Extending a helping hand

As the boatload of Tamil refugees approached this July, Amnesty International urged Canadians to “honour [our] international human rights obligations.” Given that Tamils “suspected, even if wrongly, of being LTTE [Tamil Tigers] supporters have been routinely imprisoned and tortured” by the Sri Lankan Government, Amnesty was concerned “to hear some public comments that seem to follow this lead by labeling Tamil asylum seekers as ‘terrorists.’”

The boat landed in British Columbia August 12, whereupon Public Safety Minister Vic Toews voiced his concern about “suspected human smugglers and terrorists” among the refugees, who intended to “abuse” our “very generous…refugee legal system.” Likewise, Prime Minister Harper derided the refugees for seeking asylum “not through any normal arrival channel,” while simultaneously threatening to “strengthen” laws to keep them out.

Harper is surely aware that the UN refugee convention states explicitly that “contracting states shall not impose penalties [on refugees] on account of their illegal entry” into the state party. He must also be aware that, as one distinguished Canadian refugee specialist points out, “there isn’t a legal way [for refugees] to come to Canada.”

Nevertheless, these comments affect public opinion — which likely prompted Amnesty’s warning. 63 per cent of Canadians believed the Tamil ship “should have been turned back” to float the seas in squalor; 48 per cent would “deport [them] to their country of origin.” Illustratively, Harper’s misinformed statements about imaginary arrival channels are directly influent; 83 per cent of Canadians think “the migrants are jumping the immigration queue and should apply like any other foreigner” – as all other foreigners, surely, are fleeing the horror of ethnic war.
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These are refugees, not migrants. After Colombo defeated the LTTE in 2009, it locked hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamils in :overcrowded and unsanitary, detention camps”, without “basic human rights or basic legal safeguards and, of course, without charges, for an indefinite period of time.” The internees faced constant “disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrest, and sexual violence,” according to an Amnesty report. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon reported after visiting the camps that, although he had “travelled around the world and visited similar places,” the conditions of the camps were “by far the most appalling [he had] ever seen.”

The Sri Lankan government has committed virtually all of the crimes for which the Tamil Tigers are rightly considered a terrorist organization, and many they have not. These include: political assassinations, hostage-taking, use of child soldiers, forced disappearances, executing international aid and relief workers, systematic rape, ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism, extermination, and genocide. In 2004, the government blocked tsunami relief aid to the country’s Tamil province. In a brazen act this past June, a government minister incited mobs to take UN staff hostage until Ban Ki Moon called off investigation of government war crimes.

Canada’s hands are hardly clean of Colombo’s crimes. In 2009 Canadian trade with Sri Lanka totaled $456 million, not including $52.37 million in development assistance. Trade continued as the government was bombing trapped civilians and letting them fester in the camps. The fact that massive trade is not done with the LTTE may help explain why Ottawa classifies only one of these groups as a terrorist organization.

Human smuggling is among the uglier aspects of the reality in Sri Lanka, and the Tigers, though fighting for a just cause, are as hideous in their methods as any terrorists. Concerns that transport fees could fund human-smugglers or the LTTE are justified and serious. That said, there is a simple way to prevent millions of dollars from being extorted from desperate refugees in exchange for passage to Canada: provide it for free. After the Vietnam War, Canada absorbed over 56,000 Vietnamese refugees and this had no impact on economic growth. Absorption of Tamil refugees would, furthermore, be supported by sponsorship from the highly-organized Canadian Tamil diaspora of around 200,000 (the Vietnamese diaspora in 1975 was only 1,500). Ottawa’s itinerary plan for 2010 plans for 265,000 immigrants, with only 9,000 spots for “Humanitarian and Compassionate/Public Policy” admittance. A significant number of Tamil refugees could be granted asylum simply by balancing this ratio slightly.The Harper government’s ideas for cracking down on human smuggling, however, are less than generous. How Canada treats the refugees that arrive on our shores will surely be an indicator of our humanity and respect for international law.

U of T beats number-two ranked football team in the country

It would be hard to pinpoint who was caught most off-guard by this one.

See, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, easily one of the most farcical football teams in the OUA these past few years, sent the media into a frenzy, their coaches into shock, and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees home in a state of embarrassment Saturday afternoon at Varsity Stadium.

No one expected the Blues, notorious for their appalling league record, to squash the second best team in Canada 40-35 in their second consecutive win of the season.

In fact, when the Gee-Gees came to town last year, they slammed the Blues and went home with a 35-15 win to their name and are 11-0 over the Blues since 1972.

But Toronto was riding the tides of a 24-19 victory that was secured over the York Lions on Sept. 18, and had fresh legs as they were off last week with a bye.

Apparently, the break in their game schedule served the Blues well, and Head Coach Greg DeLaval admitted that it was “the best week of practice in a long time.”

Someone should have given Gee-Gee’s Head Coach Jean-Philippe Asselin a heads-up.

In a pre-game statement Asselin said, “If Toronto is supposed to be a weaker team, I would like to remind the guys that they have blocked eight or nine punts since the beginning of the year in four games. Also, Guelph beat Queen’s easier than we did, and Guelph only beat Toronto by two points; so there is nothing to take for granted.”

Good advice, but unfortunately for Ottawa, it was lacking on follow-through. With the win, U of T scored their first victory against a nationally-ranked team since 1997, when they defeated the Waterloo Warriors 21-15.
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Although Gee-Gee’s receiver Matthew Bolduc opened the scoring with a touchdown just over a minute into the game, it only took Blues rookie running back Aaron Milton five minutes to get the home team on the board. Milton’s 105-yard touchdown run ties the U of T record set by Maurice Doyle at McMaster in 1979 and ranks fourth in the CIS for longest rush.

Quarterback Andrew Gills connected with sophomore receiver Paul de Pass on a 24-yard pass for the second Blues touchdown of the game and Toronto wrapped up the first frame in the lead.

Gee-Gees receiver Cyril Adjeitey responded early in the second quarter when he caught a 57-yard pass from quarterback Brad Sinopoli, and kicker Matthew Falvo converted his second extra point of the game.

Eager to hold on to the lead, Blues quarterback Jordan Scheltgen was brought off of the bench to score on one- and two-yard rushing touchdowns respectively. Despite a rouge from the Gee-Gees three minutes later, the Blues were up 27-15 at halftime.

As the Blues gathered out of the public eye to assess their tactics, “Rolli – one of our players – said, ‘Coach you don’t need to say anything,’” smiled DeLaval, who responded with a simple, “There’s nothing to say.”

Early in the third quarter, a seven play 73-yard driveand a one-yard run from Franck Ngandui led the Gee-Gees to their third touchdown of the game. The Blues remained one step ahead, however, and Gillis connected with receiver Michael Prempeh on a five-yard pass to put his team up comfortably by 12.

As the Gee-Gees coaching staff paced angrily up and down the sidelines talking furiously into their headsets, the Blues continued their climb up the scoreboard. Third-year kicker Andrew Lomasney scored 13- and 30- yard field goals respectively.

With just a minute left in the game, the Gee-Gees decided to show the home team why they are ranked second highest in the league and made a desperate final attempt to bring home the win.

An eight yard pass from Sinopoli to receiver Bogdan Raic brought the Gee-Gees up by a touchdown. With less than ten seconds to go, Steve Hughes connected on a three-yard reception for another one.

And as the Blues rejoiced emotionally on the sidelines to a final score of 40-35, it was clear that they couldn’t have cared less that Ottawa had come within five points of knocking them off their high horses.

“This is a big win for us,” said DeLaval. “We had a little bit of luck today.

“They gave us some things we could take advantage of. We made interceptions at critical times.”

Although DeLaval admitted that the team wasn’t under a lot of pressure going into the game – honestly, no one really expected them to win – Milton, who has quickly become one of the most impressive standout rookies in the league confessed he was a little nervous.

“But I knew what our team could do,” said Milton. “Most teams underestimate us. The plays we were calling right off the bat were plays we were comfortable with and it just carried over.”

But it was Gillis, who was named Player of the Game, that was the real story at Varsity Stadium. The fourth-year quarterback threw 28-for-45, recorded a career-high 343 yards and two touchdown passes.

“We had a game plan coming in,” said Gillis, always quick to credit his teammates. “We knew we were capable of doing something like this.”

“Andrew is probably one of the hardest working guys on the team,” said DeLaval of his star.

The Blues will be suiting up in Kingston next Saturday to take on the reigning national champions, the Queen’s Gaels.

To prepare for what Delaval described as a “tough game,” the team will be mixing up their practice tactics. The field at Richardson Stadium is actually grass, unlike the artificial turf at Varsity Stadium, so the Blues will be moving their training to the back field of Trinity College in order to further prepare for the game.

For now, the home team will be focused on celebrating their victory.

“We were due,” said DeLaval.

The Commonwealth Games

New Delhi’s chaotic preparation for the Commonwealth Games has been met with criticism from all over the world and has prompted many to ask what the Commonwealth Games are for.

“The games were a much more political project or idea than the Olympics, in that [they were] designed to strengthen the ties or the cultural and social relations between [participating nations],” said Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, who won a gold and a bronze medal as a track athlete at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

But the lack of appeal of the Commonwealth Games may have contributed to the fiasco in India.

As Alexander Chancellor wrote in The Guardian, “It is hard to imagine any country, even India, being so lackadaisical in preparing to host the Olympic Games or the World Cup. But the Commonwealth Games don’t have their glamour.”

The Commonwealth Games are unique in that they were established on the basis of history, instead of geographical location. The Commonwealth nations are supposed to share similar cultural and social traditions because of their past and present exposure to British rule.

But some, including Chancellor, argue that the ties are no longer strong enough, and that the members do not share many of the same cultural attributes and traditions anymore. This is evidenced by the fact that Mozambique, in which Portuguese is the official language, and Rwanda, in which French is more widely spoken than English, are both members.

As a member of Commonwealth Games Canada, the organization coordinating the Canadian team’s participation in the games, Kidd believes that they are still relevant.

“I think there was an effort among the leaders of the Commonwealth Sport and there is an effort in world sport to put more of these major games in their benefits in the developing world, in the global South, and this is an example of that,” he said.

What do the games mean to the Canadians then?

If not for the crisis in New Delhi, the Commonwealth Games could pass by almost unnoticed in Canada. In 2010, the Canadians enjoyed a gold medal haul at the very successful Vancouver Winter Olympics, and passion for soccer spread across the country thanks to the FIFA World Cup during the summer.

And now, here comes another quadrennial sporting event — the Commonwealth Games.
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Hamilton’s failed attempt in bidding to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games would probably be the only — if there is one — Canadian link to this year’s games an average Canadian could identify with.

Yet Canada has deep roots at the games. Melville Marks (Bobby) Robinson, who was a sports journalist with the Hamilton Spectator at the time, attended the 1928 Olympics as the manager of the track and field team. He created what was then called the British Empire Games to accommodate entities within the British Empire that do not have an Olympics team.

The idea had been around for years, but it was Robinson who put it into practice — 400 athletes from 11 countries attended the 1930 British Empire Games with a competition program made up of six sports. This year, 7000 athletes from 72 countries will be competing in 17 sports.

Canadian athletes have participated — and excelled — at every single Commonwealth Games since. Canada comes third in the overall medal count, after Australia and England.

Canadian swimmer Graham Smith swept six gold medals at the 1978 Games in Edmonton, and Alexandra Orlando repeated the same heroics in rhythmic gymnastics in 2006 in Melbourne.

However, even looking at Canada’s glorious record at the games, one might ask if it even matters that much to an average Canadian.

Canada performs well in the medal table, largely because some of the greatest sporting nations on Earth — the United States, Russia, and China for example — are not competing.

Does this mean that the Commonwealth Games only serve as the diving board for the young and upcoming athletes?

“Given the fact that Canada continues to have significant trade and cultural relations with these nations — so many immigrants come from the Commonwealth countries — these games remain important for us,” Kidd said.

Kidd claims that, for example, there is strong Canadian presence in India, and the games would only help strengthen it, “Canadians are having increasingly strong ties with India, immigration and trade are big, [and there is] the exchange of technology and the exchange of university students.

“The games are supposed to express and reinforce those ties.”

However, the fact that Canada has been a keen supporter of the games, (Canada has hosted the games a record-tying four times), does not help to fuel the popularity of the games.

Kidd feels that the Commonwealth Games are not as popular among Canadians as they used to be but suggests that hosting them again might improve their popularity (Canada last hosted the games in 1994 at Victoria, British Columbia).

“I like this idea [of the Commonwealth Games] a lot,” said 22-year-old Lev Daschko, a U of T graduate with a specialist in history. “It’s nice to be part of the Commonwealth, and it’s a good way to show Canada’s place in the world, our ties to Britain, and to the other Commonwealth countries.”

The Commonwealth Games rarely receive attention from the public, not only because of the modest amount of funding they receive from the federal government, but also due to minimal media coverage. According to Evan H. Potter at the University of Ottawa, Canada was the only major Commonwealth nation not broadcasting the games in 2006.

Daschko said, “[The Commonwealth Games] don’t get that much coverage I find. I would like to have them on [multiple TV channels] like the Olympics.

“I think if they were televised, there would be more of a following.

“For the Commonwealth Games, because they are smaller, it’s even more important for Canadians to support [our athletes]. It’s even more embarrassing if nobody is watching them, and they place very well there.”

In fact, Canada is linked to the Commonwealth Games in multiple ways that are seemingly overlooked by the public.

Commonwealth Games Canada has been active in sport and social development in the developing world. Kidd was the co-founder of the Canadian Sport Development program, now known as the International Development through Sport programme.

The IDS uses sport and physical activity to contribute to some of the basic development goals of the Commonwealth, like basic education, gender equity, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. The programme is conducted by a number of Commonwealth countries, including the UK and Australia. Canadian programs are currently focused on the Caribbean and Africa.

“In Canada, [the programme] came out of the change in the world in the early 1990s,” said Kidd. “It came in response to an appeal by the sports leaders in Africa, and the newly liberated South Africa from the Apartheid, to help them rebuild the sport in South Africa and the frontline states in Southern Africa. It came about as a result of the young athletes who wanted to give something.”

Kidd, who has been involved in the Commonwealth Games for around half a century, thinks that even though they have become increasingly diversified (for example, with more developed support systems for the global South), some elements of the games remain unchanged. “There are continuities,” said Kidd, “like this belief in bringing everything together. It is this whole idea of exchange.”

Kidd is also currently chair of the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport, an organization that advises the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth governments on sport policy with respect to sport for development and peace.

While for many, the Commonwealth Games are the relic of a forgotten legacy, some find that the Commonwealth Games not only give Canadian athletes another place to win medals and to fine tune their skills, but also create national pride.

“I would love another games to be in Canada,” said Daschko.

Varsity Blues pole vaulter Jason Wurster will be competing in New Delhi

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Photo by Jeff Caton

Jason Wurster, a sixth year U of T student majoring in Geography with minors in Forestry and History, will be competing for a medal in pole vaulting at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Wurster, a native of Stevensville, Ontario, started pole vaulting in grade 9. He has been training with U of T since 2001 when he was under the auspices of the Junior Development program.

“I wasn’t really the guy who’d planned to go to university. U of T has supported me every step of the way and it’s been an experience,” said Wurster.

Having participated at the World Student Games in 2005, 2007, and 2009, and now in his fifth year of eligibility as a Varsity Blue, Wurster is no stranger to competition.

The U of T pole vaulter finds that competing at the likes of the Commonwealth Games could help him prepare for the Olympics, the Holy Grail for track and field athletes.

“As a track athlete there’s certain meets you want to make it to, the Olympics being the biggest event,” said Wurster. “Then there are certain events like the Pan-Am Games and the Commonwealth Games that we strive to compete at.”

Wurster has been training — a lot of jumping, pole vaulting, long jumping, sprinting, weightlifting and gymnastics — for a month and a half in order to peak on October 11, which is the final for pole vaulting.

Australian Steve Hooker, the current world number one pole vaulter, will be Wurster’s main rival. According to Wurster, Hooker has done “some amazing things.” Hooker jumped the second highest height ever achieved at 6.06m while Wurster’s personal best is 5.5m.

“He’s someone I sort of look up to,” said Wurster. “Unless he’s having a bad day, it’ll be difficult to beat him.

“I try not to overanalyze things too much. It’s sort of better to forget about a lot of things and go in with a clear head.”

Wurster’s family, coaches, and U of T are important components in his support system, but it was Canadian Athletes Now, a Toronto-based funding company, that made his dream of becoming an amateur athlete come true.

“I was in my garage working on a bicycle on a Sunday. A girl called me to say I’d got [funding]. I’d sort of forgot about it. I was floored. It overwhelmed me,” said Wurster. “It was $6,000 dollars, which is a lot of money for someone who doesn’t get paid to [pole valut].”

Wurster’s long term goal will be to shine at the London Olympics, which will take place two years from now.

“Definitely my eyes are on making the Olympics in 2012, and being very competitive there and making the final,” he said.

A good sport: A Maritime story

Few Canadian institutions have had a rockier past several years than the CFL. A failed franchise in Ottawa, an ownership crisis in Toronto that have led to both the BC Lions and Toronto Argos falling under the same owner, and a municipal election in Hamilton that, pending the outcome, could force the Tiger-Cats to move thanks to stadium woes.

A sun-kissed afternoon in Moncton, New Brunswick this past Sunday offered a strong ray of sunshine though. The Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos came to town to play a much-anticipated regular season game — technically an Argo home game promoting the CFL on the east coast.

Though the on-field product was not pretty, it was established well before the opening kick-off that nothing could have dampened the day. Tickets sold out just 36 hours after they went on sale and there was region-wide hype for the game.

Everything about the event, of course, begged the question of whether or not a permanent CFL franchise could someday find itself in eastern Canada. TSN did a good job of tailoring the question to an affirmative answer, airing features about the local high school football culture — which could be mistaken for the southern United States on any given game night. The mayor of Moncton was interviewed and did nothing to discourage the notion.
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Yet the suggestion of a franchise in the east presents a reasonable and fair question. The combined population of the four eastern Atlantic provinces is rather insignificant, compared to many other CFL markets. The business community is not as big as in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, so finding the capital to bring in a team could pose a challenge.

Interestingly, CFL case studies suggest that small market teams can actually thrive where local conditions are appropriate.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders attract by far the most passionate following of any team in the league, despite the fact that their city has a population of 180,000 people.

The key has been regionalizing the team’s appeal. Fans come from far and wide to support the Roughriders in Regina. Eastern Canada, like Saskatchewan, lacks professional sports teams and there is every indication from the Argos-Eskimos game that the CFL could make a splash.

There is now talk of returning Ottawa to the league in coming years, and adding an eastern team to the mix would give the league ten teams and a truly national, coast-to-coast character.

Recent years have been tough, but better days could well be ahead for the CFL.

Issues defined at second town hall

Grievances continued to be voiced by students and faculty at the second town hall hosted by the Faculty of Arts and Science. The event, held by Dean Meric Gertler, was organized to solicit feedback on the 40-page academic plan published in June.

In similar fashion to the first town hall held on September 23, Gertler opened with a presentation on his 2010-2015 plan before inviting questions and comments from the half-full auditorium at OISE. The queue for questions formed before the event started. Guests discussed the process that led to the plan’s creation, the proposed School of Languages and Literatures, and the fate of interdisciplinary and regional studies.

Faculty and students who attended criticized the proposed plan for being launched without properly consulting faculty, staff, and students. Mohammad Tavokoil, faculty member of the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, claimed that disrespect for shared governance has eroded faculty confidence of the university.

“[This process] has undermined the authority of the chairs and the program directors, has demoralized the faculty, and has created a great deal of uncertainty amongst our students, staff, librarians, and donors,” said Tabokoil.

Gertler responded by saying he viewed the discussions that began in September as “an opportunity to rebuild the kind of community spirit and trust within the faculty, so that people do feel that they are fully engaged in the process of plan-making.”

Gertler reaffirmed that initial timelines set forth in the plan would be delayed and that his faculty will give the consultation process “as much time as is needed in order for people to feel that they have had adequate opportunity to express themselves.” Gertler invited suggestions for alternatives to make the faculty “avoid having to make the same structural changes” proposed in the plan.

UTSU VP University Affairs Maria Galvez criticized the consultation process. “Asking for, listening to, and then ignoring our concerns is not what I would call consultation,” she said, mirroring UTSU President Adam Awad’s statement from the previous town hall that the lack of student consultation was insulting.

In response to Galvez, Gertler claimed consultation already took place during this spring’s department-planning process. “When departments were being asked to formulate their own plans, there was a very important bottom-up consultation process that each unit engaged in and we made it very clear…that it was incumbent on them to consult widely.”

Most of the opposition voiced surrounded the proposed amalgamation of area studies departments.

“Not a single one of the departments…recommended for disillusion had suggested in its [department planning] that a School of Languages and Literatures was a good idea,” responded German department chair John Zilcosky. Chairs of each department slated for the school (Comparative Literature, German, East Asian, Spanish and Portuguese, and Slavic studies) sent an open letter to the faculty after learning about the proposal.

Zilcosky further criticized the faculty for only informing departments of the proposed plan in June. “The chairs, and in fact the entire departments, only heard about this proposed school for the very first time in late June, when we chairs were called to the dean’s office and informed that we would be part of a working group to recommend how to implement the structure of this school.”

“So far, there has been no demonstration that the so-called School of Languages and Literatures is intellectually and academically compelling. Moreover, there has been no demonstration that the new school is viable economically or budgetarilly [sic],” said Ken Kawashima, undergraduate co-ordinator for East Asian Studies.

“I don’t think that the consensus is clear that the notion of such schools is by definition intellectually bankrupt,” said Gertler amid heckles from the crowd. Gertler was noncommittal as to whether the proposed school would ever be implemented. “There is…every possibility we will never have a School of Languages and Literatures if we can find other ways for the faculty to meet these particular needs and goals.”

“You may be surprised, Dean Gertler, to note how many students in this university — and how many of your colleagues — are sincerely of the opinion that if there is a budgetary crisis here, then the best way to address [this is by looking at] what many people [see as] an overly top-heavy administration,” said John Noyes, faculty member of the German department. Noyes was amongst a group of faculty who defended autonomous interdisciplinary programs while taking aim at the size of the U of T’s largest faculty.

Kawashami took a more radical view, accusing the plan of attempting to marginalize students. “We can only conclude that the real intent of the plan is to create new administrative structures that will justify the already excessive number of administrative staff in the dean’s office, promote directors, diminish the authority of departmental chairs, sideline and marginalize faculty staff, librarians, and students, and ultimately accelerate a monopolization of administrative authority based on vertical power structures.”

Gertler was quick to defend the size of his faculty. “If you look at the numbers and make comparisons to other public sector agencies and the private sector, you’ll find that this institution is incredibly thin and incredibly lean.

“We’d like to have a leaner operation, not one that has more layers…the whole rationale was trying to find ways to minimize the amount we spend on administration and maximize the amount that goes into the classroom.”

The race to the top

In room 102 of the Haultain Building, a group of skilled engineers and avid athletes meet to discuss the matters of one of the University of Toronto’s fastest-moving teams.

U of T’s Formula One race car team, or FSAE, consists of 25 students who work together to build a new Formula One car each year from scratch. The team invites students from all disciplines to join — both technical and safety skills are taught to newcomers each year and no previous experience is required.

Amanda Santos, a third-year mechanical engineering student and FSAE’s Team Manager, acts as a liaison between the team and the outside world. She is the team’s main contact person and is in charge of the business side of operations while also helping to build the car.

“I joined last year, at the beginning of my second year at U of T, and have been team manager ever since,” said Santos.

A skilled photographer, Santos showed the team pictures she had taken at an event they hosted and she was immediately recruited into her current role.

The members of the FSAE team, Santos included, are completely devoted to the Formula One car.

“When we aren’t in class, we’re in the shop working on it,” said Santos. “When I [first became involved], I attended initial workshops and was completely enthralled with the project that was being described. I knew that this was something I wanted to devote a lot of time to. As team manager, I should be putting in eight hours of work per week, but I end up putting in probably 15.”

September marks the beginning of building season for the team, although a mock car is built of wood during the summer months in preparation. Testing season begins in February.

The team is granted permission to use certain testing areas around Toronto. The tests are conducted on weekends and they are called “shake-downs.” They check to see whether parts of the car break while it is being driven. During testing season, third and fourth year students get a chance to test drive the car — whoever drives best and is fastest gets the opportunity to drive during competition season.
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Come May, the athletes gear up for competition season which runs until August.

“During competition season, a total of ten competitions are held around the world, but we only have the funding required to attend two: FSAE East in Michigan, which includes 120 teams, most [of whom] are from the United States, and Formula Student Germany, which includes two Canadian teams — U of T and ETS [a technology school affiliated with the University of Quebec] — and many European teams,” said Santos.

Last year the U of T team couldn’t make it to Detroit for the FSAE East competition. It was the first time in 11 years that they hadn’t gone.

“Not going to Detroit was devastating. We had a new car made of carbon fibre which operated on a single cylinder engine, but it had not been well-tested. Instead we attended the competition as spectators,” said Santos.

According to Santos, however, by the time the competition in Germany rolled around, the team was completely ready.

“The car was well-tested this time — we tested it every day. We were very happy to have finished all events because many teams don’t even finish!” she said

An FSAE competition consists of two types of events — static and dynamic. Static events include design presentation, where the car is presented to judges who assess its design; marketing, where each business team must attempt to sell the car to investors; and cost reports, where each team must present a report of all costs associated with the building of the car.

The three dynamic events include an 11km autocross, which is a combination event that includes turns, slopes, and obstacles on the race track; endurance, which is a 22km version of autocross; and acceleration, a race in a straight line.

Although U of T’s FSAE team placed 33rd overall at the Formula Student Germany competition, it is not at the level it once was in 2008 when it was ranked fifth in the world.

“After 2008, we switched to a new engine,” said Santos. “More marks were going to be attributed to Fuel Economy, so we had to switch from a 3-cylinder to a 1-cylinder engine.

“Also, we tried the carbon fibre car. Carbon fibre is what actual Formula One cars are made of, so we wanted to try it. However, it is a finicky material and we don’t have the facilities to build a carbon fibre car at U of T. In the end we realized that it was better to work with steel, which is what we are doing this year. At U of T we have the facilities required to work with steel.”

Next year, the team hopes to place between 10th and 15th at the Formula Student Germany competition. They also hope to beat ETS, the only Canadian school that continues to beat them in competition.

“We would love to beat ETS. They are a very skilled team and it would be great to beat them so that we can officially be the best team in Canada,” said Santos.

In addition to attending competitions, FSAE hosted their own event on Sept 18.

U of T’s “Shoot-Out,” as such events are called, lasted from 2 a.m. until 5 p.m. and was attended by 350 people and 22 teams from across North America. Santos organized the entire event, hiring volunteers, acquiring sponsorship, renting buses, inviting teams, and managing the website.

“Four months of planning paid off,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for FSAE teams from across North America to meet and discuss Formula One. Overall, it was an amazing event.”

Mock refugee camp raises awareness on campus

Displaced peoples found their home at Hart House Circle on Friday. Medecins sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders U of T set up a mock refugee camp to raise awareness about the living conditions of the 42 million refugees and internally displaces persons around the world.

“We’re trying to inspire students to get involved and take on bigger issues,” said Jennifer Siu, executive director of Friends of MSF U of T. “A lot of people get consumed in their own world. It’s a way to learn…it gives you a better perspective.”

The setup included a registration tent, nutrition tent, latrine, water purification system, medical tent, and a two-by-six foot model tent.

The medical tent detailed the main diseases found in the camps, with volunteers demonstrating intubation on a dummy, as well as how to suture. The nutrition tent focused on malnourishment. Volunteers contrasted what a Canadian could eat in a day with the small packages of “plumpy” nuts, oral rehydration salts, and therapeutic milk that refugees would have access to. The nuts, which taste like thick peanut butter, were available to sample.

The water-purification system involved water moving through coal to be filtered and cleaned as much as possible.

MSF is a humanitarian aid NGO that was set up in 1971. It provides healthcare and medical training to countries affected by natural disasters, wars, or endemic diseases. They focus on areas with little or no medical infrastructure.
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Nancy Graham, one of the speakers at the event, returned recently from working in Internally Displaced Persons camps in the north of Sri Lanka. She described a regular day in a camp. People will usually line up to use the latrine in the morning. Girls and young women will go out to fetch water, and young girls will line up with their ration cards to get food for their families.

“When people live in refugee camps [for long durations] you start seeing the incredible resilience of people to adapt to their circumstances,” Graham said. She referenced the development of petty trade, dance, art, and small kitchen gardens.

Saerom Youn, Friends of MSF U of T’s communications director, says she thinks people can sometimes be “stuck in their own clam.” She got involved with the club after watching James Orbinski’s Triage. “His rage for the indifference the Western countries showed touched me…I felt ashamed.”

Raghu Venugopal, a Toronto-based emergency physician, has worked in the field in Burundi, Tanzania, the Balkans, and the West Bank. Although MSF is a neutral organization, he says there are situations where he places himself as a doctor first, and is not afraid to question the set rules. “The social movement is about resistance…resisting the fact that people live in indignity and suffering.”

Safa Shahkhalili, a second year Anthropology student, says she is appreciative of events slike this because they help to inform people who cannot go out into the field.

The event ended with an overnight camp-out, visited by Leo Johnson. Johnson, currently in his fourth year at McMaster, was a refugee who fled Liberia during the civil war. The camp-out included films, discussions and activities to learn more about the lives of displaced people. Each member was encouraged to raise $25 through a pledge form. The goal was $3000.

America the Great

We live in a world that was created by the Second World War. The modern state system and the global economy are, even 60 years later, largely reflections of how power and wealth came to be distributed at the end of that conflict. This status quo has been threatened many times, but it has survived these challenges largely intact. Now, however, change has become inevitable. The scales of power are shifting. To understand the new world into which we are plunging, however, it is crucial to understand how the present global order came into being following World War II.

Central to this story is the role of the United States of America. It was American money that rebuilt the shattered post-war European economies following the war and it was American propaganda and military strength that confronted the spread of communism and socialism around the globe and promoted capitalism as the alternative. It has been American policy makers that took the most active steps to discourage third world countries from using trade barriers and regulations to develop or industrialize their domestic economies. Where necessary the United States has overthrown governments and invaded countries to maintain a basic status quo: raw resources and eventually unskilled manufactures flow from the poor countries to the wealthy ones, but almost always at prices set by the first world.
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Of course there have always been challenges to the status quo. In the early postwar period the greatest challenge was posed by the Soviet Union. The awful human rights violations and mass murders of Lenin, Stalin, and the Communist Party were never a serious concern to American and European politicians. In private conservation President Harry Truman even praised Stalin as an honest man and both he and Winston Churchill agreed that Stalin was someone they could work with. Nor did the Soviet Union pose a real threat of world domination: the Soviet economy and military were utterly devastated following World War II. The Soviets sent money to friendly regimes and viciously crushed internal dissent, for instance Czechoslovakia in 1968. However, with the sole exception of Afghanistan in 1979, the Soviet Union never invaded a country that they did not already control. Thuggish and petty though the Soviet leadership were, they were never the apocalyptic threat as they were portrayed as Americans.

Instead, the quest to secure natural resources and a good climate for investment has been the guiding aim. Despite all of this, however, the American empire has always been unique. Though it is the most powerful country in modern history, much of its influence has always been informal. America has shown little taste for outright colonization; its leaders much prefer to simply give local elites money and then let them worry about governing. Because of this, American power has always rested on the strength and dynamism of the American economy and American culture. Should these sources of “soft power” decline, the American world order would be threatened with disintegration.

If the American economy ceases to be the largest and most dynamic in the world then how long can American power be sustained? In next week’s column we will examine the global implications of a declining American economy and the rapid rise of the East Asian economies.