A RETROSPECTIVE

OSGOODE HALL LAW SCHOOL

2012 – 2015

Photo credit: Blackwell.ca

Photo credit: Blackwell.ca

It is a beautiful coincidence that two of the last three film reviews published in the Obiter Dicta during the 2014-2015 academic year are Wild Tales and It Follows. The latter reinforces the significant impact that Osgoode will have on our future lives and careers moving forward, while the former rather accurately captures our experience over the past three years, regardless of what path each of us charted during our time walking these halls.

Three years. Six semesters. Twenty-four months (of classes). Even the temporal description sounds completely surreal. It feels like yesterday that we were standing in front of Osgoode Hall in brightly-coloured, Lego-themed t-shirts, basking in the warm September sun, filled with anticipation and trepidation about what lay ahead. There was a nervousness in the air that was palpable, mixed with a sense of awesome discovery. What would Osgoode hold for us? We were ready to find out.

Well, I’m pleased to say we made it (almost).

Our efforts—the long nights, the sleep deprivation, the coffee guzzling, the exam cramming—have paid off gloriously. Very soon, we will be receiving certificates worth $75,000+, entitling us to call ourselves Juris Doctor graduates. It is a massive accomplishment, and one of which all of us should be proud. It deserves smiles and tears, hugs and high fives, and at least seventeen rounds of shots when it is all over.

Yet the moments, large and small, lodged in between classes—pub nights, Passy fire alarms, mooting competitions, Ski Trip, Law Games, Mock Trial, Journal Symposiums, the Wendy Babcock Drag Show, Dean’s Formal—will be the ones remembered forever. The Class of 2015 has spent hours and days and weeks together at events and social gatherings, at bars and banquet halls, in ice storms and blizzards, laughing, learning, and lunging for greatness.

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We’re All Working on the Edge

My Thoughts on the Launch of the “Still Working on the Edge: Rebuilding Decent Work from the Ground Up” Report on Precarious Labour in Ontario

Photo credit: WorkersActionCentre.org

Photo credit: WorkersActionCentre.org

On 31 March 2015, I had the opportunity to attend the launch of Ontario’s foremost report on precarious labour. “Still Working on the Edge: Rebuilding Decent Work from the Ground Up,” is the follow-up to a landmark report drafted in 2007 by labour rights group the Workers Action Centre and community legal worker Mary Gellatly. The 2007 report, titled “Working on the Edge,” was the first comprehensive look at precarious labour in the province. Since its launch, a recession, an increasing income gap, and a substantial decrease in the full time jobs market, the situation for workers has only worsened.

The launch of “Still Working on the Edge” represents a new opportunity for the Workers Action Centre, Mary, and an inspiring team of volunteers, workers, and activists, to bring the problem of precarious labour to the forefront. In a worsening labour market, the report provides a key pillar upon which to build reforms and mechanisms to protect workers. At the launch of the report, I had the opportunity to hear some of their stories first-hand.

The event was by every measure a success, especially for a topic that may not draw the same initial attention as other, more fashionable causes. With newspaper coverage and a slew of attendees from legal and political backgrounds, the event provided an opportunity to learn more about the problems facing workers in precarious positions. There were a range of speakers, including workers detailing their personal experiences, contributors to the report, and industry and legal experts. The conference also included mediated discussions at our tables, which gave all the attendees an interesting chance to share and learn from a wide range of perspectives and opinions.

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March Madness

The hypocrisy of American university sports

Photo credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Photo credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

American university sports are founded on the idealistic notion of amateurism in the form of student-athletes. Supposedly, what matters is the personal growth of the students, and the school spirit fostered by competition. Perhaps this was once the case, and perhaps in some corners it remains the case. However, at the largest American universities this has long ceased to be the motivation. Instead, schools are motivated solely by profit. There is nothing inherently wrong with schools earning a profit from athletics, however the profits often result in the exploitation of the athletes involved.

The NCAA basketball championship tournament, March Madness, is currently ongoing. All of the games are televised, and billions of dollars are gambled on the results of the games. CBS and Turner Broadcasting paid almost eleven billion dollars to the NCAA for the right to broadcast the tournament. The NCAA also brings in significant profits from sponsors and ticket sales. All of the schools that participate receive a portion of the revenues. The schools are able to invest this revenue in several ways, including paying coach salaries, and funding less profitable athletic programs.

Successful, high profile athletic programs, including mainly basketball and football programs, are used by large schools to attract significant donations from alumni, adding to the funds that athletic success can generate for the schools. The high level athletes, in short, provide significant value to the schools. The problem is that for their efforts, the athletes receive very little in return. Most often they receive a full scholarship that is contingent on athletic success. If an athlete is injured, or fails to produce, his or her scholarship is often revoked. The education that the athletes receive is often subpar, especially for athletes in elite athletic programs. The athletics can be such a significant time commitment that it is unreasonable to expect participants to also be successful students. But, these students are not simply receiving poor grades, and in many large universities more than half of student athletes fail to graduate. They simply exhaust their athletic eligibility then move onto other things. Continue reading

The glory past of the Toronto Blue Jays

A look into the team’s ascension to greatness and its heydays

Part 5: Reaching the pinnacle (Part 1 of Double Truck)

The iconic words of the late Tom Cheek ("Touch 'em all Joe, you'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!") resonated across Canada after Joe Carter belted his 1993 World Series-clinching three-run homer.

The iconic words of the late Tom Cheek (“Touch ‘em all Joe, you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!”) resonated across Canada after Joe Carter belted his 1993 World Series-clinching three-run homer.

After Toronto became the first ever non-U.S.-based team to win the Fall Classic on 24 October 1992, GM Pat Gillick intended to keep as much of the team together as possible. Since the Blue Jays’ championship window was still open, it would have been foolish to dismantle the core when the team was still very capable of competing for another World Series title in the next season. Some degree of roster turnover was inevitable given that certain players’ contracts were ending. Not only were players who had average seasons with expiring contracts primed to be non-tendered (e.g. Lee) or traded (e.g. Gruber) so that the club could add to its talent level, but even good players who were finishing up the last year of their contracts (e.g. Cone, Key, Henke, Maldonado, and Winfield) were likely to be cut loose. This is because it was not feasible for the Blue Jays to bring them back financially speaking since their salary demands would have been inflated as a result of having played for a World Series Championship team. New pieces (i.e. players who offered similar skill sets and production levels to those who were set to depart) would therefore need to be brought in either internally (in the form of blue-chip prospects who were ready for prime time) or externally (in the form of unrestricted free agency). That said, even though adjustments and fine-tuning were needed, all hands associated with the franchise had a “win now” mentally and wanted to keep the gravy train going on for as long as possible. Continue reading

Impairment or Improvement?

The Four Best and Worst Ways the Strike Affected Student Caucus

Strike memes offered brief relief while anxiously awaiting vote results and entering academic crunch time. Is this the best of what the strike has brought us?

Strike memes offered brief relief while anxiously awaiting vote results and entering academic crunch time. Is this the best of what the strike has brought us?

As a Student Caucus representative and 1L student, I found myself thrown into discussions in a context I hadnt contemplated in my legal education: a labour dispute. In my personal political adventure on Student Caucus in the midst of crisis, I partook in Osgoodes quest for exemption from the academic activity ban and for the holy grail of remediation plans. Along the way, I learned about the best and the worst of what the strike has brought upon Osgoode Hall. 

4. Our Plans Were Altered 

The Worst: Student Caucus got side-tracked. Lots of projects pick up the pace in second semester after data has been gathered and meetings have gotten meatier. We probably wont accomplish as much as we had wanted due to the disruption.

The Best: The strike was a catalyst to getting some crucial concerns on the agenda. This is especially true for 1L concerns that were summarized by the 1L reps just before the strike started. Mental health? On the docket. Lecture recordings? Got it. Critical reflection on course content and exam parameters? In progress. Concerns that professors might not have addressed until preparing for their fall courses are being taken seriously now. The policy window is open and drafts of student-led reforms—we hope—will follow.  We have a precedent for student-led discussions to shape academic decisions, and this can only be encouraging for student government going forward.

 

3. Mental Health Mattered Continue reading

Coffee Cups, Pirates, and Handguns

Sailing in the Uncharted Waters of 3D Printing

At TED2015, Carbon3D revealed their new CLIP technology that uses light and oxygen to create objects from a pool of resin at 25 to 100 times faster than traditional 3D printers. Photo credit: WashingtonPost.com

At TED2015, Carbon3D revealed their new CLIP technology that uses light and oxygen to create objects from a
pool of resin at 25 to 100 times faster than traditional 3D printers. Photo credit: WashingtonPost.com

In 1974, a joke written by David Jones in the New Scientist unknowingly predicted the development of an innovation that decades later would be called “the third industrial revolution.” Though his proposal imagined a laser that when shined through liquid plastic monomer caused it to solidify was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, it was only three years later that a patent would be granted for the same idea. The full impact that 3D printing will have on our society has yet to be seen but recognition of the technology’s significance has spread from academic circles and begun to permeate discourse within the general public. It has been said that while the technology has the potential to change industry, end world hunger, and provide a new platform for creativity, it also stands to become Pandora’s box, unleashing the capacity for individuals to produce deadly weapons and other objects seen to be socially immoral. Indeed, 3D printing has the potential to raise a myriad of legal issues that spread across a number of areas of regulation including national security, food and drugs, environmental, and even treaties and international agreements. It also stands to be the impetus for current manufacturing models to be overturned on their head.

Just as the introduction of the Internet sparked a transformation whereby information was democratized, we are currently facing what could potentially be seen as a paradigm shift where there is a complete democratization of manufacturing. However, what is truly revolutionizing the world around us is the combination of these two. Where the Internet has provided the public with access to knowledge, 3D printing takes this one step further and allows this knowledge to transcend the digital realm by transforming itself into tangible products. In essence, we are posed to see the development of a new self-sufficient public as it is able to consume the products of its own creation. Individuals will adopt the role of the manufacturer through a viable alternative to the model of mass production. We are already witness to a culture that embodies self-sufficiency through the open sharing of ideas and knowledge. It is currently characterized by notions of customization and individualization; the idea that people can “make what they can’t buy at Wal-Mart.”

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The View From Here

A Canadian-Israeli’s (Surprisingly Optimistic) Perspective on the Recent Elections and What the Future Holds for Israel

Israel has a new government, and not everyone is happy—including many progressive Israelis.

Photo credit: cija.ca

Photo credit: cija.ca

As a Canadian Jew by birth and an Israeli by choice, I offer a perspective shared by many here and in Israel—and it is a surprisingly optimistic one.

I am always worried about Israel—worried about its security, my family and friends’ safety, the price of housing, the rate at which the Dead Sea is receding—but I know one thing for certain: Israel has survived thus far, and she will survive this government, too.

Israelis’ resilience and commitment to pluralism and democracy will not be so easily shaken. One must understand the context in order to understand the poll results. Moreover, the poll results are only one chapter in a much longer story of Israel’s on-going progressive legacy.

Like most Israelis and Zionists, I am deeply troubled by the racist pronouncements made by Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu regarding Arab-Israeli citizens. They were obviously a desperate attempt made at the eleventh hour in a bid to maintain his own personal power; that in no way diminishes their impact or his blameworthiness.

Israeli society has made tremendous strides in terms of equality for its Arab-Israeli citizens. Equality is enshrined in Israel’s founding document and has been a priority from the very beginning. Arabs who stayed in Israel after the War of Independence were immediately granted full citizenship and have always enjoyed the same political and civil rights as all Israelis. They cast ballots in the first Israeli election, and the suggestion that they cannot be trusted to exercise this most fundamental right is appalling. Bibi has since apologized, but Arab-Israelis have every right to feel hurt, angry, and disgusted. The rest of us share that sentiment.

To be sure, some of the Arab parties proffer startlingly anti-Semitic views and do so openly. MK (Member of Knesset, the Israeli Parliament) Haneen Zoabi didn’t stop at statements; she was on board an arms-laden ship that tried to violate Israeli maritime sovereignty in an attempt to smuggle the arms into Hamas-controlled Gaza. She was initially barred from running in this election, but the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that she was allowed to run, which she did. Even Zoabi’s actions, however, cannot excuse what Bibi said.

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NormaLeeDean

A riveting, thought-provoking play by Catherine Frid

Catherine Frid, bottom left, looks on intently as the actors read a scene from her play, NormaLeeDean.

Catherine Frid, bottom left, looks on intently as the actors read a scene from her play, NormaLeeDean.

Catherine mentions that working with J.D. students on the play was an amazing experience. Holder of a law degree herself, she felt right at home exploring issues of law and justice with so many bright people—a perfect collaboration.

Children on a school trip parade by me as I wait for the conference room to open in the foyer of Black Creek Pioneer Village. Any one of these kids could share the same fate as the titular character of the play I am about to hear. In fifteen minutes or so, Catherine Frid—one of Osgoode’s artists in residence—will be performing the first reading of her play NormaLeeDean for attendees of the Law and the Curated Body Conference and high school students that are part of the L.A.W.S. program.

The play—born out of her directed reading course at Osgoode on Canadian informants and whistleblowers—is based on a true story: that of the Norma Dean inquest concerning the suicide of a young girl at the now defunct Kawartha Lakes School—an Ontarian detention training centre. Even though the story is set in the 1970s, the theme is disturbingly topical. In 2007, Ashley Smith died by self-inflicted strangulation while under suicide watch at the Grand Valley Institution for Women. It’s hard to believe that, after thirty years, a similar event could happen again—especially while under video surveillance. The virtue of art, and Catherine’s play, is the ability to show why such breakdowns in justice occur, and the barriers that exist in achieving justice itself.

Once inside, I spot Catherine chatting with the organizers. Catherine—in red with her light brown hair falling freely on her shoulders—looks eager to start as the final preparations are made. I sense the pre-reading jitters in the air. It’s a big deal, no doubt; subjecting one’s work to an unknown audience for the first time.

I walk over to introduce myself to Catherine—who greets me with enthusiasm and then excuses herself to give the final instructions to her director and actors. Unlike a staged play, a reading utilizes certain conventions to help give the words shape: the director narrates the action and the actors read the lines for multiple parts—standing up and down to enter and exit scenes.

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A Nice Box of Kraft Dinner

My Eleven Golden Rules

All the makings of a hearty Canadian meal.

All the makings of a hearty Canadian meal.

In 1946, George Orwell had an article published called “A Nice Cup of Tea” in which he describes the proper way to make tea. The way in which he thoroughly and eloquently describes a process as mundane as making tea has always made me chuckle. Recently, I have been wondering whether there were any other topics in need of such profound insight. Finally it hit me. Canadians purchase 1.7 million of the seven million boxes of Kraft Dinner sold globally each week. That is a lot of KD. Arguably, it has become our de facto national food dish. However, if you pick up a box of Kraft Dinner and look on its side, you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points. This is curious, not only because of Kraft Dinner’s iconic status in Canadian culture, but because the best manner of making and eating it can be the subject of violent disputes. With this article, I aim to put some of the most contentious points to bed. Here are my eleven rules, each one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use genuine Kraft Dinner. This should go without saying. Walking through Dollarama last week I noticed a couple KD knockoffs. Law school is expensive, I get that. However, being thrifty in this particular area is an eyebrow raiser of epic proportions; especially considering how cheap it already is. People, there is but one true Kraft Dinner.

Secondly, Kraft Dinner should be made by the box. If you cannot finish a whole box in one sitting, tough; save some for later. Do not be one of those people who make only part of the box and put the rest back in the cupboard. That is just silly.

Thirdly, a rubber spatula—like the one in the picture below—should be used to stir the noodles in the boiling water and to mix in the cheese sauce. This utensil was made for KD. The rubber does not conduct heat so you will never burn yourself. Also, it is rigid but yet flexible enough not to mash the noodles when mixing in the cheese sauce. Most importantly, its rubber edges allow you to scrape the sides of the pot, ensuring effective mixing of the noodles and cheese sauce without leaving scratch marks on the pot.

Fourthly, the instructions on the box call for the noodles to be cooked for seven to eight minutes. I recommend that you err on the side of caution and cook them for eight to nine minutes. You do not want undercooked noodles. Al dente you say? More like al crape. The horror; the horror of undercooked noodles sliding down your throat, scratching the soft lining of your esophagus—is there anything as off-putting?

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The Challenges to Launching a Start-up

An interview with Nejeed Kassam, CEO of Networks for Change

An interview with Nejeed Kassam, CEO of Networks for Change

Nejeed Kassam graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2014. Currently articling at Ricketts Harris LLP, he is the CEO of Networks for Change (NFC), a social enterprise that celebrated a soft launch of their flagship product, Keela, at the United Nations in February 2015. Keela.co is a collaborative project management platform designed for the social good sector, complete with an integrated social space. Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai sits down with Nejeed to discuss Keela, Osgoode, challenges to launching a start-up, and what’s to come.

 Before Networks for Change, and the many other ventures you have been involved with, there was just Nejeed. Where does your motivation come from?

My motivation comes from my family. They taught me to be a good citizen to the people of my community, to the country, and to the world. My mom and dad were born in Tanzania, in east Africa; they left as kids because of economic and political turmoil. They were lucky in the sense that they were both educated in the UK and then went on to become dentists. They worked so hard to give us the best education possible, and I owe my strong values of work ethic and excellence completely to them. Those values—whether it’s in the nonprofit world with End Poverty Now or a social enterprise like Keela—are fundamental to my existence and are what makes me get up in the morning.
During your time at McGill, you started your first nonprofit, End Poverty Now. How did this come to fruition?

My first nonprofit venture was in grade eleven. I love hockey and wanted to do something cool that engaged people about social good. So I started organizing this thing called Hockey for Hope. It was a twelve hour marathon hockey game in Vancouver. We raised over $60,000 through this one event and it all went to Canuck Place Children’s hospice to help kids with terminal cancer. It was a brilliant cause because it taught a lot of young people who took part in this game that social good could be fun. That’s where it started. In my first year at McGill, I ran the Make Poverty History campaign in Montreal. That was a lot of fun. We did a LiveAid in 2006 where Justin Trudeau and I emceed and it was awesome. Justin and I go way back and when he agreed to come, the media came, along with over a thousand people. I have a friend who was a guitarist for the event and he said that was the best show he ever played. It was simply electric. When the campaign came to a close, I was searching for something to fill that void and that’s where End Poverty Now was born.  Continue reading