The Weekly Analysis, July 9-15: What Mattered Most

HIGHLIGHTS

University for sale? Carleton University is coming under fire for its controversial deal with donor Clayton H. Riddell. The university is charged with surrendering worrisome degrees of control over budget, hiring, and even the curriculum of its new graduate school of political management in exchange for a $15 million donation. Incidentally, this is the largest single donation the school has ever received from an individual donor. As cash-strapped academic institutions resort to alternative sources of funding, we perhaps should expect this type of conditional donor arrangements to become increasingly common. In reaction to the negative response this issue has garnered, a guide for philanthropic donations is currently in the works by Ontario universities.

Safe on campus? Students at York University voiced concerns about their university’s ability to protect their own. This followed in the rash of sexual assaults on campus last week. Was it a result of the university being in a dangerous neighbourhood? Poor communication by the university about how they were responding to the situation? Or simply an insufficient response by the school to a serious threat on campus?

The cost of controlling democracy: Montreal police forces paid out $7.3 million in overtime to police the student demonstrations this spring from February to the end of June. No word yet on the bill for the provincial police, or for the Sûreté de Quebec. Makes one wonder whether the tuition raise for students could have been covered by the cost of policing their strikes… pocket calculator, anyone?

The latest on Phoenix Sinclair? Media will be able to publish the names of the social workers involved in the horrific Phoenix Sinclair death, a 5 yr old Manitoba First Nations girl. The inquiry found that there would be no threat to the safety of social workers. As a result, there is no justification for withholding information from the public. Today, 18 of the 20 social workers involved are still working with children. The inquiry will still withhold names of the whistleblowers.

Eighteen and ready to party? An editorial written by an Easterner youth and published in the Newfoundland telegram is calling for lowering the drinking age in all provinces to match those of Alberta and Quebec.

What’s in a job? In a recent series, the National Post is publishing stories on the early employment history of some of Canada’s Prime Ministers. Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau and Kim Campbell all are reported to have worked menial labour summer jobs, clearly putting them closer in touch with the common, blue-collar class once catapulted into the upper echelons of Canadian politics. Admittedly, the series is an enjoyable and informative read if you’ve a soft spot for political history.

A united front? PEI merged its school boards into one single English education school board recently (but from what?). Most experts think it’s a great idea, one that other provinces could perhaps learn from. As by far the smallest province in Confederation, one can’t help but question whether a policy that works on a PEI scale will necessarily flourish when applied to a (much) larger jurisdiction. Although It’s hard to imagine a similar situation like the one in B.C. – where the Minister fired a school board for turning in an unbalanced budget – with only a single school board. But it raises questions, of course. Will it work? Will it really make things more efficient? Will the behind-the-scenes translate into classroom improvement? Most importantly, will PEI students benefit?

Sticks and stones? Ontario moves to new anti-bullying legislation in the fall, and experts agree it is an important step towards making schools safer for kids. Will it eliminate it altogether? Hardly. The really significant step in this legislation is that it allows teachers to actually target the bullies themselves. Following recent high-profile bullying cases, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and B.C. are also pursuing new tactics. Think: anti-bullying awareness weeks and new co-ordinators. B.C. went as far as to create a smartphone app that gives students the opportunity to report issues anonymously. How’s that for an innovative use of social media. Ultimately though, the new legislation still makes it clear that the responsibility to protect students is in the hands of the individual schools. Which means that responses to bullying could vary wildly from school to school.

If you build it, will they come? Following months of protests, student leaders in Quebec vow that they will be very active during the possible upcoming Quebec election. CLASSE and FEQ, the two most prominent (and militant) of Quebec’s student groups, have made it clear that they will mobilize the university students and get them to come to the polls in record numbers for the provincial election (rumoured to be taking place September 4). While not openly supporting any particular political party, they are taking a stance against the Liberals. In other words: there’s no right answer, but there sure is a wrong one. Traditionally, the Liberals have succeeded when turnout has been low. An election coming right off summer should play in their favour. Charest is counting on the 56% of Quebecers who support their response to the student strikes to re-elect him. So, will the students actually show up? No role-call on this one.

IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS

This week saw the kick-off of the Quebec-Ontario solidarity movement. Quebec organizers of the student strikes are bringing their message across provincial boundaries and into Ontario university campuses. While they claim they aren’t there to promote violent action, their goal is to spark a general, Canadian-wide student strike. However, the Canadian Federation of Students who brought the organizers to Ontario don’t currently have a mandate for endorsing strikes. Instead they are gunning for solidarity.
There has been a lot of speculation as to whether these student demonstrations will catch on in other provinces (they hope to begin a tour of the rest of the country in September).  In 2010-2011, Ontario students paid $6,640: the highest fees in the country. If the strikes are just about fees, Ontario students have a lot more reason to march in the streets.
But a few things to keep in mind:

  • Although some universities (namely, Queen’s) have riot-proof buildings, built during the American student strikes in the 60s, Ontario doesn’t have a history of student strikes.  Unlike Quebec. (See: 1985, 1986, 1990, 1996, 2005, 2007 and 2012).
  • Premier Dalton McGuinty introduced major tuition rebates (30%) for students whose parents earn less than $160,000 combined. This works out to approximately $1,600/student. He has received some heat for this, with some claiming that this benchmark is unreasonably low.
  • The student protests in Quebec seem to have shifted the upcoming election from the separatist-federalist divide to the more “Canadian” left-right split. How big should government be? Who should pay for education? But this is the same issue that’s been at play for years in Ontario (and elsewhere in Canada). Does that mean this issue will have more traction in Ontario, or less?

Ultimately though, it is a post-Arab Spring, post-Occupy, post-student strike world…Why not Ontario?

This week, a nine-year old girl was pulled from a Quebec soccer tournament. Rough play? Unsportsmanlike conduct? Nope. She refused to take off her hijab, and as a result, was tossed out of the game. Ironically, this came just days after the International Football Association Board concluded that there is absolutely no medical proof that wearing an Islamic headscarf is detrimental to the health of players. Of course, the regional soccer association claims that it is because the girl was wearing a non-recognized piece of equipment. They’re waiting on an approved design, colour and material for the headscarves before they’ll let anyone wearing one back on the field. The IFAB isn’t expected to make this decision until October.

A similar story played out in Montreal earlier this year in May, where Sikh teenagers were told they weren’t able to participate in soccer if they continued to wear their turbans. The difference is that FIFA has decided that turbans are a no-go on international fields. Apparently wearing a turban gives an unfair advantage during a header. Players must either remove their turbans, or cover their hair with an approved hairnet.

With its growing number of immigrants, this issue has popped up repeatedly in Quebec in the past few years. An Ottawa team dropped out of a tournament in Quebec after a player refused to take off her hijab. A referee in Quebec was likewise suspended when she declined to remove her headscarf.

Across the country, soccer associations in Ontario and B.C. allow headscarves on the field. Perhaps, while waiting for a decision from the IFAB, Quebec could simply find out what type of hijab is approved in their fellow provinces?

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report this week warning about the high social cost of youth unemployment. In a market where workers vastly outnumber jobs, employers are favouring older, more experienced workers, even for entry level positions. The result? Youth are missing out on important formative employment years. In OECD-speak: youth are being increasingly disconnected from labour markets, permanently “scarring” their careers and future incomes. While more of a concern for certain European countries where youth unemployment rates are higher (e.g. Greece, Spain, with up to 50 per cent youth unemployment in some areas), Canada is not immune to this jeopardization of its young people. Unemployment among 15-24 year olds is 14.8 per cent, over double the national average. This is especially worrisome considering the relative economic circumstances faced by today’s generation, e.g. higher tuition fees, higher housing prices, lower relative incomes.

This week a historical case was decided in the Supreme Court of Canada. The decision? Schools won’t have to pay a cent when teachers photocopy excerpts of texts for their students. Traditionally, students were able to copy excerpts for research/private use under the law covering copyright. Yet when a teacher did the same thing they were required schools to pay the fee. Ironically, prior to the Court decision, a teacher could avoid the fees by marching their students down to the photocopying machine and have them each make their own copy.

The Supreme Court found that a teacher has no commercial motive in photocopying passages of a book for distribution amongst their students (one would hope so). Teachers would still have to pay to photocopy full textbooks. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found that there is absolutely no link between allowing photocopying by schools and a decline in book sales.

The savings to a province like Nova Scotia is estimated at somewhere around $30-40,000 a year. What’s more, the findings are retroactive – education departments across Canada will get a big fat cheque as a refund for all the fees they have paid. Since when? Not entirely clear. But the total is estimated at a whopping six million dollars.

These changes put our country’s copyright laws on par with other big Western democracies like the U.S., Germany and Japan.

The Supreme Court’s decision on copyright law will also affect the music downloading industry. Essentially, the Court said that the existing royalties on downloaded music will stand and there will not be additional charges on online music. Which makes sense, because buying music online really isn’t any different than buying it in a physical store.

The Court upheld the ruling on additional copyright fees for online providers of streamed music like Radio and CBC. Will this mean higher fees for users? Hard to say.

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One thought on “The Weekly Analysis, July 9-15: What Mattered Most

  1. Zubair says:

    That’s an excellent point you made about youth unemployment. Tuition fees are constantly increasing while the quality of education recieved is in decline. Also in decline, is the value of a University degree in today’s job market. The youth of Quebec are the only ones taking a stand against this insanity.

    However, in my opinion, I think that the high youth unemployment in Canada is also caused by the fact that this generation is mostly attracted toward office work. Most youth don’t want a job where they will get their hands dirty. If I was parenting a young/adult today I would encourage them to get qualified in a trade such as auto mechanic, plumber, carpenter, etc.

    Also in today’s job market you have to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices. I initially always wanted to work in Correction Services. I have a BA degree, trade qualified as a cook/baker, and now work in an HR/admin office for the Canadian Forces.

    This era of increasing unemployment amongst the youth is a barrel of gunpowder waiting for a spark. It will lead to an increase in acts of violence such as shootings and riots as we are letting an entire generation drown in student debt and hopelessness.

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