Re: Lessons learned from the CUPE 3903 labour disruption

To Faculty Council:

We are very pleased to learn that the University and CUPE 3903 appear to have reached an agreement that meets the membership’s demands. As law students burdened with debt and facing uncertain futures, we recognize CUPE 3903’s needs—for affordable tuition, for equitable employment practices, for job security—as consistent with our own. CUPE 3903 struck to create better employment and learning conditions. The university will be stronger for it. We appreciate their efforts.

Throughout the labour disruption the Osgoode Strike Support Committee (OSSC) was pleased to find that our colleagues, the faculty, and the law school’s administration were amenable to our concerns and welcoming of our interventions in the decisions of Faculty Council and the Administration.

In that spirit, we write one last time to share our perspective on the strike and the school’s response to it. We make these points not to re-litigate the issues but in the hope that they may inform Osgoode’s practices in the future, especially going into and during any future labour disruptions.

The Resumption of Classes

Osgoode students walked the picket lines in solidarity with CUPE 3903 members every day of the strike. We were there when people ran the lines with their cars, when women and racialized picketers were subjected to hateful speech, when individuals tried to physically intimidate union members from exercising our legal rights. We were there when someone began issuing death threats and said that he would come back later with his gun.

The picket lines were dangerous, and they became more dangerous when Senate Executive approved Osgoode’s request to resume classes in the midst of the strike.

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An open letter from Osgoode Hall alumni regarding the CUPE 3903 strike

We are a group of Osgoode Hall Law School alumni writing to you in regards to the CUPE 3903 strike at York University. We wish to address both the administration and students in voicing our support for CUPE 3903 and the law students who are refusing to cross the picket lines in solidarity.

Our Message to the Administration of Osgoode Hall Law School

Why we support CUPE 3903 and Osgoode Hall Law students who refuse to cross the picket lines

The members of CUPE 3903 are exercising their constitutionally-protected rights to strike and bargain. Both of these are hard-fought rights which were only achieved through the hard work of lawyers and labour activists working together on picket lines and in the courts. It is not enough for the legal community to achieve these rights on paper—we must demonstrate our support for workers to actually exercise these rights in a meaningful way.

Further, we support CUPE 3903 in their demands for affordable education, fair compensation, and LGBTQ+ equity. The members of CUPE 3903 are demanding justice, fairness, and fighting against discrimination. These are all things which we, as part of the legal community, hold amongst our highest values and we support them in this struggle.

We fully support all Osgoode Hall students who are refusing to cross the picket lines in solidarity with CUPE 3903. We are aware that some students have expressed a desire to return to classes and have now done so. They mention student debt, high tuition fees, and precarious employment prospects as reasons why they must return. However, these are exactly the reasons why the members of CUPE 3903 are on strike.

We recognize that the decision to respect the picket line and to decline to return to class was a difficult decision for some students, especially as many law students and recently-called lawyers are affected by the same injustices to which the strike can be attributed. Their decision has shown courage. Law is a profession which values community service, justice, equality, and at times, selflessness. By refusing to cross the picket lines, these law students have taken the first of many steps in practicing a profession which will frequently require them to prioritize justice. We will be proud to have them join us as fellow lawyers in the near future. Continue reading

A Healthy Environments and Healthy Communities Go Hand-in-Hand


A clean environment is an essential component to a healthy lifestyle.

With present concerns over the ongoing strike at York University, it’s easy for the environment to take a back seat on our list of priorities. However, rather than making us forget the importance of environmental protection, the labour disruption should remind us of that issue.

The labour movement started about a century before the modern environmental movement, but the two phenomena have followed similar paths and stand for similar principles. Both are premised on the idea that people should be treated fairly, and that the rights of less powerful members of society should not be trodden on by the social elite. The labour movement seeks to guarantee workers’rights by securing fair wages and reasonable working hours. The environmental movement seeks to protect another right that each and every one of us deserves: access to a healthy environment.

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The Definition of Insanity: The nature of sport fandom

The official vehicle of the Leafs?

The Maple Leafs havent won the Stanley Cup since 1967. The Blue Jays havent made the playoffs since 1993. Most people reading this likely dont remember the last time these teams were truly successful. So why do we care so much? Why are we fans? I asked myself these questions this past week after one of the Blue Jays’ best pitchers was unexpectedly injured. He will likely miss the entire season. It was devastating, disappointing news, which made me question why this even matters to me.

Sports are filled with disappointment. They are inherently set up to produce a disappointing result for most observers. Even when fans see a positive result, the enjoyment that they receive is likely out of proportion with the amount of time and worry that they commit to following the team over the years. Between injuries, poor performance, or simply the nature of competition, most years are not going to end well for most teams. Yet fans keep coming back.

No other form of entertainment would retain support after prolonged periods of disappointment the way that sports do.

One possible explanation is that it is the competition, and not the results, that is truly appealing. Fans appreciate how committed the players are to the process, and appreciate the process, not the results. But this explanation rings hollow to me. The purpose of the competition, after all, is to determine the champion. After prolonged disappointment, I would think people would grow tired of the process.

A more compelling explanation is that sports fans feel membership in a community. The fans of a specific team develop a culture, a shared history, even a tradition. It is comforting being a member of a community and experiencing the emotional ups and downs of sport fandom with a group of people. Sports can become a vital part of civic identity and unite a broad range of cultural groups. They can distract from other social problems, and be a constant in an otherwise uncertain life. Allegiances are passed on between generations and are fiercely protected. In ancient Rome, cities fought wars; today, they match up in playoff series. Continue reading

The glory past of the Toronto Blue Jays

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

Part 4: Putting the finishing touch on the masterpiece 

Toronto Blue Jays Second baseman Roberto Alomar homers off Dennis Eckersley in Game 4 of the 1992 American League Championship Series

The signing of Morris and Winfield after the 1991 season was of ample significance. For the longest time, it was inconceivable to envision that elite unrestricted free agents would be willing to sign in Toronto. One reason is because in the eyes of these top-end unrestricted free agents, Toronto is a cold city located in a foreign country with ridiculously high tax rate (at least that was the perception anyway). Another factor was that playing in SkyDome for half of the season (eighty-one regular season home games) meant that there was a higher risk of sustaining hamstring injuries because the field was (and still is today) covered with artificial turf and not natural grass. Also, it was very difficult for the franchise, generally regarded as a small-market club with a modest payroll, to compete with large-market U.S.-based teams like the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers for elite unrestricted free agents because the latter American-based franchises have such deep pockets that they could offer longer-term contracts and/or higher annual salary which the Blue Jays could not match and/or counter.

With all these hurdles, why did Toronto become the landing site for premium unrestricted free agents such as Morris and Winfield? Simply put, players want to play for a winner (especially those who have had a distinguished playing career but have not hoisted the World Series trophy), and even though the Blue Jays had not yet been to the World Series, the club was seen as a very competitive one that was due for at least a World Series appearance (as was evidenced by the team’s ability to win the American League East Division Title in 1985 and 1989, as well as finishing no more than two games behind the division winner on three occasions: 1987, 1988, and 1990).

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A Roof Over Their Heads: The Right to Housing

Esther Mendelsohn

Societies are judged by the manner in which they treat their most vulnerable. How will ours be judged?

Societies are judged by the manner in which they treat their most vulnerable. How will ours be judged?

Over the course of less than one week in January, two homeless men died out in the cold. They died because they were exposed to the elements with no place to go, not in a far-flung developing nation, but here in Toronto.

In an epoch when nearly everyone has a phone that can count steps walked, recommend nearby restaurants, and talk to its owner, it is unconscionable that anywhere between 250,000 and 350,000 people sleep on the streets of this country every night.

It is too easy to disavow any similarity between those people and ourselves. Surely, they did something to end up homeless. They most likely chose to be out on the street. They’re all drunks, drug addicts, mentally ill, gamblers, lazy, or otherwise undesirable. Or so we tell ourselves. Toronto Life published the story of a formerly homeless youth. Raised in one of the city’s most affluent neighbourhoods, she was bullied in school and turned to the wrong crowd—and the drugs they offered her—in order to escape. She was kicked out of her home and wound up on the street, working in the sex trade, addicted to drugs, desperate, and alone. It can happen to anyone.

People lose their jobs, become critically ill and unable to work, go through acrimonious divorces, suffer from addiction or mental illness, or escape abuse, and end up on the street. No one chooses this life; the choice between constantly being beaten and living on the street is not a meaningful one.

Once there, they are often subjected to further abuse and threats to their safety and bodily integrity. The streets are cold and surviving is no simple task.

If they’re lucky we’ll throw (quite literally) some spare change into their cups, or buy them coffees because we don’t want our money going to drugs or alcohol. More often than not, though, we simply glide by, talking on our phones, laughing with friends, listening to music, carrying on with our lives.

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Dean for a Day – Winning Essay Submission

Editorial Note: Second-year JD student Ryan Robski was chosen as this year’s Dean for a Day. He was supposed to have moved into the Dean’s Office on 5 March. In light of the labour disruption, however, Ryan and Dean Lorne Sossin decided to forego trading places. Here is Ryan’s award-winning essay submission for the 2015 Dean for a Day contest. 

Second-year JD student Ryan Robski was chosen as this year's Dean for a Day.

Second-year JD student Ryan Robski was chosen as this year’s Dean for a Day.

Remember “Big Block of Cheese Day” from everyone’s favourite Aaron Sorkin hit, The West Wing? If not, the idea was simple: to throw open the White House doors for one day per year for ordinary members of the public who wanted to have a conversation with their government. While the gesture may have been largely symbolic (or thematic, in its television portrayal), it serves as an important reminder nonetheless: our greatest public institutions are for the benefit of the many, not the privileged advancement of the few.

Osgoode Hall Law School is one such iconic and storied institution. This year we are celebrating its 125th birthday—and it’s a perfect occasion to reflect upon our fundamental role in shaping not just access to education, but access to the law. My Dean for a Day vision is concerned with instituting a new, “Sorkinesque” tradition of accessibility and community-mindedness—”Open Osgoode.”

Accordingly, I propose that Osgoode open its doors to anyone and everyone who wanted to learn a something about the law, try their hand at a law school lecture, watch oral advocates spar over points of law and policy, or ask questions about the ethical obligations of legal professionals. Continue reading

Arctic Discontents – A Brief History of the Inuit Relocation Experiment

 “We have to overcome distrust and hostility, make things compatible, and become agreeable. For this to happen, from the Inuit perspective, many things need to be considered.”Amagoalik, Jon. 2012

Photo of Inuit community from 1922 documentary “Nanook of the North”

Photo of Inuit community from 1922 documentary “Nanook of the North”

The Arctic is changing. The thawing of permafrost and icecaps induced by climate change has shaken Inuit livelihood and led to an international push for resource exploration and development. Canada’s claim to Arctic sovereignty, however, may not be as secure as Mr. Harper would like to think. Arctic sovereignty has yet to be officially declared and remains largely dependent on the effective occupation and the cooperation of the Inuit communities to self-identify as Canadians under rule of the Canadian government. Conversely, Arctic historian Shelagh Grant explains that Inuit communities generally consider themselves as part of the environment and distinct from Canadian society. This tension currently frames resource development in the Arctic and is the result of a legacy of colonial abuses and failed reconciliation efforts by the Canadian government.
A poignant event that framed the distrust of the Inuit people with the Canadian Government was the 1950s Inuit relocation experiment from Northern Quebec’s Ungava peninsula to Ellesmere and Cornwallis Islands in the Arctic Archipelago. Specifically, in 1953 and 1955 the Canadian government relocated eleven Inuit families from the Port Harris region and four families from Pond Inlet to new communities at Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay. Some Arctic historians claim that this relocation to the high Arctic was a forethought of the Canadian government to secure sovereignty to the Arctic via effective occupation of the Inuit during the Cold War. It also served as an attempt to disseminate and remove Inuit culture from modern society.
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Without Great Power Comes Little Responsibility

It’s not our fault; saving the world from climate change just isn’t in our nature

There’s nothing terribly sexy or salacious to be found in talks of environmental degradation or resource depletion—and rest assured, you likely won’t be the life of the party as you enlighten your guests on the disastrous effects of oil spills, acid rain, and urban runoff. In fact, for many people, environmental issues take a back seat to other pressing matters such as picking up the kids from school on time, checking Twitter feeds, and clearing the lint trap in the dryer. A poll conducted by Abacus Data back in August 2014 found that only twenty-three per cent of Canadians listed the environment as one of their top three concerns, below health care (fifty-one per cent), job creation (thirty-four per cent), taxes (thirty-two per cent), debt/deficit (twenty-nine per cent), and accountability and trust (twenty-five per cent). When we consider all the media coverage and political attention that environmental issues have received, it might lead us to ask why people don’t appear to be more concerned about it. Why is the catastrophic impact of global warming met with the same concern as whether or not a dress is white and gold or blue and black?

I would like to think that if Hollywood has taught us nothing else, it’s that when our planet faces the threat of annihilation—whether it be the result of hostile alien invaders or wayward meteors—its citizens immediately respond by rolling up their sleeves, pulling up their bootstraps, and taking action to the inspirational soundtrack of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” That is the sort of answer that pop culture and mainstream media have conditioned me to expect in situations where our society faces its own destruction. Yet, with equal parts surprise and confusion, instead I see the development of a culture which has come to easily justify meeting these issues with either intense skepticism or detachment from the situation altogether. Despite the fact that climate change no longer stands as a ‘theory’ and has in large majority been accepted by relevant experts as fact, skeptics persist on muddying the discourse with their fuzzy logic, and a pandemic form of apathy has left many paralyzed by inaction. I don’t believe that there is one single cause to explain this but rather it is the cumulative result of a number of factors that work against our human nature.

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A Trio of Film Reviews, Currently in Theatres

Vampires, Melodrama, and Bad Erotica: Something for Everyone?

Fifty Shades of Grey…

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) 1/4

Tepid, timid, turgid, tedious, and tame, if barely staying off the track of terrible, Fifty Shades of Grey is a monochromatic misfire, a syrupy softcore melodrama, a Harlequin Romance with pulleys. Chaste and clumsy, drab and dull, silly and sanctimonious, limp and ludicrous, it’s a Twilight ripoff that’s almost inferior to its already inferior inspiration.

Anastasia “Ana”Steele is a twenty-one-year-old English literature undergraduate at Washington State University’s satellite campus near Vancouver. When her roommate, Kate Kavanagh, becomes ill and is unable to interview wealthy twenty-seven-year-old publishing mogul Christian Grey at his company headquarters in Seattle for the college newspaper, Ana agrees to go in her place. Ana’s instantly intimidated; Christian’s immediately intrigued, showering her with lavish gifts, asking for a non-disclosure agreement, and pushing her to pursue a lifestyle of radical sexual experimentation, with him as the tour guide.

There are more accurate ways to describe the plot of Fifty Shades of Grey: A wimpy, wounded billionaire/dominant with a cleanliness fetish and no friends stalks a passive-aggressive virgin with helicopter rides and sports cars. A charm-free hero with control issues and a passive, fretful heroine have simpering and vanilla pretend-sex. The point’s the same: if searching for erotic cinema, choose Last Tango in Paris, choose That Obscure Object of Desire, choose 9 1/2 Weeks, choose sex, lies and videotape, choose Crash or Secretary or Blue Is the Warmest Color. Avoid Fifty Shades of Grey.

As clinical as a classroom lecture and as sleek as a Calvin Klein commercial, Fifty Shades of Grey has at least one more redeeming quality as Ana, the coy, likeable Dakota Johnson (The Social Network, 21 Jump Street) summons warmth and sweetness, traversing Ana’s zigzagging with reasonable aplomb. Yet the dreary Jamie Dornan has no ability to communicate deep, unimaginable pain. He’s more self-serious than self-loathing. Grey is a cutout character with an actor who refuses to transcend the material.

Fifty Shades of Grey needed to strengthen the sexual moments and submit to its “mommy porn”reputation. Instead, it played it safe. If not exactly embarrassed by its subject matter, director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and writer Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks) are extremely wary of plunging into it. Where Fifty Shades of Grey should be fun and frisky, it’s sterile and sanitized. Creating a genteel R-rated film from an X-rated book is like adapting a musical without the songs. Continue reading