Picket Lines and Fault Lines

Reflections on the Impending Strike at York

Pending the outcome of a secret ballot vote tonight, TAs and contract faculty could be on the picket line as early as Tuesday morning.

York University and CUPE 3903 are moving closer and closer to both a deal and an impasse. The pursuit of one entails the advance of its opposite. From this paradox emerges the absolute uncertainty of the whole situation, a source of great anxiety and, for some, great exhilaration too. On Monday, March 2nd, members of the union will vote on the administration’s final offer, by all accounts the most compelling it has made to date. Although the exact terms have not been disclosed at the time of writing, three major points will likely remain contentious:

  • Job security for contract faculty, many of whom regularly receive offers of employment as little as two weeks before the start of classes
  • Bursary assistance for international graduate students, whose average tuition fees went up by 50% (approximately $6000) in 2014
  • Across-the-board wage increases, which the administration is seeking to fix at 1% per year, well below the rate of inflation

If a majority of the TAs, GAs, and contract faculty who comprise CUPE 3903 reject the administration’s final offer at their general membership meeting on Monday evening, the union will proceed with strike action the following morning. Picket lines will form, classes, tutorials, and labs will be suspended, and 51,000 York undergrads, including a pinch of Osgoode students, will be forced to reckon with the collective assertion of that essential yet devalued precondition of their education – labour. Or, to put it in the union’s terms, “the university works because we do.” Continue reading

Law Students and the Looming Strike


Negotiations between York Administration and Local 3903 are still ongoing.

Which Side Are You On?

Negotiations between York administration and the university’s education workers union, Local 3903 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have not yet resulted in a new collective agreement. A strike may begin as soon as March 3rd. If that happens, it will have a serious impact on all York students, including us at Osgoode.

CUPE 3903 represents over 3700 education workers at York, including teaching assistants, research assistants, graduate assistants, and contract faculty. They perform about sixty percent of the academic work and are dispersed throughout the university. Course Directors—who take on teaching assignments like Legal Process seminars—and many other graduate students at Osgoode are members of the union.

If we are to believe the administration, they are the ones looking out for students. In their updates, we have seen statements such as the following: “The interests of our students and their success are paramount, and the University’s overarching objective in these collective agreement negotiations… .”

Rather than take the administration’s words at face value, a better way to approach the situation is to ask: who represents the students’ best interests?

What are the union’s proposals? The education workers are seeking reasonable wage increases; they have offered to keep wages at the current rate, relative to tuition. The primary aim of the union is to achieve greater job security and more manageable workloads for the educators.  Higher standards for education workers mean higher quality education for students.

Consider the situation of a contract professor. Continue reading

From Pessimism to Optimism

The Past, Present, and Future of the Toronto Raptors on its 20th Anniversary


ê Unity trumps individualism: The new source of power for the Toronto Raptors. Photo credit: raptorsrapture.com

Unity trumps individualism: The new source of power for the Toronto Raptors. Photo credit: raptorsrapture.com

As I watched the 2014 to 2015 edition of the Toronto Raptors secure a convincing 109 to 102 victory in their October 29th season opener at home against the Atlanta Hawks, I couldn’t help but feel that the lone-Canadian franchise in the National Basketball Association (NBA) has finally turned a corner.

Over this past summer, like none others that I could remember, we saw the team successfully retain the core of its promising young roster, highlighted by Kyle Lowry re-signing with Toronto to a 4-year contract worth $48 million.   The Raptors were also able to bring back two key supporting cast members, as both Greivis Vasquez (who signed a 2-year contract extension worth $13 million a day before the free agency window officially opened) and Patrick Patterson (who earlier agreed to a 3-year contract extension worth $18 million) also chose to re-up with the franchise after joining the team midway through the 2013 to 2014 season in the Rudy Gay trade with the Sacramento Kings.  For the long-suffering Toronto Raptors fans, what is even more satisfying is that these players made a choice to stay with the franchise!

The fact that Lowry, Vasquez, and Patterson all chose to return to the team on multi-year contracts when they could well have inked deals with American-based franchises as unrestricted free agents is what truly separates the current Toronto Raptors from its past counterparts from a cultural standpoint.  Lowry, Vasquez, and Patterson wanted to be here!  They did not re-sign with the franchise for the money as they arguably could have gotten a richer (and possibly longer) contract had they bolted to other rival teams.  They came back because they love the fans in this city (as evident by the overwhelming support in Maple Leaf Square–also known as Jurassic Park when the Toronto Raptors are in action–during the franchise’s hard-fought 7-game series against the highly-experienced Brooklyn Nets, which was anchored by Future Hall-of-Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as well as former All-Star Deron Williams–in the 1st-round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs).  Continue reading

From Pessimism to Optimism

The Past, Present, and Future of the Toronto Raptors on its 20th Anniversary


Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady 2000 All-Star Portrait

The short-lived emerging dynamic duo of Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. Image source: http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2013/0826/nba_tmac_02.jpg

I can still recall the date in which Vince Carter put the Toronto Raptors on the NBA Map: February 12, 2000. On this date in NBA history, Carter, known as “Air Canada,” “Half-Man, Half-Amazing,” and “Vinsanity,” put on a show when he electrified the crowd at the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, an event broadcast live and seen by many in North America and around the world.

Led by Carter, the team was competitive as the franchise made the postseason for three consecutive years between 2000 and 2002 (a feat that has not been matched since). The roster had both talent depth.  The 1999-2000 edition featured Carter, shooting guard Doug Christie, three-point specialist Dell Curry, Antonio Davis, Tracy McGrady, Charles Oakley, Alvin Williams, and Kevin Willis. The 2000-2001 team lost Christie and McGrady (who signed with the Sacramento Kings and the Orlando Magic respectively) to unrestricted free agency but had new blood in power forward Keon Clark, small forward Tracy Murray, and shooting guard Morris Peterson.  The 2001-2002 Raptors saw the departure of Oakley and Willis but the team was able to replace them with future Hall-of-Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon and Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams. By all accounts, these players are all solid performers on the court so how come the Raptors never made it past the second round of the NBA playoffs, let alone win an NBA Championship?

The answer lies in Carter’s supporting cast. While he was arguably the best offensive NBA weapon in the entire league during those three seasons, averaging 25.7, 27.6, and 24.7 points per game in 1999-2000, 2000-2001, and 2001-2002, Carter never had the sidekicks that he needed to take the team to the next level. True championship teams that are considered dynasties have three all-star calibre players (referred to as the Big Three), out of which there may be one or more future Hall-of-Famers. The Toronto Raptors, to put it bluntly, never had a Big Three throughout their history; instead, what the franchise had during its glory dates was a lone ranger in Carter with an above average supporting cast.

Even though the term Big Three is mostly associated with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh as they joined force to win back-to-back NBA Championships in 2012 and again in 2013 as well as reaching the finals in 2011 and again in 2014 within a four-year span, NBA history suggests that the concept is not new. Case in point: Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest NBA player ever, won three consecutive NBA Titles (the first three-peat) with the Chicago Bulls from 1991 to 1993 because he had Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant as his wingmen to execute Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. Jordan then came of out retirement to lead the Bulls to another three consecutive NBA Championships from 1996 to 1998 (a second three-peat) because not only was Pippen able to play the role of Robin to support Jordan as Batman, but rebounding king Dennis Rodman was able to slide into the role that Grant played in the first three-peat by becoming that third element that championship teams need if they were to achieve and maintain dynasty status.

Continue reading

12 Angry Men

The Demonstration of a Democratic, Just Society and an Exceptional Film

12 Angry Men (1957) opens in a New York courtroom at the conclusion of a murder trial. The judge instructs the jury that returning a guilty verdict will lead to the automatic death sentence of the defendant. With the exception of a few minutes at the beginning and end, the entire film takes place within a sixteen by twenty-four foot jury room. No names are given to any of the jurors; they are referred to only by juror number. This is symbolic of how the twelve jurors are strangers and are likely to remain strangers after a verdict is reached. These twelve strangers will decide upon the life and death of another human being, an eighteen-year-old Hispanic boy accused of murdering his father. For all intents and purposes, they are the law. The film’s tagline says it best: “Life is in their hands, death is on their minds.” From the start, it does not look good for the young defendant. One of the jurors even remarks how he wants to get out early because he has baseball tickets. The jurors take a customary opening vote and it is revealed that only juror #8 (Henry Fonda) believes the boy is not guilty. In voting not guilty, juror #8 says, “Well, there were eleven votes for guilty. It’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.”

 Juror 8 on the initial vote: “Well, there were eleven votes for guilty. It's not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.”

Juror 8 on the initial vote: “Well, there were eleven votes for guilty. It’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.”

 Juror 8 on the initial vote: “Well, there were eleven votes for guilty. It’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.”

The film invites you to be a fly on the wall as this group of twelve men, with twelve different backgrounds and personalities, deliberate what appears to be an open and shut case of murder. The plot develops and builds tremendous momentum as one piece of evidence after another is called into serious doubt. The juror’s one by one begin to switch their votes to not guilty. There is a great scene towards the end where the camera pans around the table and focuses just on the juror’s hands as they vote and you can feel the uncertainty in juror #12 as he changes his vote to not guilty. Continue reading

A Trio of Film Reviews, Currently in Theatres

Crime, History, War: Violence Leaves Its Mark

American Sniper (2014) 2.5/4

Photo credit: nybooks.com » see film reviews, page 23

Photo credit: nybooks.com » see film reviews, page 23

Incurious and hyper-macho, stilted and scandalously blinkered, American Sniper is a solidly-staged and unexceptional picture, crammed with action, heart-pounding moments, and familiar dramatic situations. It’s a gripping, straightforward character study that could have been so much more.

In the wake of 9/11, Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper, The Place Beyond the PinesSilver Linings Playbook) hones his pinpoint accuracy into a life-saving, battlefield-shredding weapon that turns him into a legend. Despite a marriage to Taya Renae (Sienna Miller, Foxcatcher) and the birth of a daughter, Kyle returns to Iraq for four tours of duty and becomes increasingly distant from his family. Unable to adjust fully to civilian life, he begins coaching wounded veterans, stepping toward a tragic demise.

A lesser actor might have made American Sniper into an unthinking piece of jingoism. Cooper, beefed up and twanging like a true Texas cowboy, rarely flinches and never chest-thumps, carrying the full weight of Kyle’s so-called achievements. Stewing, taciturn, and totally precise, he’s poured a lifetime of craft into stilling his character’s heartbeat. American Sniper is a companion piece to The Hurt Locker in subject and theme, but not in quality. As Kathryn Bigelow’s war triumph found revelatory depths in Jeremy Renner, so American Sniper hinges on Cooper’s restrained yet expressive lead performance. Though it fails at being a great film, it’s no fault of its star.

Tauntingly tough-minded and expertly choreographed in unfussy style, American Sniper is a crackerjack piece of efficient filmmaking, crisply delivered and rarely dull. It’s one propulsive, life-and-death sequence after another, in which sandstorms make the fog of war quite literal. It’s a potent declaration that director Clint Eastwood (Mystic River, Million Dollar BabyLetters from Iwo Jima), at 84, can pull off politically apolitical pragmatism, and is not ready to be classified as an old master. Eastwood wisely trains the camera on Cooper’s face and keeps it there.

Still, if Cooper does his utmost to make a one-dimensional character interesting, American Sniper gives the impression of having not so much been directed as dictated: it stares so fixedly down the rifle sight that it is guilty of tunnel vision. The focus on Kyle is so tight that no other character comes through as a person, and the scope is so narrow that larger questions of policy are left entirely off the table. Far from fashioning a critique of US involvement in Iraq, Eastwood seems distracted past the need to show the ramifications of so much killing.

Furthermore, Eastwood adapts Kyle’s memoir by hammering it flat. Despite a delicate handling of Kyle’s internal struggles on home soil, deeper complexity lies just out of frame. Eastwood honours his subject without getting under his skin. Thus, we watch a drama about an idealized soldier, a patriot beyond reproach, which bolsters Kyle’s legend while gutting the man himself. The message is disappointingly diluted, the moral context hampered by a surprisingly blundered view of the world around its central character. Blunt and effective, it’s the story of a lone gunslinger facing down his nemesis in a dusty, lawless place.

Continue reading

Stress Less

Editorial Note: Karolina and Kendall were on such a roll after their Mock Trial review, he decided to join her as a co-writer for this issue’s editorial. So read on, Ozzies, for double the fun and none of the stress.

EditorialReturning to school after a sumptuous break (or even worse, a dreadfully stressful one, replete with hours spent preparing summaries or participating in job interviews) is, undoubtedly, not an experience many of us look forward to. The library’s fluorescent lights seem a little more blinding, the course material a little less interesting, and the wind chills more agonizing. We’re all too familiar with the mental health concerns that plague our profession: sky-high rates of depression, substance abuse, and divorce plague lawyers, placing us at the bottom of the proverbial happiness ladder. But it doesn’t have to be so. Inspired by the uplifting and joyous send-off that was Mock Trial, we’re here to wipe the clouds away and bring a bit of sunshine to your post-reading week blues.

  • Get organized: Ok, so this one is kind of a drag, but it is endlessly helpful. We’re all familiar with the benefits of mindfulness (even if none of us really know what it means) – this extends to creating order. The practice of organizing the external world will instantly deliver a sense of inner peace. Organization tips are ubiquitous, but the easiest ones to begin with include using lists and calendars to help you prioritize, as well as keeping a clean and sleek workspace, both literal and technological – those hard drives need a thorough cleanse too!
  • Get involved: Take action, and do something that matters – whether to only you or the whole world. It may seem like adding anything to your to-do list is a perfect recipe for a nervous breakdown, but hear us out. Identifying something (preferably outside of law) that engages your passion and drive is an incredibly meaningful and grounding exercise. Identify an emotional or ideological commitment you already hold, and find a way to engage with it. The road to activism of any kind may seem daunting, but selecting goals for yourself to work toward – at however slow a pace, given our undeniably busy lives – not only gives you a sense of accomplishment (from something other than an A! Imagine that!), but the time away from textbooks will feel like a breath of fresh air.

Continue reading

Event Recap: The Power of Bilingualism in the Legal Profession 

On January 28th, 2015, I was glad to partner with the CFCJ to host a panel event titled “The Power of Bilingualism in the Legal Profession.” Osgoode Hall Law School opened its doors to an esteemed group of panelists:

Justice Paul S. Rouleau of the Court of Appeal for Ontario

François Baril, Partner at Gowlings LLP and President of AJEFO

Josée Bouchard, Equity Advisor at the Law Society of Upper Canada

Kelly Burke, Assistant Deputy Minister at the Ontario Office of Francophone Affairs

I was inspired to promote bilingualism in the legal profession after trying out and then being accepted for the position of French Language Oralist for the Laskin Bilingual Moot. During this process, I was made aware of the difficulties that the law school had faced in terms of finding French-speaking students to fill this role. A shortage of French-speaking law students translates into a shortage of French-speaking legal professionals. This is unacceptable in a province where the citizens have broad rights to access justice in French (for more on French language rights in Ontario, see the 2012 Access to Justice in French report from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General).

In addition to improving access to justice, in Canada, bilingualism opens many doors for legal professionals. One of my goals for this event was to inspire law students to develop or improve their French language skills, which would in turn improve access to French legal services in the legal profession in the future

Continue reading

Women Judges in the Spotlight

Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges Networking Event with Osgoode

If you are a current student of the Law, Gender, and Equality perspective option, or have perhaps had a conversation with myself in the past week, then you may have participated in a passionate discussion about the sexism that plagues our Canadian judiciary. Or perhaps you are a female student who was lucky enough to have recently attended an event hosted on February 10, 2015 on campus, between female Justices from the

Female students from Osgoode co-hosting an event with female Justices from the International Association of Women Judges

Female students from Osgoode co-hosting an event with female Justices from the International Association of
Women Judges

Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges and female students from Osgoode. The Justices in attendance included Justice Lydia Olah from the Superior Court of Justice, Justice Maria Speyer and Justice Sally Marin of the Ontario Court of Justice, and Justice Katherine Van Rensburg of the Court of Appeal of Ontario. Student attendees of the event were enlightened by stories of the Justices’ law school days and their climb up the legal ladder. Also part of the discussion was the chilly climate in which female members of the judiciary have been welcomed, which has clearly made it difficult for female judges to work on an equal basis with male judges. For simply being educated and assertive women on the bench, judges such as Bertha Wilson, Rosie Abella and Claire L’Heureux-Dube have been victimized by their male counterparts as well as by members of the legal community, the media, and the general Canadian public. Critics claim that female judges’ personal opinions are given in lieu of legal doctrine and principle within their judgments.

Continue reading

Bill C-51 or

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Accept that Harper Might Think I’m a Terrorist

Without key definitions, the new anti-terror legislation could trigger a floodgate or privacy invasion and unjustified arrests.

Without key definitions, the new anti-terror legislation could trigger a floodgate or privacy invasion and unjustified

I didn’t feel any different when I woke up on January 30. I remember being excited to see Bladerunner on the big screen with my partner that night, and worrying that I didn’t know my lines for Mock Trial yet. Beyond this, just another day. Little did I know that with one announcement I would swiftly become a possible promoter of terrorism in the eyes of the current government.

On that day, Stephen Harper unveiled the new anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51. Although sceptical and already shuddering at the bill’s omnibus nature, like any self-respecting maybe-future-lawyer and quasi-optimist I kept reading. My outlook did not improve as I read, quite the opposite.

The legislation comes from a promise given by the Conservatives in the wake of the attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last October. One goal, among many others, is to curtail the “promotion of terrorism” by giving unprecedented powers to law enforcement. One of these powers is to “order the removal of terrorist propaganda” from the internet. While there are myriad other objectives of C-51 that are worth discussing, this article will focus on the bill’s internet clauses and how they relate to what remains of environmentalism in Canada.

According to C-51, anyone who “by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission or terrorism offences in general” has committed a criminal offence and could be imprisoned for up to five years. If a judge has reasonable grounds to believe that terrorism is being promoted or advocated online, they have the power to order an internet provider to give law enforcement “the information that is necessary to identify and locate the person who posted the material.” Granted, it could be worse. In June 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadians have the right to remain anonymous while browsing the internet and that providers cannot reveal their identity unless law enforcement obtain a warrant first. Our rights are subject to slightly better protection than what is afforded to our friends in the U.K. and Australia, where online content can be removed without a court order.

Continue reading