates a framework of meaning for all political parties in Norway in the questions regarding abortion, including the Christian Democratic Party traditionally committed to religious motifs. This particular part of the history of abortion in Norway suggests that the psy-sciences and a therapeutic outlook on the self and society came into being in Norway from the 1960s, marking a defining moral shift from the previous religious and moral reasoning to a therapeutic ethos.
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“Capitalism and criticism: Weber on economic history,” by Christopher Adair-Toteff. No abstract provided.
“Memory and the psychologists,” by Alan Collins. No abstract provided.
I’m a visiting scholar this year at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law and the Centre for Industrial Relations and HRM. In conjection with this visit, I was invited to do a special lecture on the state of employment law in Canada. That lecture is coming up soon. It is open to non-U of T students, in case you are in Toronto and have any interest. Here are the details:
Title of Lecture: “Hot Topics in the Law of Work: What Every HRM Professional Should Know”
Date: Monday, March 4
Time: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Bahen Centre for Information Technology, 40 St. George Street, Room 1210
Thanks to the Centre for Industrial Relations and HR for arranging the talk. Maybe I will see you there.
Polman says that what we need to do is change the conversation about social responsibility from one about a "licence to operate" to one about "a licence to lead". The former is about meeting your basic legal and ethical obligations. The latter is about building for the long term based on "growing our businesses in line with the needs and aspirations of the communities we serve". OK, he's hardly the first to talk about long term goals and win-win opportunities. But what's interesting about Polman is that when he talks about the long term, he really seems to mean it. Talking about a resource constrained planet, global hunger, infant mortality, and the like, Polman sees plenty of opportunities in bringing people out of poverty and giving them the products they need to live better lives. But he's not just thinking about the 7 billion inhabitants of the planet who are already struggling to get by, but the next 2 billion that will be born in the decades ahead. As many people know, under Polman's leadership Unilever has embarked on its hugely ambitious Sustainable Living Plan with, among other things, a goal to source 100% of its agricultural products from sustainable sources, and a plan to double their revenue whilst reducing their absolute environmental footprint by 2020.
As Polman made clear in his talks, much of the company's impact comes not just in Unilever's own business but in their value chain and among their consumers. Getting people to wash at lower temperatures and to shower for 2 minutes less can radically reduce the carbon footprint of their products in ways that far outweigh operational efficiencies. And who better to change consumers' behaviour than the marketing experts at Unilever? If they can make us buy a bunch of stuff that we don't really need (and let's be honest, a lot of what they still do is exactly about that), then they can certainly get us to burn less energy when we're doing it.
What was inspiring about Polman's vision though is not so much the big goals they've set, but the framework they're trying to achieve it within - radical transparency, collaborative action, and brands that all have a social purpose. To you or me, it may look like a bar of soap, but to Polman, "we're not in the business of making soap, we're in the business of saving lives" as he said about their Lifebuoy product which aims to improve hygiene in the developing world.
Of course, getting a licence to lead is not just about getting a renewed licence from customers, but also from shareholders. A long term vision doesn't often sit well with short term focused investors Polman moved quickly on this when he was first appointed CEO of Unilever in 2009 - within weeks he had stopped offering quarterly guidance ("I figured no one would fire me in my first month" he quipped). And trading investors they didn't want for those they did want - i.e. those with a little more patient capital - has been a critical element in Unilever's transformation.
So far it is clearly bearing fruit - progress towards the many goals of the Sustainable Living Plan has been good and the performance of the company is better than ever. Polman appears to be well on the path to finding the holy grail of matching economic growth with social prosperity. But as he acknowledges, the path will not be easy one, and Unilever won't be able to do it alone. As he said, even if Unilever meets its ambitious goals, it won't have succeeded unless other companies have joined them. "We're just a pimple," said the leader of one of the world's largest packaged goods companies.
In R v Taylor 2012 NLCA 33, the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal examined whether a judge can draw an adverse inference from evidence that was not disclosed to the police or the prosecution. The majority argued that on the facts of this case it was a material error and directed a new trial.
The Crown has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”), who will hear the case this month.
In July 2003, Mr. Taylor called the complainant to his shed two days before her seventh birthday. The complainant testified that Mr. Taylor locked the shed door and touched her inappropriately for about ten seconds. He then unlocked the door, made her promise not to tell anyone what happened, and then gave her a water gun as a birthday present.
Mr. Taylor was convicted of sexual assault contrary to section 271(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. Mr. Taylor testified in his defence that the event occurred during the summer of 2004 because that was the year the warranty on his truck ran out. He testified that his son, Stephen, was working on the truck near the shed when the incident allegedly happened. Mr. Taylor said that the complainant had only stepped inside the shed for a few seconds when he gave her the water gun and she left, excited about the gift.
Stephen testified at trial that he had been working outside the shed during the alleged incident, and that the shed could not have been closed because he had an air hose running out from inside the shed. He also testified that the complainant was excited about the water gun and that she returned to spray water on the truck.
The trial judge rejected Stephen’s evidence because he concluded that it was a fabrication when Stephen “did nothing” with the evidence:
“Surely if Stephen Taylor had information that could assist his father, who he testified that he was very close to, he would’ve gone to the police with it or he would’ve gone to a lawyer, or he would’ve gone to the prosecutor’s office, or he would’ve gone to somebody to get help for his father with what he knew. Why would he put his father through that…[he had evidence] yet with that information he did nothing.”
Because Stephen had not contacted the police with the information when his father Mr. Taylor was charged, the trial judge drew an adverse inference from the omission and characterized the evidence as being “self serving and not believable” and “a clumsy lie.”
Mr. Taylor appealed to the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal alleging that the trial judge had erred in the manner he dealt with Stephen’s evidence.
No Duty to Disclose, No Adverse Inference Allowed
The majority said that Stephen did not “do nothing” with his evidence: he gave the information to defense counsel. The majority concluded that there was “no basis on which to infer or conclude that Stephen would or should have gone instead to the police or the prosecutor” and that the trial judge erred in concluding that Stephen “did nothing” with his evidence.
The majority then reviewed whether defence counsel had a duty to disclose the evidence to the prosecution and concluded that they did not. Relying on the ratios of the SCC in R v Stinchcombe 1991 SCC 45 and R v Brown 2002 SCC 32, which state that the prosecution has no duty to assist the prosecution nor make full disclosure, the majority then considered whether the evidence fit into the alibi exception to the general rule.
The failure to disclose the defence of an alibi in a timely manner may allow the judge to draw an adverse inference (R v Chambers,  2 SCR 1293). However, in this case Stephen’s evidence did not constitute an “alibi.” Alibi evidence generally establishes the impossibility the accused could have committed the offence; for example, being in a different location than where the offence occurred. In this case, Stephen testified that he was in the same location as Mr. Taylor and that the shed door could not have been locked, but this did not preclude the commission of the offence by Mr. Taylor. Because this was not alibi evidence, it did not have to be disclosed to the prosecution, nor could an adverse inference be drawn because of this.
The majority concluded that by rejecting Stephen’s evidence out of hand, the trial judge failed to make a proper assessment of the defence evidence. The convictions were set aside and a new trial was ordered.
Dissent – Judicial Discretion and The Reasonable Expectation of Disclosure
Justice Hoegg agreed with the majority that Stephen’s evidence was not alibi evidence and that the defence had no duty to disclose the evidence to the prosecution. However, Hoegg disagreed with the majority that the trial judge had not properly assessed the evidence and that a new trial was necessary.
In Hoegg’s opinion, the trial judge had reasonable grounds for favouring the complainant’s testimony over Stephen’s and that even though there was no obligation on Stephen to notify anyone about his evidence, it does raise a question going to the weight of the evidence:
“In circumstances where that evidence could reasonably be expected to have been disclosed earlier, [the witness] runs the risk of it being considered to be recently fabricated. This is what happened here. Stephen had the opportunity to address the Crown’s insinuation of recent fabrication for the Crown attorney questioned Stephen as to why this evidence was just coming forth at trial, and Stephen explained his reasons. The reasons did not ring true to the trial judge. The trial judge found Stephen’s evidence wanting and rejected it, as he is entitled to do.”
Hoegg concluded that the trial judge had properly assessed all the evidence, including Stephen’s, and that it did not raise a reasonable doubt of Mr. Taylor’s guilt.
The rejection of suspicious evidence without properly assessing its validity wrongfully infringes the accused’s right to a defence. However, this case turns on the characterization of judicial discretion. Did the trial judge adequately and properly assess the evidence, with the end result being he did not think it should be afforded much weight? Or did the trial judge reject the evidence out of hand without properly considering it, with the same result?
The strong dissent also has a practical purpose – surely it would be better for possible exculpatory evidence to be disclosed at the time of being charged with an offence, rather than withholding it until the trial date. Whether the SCC will uphold the majority’s reasoning or side with the dissent remains to be seen.
February 14, 2013
Switch off and unplug before leaving for the weekend to help York reduce its energy consumption by 25 per cent.
The extension will allow Dean Singer to advance a number of initiatives that have commenced under his leadership. His decanal term will conclude on June 30, 2015.
The York University Lions women's volleyball team will kick off the post-season by playing host to the Lakehead Thunderwolves in an Ontario University Athletics quarter-final match on Saturday night.
The session is recommended for new administrative staff members who deal with textbook and course kit requisitions through the bookstore, faculty members and those looking for a refresher course on using the bookstore's online textbook request form.
York researcher and PhD candidate Rachael Stone found that those who exercised 30 minutes a day had a 15 per cent lower risk of developing a mental illness than those who were mostly sedentary, reported CTV News.
Call it kismet, but we have received a new book for our Special Collections that seems extremely appropriate for Valentine’s Day. Titled The Law In Postcards & Ephemera 1890-1962, it is, as the name would suggest, a collection of law-related postcards and ephemera that ranges from the racy to amusing to just plain cute. While many are very much products of their time (read: politically incorrect), they are all fascinating windows into the evolution (or not) of the perception of the legal profession in popular culture.
This is an image taken from the book from the “Law and Holidays” chapters. Perhaps the time is ripe to start a line of heritage legal postcards!
Happy Valentine’s from all of us at the Osgoode Law Library!
An article published by Bloomberg last week rehashed an old argument. It dealt with the continued slide of the American labor movement (“The Real Reason for the Decline of American Unions” by Kris Warner). American union density (the percentage of workers who are union members) fell from 11.8 to 11.3 percent in 2011. That is down from 30 percent 50 years ago and is the lowest in the post Wagner Act era.
Here’s my response, for what it’s worth.
The premise of the article is that the “real reason” for the decline is weak American labor laws. It’s so risky for employees to exercise their right to unionize that few dare try. The law intended to protect workers from employer reprisals has no teeth, and employers and employees alike know this. The fact that American employers fire workers in 25% of union organizing campaigns is met with a shrug by Republicans and employers, who spend billions of dollars lobbying against labor law reform. The author cites the well known survey by Harvard’s Richard Freeman and Joel Rogers (What Workers Want), which found that 32% of nonunion American workers would vote for a union if given the chance, and 90% of existing union members would vote to remain in the union if put to a choice. Overall, 44% of Americans would like to be unionized, but only about 11% are. Freeman calls this “a remarkable institutional failure in the country’s labor laws.”
The argument presented in the Bloomberg piece is that the situation would change dramatically for American workers and unions if the U.S. adopted the Canadian model of labor law. Although Canada and the U.S. share similar economic and social models, Canadian union density has not experienced the same decline. According to Warner, “Differences in labor law and public policy” between the two countries, “are at the root of this disparity.” He demonstrates the divergence in the familiar Chart reproduced above, which shows the trajectory of overall union levels between the two countries for the past century.
It has long been argued by legal scholars that if American workers enjoyed the stronger labor laws in effect in Canada, that unionization would surge. I doubt that. This is a dated story that has become more folklore than fact.
Mr. Warner’s summary of Canadian laws is accurate. It is true that strikers here cannot be permanently replaced, at least not until a strike has dragged on for some time. Labor boards in Canada do indeed act more swiftly and effectively in dealing with employer reprisals against workers for exercising their right to unionize. We do have ‘first contract arbitration’ in Canada, although it is hardly ever used in practice. Some jurisdictions in Canada still use a Card-Check model for testing employee wishes, rather than a mandatory vote model used in the USA. The Card-Check model permits unions to prove support by having a majority of workers sign union membership cards rather than win a hotly contested and divisive vote. This process mostly avoids the long, nasty, often illegal campaigns waged by American employers to dissuade unionization. Studies confirm that unions are more successful in organizing new workers under a Card-Check model than under a Mandatory Vote model. But most workers in Canada are now governed by a Mandatory Vote model. True, the Canadian vote model is far preferable to the ridiculous, months long campaigns permitted under the American NLRA. Votes in Canada are usually held within a week or two of the union’s application.
However, all of these benefits of the Canadian model have in fact not saved Canadian unions from a similar fate to their American brethren. They have only slowed the decline. It’s true that Canadian union density has held near 30 percent while the American rate has fallen to 11 percent. But most of the explanation for this lies in the heavily unionized public sector, where employers barely resist unionization efforts. Teachers, nurses, public administrators are able to unionize in Canada, and they have done so in huge numbers. In the USA, many states prohibit collective bargaining altogether, or prohibit it for large segments of public employees. Public sector union density in Canada is over 70 percent. The spike in the chart above beginning around the 1970s reflects the beginning of public sector unionization in Canada. The private sector is a very different story. Union density in the Canadian private sector is only about 15 percent, roughly where the U.S. was in 1990.
The following Chart shows the important story.
It tracks Private Sector union representation over the years. Note any similarities? Canada is following the same trajectory downwards. We just lag the U.S. by a couple of decades. It is true, no doubt, that our laws have traditionally and still do protect private sector workers better than the American law. Canadian laws would protect more American workers from reprisals for trying to unionize, and maybe even result in some modest gains for the labor movement.
However, far more important is the fact that the Wagner model upon which both the Canadian and American models are based was designed to facilitate collective bargaining in large industrial workplaces, and fewer and fewer of those workplaces exist in the two countries. The exodus of manufacturing jobs is not the result of labour laws. It was the anticipated result of our governments’ decisions to pursue free trade. Everyone knew free trade would mean the end of large manufacturing factories in Canada and most of the Northern USA. The political dream was to replace those jobs with high skill, white collar, service and technology jobs. Combined with the higher Canadian dollar, the end of trade tariffs removes most of the reasons for foreign businesses to locate their manufacturing plants in Canada. Those types of jobs aren’t coming back.
Workers in the service sector, offices, and small workplaces that will increasingly dominate our economy will not benefit from collective bargaining under a model designed for the 20th century manufacturing sector. It’s easy to see why. Think about a single Starbucks store with 15 employees that
gets unionized. Those 15 employees then try to bargain a collective agreement, and Starbucks tells them that they will give them precisely what employees in the nonunion stores receive, and nothing more. that is lawful hard bargaining under our duty to bargain laws. The employees can then go on strike to put pressure on Starbucks to up their offer. Do you think that Starbucks Inc. will cave to that pressure? Of course not. A strike at one Starbucks store is like a mosquito bite on a bears’ ass. Starbucks will resist giving the employees more because if it does so, employees at other stores may see a reason to unionize too.
The striking employees will probably give up and quit, or accept a weak agreement. Odds are the union will be decertified, or will walk away. If the workers hold strong, and the union puts up a good fight, the employer can always just shut down the single store altogether and fire everyone, ala Wal-Mart. At worst, it would be ordered to pay some relatively small amount of damages to the employees if the store closure is found to be unlawful retaliation for the workers’ unionizing. Another mosquito bite.
This simple dynamic explains why employees of banks, retail stores, offices, and every other small workplace will never be able to bargain a decent collective agreement under our model. The model only works when workers have enough bargaining power to put pressure on the employer through the threat of a strike that could inflict real economic harm. Workers have that power in the old school large manufacturing factories, mines, transportation companies, and construction sites, and the large pools of workers in the public sector, where the employer has non-economic reasons to avoid strikes.
In workplaces with under 20 employees, union density in Canada is only 13 percent, compared to 52 percent in workplaces with over 500 employees. Canada has lost 250,000 mostly unionized manufacturing jobs in the last 15 years, and few new manufacturing plants are being organized. Less than 5 percent of certification applications file in the past decade in Ontario have been in the manufacturing sector. The majority of union organizing in Canada is in the broader public sector and construction. In the rest of the private sector, prospects for the labor movement are dim, unless our labor law model is updated for the 21st century.
If our governments do nothing but leave the labour law model untouched, Canadian private sector unionization will fall to 10% before long. It is time to turn the page on the argument that Canadian labor laws could save the American labor movement, even if importing those laws were politically feasible. Sure, our quicker votes and more effective penalties for employer reprisals would be an improvement over the existing American model. Unions would no doubt win more organizing campaigns than they do at present, and this could lead to overall membership growth in the short term. However, in the big picture, it is now abundantly clear that the future of both the American and Canadian labor movements must lie beyond the Wagner model. What that future will, or should, look like is anyone’s guess. But that is where the discussion needs to go.
Third-year law student Cory Rubin served as Osgoode Hall Law School's Dean for a Day on Tuesday. Rubin attended a series of meetings that were centred on his Dean for a Day entry essay topics of fairness and feedback in the exam process, and enhancing the academic experience.
The team faced a tough opponent in the No. 2 nationally ranked McMaster University Marauders on Sunday, ultimately upsetting the top team in the Ontario University Athletics league in straight sets.
February 13, 2013
Six panellists, including two students, talked with audience members about what a mentally healthy campus would look like at York U Let's Talk Mental Health community dialogue event Tuesday.
The study, co-authored by York Professor Christian Haas, Canada Research Chair for Arctic Sea Ice Geophysics, has found evidence of extensive sea ice thinning in the Arctic between 2003 and 2012.
"When the sea ice melts earlier than it used to, there is a whole cascade of effects that are driven by changes in the basic productivity of how complex the ecosystem really is, from the micro-organism level to polar bears," said York FES Professor Gregory Thiemann in the Toronto Star.
Nominations recognizing colleagues, staff and members of the administration are currently being accepted, in paper and online, for each of the five award categories.
The next spray days on the Keele campus will begin on Friday, Feb. 15 at 5pm and end on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 5pm.
The biennial Western Conference on Science Education will be taking place this coming July 9–July 11, 2013.
I’m thinking very seriously of going and I think science/engineering librarians in general should consider doing so as well.
Here’s how they describe it:
The biennial Western Conference for Science Education creates an ongoing organizational infrastructure that invites teaching and research faculty, librarians and other educational professionals, regardless of their experience level, to collaborate on the improvement of post-secondary Science education through the exchange of experience, innovation, ideas, and research in teaching and learning across disciplines.
Although situated in the context of Canadian higher education in Science, the Western Conference recognizes that fundamental issues in teaching and learning often transcend disciplinary, institutional, and national boundaries. Participation by colleagues working outside the country, or outside the traditional disciplines of Science, is welcome.
Specifically, the Western Conference for Science Education is designed to create and sustain an on-going organizational structure that:
- enhances a Science education community by enticing faculty and educational staff to venture out of their respective discipline-specific circles to meet, discuss, and collaborate with one another;
Conferences are planned for every other year after 2013. On off-years, we encourage other colleagues, organizations and institutions to host synergistic events that benefit from, and in turn increase, the momentum created by the Western Conferences.
The conference topic threads have a lot of scope for the kinds of work librarians do:
Thread A: Teaching and Learning Science
Thread B: Evaluation of Learning
Thread C: Curriculum
Thread D: Education Technologies and Innovative Resources
Thread E: Other
And the session formats leave a lot of leeway for interesting ways to pitch that work. In particular, the “Short & Tweet” format seems to have a lot of possibility for advocacy.
- Workshops: Workshops are highly participatory hands-on 80 minute sessions allowing participants to come away with a product, tool, or skill.
The Canadian Engineering Education Association annual conference (June 17-20) is another I’m considering for the spring/summer and I know that it’s also a very good conference for engineering librarians.
We’ve been weeding the collection of reference materials now integrated into the Library’s Core Collection. (Don’t worry, we’re not throwing anything out; we’re just moving many of the older or no-longer-topical materials to the stacks or into storage.) In the process, we’ve found some pretty arcane and interesting things. This is one of them.
In 1955, the British House of Commons Library published a small pamphlet (“Document no. 1″ in a new series) entitled Acts of Paliament: Some Distinctions in their Nature and Numbering .Though only eight pages long, the pamphlet provides great detail on the disctinctions between Statutes, Acts, Public and Private Acts (Le Roy le veult vs Soit fait comme il est désiré), Local Acts, Personal Acts, Private Acts, Local and Personal Acts, Local and Private Acts and other variations.and combinations and how these meanings changed and merged from the 13th to the 20th centures. There’s also information on how the nature of an act determined whether it could be received as evidence in a court of law and how it might be interpreted. Further, there’s information on how these acts would be collected, organized into “chapters”, printed, numbered with arabic or roman numerals in upper or lower case, in roman or italic font (all of which are significant in the numbering systems) and many more arcane minutiae than most of us would care to know but which some of our readers will, I suspect, find fascinating!
For the true devotee of legal research, this publication is a must-read!
Lawyer wants Insurance Act amendments proclaimed to give judges greater discretion
Last year, Nadia Cyr was murdered by her husband, who was convicted and is now appealing the decision. The husband was named beneficiary in two insurance policies, and if his appeal is successful, will be entitled to a $500,000 policy payment. Nadia’s father, Nicholas Gehl, a Waterloo, Ontario lawyer, is now arguing that the province should immediately proclaim an amendment to s.194 of the Ontario Insurance Act:
194. (1) Where a beneficiary predeceases the person whose life is insured, and no disposition of the share of the deceased beneficiary in the insurance money is provided in the contract or by a declaration, the share is payable,
(a) to the surviving beneficiary
The proposed change adds a new subsection:
(5) Subsection (1) applies in the case of a disclaiming beneficiary or in the case of a beneficiary determined by a court to be disentitled to insurance money as if the disclaiming or disentitled beneficiary died before the person whose life is insured.
The amendment is similar to provisions in Alberta and British Columbia statutes, but has yet to be proclaimed as it is still under review. Although Gehl recognizes that the new provision will not have any retroactive effect, he wants to give judges the discretion needed to prevent those who were previously convicted of murder and later released on procedural claims from collecting insurance money. In addition, as it is now, if a named sole beneficiary does not receive the funds, dependents or other family members cannot claim the payment, which would go to the state.
International Court of Arbitration opens New York office
Last week, the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) announced that it would be opening an office in New York City to serve the arbitration needs of Canada and the United States. Its two major competitors are the American Arbitration Association and the London Court of International Arbitration. The three organizations each have a staff of arbitrators that can be selected by parties who have opted for arbitration as a method of resolving commercial disputes.
The ICC has already partnered with the Arbitration Place in downtown Toronto, a leading facility that hosts both domestic and international arbitration hearings. The significance of the ICC’s move is that it widens the pool of arbitrators that North Americans might want to select. Canadians figure largely in the arbitration community, with the World Bank ranking it fifth in terms of its conditions for arbitrating commercial disputes.