The Globe and Mail

How being a good dinner companion could make your career

Flickering candlelight casts strange shadows along the walls. The accumulated mumble of voices is silenced by the piercing sound of a gong, followed by an immediate eerie quietness. Everyone rises from their seats, gowns billowing. A mesmerizing Latin chant reverberates throughout the medieval hall.

This wasn’t a strange dream, but part of my real-life journey as a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, the world’s fourth-oldest university. As an undergrad in Canada, I would meet up with colleagues over a casual pint at the campus pub, but in Cambridge, socializing takes place in a more formal and structured setting.

The most frequent communal activity that has persisted since the university’s founding is the “formal hall.” This elaborate custom involves the donning of formal attire and gown and partaking in a three-course meal served in ancient dining halls.

Participating in these formals teaches numerous important skills. Firstly, they bring people out of their academic silos and facilitate interactions between disciplines. One evening, I conversed with a gentleman who directed a pharmaceutical company. He was interested in learning about Canada’s Constitution, and afterward he spoke about the clinical trials his company was conducting.

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Huffington Post Canada

The Senate Reference and taking steps forward

The Supreme Court just released its long-awaited Senate Reference decision. And the response was spectacularly rebuking.

Harper posed the following questions to the Court and the following responses were provided. I have significantly condensed the decision for easy access.

Harper: Can the federal government unilaterally impose term limits on Senators?

Supreme Court: No, they may not.

Imposing term limits is a change that engages the interest of provinces. It requires the general amending formula to be used (seven provinces with at least 50 per cent of the population), also known as the 7/50 procedure. Imposing fixed terms is not specifically written in the Constitution, imposing term limits would alter the fundamental nature and role of the Senate.

Harper: Can the federal government unilaterally develop legislation that allows citizens to be consulted for potential Senate nominees? Can the federal government establish a framework for provinces and territories to enact legislation to consult their citizens for Senate nominees?

Supreme Court: No, they may not.

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The Prince Arthur Herald

An interview with Justice Minister Peter MacKay

In light of the House of Commons reconvening on January 27, The Prince Arthur Herald columnist Samuel Mosonyi spoke with Justice Minister Peter MacKay to gauge the government’s position and rationale on a number of initiatives currently being pursued in the Justice portfolio. These include the Supreme Court’s Bedford decision on prostitution, a cyberbullying awareness initiative, mandatory victim surcharges, the proposed Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act, and more. Here is the full interview.

 

PROSTITUTION AND THE BEDFORD DECISION

You tweeted recently that you “disagree with Justin Trudeau’s focus on legalizing prostitution, which will harm and put vulnerable Canadians at risk.” Has Justin Trudeau come out in support of legalization?

Of marijuana, yes. Of prostitution, not yet, although his party, and particularly the youth wing, appears to be very publicly musing, if not advocating, that position. So while we’ve been focused on making our justice system more accountable, Mr. Trudeau and certainly his party seem to be focusing on legalizing marijuana and prostitution. And frankly I tweeted that because I fundamentally disagree, and I think in both instances it would be detrimental to our country’s best interest. It would certainly further endanger vulnerable segments of our population. And I don’t believe that any government of any political stripe should be facilitating the increase of access to drugs or to the sex trade. I don’t think it’s a good thing for our country, certainly not in the best interests of young people, or our citizens. I’m kind of taken aback, frankly, when I heard that yesterday.

After the Bedford decision you released a statement stating that the government is exploring all options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms to communities, prostitutes, and vulnerable persons. Would it be an option to allow communities themselves to regulate prostitution through zoning and licensing bylaws, instead of treating it as a criminal law matter?

I don’t believe so. I say that because it really is in the federal area of criminal legislation in my view to address this broadly across the country. We’re going to be receiving a lot of input and there will be extensive consultation on this issue. But it’s going to take a much more concerted effort than what any local government or jurisdiction could do. So for that reason I think you will find that there is a necessity within that twelve month period that the Supreme Court has granted that we will bring forward legislation, and amendments that will address what we think are significant harms that flow from prostitution.

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Guelph Mercury

Municipalities fighting good fight on cell tower locations

The rash of new cellphone towers being built across Canada has led concerned citizens and several municipalities — including Guelph — to speak out against such developments, on the grounds that they devalue property and pose potential safety risks.

The health impacts of the towers have not been widely analyzed in Canada. However, the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2009 that notes in its preamble that wireless technology emits electromagnetic fields “that may have adverse effects on human health.”

Provinces exercise exclusive power over “property and civil rights” under s. 92 (13) of the Constitution Act, 1867, which they can delegate to the municipalities, which have no constitutional status. Since cell towers are a sort of property, it would seemingly appear that provinces have jurisdiction over them. However, telecommunications has been interpreted exclusively as a federal power despite not being enumerated in the Constitution.

In the Supreme Court’s Radio Reference of 1931, a majority of the justices ruled that telecommunications is an exclusive federal power. Justice Robert Smith, for instance, decided that legislation regarding radio technologies does not deal directly with property or civil rights in the province. Since it does not fall under any enumerated ground, most of the justices found that such regulations fall under the federal government’s power, since all powers not specifically enumerated are granted to the federal government under the “residual powers” doctrine. However, two out of the five justices found that Parliament’s jurisdiction was not exclusive, since the “receiving apparatus” is a piece of equipment, or property, that must be erected within the province.

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Guelph Mercury

Speaker’s ruling a small win for democracy

On April 23, House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer released a ruling on a point of privilege raised by Conservative MP Mark Warawa that opens the door for more free speech by members of Parliament.

Warawa argued that his own party’s chief whip had violated his freedom of speech by preventing him from speaking on an unapproved topic during the time allotted for members’ statements.

Members’ statements are governed by Standing Order 31, which states: “A member (of Parliament) may be recognized … to make a statement for not more than one minute. The Speaker may order a member to resume his or her seat if, in the opinion of the Speaker, improper use is made of this standing order.”

According to the compendium of procedure of the House of Commons, statements by members take place for one hour daily and are allotted for “members who are not (cabinet) ministers … to address the House for up to one minute on virtually any matter of local, provincial, national or international concern.”

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Publications

Enquiry, Engagement and eLearning: Three Perspectives on a Student-Centred, Online, Enquiry-Based Course

Jacqueline Murray, Natalie Giesbrecht, and Samuel Mosonyi, “Enquiry, Engagement and eLearning: Three Perspectives on a Student-Centred, Online, Enquiry-Based Course,” Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching 6 (2013): 34-40.

Abstract:

In the 2011 Winter semester, the University of Guelph engaged in a pedagogical experiment: an online first-year seminar. This article is a conversation about the learning journey that surrounds this seminar, as experienced by three participants: Jacqueline Murray (JM), Professor of History and Director of the First-Year Seminar Program (FYS); Natalie Giesbrecht (NG), Manager, Distance Education and a Distance Learning Specialist; and Samuel Mosonyi (SM), an undergraduate student who was enrolled in the course. We reflect upon the online seminar and discuss the technology and pedagogy, student learning experience, and process of online interaction. We conclude that this seminar, an innovation in both enquiry-based learning and first-year seminars, is arguably comparable with classroom-based offerings.

Full text here.

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Guelph Mercury

Parliament should review niqab ruling

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in December that niqabs — full-face veils — could sometimes be worn by witnesses in court depending on the context.

In a case involving a Toronto woman identified only as “N.S.,” the court was asked to balance a niqab-wearing witness’s freedom of religion versus a defendant’s right to a fair trial in a sexual assault case.

In weighing these rights against each other, the court ultimately adopted a balanced approach. However, it split in a 4-2-1 decision (with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin writing for the majority), adopting a “just and proportionate balance between freedom of religion on the one hand, and trial fairness on the other, based on the particular case before the court.”

Justices Louis LeBel and Morris Fish, meanwhile, argued that niqabs must never be worn in the courtroom, while Justice Rosalie Abella, in a dissenting opinion, stated that a witness should only have to remove a niqab if her face is directly relevant to the case.

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Huffington Post Canada

The Ontario teacher’s union is holding students hostage

Ontario high school students are being disproportionately affected by the conflict between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the provincial government. The OSSTF mandated its members to withdraw from extracurricular activities in early December. Given that the Liberals have imposed contracts under Bill 115 for a period of two years, the OSSTF will likely continue to use the ban on extracurricular activities as a negotiating tool.

What is most worrying about the conflict is the way in which students are being used as pawns by the OSSTF to advance and promote a political message. The OSSTF has released two TV advertisements, one featuring students ready to attend band with musical instruments in hand, and one with a group of basketball players. The ads are short, and a female voice narrates: “there is only one thing standing between public high school students and their extracurricular activities. Fight Bill 115.”

This leads one to conclude that it is the government preventing students from participating in extracurricular activities. No other information is presented and the ad clearly aims to generate favourable public perception for the OSSTF and antagonize the government’s position.

It is conveniently glossed over that the extracurricular ban came from the top brass at OSSTF.

Students’ anger over the loss of extracurricular activities should not be directed towards the government, as the ad suggests. Nor should it be directed against individual teachers, who have very little leeway to deviate from the orders issued by the union. An Ottawa-area teacher did just this and continued to lead extracurricular activities in class. According to her, she was phoned and threatened by a union official with a fine. The OSSTF also posts the information of those who violate its orders in its publicly accessible newsletter, according to its vice president. With the union putting such severe restrictions on its members, it is no surprise that very few teachers attempt to hold activities for students.

The Guelph Mercury editorial board opines that the OSSTF has been successful in winning the hearts and minds of students. They note that teachers have likely not covered this subject in a “full and balanced” way, which should be expected before an informed opinion can be reached on any contentious political topic. This blatant one-sidedness should worry all Ontarians about a precedent being set in how teachers and unions can inject their political views into students. Students should be able to reach an informed decision after being presented with both sides of an issue.

Ontario students deserve the right to quality education, and as Premier McGuinty states, “Ontarians expect, rightly, that uncertainty in education will not continue indefinitely.”

Furthermore, the OSSTF is quite disingenuous with respect to its own internal policies when it instituted the extracurricular ban. According to section 6.6 of its Policies and Procedures, “it is the policy of OSSTF that involvement in extra-curricular activities should be voluntary.” The word voluntary is defined by Merriam-Webster as “proceeding from the will or from one’s own choice or consent,” or being “unconstrained by interference.” OSSTF’s call to end extracurricular activities dictates what members can do in their private lives. This same decree tells teachers that they must show up 15 minutes before classes begin and leave immediately after their final class. How much further will the OSSTF venture into its members’ personal and private lives until these infringements are recognized as rights violations?

Original post here

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Guelph Mercury

There’s a need to review judicial appointment process

Troy Riddell and Samuel Mosonyi.

Justice Richard Wagner, the newest judge on the Supreme Court of Canada, caused a stir in December when he suggested that the process used by the federal government to appoint judges below the Supreme Court level — primarily to superior trial courts and courts of appeal in the provinces — be reformed.

Potential appointees, according to Wagner, should appear publicly before a parliamentary committee as he did before his recent appointment to the Supreme Court. Wagner, however, indicated that for practical reasons hearings for now could be limited to appeal courts only.

There was a mixed reaction to Wagner’s comments. One law professor, for example, argued that this would Americanize the system and lead to the appointment of judges who were too deferential to government. Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail editorial board endorsed the suggestion, arguing that since judges have more power to influence policy, they deserve greater public scrutiny. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms inarguably gives judges a more significant role in the area of policy-making relative to the legislatures.

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Guelph Mercury

A logical decision in anti-terrorism case

Convicted terrorist Momin Khawaja disagrees fundamentally with Canada’s anti-terrorism laws, believing they are an unfair infringement on his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to express himself freely.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous, commonsensical decision, struck down this argument Dec. 17 and increased his sentence of 10½ years to a life sentence.

Khawaja was the first Canadian charged under the new anti-terrorism laws enacted after Sept. 11, 2001 for assisting a group of London Islamists who planned to build and detonate bombs made of fertilizer in shopping malls, nightclubs and other targets.

Khawaja sent a number of emails to those involved with the plot, provided funding to them, designed a detonator for the explosives which he planned to smuggle into the United Kingdom, and offered to provide training to the group. The emails he sent documented his ideological commitment to jihad. He also travelled to Pakistan to attend a terrorist arms training camp.

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