Blizzard of bands

The big story at this year’s Canadian Music Week wasn’t what happened, but what wasn’t happening. In the past, the fest has offered a host of showcases of burgeoning indie bands about to break into the big time. This year felt much more subdued and less energized overall than in years past. This lack of excitement was at least partly due to the absence of independent rival festivals. Dan Burke’s usually competitive NeXT showcase was dialed down to one night and incorporated into CMW, while Keith Hamilton’s Pitter Patter Fest is holding off until the end of the month. CMW is also known to place more of its emphasis on its industry conference component than on its live music festival compared to Toronto’s summer city-wide music binge, North by Northeast. The massive blizzard that hit Toronto Friday and Saturday also put a damper on many fans’ clubhopping plans. That being said, there were amazing artists participating in the festival this year, it was just a little harder to find them. Here’s our look that what got us hot and what left us cold at CMW 2008.—JORDAN BIMM

Thursday, March 6

Econoline Crush – Tattoo Rock Parlour (9 p.m.)

Yes, after a hiatus of more than seven years, Winnipeg’s Econoline Crush are inexplicably back, and less relevant than ever. With ex-I Mother Earth-er Edwin tending bar at the sterile new Tattoo Rock Parlour, I thought for sure I’d entered a rift in the space-time continuum back to 1996—a sad time when rock music had hopelessly lost its way. Backed by three dudes who weren’t even in the band back when Econoline scored some moderate can-rock chart “success” with their industrial- meets-alternative sound, singer Trevor Hurst used all of his road-tested, focus group-approved stage moves to try to engage the 50 or so mook-rockers in attendance. Now shamelessly in the K-mart goth/nu-metal camp, Econoline Crush played a tight-sounding set that included their best-forgotten hits “Sparkle and Shine,” “All That You Are,” and “You Don’t Know What It’s Like,” as well as weak, derivative-sounding tracks off their ill-conceived 2008 release Ignite. Hurst’s blonde, spiky hair-do and his overuse of black eye-liner, coupled with the fact that dude’s gotta be pushing 40, made him look liked a decomposing zombie version of Sum 41 singer Deryck Whibley. Note to the band: If any of you have skills in a trade other than has-been alt-rock, now is totally the time to try that out.—JB

Rating: V

Dog Day – The Horseshoe (9:20 p.m.)

Whenever you get guys and girls in a band, there’s always a chance for stage magic. Think ABBA, or The Magic Numbers, or the way Stars’ Amy and Torq gaze longingly into each others’ eyes, acting out their put-on love stories as they sing them. Unfortunately, Halifax quartet Dog Day have none of this stage appeal, offering instead a fairly reserved live show that simply didn’t have the energy to match their catchy, upbeat tunes. From a stage presence perspective, it’s one thing for a musician to take pictures of the crowd as a way to document the proceedings. But when keyboardist Crystal Thili turned the camera on herself mid-song at a packed CMW gig for a MySpacestyle pic, well, that was just amateur.—Rob Duffy

Rating: VV

Katie Stelmanis – The Horseshoe Tavern (10 p.m.)

Critics are fond of comparing Blocks Recordings’ newest darling to a feverish sex session between Thom Yorke’s The Eraser and Kate Bush, but god damn, I think I’m in love. Between the uberhotness of a gingham-clad keyboardist and the too-cool-for-anything guitar player, Stelmanis reminded me of what I adore in all lady-fronted jam bands: the Sleater-Kinney kinetic frenzy, the laissez- faire of Luscious Jackson, the integral heat of Heart. Pounding on the keys, looking possessively heaven-ward, Stelmanis’ own impassioned vibrato on “You’ll Fall,” set to stylized bursts and shakes of electronic mishmash, was a call to liberate us girls. A closing cover of Carole King’s “Natural Woman” reminded me that unconditional love is often smite by hot, bleating emotion. I’m ready to commit to Katie Stelmanis.—CHANDLER LEVACK

Rating: VVVV

Yonder – The Cadillac Lounge (11 p.m.)

Sporting both string and brass sections, fitting Yonder’s nine members onto the small stage at the Cadillac Lounge (which was probably designed for a trio) was an engineering feat in and of itself, but these local alt-country pilgrims made do and put on a great show regardless. Fronted by Zachary Bennett, Yonder played selections off of their excellent brand-new LP Skywalk to Crescent Town and by set’s end their bittersweet melodies and soaring choruses had the patrons of this Queen West watering hole tipping their hats in appreciation. This band is only going to get better as their gigging schedule intensifies in the months ahead.—JB

Rating: VVVv

Plants and Animals – Horseshoe (11:10 p.m.)

Montreal trio Plants and Animals were all smiles for their Horseshoe showcase, and with good reason. After their Secret City Records labelmate Patrick Watson took home Canada’s foremost music prize last year, Plants and Animals are generating Polaris buzz already for their debut full-length Parc Avenue. With effervescent drummer Matthew Woodley positioned front and centre, the band ripped through a selection of the new tracks, including the new single “Bye Bye Bye,” which thankfully bears no relation to the regrettable ’N Sync song of the same name. While the live show lacked the charm that the piano arrangements add to the record, it was a thrill to see them in a small room, before the awards come rolling in and the venues get bigger and bigger.—RD

Rating: VVVv

The Meligrove Band – Supermarket (11:20 p.m.)

As far as I’m concerned, the only virtue of the Montreal-via-Mississauga Meligrove Band is their ability to be so completely mediocre it disarms you to their adult-alternative nerdcore shtick. Between unfunny stage banter, the three-piece unleashed a series of indie rock anthems that mixed Geddy Lee harmonies (soaring well into the upper registers by Jason Nunes), with uninspired piano-driven pop. Passing as Sloan-lite before the main event, the only standout was a Murder Records cover of Local Rabbits that supplanted all of the virtuosity, imagination, and plain musicality the original band couldn’t bear to muster onstage.—CL

Rating: VV

Small Sins – The Drake (Midnight)

Despite being signed to major label Astralwerks and embarking on international tours with acts like Scissor Sisters and Radio 4, Toronto’s Small Sins still seem to be strangely unknown to many in the city. Thursday night at the Drake, the quintet delivered another solid set of addictively catchy, energetic synth-pop songs from their two strong LPs, Small Sins and Mood Swings, along with a surprising and awesome electro cover of Hefner’s “I Took Her Love For Granted.” The band finds the middle ground between electro-funk groups like LCD Soundsystem and the simple, effective indierock of Spoon. Frontman Thom D’Arcy knows how to write great hooks and the band, particularly keyboardist/clapper Kevin Hilliard, bring a boundless energy and enthusiasm to the live show. If you don’t know these local lads yet, you should.—Luke Higginson

Rating: VVVV

Sloan – Supermarket (12:20 a.m.)

“We don’t wanna hear your new shit!” screamed one gothed-out CMW attendee at Sloan’s Bsides and rarities Murder Records closing set. The professionally graying alt-quintet soldiered on though, between small showings of their vast, eight album catalogue, interspersed with poppy, alt-rock newer fare—unfortunately of the “Stacey’s Mom” variety. Chris Murphy, in full ’70s shag appeal, encouraged handclaps and smiles as his workmanlike bandmates traded off on vocals and elaborate solos. Still, Sloan’s set made me long for the Twice Removed days, when their peppy, warbled jangle wasn’t outshone by say, The Born Ruffians. In a new single with the refrain “I’m not a teenager anymore,” Sloan seemed to understand this all too well.—CL

Rating: VVV

OPOPO – Sneaky Dee’s (1 a.m.)

Checking out the Upper Class showcase at Sneaky Dee’s I came across Toronto’s fiercest electro-trio, OPOPO. Utilizing programmed beats, live guitar, bass, and synths, OPOPO sound like a dancier version of the Klaxons, but with some late-’80s UK-rave influences. There was no shortage of rambunctious energy in the room, as sweaty members took turns diving off their bass amp and staggering into one another as the appreciative crowd head-banged and pogoed. Their tongue-in-cheek approach (they teased mini-covers of Death From Above and Justice’s Simian remix) kept the atmosphere fun and unpredictable (if a tad unfocused) as they closed out the first night of CMW. Upper Class (or some cool label) needs to make something happen with these guys, as the potential for greatness is totally there.—JB

Rating: VVVV

Friday, March 7

Alanis Morrisette – Masonic Temple (7 p.m.)

Even with Ryan Reynolds out of the picture, Alanis Morrissette still kinda rocks. In her brief, five-song set for smug, middle-aged CHUM-FM contest winners, Morrisette kept hits like “Thank You India,” “Hands Clean,” and yes, “Ironic” accompanied by safe, pedestrian arrangements by her backing band, including an inspired use of an accordion. Charismatic and iconic in leather pants, the mangy soprano burned into my nine-year-old brain was startlingly clear, reaching high over the MTV cameras, bursting with wellpracticed emotion. (Girl even knows how to stay relevant, revamping her “Ironic” lyrics to include: “It’s like meeting the man of your dreams and meeting his beautiful… husband!”) A showman without the Celine Dion affectations, Morrisette was content to let the audience sing her lyrics, scream their adorations, and thank us for the opportunity. Strangely enough, 50-year-olds dance out their aggression more intensely than the Drakesters witnessed at Woodhands, but I guess it helps when mini-hamburgers are at the ready.—CL

Rating: VVVv

Peter Katz – El Mocambo (11 p.m.)

Toronto’s Peter Katz is all but destined to find success in the world of adult-contemporary, MOR rock music. His songs will chart on Mix 99.9, Jack FM, and stations like it across Canada. Soccer Moms and vanilla executives will swoon for his jazzy pop-rock sensibilities. While his songs aren’t particularly interesting (I’m pretty sure his chord structures have all had previous lives as Goo Goo Dolls singles) the large crowd at the El Mo was definitely digging his charismatic stage presence and affable banter. Without a doubt, he does the anthemic pop-rock ballad really well—I’m just not convinced that the world needs another Eagle-Eye Cherry right now. That being said, I’m sure his upcoming Canadian tour will be very well-attended. Also, his keyboard player needs to learn to play standing up, it’s way more rock and roll that way.—JB

Rating: VVv

Slim Twig – The Drake (11:15pm)

With abstract projections covering the walls around him, Slim Twig’s Drake set was a surreal scene on a cold night. Having performed earlier in the evening as one half of garage rock duo Tropics, he thanked the assembled crowd for welcoming him back to the stage before launching into a set that the line of 60 freezing people on Beaconsfield Ave. must have been disappointed to miss. With his band the Mercy- Mercenaries in tow, Slim ripped through a collection of synth-meets-rockabilly gems from his Whiite Fantaseee EP. While Slim Twig’s label status may remain as independent, his double duty at the Paper Bag Records showcase may be a good indication that a signing is imminent.—RD Rating: VVV

Woodhands – The Drake (12:45 p.m.)

During a festival that had trouble living up to expectations, homegrown electro duo Woodhands were a rare spectacle, putting on exactly the type of triumphant performance that music festivals are expected to offer. Singer Dan Werb conjures the look of a futuristic Buddy Holly, with horn-rimmed glasses and a keytar (yes, a keytar!) slung around his neck. He belted out tunes from the band’s upcoming LP Heart Attack with manic energy, but the undisputed highlight of the set was Paul Banwatt’s rapping on Woodhands’ cover of “California Love.” With Banwatt barely keeping it together while spitting out Tupac’s rhymes, Werb coming in with the chorus melody, and the crowd completely losing it in the process, the atmosphere at the Drake transcended what had otherwise been a lackluster festival to this point.—RD Rating: VVVVv

Saturday, Mar ch 8

Spy Machine 16 – The Savannah Room (10 p.m.)

I’d wanted to check out Guelph’s Spy Machine 16 for about a year but had never had the chance until Saturday night. I was very pleasantly surprised. The six-member band (supported by two hyper-enthusiastic dancers) blasted through an impressive set that combined elements of indie-pop and ’90s emo and sounded like Tokyo Police Club meets Cap’n Jazz, complete with synth solos, shout-along choruses, and intelligent, anti-imperialist lyrics. It didn’t take long for SM16 to have the scruffy-looking crowd at Savannah Room jumping up and down and flailing along to songs from their LP How Things Come Apart like “I Lost My Edge Last Night,” as well as new material like “Ronald McDonald House of Bullshit.” Singer/guitarist Dave Hudson also wins my award for Best Stage Moves Ever. It was impossible not to have fun at this show.—JB

Rating: VVVVv

Yoav – Lee’s Palace (10:50 p.m.)

Music fans who dared leave their homes to venture through the Saturday blizzard were forced to sit through a painful acoustic set by major label-signee Yoav. His attempt to craft arty, exotic pop gives way to self-indulgent posturing, an embarrassing adult-contemporary cover of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” and a live show heavily dependent upon lighting to make up for the lack of captivating music. Yoav prides himself on the trip-hop rhythms he produces by drumming on his guitar, but it’s still unclear whether his pretend drumming to what was obviously a pre-recorded track was meant to fool the audience, or if that’s simply his idea of performance art. Either way, I half-expected him to pull an Ashlee Simpson—miss a beat and launch into a jig.—RD

Rating: V

Fox Jaws – Rancho Relaxo (11 p.m.)

Barrie’s Fox Jaws have come a long way since I first saw them three years ago under their previous moniker Doris Day. Not that they were anything to scoff at then, but their addition of vocalist Carleigh Aikins to the lineup has given Fox Jaws an extra axis of awesomeness upon which to navigate. Aikins’ soulful voice easily rivals that of Beth Ditto’s and adds an extra punch to the band’s versatile indie-rock repertoire. At their best when they’re improving upon the territory initially staked out by Montreal’s Kiss Me Deadly, Fox Jaws also benefit from great melodic guitar and keyboards parts as well as solid and inventive rhythms. Playing songs off their new LP Goodbye Doris, Fox Jaws had the capacity crowd at Rancho packed up to the front of the stage, despite having to deal with a shitty Mesa Boogie guitar amp supplied by the festival. I’m not sure exactly what’s keeping Fox Jaws in Barrie, they’re definitely good enough to thrive as a permanent fixture in the upper echelon of Toronto indie- rock—plus we’d get to see them more often.—JB

Rating: VVVV

The Pigeon Detectives – Lee’s Palace (12:15 a.m.)

The garage rock boom of this decade has spawned yet another cookie-cutter replica of those who came before, The Pigeon Detectives—five fresh-faced English lads doing their best Libertines impression. This Rothwell, Leeds five-piece is built on a familiar foundation—bass, drums, and lead and rhythm guitars, and wildly energetic front man Matt Bowman, who bears a striking resemblance to Pippin the Hobbit, of Lord of the Rings fame. The Pigeon Detectives certainly do nothing groundbreaking, but that doesn’t mean their live show isn’t a good time. And they can write a decent song, too—their single “I’m Not Sorry” is by far the catchiest tune I heard all weekend. But ultimately, it’s bands like The Pigeon Detectives who consolidate the legacy of the Strokes and Libertines as rock ’n’ roll luminaries, because they were talented enough to take a familiar musical formula and make something artful and lasting out of it.—RD

Rating: VVv

Getting to the root of colds

To borrow one of her company’s slogans, Dr. Jacqueline Shan “trusts the science” behind the popular cold and flu treatment Cold-FX, which she coinvented as president, CEO, and chief scientific officer for Edmonton-based CV Technologies, Inc.

In a presentation given at University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy last Thursday, Dr. Shan described Cold-FX’s development process, highlighting some of the clinical trials demonstrating its ability to enhance the immune system.

Some scientists question the science behind Cold-FX, as they claim the data supporting the product is open to interpretation. The original study sponsored by the company has not been independently confirmed or critically analyzed in peer-reviewed journals.

Cold-FX is a proprietary extract from North American ginseng, a plant native to East Asia. It has widespread use as an antioxidant, aphrodisiac, and natural stimulant, classified as an adaptogen to increase the body’s resistance to stress and anxiety. Cold-FX is the first natural health product to be approved by Health Canada to make a specific scientific claim. According to its makers, Cold-FX “helps reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of cold and flu symptoms by boosting the immune system.”

Due to the fact that Cold-FX is a patented product, the “natural product number” assigned by Health Canada was in the non-traditional category—a category that requires a level of scientific support typically associated with pharmaceutical products.

“We spent a couple of years with the Edmonton Oilers and got some pretty good results,” commented Shan with reference to their first human subjects.

In addition to demonstrating enhanced immune function in these professional athletes, Cold-FX has been put to the test in six additional clinical trials, involving a variety of populations during its 12 years of development. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of Canadian adults lasting four months, Cold-FX led to a 26 per cent reduction in the number of colds, a 31 per cent decrease in their severity, and a 35 per cent decrease in their duration. Cold- FX has no known side effects.

The backbone of CV Technologies, Inc., which was originally a spin-off company founded within University of Alberta’s Department of Physiology, is known as ChemBioPrint. Chem- BioPrint is the patented method used by CV Technologies to identify the chemical components responsible for the health effects of ginseng extracts, ultimately used to isolate CVT-E002 (the “active ingredient” in Cold-FX). This technology has also been used to isolate Remember-FX from the same source extracts as Cold-FX, and Cell- FX from shark cartilage extracts.

ChemBioPrint has allowed CV Technologies to avoid the batch-to-batch variability in composition and effect, common in many natural health products. It is common to standardize the amount of product, contained in each dose of a given natural health product to a very limited number of chemicals within the original extract. St. John’s Wort, used as a natural antidepressant, is commonly standardized to hypericin— a substance no longer believed to be involved in the purported health benefits of the product. The consistent isolation of CVT-E002 has played a major role in Dr. Shan’s ability to scientifically validate CV Technology’s claims.

When asked about future prospects for Cold-FX, Shan responded, “We just finished a clinical study on children to prove that [Cold-FX] is safe, and eventually we want to develop a children formulation.”

“In three years our products have gone all the way from $1 million to $45 million, which has totally outsold [cold and flu] products like Advil and Tylenol. Of course we’re happy from a business point of view but what this also tells you is that, like it or not, people like it. Investing in the science evidence and clinical study, although it is challenging, is totally worth it,” said Shan.

The power of marketing-driven science is not a new phenomenon, as many biologists, immunologists, and biochemists wish to see reasonsed debate over the claims made by the makers of Cold-FX. Considering the lack of solid evidence and a lack of understanding for how it works, it seems that more research is required

Nifty nanomagnets

A group of researchers, led by Dr. Sarah Staniland from the University of Edinburgh, have developed an innovative approach to create stronger nanomagnets that could be used to treat lethal cancer cells.

Nanomagnets are tiny, magnetically tailored particles measured in nanometres—one billionth of a metre. These intriguing bacteriaproduced magnets are identical in size and shape to each other, which distinguish them from less effective human-made nanomagnets.

“For nanoparticles to be used in medicine you need them to be a very uniform size and shape, and bacteria are very good for that,” said Staniland.

Bacteria usually extract iron from their surroundings to synthesize long chains of magnetic nanoparticles. These nanoparticles guide bacteria to oxygen-rich environments—a useful tool for survival.

Staniland, alongside scientists from Daresbury Laboratory and the Institut Laue-Langevin, sought a new method to create these miniscule magnets. By harvesting strains of the Magnetospirillum bacteria in a high-cobalt, lowiron mixture, the newly-synthesized nanomagnets were 36 to 45 per cent stronger. As well, when removed from their magnetic field, they remained magnetic for a longer period of time.

“The ability of the nanomagnets to remain magnetized opens the way for their use in killing tumour cells,” said researchers from the study published in Nature Nanotechnology.

But don’t let these microscopic magnets fool you: though invisible to the naked eye, they might be strong enough to wipe out cancerous cells. Researchers reveal that nanomagnets can be guided to cancerous regions magnetically.

“You would move them with a normal magnetic field, and then heat them with the opposing field,” said Staniland.

In a nutshell, when an opposing magnetic field increases the core temperature of the nanomagnets at a specific tumour site, they will heat and destroy the cancer cells in their area.

Realistically, this treatment is far from becoming a reality. Cancer Research UK’s science information officer, Liz Baker, explained that “targeting treatments specifically to cancer cells is an exciting area of research, but in this case work is still at a very early stage.”

When asked for their opinion on this new finding, many were excited at the prospect of fighting cancer with miniscule magnets. Michael Jamieson, a firefighting student at Seneca College, expressed interest in the idea.

“It’s awesome. Cancer is becoming more common these days and if we can find a way to treat it, we’d be saving a lot of people. I’m a smoker myself and I have to admit, cancer is something I worry about. If this kind of medical nanotechnology can help save lives then sign me up, just in case!” said Jamieson.

These versatile nanoparticles might be able to administer drug treatments directly to cancer cells to help manage their negative effects and aid in the healing process. This discovery opens up endless possibilities to create a whirlwind effect in the field of medicine.

“It will be interesting to see if further research into nanomagnets will provide us with a new and effective anti-cancer therapy,” said Baker.

Smokin’ Aces

As far as general managers go, Toronto’s J.P. Ricciardi has been accused of being too much like poker player. Not that you’re likely to see the 38 year old Boston native frequenting Casino Rama any time soon, but critics of Ricciardi say he’s notorious for keeping his cards close to the vest.

Secretive, sly, evasive: these are just some of the names he’s been called by local scribes over his seven years with the Blue Jays. Still, you have to respect a man who, after lying about B.J. Ryan’s injury in 2007, kept a straight face as he pronounced,

“It’s not a lie, if we know the truth.” If the game was Texas Hold ‘em rather than baseball, Ricciardi’s poker face would be a virtue. In the high-stakes game of the American League East, where the team is constantly undermined by big spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, perhaps that’s the kind of competitive advantage he needs.

“We’ve been backseat to Boston and New York the last couple of years,” said Toronto bench boss John Gibbons during spring training, “Sooner or later, we have to get over the hump. With the team we’ve put together this year, we think we have a chance to do that.” The Blue Jays haven’t won the AL East crown since 1993, the year they won the world series, but there is reason for optimism. While Ricciardi is cautious to make predictions, it’s clear he might have a few aces up his sleeve.

The top three of the Jays rotation have the potential to be the best in a tough East division. Led by 2003 Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay, flame-thrower A.J. Burnett, and young gun Dustin McGowan, the Jays have arguably assembled their finest rotation since Roger Clemens, Pat Hentgen, and Juan Guzman donned the Toronto Blue together in 1998.

But beyond Halladay, who posted a 16- 7 record to go with a 3.71 ERA in 2007, perhaps ‘ace’ is a stretch in describing the 30-year-old career Blue Jay’s other running mates. After all, Burnett, now in the third year of a five-year contract signed in 2005, has yet to win 12 games in a single season over his entire career. In 2007, Burnett posted solid peripherals with a 3.75 ERA, and 176 strikeouts in 165.2 innings, but made only 25 starts, going 10-8 over all.

McGowan offers even more of a mixed bag. The 25-year-old, only in his second full season, had an impressive 2007 campaign, setting a career-high with 12 wins, while ranking second on the staff in innings pitched behind Halladay. It would be unfair to compare either of them to Halladay, a four-time all-star and perennial Cy Young candidate, yet they share much in common.

All three are power pitchers, who throw in the mid-nineties with excellent secondary stuff. They all have an ideal pitcher’s frame, Halladay stands tallest at 6’6”, while Burnett and McGowan are 6’4” and 6’3” respectively. Finally, all three were high school picks, struggling early in their careers.

Burnett and McGowan may not be aces in the traditional sense like Halladay, but it’s hard to dispute, when looking at their similarities, that they aren’t three of a kind, even if they seem to be wild cards at this point.

“You have to pitch to win our division,” said Ricciardi bluntly during the off-season. To that end, the GM spent the winter meetings trying to land one more big-time starter to line up with his current top three. Deals were discussed, which would have sent the Blue Jays’ best hitter Alex Rios to San Francisco for starters Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum, and later to Philadelphia for Cole Hamels or Brett Myers. The logic is simple: good pitching beats good hitting, a tried-and-true baseball adage.

Pitching has always been a priority, as it’s more cost effective to assemble a strong 3 or 4 rotation than to put together a dominant nine-man batting order like the Yankees or Red Sox; teams operating on an unlimited budgets.

Even though they were not able to landed another top flight starter, Halladay, Burnett, and McGowan should still form a devastating top three of a rotation. If the chips fall Ricciardi’s way this season and the team is able to capture their first AL East title in fifteen years, we can expect to see that familiar poker face of his soften into a smile.

Do you think there’s too much incriminating evidence on Facebook?

Clockwise from top-left

Alex, 3rd-year History

As for right now I don’t care, but getting older it might be a problem. Let’s just say I’m glad neither of my parents are on Facebook. Some buddies of mine at Western had a party pre-emptively shut down by the cops ’cause they saw the event on Facebook.

Aaron, 4th-year Political Science

There is. Drunk pictures, embarrassing pictures, it’s all too dangerous. Some people are totally careless, they even have pictures of themselves with drugs. That’s the type of stuff that gets used in court.

Selam, 3rd-year Political Science

No. You know what you’re putting on there, you send it out. Everybody knows the rules of the web.

Mabel, 3rd-year Human Bio

People put their phone numbers, emails, pictures of their homes, really their whole lives. The format makes you so vulnerable, you’re giving people access to yourself.

Governing Council— an ‘exercise in futility?’

Discussion was brief and confused at the March 4 Governing Council meeting that approved a new policy dictating how U of T disposes of unethical stocks. Although the meeting was the third hearing of the hotly-debated policy, representatives of both students and staff on U of T’s highest governing body were misinformed about what the policy actually says. One governor has since said that student and staff representatives on the body have so little voting power that it may not be worth their time to keep up to date on board affairs.

The divestment policy was a revision of one the University Affairs Board rejected last November. On Feb. 2, UAB approved a modified version, which requires the president’s committee to be approved by the GC. The modified proposal also contained a preamble stating that divestment from social and political issues must reflect the neutrality of the university on most matters.

“You know what? I must confess my ignorance on that issue,” said governor P.C. Choo after the meeting. Choo abstained from voting on the policy.

“My other concern is this: I am one of two governors representing staff. There are eight students. Combined, we will still lose, because there are 40 other governors,” said Choo.

The recently approved divestment policy does away with a committee of five governors, replacing them with an advisory committee of financial experts selected by the president to make divestment recommendations.

Ken Davy, a part-time student representative on GC, asked a question presuming that the advisory committee would consist primarily or wholly of social justice experts rather than financial ones.

U of T’s VP business affairs Catherine Riggall fielded that question. Without stating that the advisory committee would not consist of any social justice experts, she noted that “There’s also no reason that other people can’t be consulted.”

“In past committees where we’ve looked at [divestment] issues […] we have in fact consulted outside to get other people’s expertise when necessary,” said Riggall.

“I did not have a solid understanding of the advisory committee,” said Davy after the meeting. “I’ve been very involved with trying to get some essays done.”

Susan Eng, the other governor who posed questions to council about the policy, seemed to be under the impression that the university gave its investments ethical prescreening. President Naylor corrected her at the meeting.

Thomas Felix, co-chair of the Responsible Investment Committee, told The Varsity that he had hoped to give governors a briefing on the policy’s background before the vote, but RIC received no speaking time at the GC meeting because it apparently gave too short notice.

“There was clearly an inability to inform the governors as we’d hoped before the meeting,” Felix said. “Having not been able to get on the agenda, for lack of sufficient notice, we had nonetheless prepared [a] document and a Powerpoint to briefly summarize and clarify such misconceptions.”

RIC was not allowed to show their Powerpoint presentation at the meeting, for procedural reasons.

It’s Prime time

Despite the Victoria University president’s opening protestations that the talk would be on small-L liberal values, the speaker would have none of it. As Jean Chrétien told a packed Bader Theatre, he’s still the biggest of big-L Liberals. “I’m a proud Liberal, and I’m here because I wanted to honour a proud Liberal,” said the former prime minister during the 12th annual Keith Davey Lecture, held at Vic on March 6. His audience might as well have said the same thing.

“The only thing I’m missing in life is to not have Question Period!” he exclaimed, opening up the question and answer session after his speech. As a former prime minister, Chrétien has the luxury of choosing his questioners, and he enjoys the wiggle room on topics he would prefer to avoid—which amounts to most of current politics.

“I’m not in political life anymore. It’s a hard problem, to shut up, but I do.” An inveterate politician, he still knows how to work a crowd,addressing criticisms from his reign with a jovial attitude. After all, his critics weren’t on stage with him.

“Remember, people were telling me all the time, ‘Why don’t you tell China what to do?’ […] I said, ‘Wait a minute, guys. You want me to go to the Chinese, 1.3 billion people, and tell them what to do, but you don’t want me to tell the Premier of Saskatchewan what to do?’”

That’s another of his traits: weaving in rhetorical questions like a storyteller with a good yarn. On “the difficulties” in the former Yugoslavia: “Do you remember how delicate it was?” On the Clarity Act: “Do you remember the controversy that I survived because I said ‘No, you can’t break up the country with a one-vote majority?’” His speech was also a lesson, however, in just how experienced Chrétien is.

“There isn’t a public policy problem he hasn’t grappled with,” said David Peterson, U of T chancellor and former (Liberal) premier of Ontario. Aside from being Prime Minister, during his 41-minus-eight years as an MP, Chrétien headed six ministries.

The crowd, with its cheers for Chrétien’s decision keep Canada out of Iraq, reserved boos for Conrad Black and refrained from mentioning pepper spray and other unsavoury scandals. With the Honourable Frank Iacobucci (the eighth Keith Davey Lecturer) rumoured to be in attendance, and senators and former ambassadors scattered about the theatre for good measure, the event was decidedly elite.

“I want you to think about public service,” he said in his concluding remarks. “Don’t think it’s terrible to be in politics. We have a lot of fun in politics.” The advice he would give student politicians? “To run. If you don’t try, you will regret that.”

Chrétien held up as an example the Liberal senator after whom the lecture series is named. “Keith Davey is a good example of public service.” Davey, who graduated from Vic in 1949, became national organizer of the Liberal Party in 1961 and served as senator for 30 years, most notably in chairing the Senate Committee on Mass Media. Past Keith Davey Lecturers have included John Kenneth Galbraith, Michael Ignatieff, Louise Arbour, and David Miller.

Ryerson student facing expulsion over Facebook group

When Chris Avenir helped set up a Facebook study group for a chemistry class at Ryerson he had no idea that it could get him expelled. Ryerson has charged the first-year engineering student with 147 counts of academic misconduct—one for each student in the study group—accusing him of cheating.

The charges came when Avenir’s professor, Andrew McWilliams, heard about the Facebook group after marks for the class had already been issued.

Avenir said the administration is mishandling the situation because they don’t have a clear Internet use policy. “I don’t really see how it’s justified. I can understand how the original creator, when he put in the group’s description, might have brought in some questionable thoughts, but I don’t think that jumping to conclusions and assumptions and hiding behind a very vague policy really justifies any of what’s going on right now,” he said.

The group’s main page bore the message: “If you request to join, please use the forms [sic.] to discuss/post solutions to the chemistry assignments. Please input your solutions if they are not already posted.”

Despite this, no evidence exists that anyone actually provided solutions, which would constitute an academic offense. “I myself didn’t post any solutions […] It’s just a whole bunch of assumptions right now,” said Avenir of the administration’s charges.

Avenir joined the group after it was well established. Students had to wait up to two weeks to be accepted to the group by its creator, so Avenir volunteered to become a co-administrator. The other administrator’s identity is unknown because he used an alias.

On Tuesday, Avenir faces an expulsion hearing with the engineering faculty appeals committee. Kim Neale, advocacy co-ordinator for the Ryerson Students’ Union will represent him at the hearing.

“All these students are scared shitless now about using Facebook to talk about schoolwork, when actually it’s no different than any study group working together on homework in a library,” Neale told the Toronto Star.

“People might just be sneakier about it and there shouldn’t be any reason to be sneaky about something as honest as a study group,” said Avenir.

He has prepared a 10-minute presentation for Tuesday and is planning to seek “clarification” of the decision from his professor, who will be at the hearing.

Should Avenir lose his appeal, he said he plans to take his case directly to the university’s senate. Nora Loreto, president of the Ryerson Students’ Union said that the odds of complete exoneration at appeal hearings are “stacked against students,” but she nonetheless remains optimistic.

James Norrie, director of Ryerson’s School of Information and Technology, has defended the school’s decision to expel Avenir. “This is being painted as a generational issue and it’s not,” Norrie told the CanWest news service. “We are not a bunch of old farts who are afraid of technology.”

When asked whether he would create another online study group given all that has happened, Avenir said “definitely” without hesitation. He added, however, that he would create the group himself and would make sure there was no questionable wording in the group’s title or description.

Avenir has not received support from the Ryerson Engineering Student Society.

Very few schools address online behavior in their academic code. Ryerson is one of the few schools in the process of rewriting their code to handle the Internet. The student group “Stop the NADS [non-academic disciplinary suspensions],” headed by Loreto, is fighting the proposed changes to Policies 60 and 61. At press time, “Stop the NADS” had 179 members on its Facebook group.