A new chapter in the census scandal
There can be little doubt at this point that by cancelling the long-form census, the Conservative government destroyed our best source for the evidence it claims should guide policy decisions: opposition from across the political spectrum cried foul, but perhaps the clearest sign is that the government acted against the advice of Canada’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, who then resigned in protest.
Now, heading into a much-diminished 2011 census, Sheikh’s replacement, former communications and operations assistant chief Wayne Smith, has announced that the federal government wants Statistics Canada to explore alternatives to the short form. Should we be worried?
What do you get when you cross a polar bear with a grizzly?
If it was clear to David and Bella Kuptana what had happened to their hunting cabin on Victoria Island in the Arctic Archipelago last spring, it’s because there was a bear-shaped hole in the wall. Tracing the frozen coastline on snow machines, they found five more cabins in a similar state of ruin; behind one that appeared untouched, they spotted the rogue, making a break for the open plain.
David, who took down his first polar bear when he was nine years old and has killed as many as three a year since then, felled the animal with his first shot, and immediately knew something was wrong. Its head was unusually wide, and its paws were brown. Except for all that matted white fur, it looked more like a grizzly.
Modern-day Canadian sororities are trying to break the stereotypes associated with Greek life. But are sororities empowering, feminist organizations, or destructive, conformist cults?
It’s a September evening, and a small classroom at the University of Toronto holds about 30 young women. They might be more conventionally attractive, a bit better dressed than average, but mostly they look like any group of undergrads. A lone guy settles in to wait for the lecture to start. After an awkward minute, someone tells him that he is in the wrong room. After all, this is an information meeting about sororities.
Many students don’t even know that sororities exist in Canada. With this meeting, and dozens like it across the country every fall, sorority sisters set out to change that. They are after more than visibility.
The theme for this fall’s recruitment at the University of Toronto is “break the stereotype.” No one at the meeting needs that stereotype spelled out. Some classmates think these women are dumb, sexually promiscuous and only interested in partying. Others will say that sorority girls are spoiled brats who have to buy their friends.
“Break the stereotype” is well in line with the National Panhellenic Conference’s public relations strategy. This umbrella group for 26 sororities and women’s fraternities — the terms are used interchangeably — is based in Indianapolis, but sets policy for chapters in Canada. The formal recruitment process at U of T is run by NPC rules, and the Conference is in the midst of an energetic, if not entirely successful, public relations offensive, designed to convince students, parents and university administrators that sororities can be a positive force on campus, not just a magnet for underage drinking.
Pressure from all sides
If Jarvis St is not quite part of the Village, it is at least a close relative, the gaybourhood’s rebellious younger brother. Or, to switch metaphors entirely, Jarvis is a release valve — a neighbouring hood with a large queer population, but slightly lower rent.
The strip is rougher around the edges than the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood, but the Jarvis Street Streetscape Improvement, which earned environmental approval early this year, seems bent on changing that.
So far, debate over that plan has focused — relentlessly — on traffic. It’s true that the plan calls for bike lanes, but with only two minutes of added driving time expected during rush hour, it’s not exactly a pedestrian takeover.
Rather, mock-ups imagine Jarvis as a Richard Florida–style “cultural corridor,” anchored by the National Ballet School and Rogers’ headquarters and lined with granite curbs, bronze sidewalk inlays, trees, planters and sidewalk light fixtures.
Filed under Features, Xtra!
The night that I meet Nerissa Cariño, there are several children at her home in Pickering, Ontario. Four are her own: Cariño and her partner have boys aged 11, seven and three, and a five-year-old girl. The others are family that they are babysitting. “It’s really loud there!” she says, as we chat at Tim Hortons. But Cariño seems pretty serene about the situation – the U of T student, volunteer, activist and volleyball player is used to being pulled in a lot of directions.
In November, Cariño was awarded the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s Peace Medallion. The award recognized V-Day events that she organized at U of T Scarborough in 2009. V-Day is a movement inspired by Eve Ensler’s playThe Vagina Monologues – independent groups hold events all over the world on or around February 14, raising awareness and money for charities that combat violence against women. It’s an issue that Cariño has become passionate about. “To raise money, I approached entrepreneurs. And many of the women said, ‘I really want to get involved, because this is what happened to me,’” she says.
On Dec. 7, Toronto’s city council delivered the rarest of political creatures — a new tax with broad public support. The tax on billboards was proposed to help enforce the bylaws governing signs, and also fund public art to offset the blight of outdoor advertising.
Even as it was passed, the reform package is a victory for the public space activists, community groups and artists who pushed it through council. Toronto’s 13 separate sets of bylaws have been harmonized, and for once may be enforced, thanks to new fines. Changes to the zoning variance process will make approving new signs more difficult. The tax will generate an estimated $10.4 million each year.
for quality on-campus eats. A mouth-watering look at communities served up with a side order of care
It’s a typical weekday afternoon. You have a few hours to kill between classes, and heading home seems like a waste of time and money. In your early morning haze, you’ve forgotten to pack a lunch. You end up at the Robarts cafeteria. The stir fry is soggy and gelatinous; the pizza is lukewarm and heavy; the salad is pale brown and limp. Buying a sub could take longer than your commute. The staff range from standoffish to hostile, when they aren’t pointedly ignoring you. You leave $8 poorer, hungry, or both.
You are not alone.
It’s shaping up to be a tough few years for Canadian artists. Last year, the Harper government cut more than $44.8 million from groups that subsidize Canadian art and culture. The funding slashes stirred up an ugly debate over whether a recession-struck government should spend any money on jobs for the beret-wearing urban elite, rather than tax cuts for regular folk.
Economists and artists may not hang out much, but if they did, they would have a few things to talk about. British economist John Maynard Keynes, whose ideas about how to recover from a depression are suddenly back in vogue, was the first Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain. Britain was in tough economic shape after the Second World War—it remained on food rations until 1954—but Keynes made sure that the Royal Opera House stayed open.
The Canada Council for the Arts estimated that in 2003-04, arts and culture made up $40 billion of our economy. In that year, Canadian governments spent $7.7 billion on arts funding. With billions at stake, it’s worth asking: is there an economic argument for arts funding?
Almost half of U of T students are caregivers. Why are the private costs not a public issue?
Three years ago, Karolina Szymanski was working, studying part-time at U of T, and caring for her father, who had terminal cancer. She was also pregnant. The morning after her father’s funeral, she went into labour. Szymanski, now 25, is a full-time student in fourth year balancing a Work-Study position and a full course load while raising her two-year-old son. Szymanski’s story may be dramatic, but as a student caregiver, she is far from unique.
Count on parents to think long-term. Though curiously uninterested in whether you have beer money for next week, they’re apt to harass you about saving for retirement, “while you’re young.” Should you worry?
Here’s what a financial advisor would tell you: the earlier you start saving, the less you need to save. That’s the power of compound interest. Our generation may need to depend on personal savings in retirement, once aging baby boomers and benefit-averse employers have shredded our pension systems. But what would economists recommend?