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Fashion house’s esthetic rooted in nomadic youth

mer, 2015-03-18 13:07
by Sheldon Gordon

Jamil Juma and his sister Alia (Courtesy: JUMA)

When Jamil Juma, BSc(AgrEng)’02, graduated from McGill with a degree in biosystems engineering, he went to work as an investment strategist at a securities firm in Toronto. But 18 months into the job, he took what he thought was going to be a temporary detour, one that would result in him taking bows on fashion runways around the world.

Juma left his position to give his younger sister Alia a helping hand. Alia was launching a fashion design house under the JUMA label.

“She needed help with manufacturing,” recalls Jamil.  “I thought I would do it on the side; I wasn’t thinking about it as a career. But eventually it became a full-time thing.”

It’s proven to be a highly effective collaboration, yielding global success.  As design director, Alia focuses on JUMA’s product design and development. As creative director, Jamil heads manufacturing, logistics, finance and marketing.  But the roles are fluid: Jamil also gets involved in design.

JUMA is designed for young, affluent shoppers.  Its casual ready-to-wear collections include dresses, pants, T-shirts, scarves and bags. Fashion insiders have praised the line’s adventurous approach and vibrant designs.

“Our product is quite niche, it’s not for everyone,” says Jamil.  “It’s a particular look and a particular vibe.  We have a specific group of people that enjoy it within each country.”

Financed by crowd-funding website Kickstarter, the sartorial siblings put on a well-received show during New York Fashion Week in 2011.  (The crowd-funding campaign offered investors limited edition digital print bags, scarves, posters, and backstage experiences as rewards.) Soon after, the Jumas relocated the design business to NYC.

The JUMA collection is now carried by such upscale retailers as Harvey Nichols (Hong Kong), Ron Herman (L.A.), Aishti (Dubai), Calypso (New York) and Another Edition (Tokyo). JUMA fashions have been spotted on celebs Nicki Minaj (she wore JUMA while touring), Solange Knowles and Rachel McAdams.

“I don’t think there was a ‘breakthrough’ moment,” says Jamil.  “There was just a slow build. Season after season, year after year, from the number of stores we started working with, to the number of products we’re getting into.  This business is always a challenge.  I’m probably working harder now than I did at the beginning.”

JUMA is extending its brand to home accessories such as pillows, throws, curtains and artwork.  It is also making a major retailing push in China. Jamil recently moved full-time to Shanghai (Alia divides her time between China and North America).

JUMA has done its global production in China for five years, but in the last year-and-a-half, it has begun selling in the world’s largest potential consumer market. It began with a temporary “pop-up” store in Beijing’s Four Seasons Hotel that has become a permanent store.  Next will be a store in Shanghai and online retailing.

However, being in China isn’t only a matter of business, emphasizes Jamil.  “We actually enjoy being here.  I find the work environment quite appealing because of the optimistic attitudes of fellow creative entrepreneurs.”

JUMA’s Mosaic Mint Tiles leather clutch was inspired by Turkish ceramics and tiles

China is just the latest home base in the siblings’ peripatetic lives.  As children, they lived for three-year intervals in Kenya, Kazakhstan and Congo with their parents, who ran operations there for a family business.

The JUMA brand’s graphic digital prints, bold colours and flowing fabrics reflect the siblings’ multicultural upbringing. They’ve also lived in New York, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Says Jamil: “We were influenced by two different worlds — the indigenous culture [of Africa and Asia] and the contemporary design culture of North America.  Mixing the two together formed the basis of JUMA.”

Now 37, Jamil looks back fondly on his McGill days. “McGill didn’t offer a fashion degree,” he says, “but I developed relationships there that became sounding boards for me in choosing a career and getting help with our fashion business. Just being in Montreal and interacting with an international community opened my mind and gave me a different perspective.”

 

RELATED READING:

How a McGill elective led to a Tony Award for costume designer Linda Cho, BA’95

Designer Tanya Taylor, BCom’07, got her first taste for fashion at a Desautels Faculty of Management charity show

 

Let me prescribe you a video game for that

mer, 2015-03-18 11:51

Dig Rush is a new video game developed by Ubisoft in collaboration with a McGill research team. The game was created as a treatment for amblyopia.
by Diana Kwon

Adults with amblyopia, or lazy eye, have long been told that their condition might be untreatable. A group of McGill researchers, in collaboration with the gaming company Ubisoft, have now developed an unexpected remedy: a video game.

They created a tablet game, “Dig Rush,” where players control moles digging for gold. It works as a treatment for amblyopia by harnessing adult brain plasticity.

“We always thought the brain was plastic as a child and not as an adult. But now we know that it’s still quite changeable as an adult,” explains Robert Hess, the director of the McGill Vision Research Unit and the project’s lead researcher. “That means we should be able to develop new ways of recovering function that’s been lost, either in childhood or as a consequence of some vascular accident or trauma.”

Amblyopia affects about three per cent of the North American population. It is the leading cause of visual impairment among children and, if unsuccessfully treated, a leading cause of blindness for adults. It results from poor processing in the brain that leads to one eye being favoured over the other.

Currently, the primary treatment for amblyopia involves placing an eye patch over the stronger eye to force the weaker eye to work. It is available only to children and is moderately effective; about 60 per cent of individuals improve, but 25 per cent regress once the patch is removed.

Dig Rush involves a completely new approach for treating amblyopia. Rather than attempting to improve vision in one eye, it gets the two eyes to work together. This is accomplished by showing different stimuli to each eye. Reducing signal strength to the good eye by showing it weaker stimuli alleviates suppression in the weaker eye and encourages both eyes to function collaboratively.

Robert Hess is the director of the McGill Vision Research Unit

Physicians can adjust the contrast of blue and red in the game using stereoscopic glasses, so that one eye sees some images better than the other. As the patient’s vision improves, game settings can be modified to promote further progress. Unlike patching, this treatment is effective in both children and adults.

Patients in trial runs saw dramatic improvement after playing an hour a day for about six weeks, and the improvement persisted even after they stopped playing the game. The long-lasting effects provide evidence of the treatment’s ability to promote plasticity in the brain.

Hess and his research team began working on this treatment almost 10 years ago, developing the scientific foundation and testing preliminary versions of the game. The prototype used an adaptation of the popular puzzle game, Tetris, where the weaker eye would see the falling blocks while the stronger would see the ground blocks. The strength of the signal to each eye was varied, but both inputs were needed to play the game.

“We found that not only were the two eyes working together again, but vision in the poor eye had also improved. Some people even had 3D vision for the first time,” says Hess.

Once the treatment was developed, it was patented by McGill and licenced to Amblyotech, a startup. Ubisoft, the gaming powerhouse behind such bestsellers as Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, was recruited to translate the McGill team’s research findings into an engaging game that patients would want to play daily. Once Health Canada and the FDA approve the game, it will be distributed as a prescribed medical treatment.

“As a game producer, it’s exciting to work on such a product,” says Ubisoft senior producer Mathieu Ferland. “Knowing that Dig Rush has the potential to improve the sight of millions is quite satisfying.”

 

RELATED READING:

These McGill graduates make sure that the science depicted in video games isn’t too farfetched

 

 

Football hero gets his due

mar, 2015-03-17 19:42

Some of Michael Soles’ former McGill Redmen teammates recently led a fundraising initiative to create a new award to honour Soles. From left to right: Wayne McRae, Hagen Mehnert, Michael Soles, Bruno Pietrobon, Vincent Gagne and Joff Elkas.

by Andrew Mahon

The McGill Redmen’s 1987 dream football season will probably be remembered for many reasons: a Vanier Cup victory, an offensive line with a reputed penchant for Milk-Bone dog biscuits (more on that later) and a lasting friendship forged among five players which has resulted in a remarkable, if bittersweet, legacy for their teammate, Michael Soles, BA’89.

In 1987, Soles led the Redmen to a 47-11 Vanier Cup win over the UBC Thunderbirds, earning the team its last national championship.  The all-star running back was named game MVP, was subsequently selected in the 1989 CFL draft and went on to play 11 seasons professionally for Edmonton and Montreal.

Since 2005, Soles has battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Last August, five of Soles’ teammates (Joff Elkas, BA’89; Vincent Gagné, BA’88; Wayne McRae, BCom’88; Hagen Mehnert, BA’89 and Bruno Pietrobon, BEng’89) got together on a conference call to brainstorm ideas to recognize Soles and his McGill legacy.

“We wanted to do something that was both unique and personal,” says Pietrobon, who (along with his four ex-teammates) is winner of this year’s E.P. Taylor Award, awarded by the McGill Alumni Association to volunteers who have demonstrated outstanding voluntary service to the McGill Annual Fund. “It had to be something that would specifically honour Mike and be a fitting tribute. It had to be memorable and it had to be lasting.” Soles will be a co-recipent of the E.P. Taylor Award, for inspiring the initiative that his former teammates settled on.

The “aha” moment was an idea to create an endowment for a Michael Soles Football Award, to be given to deserving players on an annual basis. The ideal vehicle for the project was McGill’s Seeds of Change crowdfunding platform.

“It was the perfect fit,” says Wayne McRae. “It allowed us to easily reach out to people inside and outside the McGill community.”

McGill Redmen teammates Bruno Pietrobon and Michael Soles celebrate their Vanier Cup victory in 1987.

The project goal was $80,000, a sizeable challenge, but within just four weeks the goal was reached and donations continued to come in until the total surpassed $214,000.

“None of us expected we would do it that quickly,” adds McRae. “We didn’t even need to ask people to donate, we would just tell them the story and they offered to give. They wanted to help. It’s really a tribute to Mike and the kind of person he is.”

That “kind of person” is someone whose personality and character transcends his gridiron exploits.

“Mike wowed everyone with his passion and performance on the field,” says McRae, who was Soles’ business partner for several years.  “And that’s what you got off the field too. When he speaks about his family, his kids, his friends — you’re wowed by his passion.”

“We were all inspired by his resilience, his courage, and by his refusal to let his condition defeat him or define him,” adds Pietrobon.

As a result of the successful crowdfunding campaign, the Michael Soles Football Award will be established to promote the McGill Redmen Intercollegiate Football program by providing direct funding in the form of an annual award to eligible student athletes in good academic standing. The recipients will be selected by the McGill Athletics Awards Committee.

When talking about Soles, his legacy and the award, conversation inevitably leads back to memories from that now-legendary Vanier Cup season 28 years ago.

“The response from the McGill community after we won the ’87 championship was a surprise to all of us,” recalls Pietrobon. “We were really touched to see the way the McGill community reached out and congratulated us.”

It’s something all five players would like to see rekindled for the Redmen.

“The team has been through difficult times,” says Pietrobon. “But the program can be built up to succeed. It just requires commitment from the entire McGill community including support from alumni. I hope the good news about the Michael Soles Award becomes a foundation for a positive future for football at McGill.”

As for the story of the Milk-Bones, it all stems from the nickname of the team’s offensive line (The Crazy Dogs), which prompted a player to show up on the practice field one day with a bag of dog biscuits – just as a joke.

The linemen ate the biscuits. Crazy Dogs indeed.

The McGill Alumni Association Honours and Awards celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of student and alumni volunteers. The 2015 awards will be presented at this year’s Honours and Awards Banquet on May 11, 2015.

 

RELATED READING:

Strength and conditioning coach Matt Nichol, BEd’98, counts NHL stars and Olympians among his clients

According to a McGill study, 78 per cent of athletes who think they had concussions, didn’t seek medical attention

 

 

The man behind the scares

mar, 2015-03-17 11:38

Novelist Andrew Pyper, BA’90, MA’91, says he is in “the insomnia business” and there are few writers out there who are more skilled at causing sleepless nights. Haunted houses, demonic entities, malevolent spirits — Pyper’s most recent books have ventured into decidedly supernatural terrain and he can hold his own with the best in the business. His last book, The Demonologist, was awarded the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Hardcover Novel, besting a fellow named Stephen King in the process. His new book, The Damned, was recently praised by USA Today as “damned scary” and “chill-inducing.” McGill News contributor Tiffany Pope interviewed the man who so successfully gives his readers the heebie-jeebies.

 

A tour of tasty treats

ven, 2015-03-13 16:45

Mélissa Simard introduces her customers to some of the offerings at the Librairie Espagnole during one of her recent Iberian food tours (Photo: Alex Tran)

by Maeve Haldane

That Montreal is one of North America’s great cities for food is hardly a secret. But how much do you really know about the city’s culinary riches? Sure, you could probably make your way through some dinner party chitchat about famous spots like Schwartz’s or Au Pied De Cochon, but do you ever find yourself wishing you had access to someone with a detailed understanding of this city’s savoury nooks and crannies? Someone who could steer you towards some delicious new discoveries?

Someone like Mélissa Simard, BA’08.

A professionally trained cook and a natural-born storyteller, Simard is the driving force behind ‘Round Table Tours, which offers excursions involving some of Montreal’s most iconic food places, as well as some of its less heralded scrumptious sites.

Simard grew up in small pulp mill towns in British Columbia. Her childhood was spent shucking oysters, eating sea cucumbers, collecting mussels, digging clams and crabbing. She and her chemical engineer mum would canoe into the rough waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island with a loaf of bread and harvest the rest of their lunch from the sea.

Simard headed for Montreal after she met a guy from Verdun in a bar in Jasper. They hitchhiked and picked fruit on their way east, then during a stint in a Katimavik program, she applied to McGill.

While completing her degree in Canadian studies (she did minors in Spanish and environmental studies), she started to work in kitchens. As she cooked for cash by night, she reflected on culture and identity by day, not yet aware how these distinct interests would merge into the intimate tours that are now labelled a top tourist attraction by Trip Advisor.

During her time at McGill, Simard was greatly influenced by English professor Natalie Cooke, who taught “Food Representation in Canadian Literature” and let Simard have run of her library of historical cookbooks. Another significant teacher was historian Andrée Lévesque, who looked at the working class and underbelly of Montreal, particularly among women.

After McGill came cooking school and an internship in Calabria with celebrity chef Luigi Quintieri, who was refreshingly relaxed and respectful compared to the harried, high-pressure drama of Montreal kitchens. “He made it a joy,” says Simard, who’s still in regular contact with him.

Upon returning to Montreal, Simard worked in places like 55 degrees, Graziella, Del Canale, and briefly, Le Filet. But she found herself tiring of life in the kitchen. “You don’t have contact with the public, you don’t see people eat what you cook,” Simard says. “I wanted to do something more on the social side of food.”

Inspired by a West Coast bike trip in which she visited farms and artisanal food makers, Simard thought of giving similar food tours near Montreal. Then, she was hired to co-develop a gastronomic tour of The Main with bike company Fitz & Follwell Co., and created her own ’Round Table Tours in 2012.

“I try to explore cultures, neighbourhoods, and food genres through the stories of chefs and entrepreneurs,” she explains. Aside from her four regular tours (food trucks, Iberian, Jewish, and living foods), she tailors tours for corporate clients.

Simard credits her time at McGill with giving her the ability to thoroughly research a topic and interview people. Instead of just scratching at the surface, her tours dig deep.

People learn through Simard’s tales, by meeting experts, and by tasting. Lots of tasting. For the Iberian tour, participants visit a small-scale chorizo producer behind a depanneur, snack on acorn-fed ham, and sit down for tapas at three restaurants.  On the Jewish tour, they’ll compare the world-renowned Fairmount and St Viateur bagels, nosh at Wilensky’s Light Lunch, and eat pastries from Cheskies. Simard supplies bikes and helmets for her Food Truck tour, and her Living Foods tour includes a lecture by a food scientist, a visit with an urban beekeeper, meeting a mushroom grower in his lab, and finishing with a vegan five-course Thai meal at Chu Chai. “People really step into another universe they didn’t expect,” she says. “They meet young innovative entrepreneurs who are building businesses out of their ethics. ”

During Simard’s tours, she’s calmed down excitable participants, been hit by a bike, and smoothed the way for two people to fall in love (they’re still together nine months later). On one memorably fraught tour, a naturopath, a nutritionist, and a soda pop industry worker got into a heated debate about what constitutes healthy living. “It was kind of a run-in, though everything finished off on a great note,” she says.

Simard is currently developing tours on pioneering women, tea, and Chinatown. “I want people to have that connection with where they’re eating. So they experience a kind of intimacy with the place, and they understand better why they do things the way they do,” Simard says. “Food is meant to bring people together.”

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Mirella Amato, BMus’98, is the woman to turn to if you want to get adventurous with beer

How a badly cooked omelet helped Top Chef’s Gail Simmons, BA’98, become a TV star

 

The sexting generation

ven, 2015-03-06 10:09

 

For many young people, sexting has become almost commonplace (Image: Istockphoto)
by Shannon Palus, BSc’13

Being a kid has become a lot more complicated in an era of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. One of the big, brand-new challenges: navigating a world of sexually explicit messages and pictures, or “sexting.” What’s the best way to handle initially innocent flirtations that can quickly get out of hand? Thanks to smartphones and selfie-sticks, intimate photographs can spread halfway around the school – and the world – with alarming speed. The fallout can be tragic. In extreme cases, incidents related to sexting have been linked to highly-publicized suicides.

Shaheen Shariff, an associate professor of integrated studies at McGill, is one of Canada’s leading experts on cyberbullying. She has shared her perspective with House of Commons committees examining cyberbullying legislation and is affiliated with the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. She is currently serving on an expert committee advising Quebec premier Philippe Couillard’s government on issues related to cyber-intimidation.

She leads a team of McGill researchers at Define the Line, a project that addresses the challenges of being a kid in a digital world, while examining public policy as it relates to cyberbullying and social media. Her new book, Sexting and Cyberbullying: Defining the Line for Digitally Empowered Kids, takes a nuanced look at why kids sext, what to do about it and why the laws being used to address sexting might be creating as many problems as they solve. The McGill News recently interviewed her about the book.

*********

You originally intended for this to be an update to your 2009 book on cyberbullying. But you ended up writing a whole new book instead. What changed so dramatically in just half a decade?

A lot has changed. There was less awareness about sexting in 2009. It’s become almost commonplace now for kids to sext. I decided to focus the book on one aspect of cyberbullying rather than all of it.

In the introduction to your book, you mention that one of your doctoral students described sexting as almost a modern-day equivalent to young couples kissing in the backseat of a car at a drive-in.

Well, our research suggested that for kids between the ages of 9-12 and 13-17, [sexting] is often seen as a normalized activity. It gets more complicated, because within their social peer groups there are certain standards that have developed. For example, within a peer group it’s acceptable for a girl to send a nude picture of herself to her boyfriend. But if he breaches that trust and distributes it online, she is the one who gets blamed, not him. Suddenly, she is “slut-shamed” for doing it, supporting the scholarly literature on “slut-shaming” as being endemic in misogynist society, that also manifests among teens.

Fifty years ago, if you were kissing in the backseat of a car, it was just you and your boyfriend and the biggest risk was getting pregnant or getting caught. Whereas [with sexting], what happens is it’s a permanent record. It’s very difficult to get rid of it once it’s online, once it’s distributed, saved on people’s computers, retrieved and spread.

Legally, [social media sites] are considered to be distributors, not publishers, of this content, so they’re not legally obliged to take it down unless there’s a court order. The federal government’s Bill C-13 will allow the police to get a court order for social media sites to take [images and videos] down sooner.

Why do some young people distribute these images and videos?

The research we’ve done shows that when kids engage in sexting and the non-consensual distribution of images, they’re doing it to get attention within their peer groups. So, the criminal intent is often not there. They’re not [necessarily] doing it to hurt the other person. There is so much going on online – to get any kind of social attention and to entertain friends, kids have to be more and more outrageous as the norms and threshold for insults, sarcasm, sexism and misogyny have shifted to be more accepting of those forms of communication.

You talk about how child pornography laws are now being applied to cases of sexting. What are the factors behind that?

There are many unprecedented legal issues that emerged with sexting and cyberbullying. After the 2010 rape case in Maple Ridge [a 16-year-old girl was allegedly drugged and raped by several young men and images of the assault were posted online], the authorities started to use child pornography laws to address it. Child pornography laws were created to be applied against pedophiles who prey on children. The purpose of these laws is to protect children from being sexually exploited by adults.

But because there were no laws to address things like the distribution of rape videos or photographs taken [of children] by peers, the police started to apply child pornography laws in these instances. Anyone who is caught with these videos can be charged with possession of child pornography. That’s become common in the U.S., in Canada and even in England.

You have expressed concerns about applying these laws to cases involving young people and sexting.

What the courts in the U.S. have said is that it’s like fitting a square peg in a round hole. The laws were created to protect children and now they are being applied against children. Prosecuting alone is not the solution.

The solution is prevention. The solution is education and awareness and finding ways to get young people to understand why [sharing a private image] is most likely guaranteed to affect their reputation, and that they might be demeaned and publicly humiliated if the images are spread online. The one thing that my research has shown is that adults telling kids not to do this is not going to make any difference. You can’t be didactic about it. You’ve got to engage young people in the discussion.

Kids are very confused about intent, about consent, about ownership of online content. Should we really be putting kids in jail when they don’t realize that what they’re doing could get them in trouble?

When I testified at the House of Commons [about Bill C-13], I expressed my concerns that the bill might be overkill and that we also needed to have educational programs that made sense. I talked about how important it was to engage with kids on these issues. The only thing [the government] has addressed [with the bill] was the non-consensual distribution and giving the police more power to confiscate smartphones and computers.

How do you talk to young people about these issues?

One thing that we’ve done is engaged kids in developing video vignettes where they tell us how they would define the line in certain situations. We might give them a case study and ask them when does a situation cross the line from just joking to intentional harm. When does it become a criminal matter? We had some people come in from the National Film Board of Canada and they gave 25 kids [some training] in the morning on how to make these video vignettes and in the afternoon, the kids made some really impressive videos. It was only one day. If we could do something like that on a more long-term basis, maybe as a semester-long project, I could see kids coming up with some really amazing stuff.

You say that young people aren’t the only ones who are confused around these issues.

There is a real need for legal literacy. There’s very little legal literacy and knowledge or understanding among teachers in schools or among school administrators. What is criminal intent? What is consent? There needs to be development of courses at the teacher education level in universities, in teacher preparation programs and in professional development for teachers who are already in the system. Then also, we need to find ways of integrating legal literacy and critical media literacy for children in school curricula.

What can parents do to help their kids navigate these issues?

One example I give is about how you teach your kids to cross the road. You tell them to be careful and to look both ways because you can’t be with them all the time. You want them to carefully consider the dangers that might be coming before they cross.

It’s the same kind of thing when you teach your kids about what they post online. Tell them to really, really stop and take the time to consider what they are about to post. Could it get them in trouble? Could it get someone else in deep trouble?

RELATED READING: 

A half-hour of extra sleep helps kids to be more alert and less moody

Young children are much better at lying than their parents realize

 

Seeds of Change is bearing fruit

mer, 2015-02-18 16:59

McGill students are interning with a health and conservation centre and mobile clinic in Uganda’s Kibale National Park, one of many projects supported by the Seeds of Change crowdfunding initiative.

by Megan Martin

Only six months after launching, McGill’s new Seeds of Change crowdfunding platform has resulted in 12 fully-funded projects, and brought in $271,387 from more than 1,000 individual gifts to McGill. Put simply – it’s off to a good start.

The Seeds of Change website provides a virtual space to connect entrepreneurial McGill students working on philanthropic projects with people in the greater McGill community who want to promote the kind of generosity and growth that Seeds of Change allows for.

One of the best aspects of the platform is that it’s completely centered on students. Any student who is working on a project that reflects the University’s principles and is philanthropic in nature is welcome to apply to have their initiative posted on the site to help raise awareness and support.

“We want the platform to be viewed as a tool for students who are investing their time and energy into initiatives that make a difference on campus and throughout the world,” says McGill Annual Fund officer Melissa Forster. “We’re here to provide support to efforts that are in line with McGill’s values and help these amazing students reach their goals.”

In many ways, Seeds of Change is a catalyst, granting exposure and helping students achieve the goals they’ve set out for their philanthropic projects. Moreover, by providing participating students with access to the dynamic online platform, they’re are able to post updates throughout the duration of their campaigns, so that donors can track progress in real time; the result is an uniquely interactive experience between donors and the groups running the projects.

To date, Seeds of Change has supported a broad range of initiatives. The platform has already successfully funded projects for experiential learning and entrepreneurial experiences, mental health and wellness, and initiatives aimed at acquiring much needed equipment for a variety of faculties. The benefits of many of these projects can be felt far beyond the McGill gates, extending into the Montreal community.

For instance, one of the very first successful crowdfunding initiatives was the Strategic Planning and Community Involvement Fund, which provides support, funding, and resources for McGill medical students and student groups seeking to engage in community-based initiatives.

“SPCI is set up with a dual mission of both improving the function of the Medical Students’ Society as a student governance body, as well as empowering students in leading community initiatives,” says second-year medical student Amy Huang, the co-president of the SPCI committee. “In the past, SPCI has funded several successful initiatives such as Vitamin Sports, which organizes weekly sessions for elementary school kids to get active and be engaged in sports, as well as the Save the Mothers Walk/Run, which held its inaugural event in Montreal last May to raise funds for improving maternal and child health in developing countries.”

This year, SPCI will be funding community projects like the Indigenous Human Rights Conference and Oral Health for Veterans. The SPCI committee  has also recently started a special projects fund which is used to support initiatives that have a more academic focus, such as Global Surgery Conference and Dean and Advocacy.

Another project with a presence both on campus and within Montreal is the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) McGill Chapter initiative, which is presently active on the crowdfunding site. EWB McGill consists of teams of students aiming to make the next generation of graduates a group of conscious consumers, informed voters, socially responsible professionals and most importantly, leaders for positive change within the community.

“We have been depending on the funds raised from Seeds of Change to cover the costs of sending our selected junior fellows overseas to gain priceless experience,” says Chloe Grison, a civil engineering student and EWB McGill’s vice-president of fundraising. “The crowd funding platform this year has broadcasted our message even further while raising awareness of our campaign and EWB McGill’s other work.”

In addition to its junior fellowship program, EWB McGill hopes to expand its outreach efforts in the coming years, including its fair trade team, which works to raise support for small scale farmers and producers, and their youth engagement initiative, which addresses social issues in Montreal high schools.

The crowdfunding platform also has a slew of other initiatives up, including the Kibale project, which supports McGill students interning with a health and conservation centre and mobile clinic in Uganda’s Kibale National Park.

Forster says the Seeds of Change crowdfunding initiative appeals to donors interested in supporting causes at the grass-roots level.

“Donors are now able to give through McGill to sponsor the projects that are closest to their hearts,” says Forster. “It’s a completely new way to support students.”

For more information, visit Seeds of Change.

 

A school for spies and saboteurs

mer, 2015-02-18 11:06
by Linda Sutherland

Evelyne Brochu (left) plays Aurora Luft, one of the lead characters in X Company, the CBC’s new Second World War adventure drama. The show’s co-creator, Stephanie Morgenstern, BA’88, says Luft is “a more gutsy version of me.”

As a successful TV producer and an accomplished screen, television and stage actor, Stephanie Morgenstern, BA’88, is at ease in front of the camera and behind it. But she readily admits that she will have first-night jitters when her latest television project –  X Company – premieres on CBC on February 18.

“I’m feeling really proud of the show, but I’ve got butterflies. You can never be sure how something will be received,” says Morgenstern, who co-created the series with her longtime collaborator – and husband – Mark Ellis. So far, the show is generating a lot of positive buzz. The Globe and Mail calls it “vastly entertaining.”

This is the second television series that Morgenstern and Ellis have created. Their first, a Toronto-based police drama called Flashpoint, ran for five seasons on CTV and CBS – it became the first Canadian TV drama set in Canada to air in prime time on an American network. The show earned a pile of prizes from the Canadian Screen Awards, including being named Best Dramatic TV Series in 2013.

Their new show is a World War II adventure drama that follows five highly skilled young recruits – Canadian, American and British – who have been trained at an elite international spy school that is modelled on the real-life Camp X, the first spy training facility in North America.

A top secret paramilitary and commando training installation, located on a farm near Whitby, Ontario, Camp X was established in 1941 through the cooperative efforts of the Canadian government and the British Security Coordination (BSC), headed up by spymaster extraordinaire, Sir William Stevenson.

A Canadian from Winnipeg, Stevenson was the real-life inspiration for the character of James Bond (007 author Ian Fleming was rumoured to have been a trainee at Camp X), and a close confidant of British prime minister Winston Churchill, who instructed him to create “the clenched fist that provides the knockout blow” to the Axis powers. Camp X was one punch of that fist.

“The show is set at the point in the war where Hitler’s forces were dominating Western Europe, and there was a real fear that they would prevail,” says Morgenstern. “The Allies knew that conventional warfare alone would not be enough for victory over the Nazi regime.  What they needed were secret agents, who could be dropped into enemy territory to gather intelligence, organize the resistance, and cause chaos through any means possible.”

Camp X opened on December 6, 1941, one day before the U.S. was forced into the war by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. This established it as not just an espionage boot camp for Britain, the U.S. and Canada, but also as a key international intelligence hub. So comprehensive and effective were its programs that Camp X became the secret training ground for agents from the FBI and the Office of Strategic Services (a predecessor of the CIA).

Like the more than 500 men and women who trained at Camp X, the five agents in X Company are proficient in a wide range of espionage activities, from sabotage, subversion, and surveillance, to burglary, interrogation, close combat, and assassination. We follow them as they parachute behind enemy lines, risking capture, torture and execution as they engineer one dangerous operation after another.

X Company‘s Alfred Graves has synesthesia, a brain condition he shares with his co-creator, Morgenstern.

Much of the action centers around Alfred Graves, a vulnerable young man with synesthesia, a brain condition that cross-wires his senses. This gives him a virtually infinite memory, which proves to be a powerful secret weapon in his line of business. “In creating the character of Alfred, I wanted to explore how someone with such extreme sensual awareness could function in a stressful environment like that of Camp X,” says Morgenstern, who, a number of years ago, discovered – quite by accident – that she has a certain type of synesthesia.

Morgenstern’s interest in exploring her characters’ emotional dimensions comes naturally; her father, Gert Morgenstern, BSc’54, MDCM’58, DipPsych’65,is a highly respected child psychiatrist who studied under Jean Piaget and practiced at McGill’s Douglas Mental Health University Institute for more than 20 years.

Fighting at Alfred’s side is Aurora Luft, the show’s fierce and feisty female protagonist, who, like Morgenstern, is half Jewish-German, half French Canadian.  “I think of Aurora as being a more gutsy version of me.”

Morgenstern is certainly no shrinking violet, especially when it comes to pursuing her dreams. At the age 12 she was already involved in acting. “I was part of a children’s theatre troupe, and we wrote and scored our own plays. It was a very empowering experience – realizing that words and music could come from me,” she recalled.

By the time she attended McGill, where she majored in English, taking film and German electives, Morgenstern was juggling her classes with work on French and English television. “Among the professors whose ideas influenced me were Paisley Livingston and Michael Bristol. Their courses focused on popular culture, and – as someone involved in the entertainment industry – I was very interested in investigating the underlying theory.”

Over the years, Morgenstern has appeared in films by some of Canada’s most accomplished directors. She played Alison in Atom Egoyan’s Oscar-nominated The Sweet Hereafter and Claire, a neurotic Norwegian grad student, in Denis Villeneuve’s Maelström. On stage, Morgenstern has played ingénues and leading ladies at the Stratford Festival, the Théâtre Français de Toronto, and the Globe Theatre in Calgary.

As a filmmaker, Morgenstern has twice been nominated for a Genie Award, first for directing the short film Remembrance (on which X Company is based), which she co-wrote and co-starred in with Mark Ellis, and the other for co-directing (with her brother Mark Morgenstern) the short film Curtains/Rideaux, which she also wrote and played the lead in.

Was she ever tempted to head south of the border after Flashpoint was picked up by a US television network? “No, not at all. I don’t consider working in Canada as a stepping stone to Hollywood,” says Morgenstern. “What we have produced here has the potential of selling in the U.S., but it has a uniquely Canadian perspective – one that sets us apart. I’m proud of that.”

 

 

The professor provocateur

lun, 2015-02-16 14:53

Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies Henry Mintzberg (Photo: Owen Egan)

by Andrew Mullins

“Communism is the exploitation of man by man,” writes Henry Mintzberg, BEng’61, in his new book, Rebalancing Society, turning an old joke on its head: “Capitalism is the opposite.”

McGill’s Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies in the Desautels Faculty of Management, Mintzberg is one of the most highly regarded experts in his field and he has a long list of accolades to prove it – 15 honorary degrees, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association and the distinction of being the first scholar specializing in management studies to be named a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. That said, he’s always been something of an iconoclast as well – he is a frequent critic of MBA programs and management education, and delights in lampooning the cult of corporate leadership.

Now in this latest work ­– subtitled “Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right and Center” – he’s taking on a society that he says has been thrown out of balance, a crisis driven largely by unchecked capitalism and one which he argues is degrading our environment, our democracies and ourselves.

The book began life as a free e-pamphlet, published much in the spirit of the polemical pamphleteers of revolutionary America and France. While Mintzberg is not calling for revolution, from the opening pages, it’s clear he is not pleased with the state of our world.

“Enough of the pendulum politics of left and right,” he writes. “Enough of the economic globalization that undermines sovereign states and local communities.” There’s a sense that it’s a frustration that has been building over decades, and the book flags a historic milestone as a symbolic tipping point for what’s led us to our current state.

When the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989, those hammer strokes meant freedom to the people of East Germany and the rapid collapse of communism. Some claimed they signalled the ultimate triumph of capitalism as well. Not so fast, says Mintzberg.

“Capitalism is not good because communism proved bad. Carried to their dogmatic limits, both are fatally flawed.”

He argues that we are reaching that limit with the system of “predatory capitalism” that has steadily flourished since 1989 and is now hijacking democracy.

Who’s to blame? Mintzberg’s vision is severe as he lays out a chronicle of widespread political corruption and a system of legally sanctioned bribery driven by lobbyists, corporate social and environmental irresponsibility, emasculated government that has lost the faith of the people, and a meek populace that acts mostly out of self-interest.

Do universities shoulder any responsibility, having educated many of those who are rigging the game? “A university degree is no guarantee of ethics,” he says, even if one tries to teach ethical behaviour.

“Every school is doing it, but they think if they introduce a class in corporate social responsibility that everybody’s going to become responsible. I think that’s naïve.”

Mintzberg instead lays out the path forward through what he dubs the “plural sector” – a label used to complement “public” and “private” sectors, not just because of the logical and alliterative punch it provides, but to brush away the fuzziness of terms like “third sector” or “civil society”.

The plural sector mostly gets hidden in plain sight, the oft-forgotten wallflower of today’s political discourse. But it’s made up of a sprawling and potentially powerful network of NGOs, foundations, co-ops, unions, universities, hospitals, small community groups, and broader grassroots and global movements for social change.

For Mintzberg, it is one of three essential pillars of a rebalanced society that includes a reimagined government whose role is respected rather than denigrated, and a vibrant private sector that is not ruled by corporate avarice and the day-trading whims of shareholders.

The radical renewal he calls for must begin in this plural sector, through social movements that challenge destructive practices, “the entitlements that lie behind these practices, and the dogma used to justify these practices.” To rebalance society, he says, these targeted social movements need to steer our governments back on track.

“Governments aren’t going to do it, businesses aren’t going to do it, and people are going to have to wake up if they care about their kids and their grandchildren,” Mintzberg says.

Where to start setting things right when so much seems wrong can appear overwhelming. One finance manager friend of Mintzberg’s certainly feels that way, leading to what he calls “the Irene question”: what can I do?

The answer is a lot. You can start by changing your own behaviour: look past personal entitlements, says Mintzberg, help a neighbour, join a community group.

Others may be able to effect change working from a broader base, like Dr. Joanne Liu, MDCM’91, IMHL’14. Liu is a graduate of Mintzberg’s International Master’s in Health Leadership program and now head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) worldwide – thanks in part to the IMHL program, whose students helped build her leadership campaign. Liu and MSF were leading voices in the recent Ebola crisis, sounding the alarm against initial government inaction.

In addition to the important role such NGOs have to play, Mintzberg calls for “slingshot movements” to challenge the private sector and global corporations when they behave badly.

“David didn’t picket Goliath. Or write articles saying we really must do something about these giants. He brought down one giant.”

“I think we have to find intolerable behaviour and bring it down. And the way to bring it down is, for example, a total boycott on anything to do with that company. You do that a couple times and watch behaviours change rather dramatically.”

Another such slingshot attack Mintzberg cites is the case of Brazil taking on pharmaceutical companies over the exorbitant cost of HIV medications by threatening to break patents and manufacture the drugs themselves. Eventually the World Trade Organization conceded members should not be prevented by intellectual property rights from protecting public health. The UN Commission on Human Rights also sided with Brazil, unanimously agreeing that access to AIDS drugs were a human right, with only the U.S. abstaining from the vote.

Mintzberg has recently become active on Twitter and writes a blog that continues to explore aspects of the book and what he calls the Big Question: “How to consolidate the disparate efforts of the plural sector into a movement for radical renewal?” Next up is a MOOC he is preparing for Fall 2015 as part of McGillX called “Social Learning for Social Impact” that is intended to inspire more initiatives for social change.

He is modest about his influence but says even corporate culture is starting to pay attention. “I don’t get through to the mainstream, I’ve never been mainstream.  But I think there are a lot of people who appreciate my work – chief executives who approach me to say I really like what you’re doing.”

“I’m the tortoise against the hare. I think my stuff is gaining ground, but there’s an awful long way to go.”

 

Rebalancing Society and the original e-pamphlet are available through www.mintzberg.org. Follow Henry Mintzberg on Twitter @Mintzberg141.

For more information on the Social Learning for Social Impact MOOC, see the program site.

 

Exploring civil disobedience on the Internet

ven, 2015-02-13 16:11
by Andrew Mahon

McGill doctoral student Molly Sauter’s new book examines the use of denial-of-service actions as a form of political activism (Photo: Owen Egan)

Molly Sauter recalls the family car trips of her youth and her younger brother’s habit of getting attention by saying, over and over again, “Hey Molly! Hey Molly! Hey Molly!”

“That’s a denial-of-service action,” explains Sauter, a doctoral student in McGill’s communication studies program whose research focuses on hacker culture, digital activism, and depictions of technology in the media. “In this instance, the younger sibling plays the part of a computer program targeting me (a website) over and over again until I can’t stand it and am unable to carry on conversations with others in the car. When you have several siblings doing this simultaneously, it becomes a Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS.”

The action of targeting computer servers or websites with multiple requests until an online service is disrupted and rendered inoperable is not new (it will be readily identified by Star Trek devotees as a tactic employed by Kirk and Spock to defeat an android/server named Norman).

“DDoS is a tool,” says Sauter, “and, as such, it can be used for extortion, harassment and censorship. There are no ethical safeguards built into the tactic.”

It’s also illegal. Participating in DDoS actions in Canada can lead to stiff fines and/or prison terms.  For Sauter, it’s the history and practice of DDoS as a tool of political activism which is intriguing and forms the basis of a recent book based on her research, The Coming Swarm: DDoS, Hactivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet.

Sauter’s formal introduction to DDoS began in 2010 while she was a research assistant at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.  It was just after the granddaddy of DDoS actions: Operation Payback.  The Operation Payback chain of events went like this: WikiLeaks (along with a number of newspapers) began releasing classified documents originating from the U.S. Department of Defense; a number of financial institutions (including PayPal) then stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks; the loose-knit activist and hacker group, Anonymous, subsequently got involved and launched a number of DDoS actions against multiple websites including VISA, Paypal and Amazon.com.

“My boss told me it was my job to figure out just what was going on and how it happened,” says Sauter. “For me, that’s when DDoS got interesting.”

The history of DDoS spans at least two decades and the list of DDoSers includes individuals, groups, and governments. One of the first instances was the Strano Network Net Strike in 1995 which involved an Italian activist group (Strano) attacking the website of a French nuclear power company.  Since then there have been many DDoS actions against diverse targets including the online host of a Basque publication (in 1997), the World Trade Organization (WTO) websites during the globalization protests in 1999, and Lufthansa’s website homepage in 2001 (because of the airline’s role in the transportation of deported immigrants from Germany).

The common thread in these actions is the intentional disruption of commerce or business activities, a necessary and contentious facet of DDoS.

“People don’t like being disrupted,” says Sauter. “That’s understandable but it’s also what makes the tactic effective and powerful.”

Though DDoS is relatively novel, Sauter contends that its use as a tactic of civil disobedience fits within a centuries-long tradition of breaking laws and disrupting “business as usual” to make a point. It’s a tradition which includes the U.S. Civil Rights movement, anti-Vietnam War protests and even the Suffragette movement of the late 19th and early 20th century.

“If you compare some DDoS actions with tactics employed by Suffragettes, the reactions are not that different,” say Sauter. “One Suffragette in England interrupted the Epsom Derby by trying to attach a flag to a horse belonging to King George V. In the U.S., women chained themselves to the railings of the White House. Many people did not understand why women were doing these things, but Suffragettes engaged in those disruptive actions because they did not have a voice.”

In the same way, DDoS is often employed because it’s viewed as the only way to get an issue on the public agenda.  And, as with traditional acts of civil disobedience, DDoS actions are often accompanied by a larger campaign of activities (videos, social media, public relations, traditional protests etc.).

As for the future of DDoS, Sauter believes the tactic has a limited role and probably a limited lifespan.

“This will stay a fringe tactic because it’s illegal,” she says.  “I think DDoS will decline in popularity as a political tactic, but I believe it will remain as a low bar of entry for participation in political action online and civil disobedience.”

RELATED READING:

Uncovering the many faces of Anonymous

 

Windows to the past

ven, 2015-02-13 13:05
by Linda Sutherland

McGill’s Hosmer Collection of pre-modern stained glass windows is the largest of its kind in Canada and the subject of a new book published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. (Photo: Owen Egan)

A new, lavishly illustrated book, The Stained Glass of the Hosmer Collection, McGill University, sheds light on one of McGill’s artistic treasures – a priceless collection of antique stained glass that is displayed in the Macdonald-Harrington Building, home to the School of Architecture and the School of Urban Planning.

The catalogue raisonné is the culmination of 39 years of scholarship by co-authors Ariane Isler-De Jongh and James Bugslag, and the first of three volumes exploring the history of stained glass in Canada. It is both an academic treatise on this important collection – the largest grouping of medieval stained glass in Canada – and a fascinating piece of scholarly detective work on the provenance of each of the 39 small-scale hand-painted medallions, most dating back the 16th and 17th centuries.

“King Herod and the Magi” dates back to the mid-17th century (Photo: Owen Egan)

“It is fitting that the Hosmer Collection should have found a home in a [School] of Architecture, since stained glass is a quintessentially architectural art – made to be installed in buildings,” said Bugslag, one of Canada’s most respected stained glass experts.

Originally created by various glass painters in present-day Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, the works were removed from their original locations towards the end of the 18th century, when a revived interest in decorative stained glass created a new market for them. Many were acquired by dealers and sold to wealthy art lovers. By the end of the 19th century this practice had crossed the Atlantic, where it became fashionable for architects to install antique glass in the homes of prosperous nouveaux riches clients.

The stained glass works in the Hosmer Collection were purchased from a London art dealer by Edward Maxwell, one of Canada’s most renowned architects, who, in partnership with his brother William, was responsible for such Montreal landmarks as Windsor Station and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  The Maxwell brothers also designed more than 30 magnificent mansions in the city’s most elite enclave of the time – the Golden Square Mile.

In 1901, Maxwell installed the works of stained glass in the mansion he built for Charles Rudolph Hosmer, one of the wealthiest inhabitants of this prestigious residential area. With its early Renaissance style exterior, made from imported red sandstone, and its sumptuously decorated interior, Hosmer House – located at 3630 upper Drummond St. (now Promenade Sir William Osler) – was considered the most flamboyant of the Maxwells’ grand city mansions, and a particularly ostentatious example of the style made fashionable by the Billionaire District of New York during the 1890s.

The centerpiece of the home’s Gothic-style dining room was a large triple window with transom featuring leaded glass into which some of the antique glass roundels had been placed. The remaining pieces of glass were incorporated into three windows overlooking the grand staircase.

Following Hosmer’s death in 1927, the mansion remained in the family until 1969, when it was bequeathed to McGill. Its formerly grand and lavishly decorated interiors were emptied and converted into classrooms for the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy. The windows in the dining room and staircase remained in place, largely because their value was by then long forgotten.

It was only in 1976 that the historical and artistic significance of this pre-modern stained glass was recognized. The discovery – initially met with skepticism – was made by Ariane Isler-de Jongh, a graduate student in art history at l’Université de Montréal, when she was touring Hosmer House with the Women Associates of McGill.

“The Resurrection of Christ” from the early 17th century (Photo: Owen Egan)

When her findings – which provide the scholarly foundation for this book – were made public two years later, an article in the McGill Reporter (25 January 1978) stated that: “the 39 medallions [were] apparently unnoticed for at least 75 years before someone pointed out that they were not just a conventional assortment of old coloured pieces of glass.”

Following their discovery, concern over the panels’ security was raised and they were removed for safekeeping. In 1987, after being conserved and restored, the glass panels were installed in various locations on the second, third and fourth floors of the Macdonald-Harrington Building. The most impressive of these is at the end of a third floor corridor, where the dining room window from Hosmer House is displayed in a back-lit cabinet.

“Art means a great deal to many of us at McGill,” says Wendy Owens, the director of McGill’s Visual Arts Collection. “Instead of being housed in a museum, this unique stained glass collection and the University’s thousands of art works – including paintings, prints, sculpture and drawings – are displayed across our two campuses, where they can be easily seen and appreciated by students, staff, alumni and visitors. McGill is a museum without walls.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

RELATED READING:

McGill’s public art collection is a feast for the eyes

Discover the McGill buildings that never were

 

A tale of two James McGills

jeu, 2015-02-12 16:23
by Andrew Mahon

Our James McGill

The name James McGill is synonymous with the famous trader, pioneer and philanthropist whose vision led to the creation of McGill University in 1821. However, the premiere of the Breaking Bad spin-off series, Better Call Saul — which became the highest-rated cable debut in US TV history featured another, somewhat less distinguished James “Jimmy” McGill (aka Saul Goodman).  In the interests of avoiding any confusion between the two McGills, we thought we’d offer our readers these useful tips to help them tell the two apart.

James McGill

Displayed a lifelong love of new ideas and studied at Glasgow University although he left university without completing a degree (likely due to his family’s poor fortunes).

James “Jimmy” McGill

Displayed a master of arts degree in political science from the University of American Samoa (an institution which does not exist).

James McGill

Established himself in North America and entered the rough-and-tumble world of the fur trade.

James “Jimmy” McGill

Established himself in a strip mall and entered the rough-and-tumble world of criminal law.

James McGill

Spent several years in almost constant danger, navigating the rivers and lakes of the Great Lakes frontier.

James “Jimmy” McGill

Spent several years in almost constant danger, navigating the drug dealers and kingpins of the criminal underworld.

James McGill

Settled in Montreal, Canada.

James “Jimmy” McGill

Settled in Omaha, Nebraska.

James McGill

He was a volunteer colonel with the Montreal militia, he led the defense of Montreal during the War of 1812. He served as a city magistrate for many years, making him part of a council that was the de facto government of Montreal at the time. He was also a member of a committee that reported on the need for a Legislative Assembly for the colony of Lower Canada, to which he would be elected three times.

James “Jimmy” McGill

He was a Cinnabon manager.

James McGill

His legacy was a bequest to the Royal Institute for the Advancement of Learning (RIAL) for the founding of a college which became the governing body for McGill College, which was officially established in 1821.

James “Jimmy” McGill

James “Jimmy” McGill

His legacy was a loan-out corporation called Ice Station Zebra Associates which was “totally legit.”

James McGill

Famous motto: Grandescunt Aucta Labore

(By work, all things increase and grow)

James “Jimmy” McGill

Famous motto: “Better call Saul!”

(Better call Saul!)

 

RELATED READING:

Make-believe McGillians: Meet some fictitious McGill grads who have turned up in books, on TV and in film.

 

How rethinking the food chain can thwart Ebola

mer, 2015-02-04 13:30
by Louise Fabiani, BSc’80

One of the factors involved in the spread of the deadly Ebola virus is its ability to move from one species to another (Image: Istockphoto)

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 60 per cent of all human pathogens can be classified as zoonoses: bacteria, viruses, and other parasites that are transmitted from nonhuman animals to people. These include common childhood diseases like measles and chicken pox, as well as anthrax, rabies, SARS, malaria, toxoplasmosis, and TB. Furthermore, zoonoses comprise 75 per cent of all emerging infections. West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, and HIV are some infamous examples.

According to recent research, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has caused almost 9,000 deaths so far, might have originated with insect-eating bats in Guinea. Scientists have long speculated that bats serve as Ebola’s reservoir—that is, the animal that maintains the virus in the ecosystem—with the disease spreading from reservoir (e.g., bat) to intermediary host (e.g., chimpanzee) to humans.

There is no doubt about the link between the deadly virus and indigenous wildlife, especially the nonhuman primates that are hunted in many African countries. The epidemiology of Ebola, like so many zoonoses, tells a complex tale of poverty, ravaged forests, slaughtered wildlife, insufficient health care, and tremendous misinformation.

Colin Chapman, McGill’s Canada Research Chair in Primate Ecology and Conservation, studies zoonoses and ecosystem health in Africa. His focus is on the great apes and monkeys of Uganda’s Kibale National Park, where he has worked for the past 25 years. In addition to his research projects with nonhuman primates, he has set up a clinic that is funded by McGill students and a mobile clinic (a modified ambulance shipped from Canada) that travels around the park. The best way to stop the spread of Ebola, he says, no matter where it arises, is to use mobile clinics to treat affected patients in their villages. The key is “diagnosing those people early, and thus containing the disease at the boundaries of parks, rather than having people getting [it and] saying, ‘I’m sick, I have to go to the capital city.’” Once infected individuals enter high-density areas, the virus has a much easier time finding new victims.

Screening at airports may make foreigners feel better, but it has little proven benefit.

To prevent the next pandemic, what’s desperately needed is the “one health” system Chapman espouses: “the health of people, the environment, and animals” studied together.

In this highly specialized world, it is a formidable challenge to coordinate seemingly disparate disciplines—including biology, anthropology, epidemiology, and virology—for a common cause, let alone to promote the idea that the human realm and the natural one are contiguous. But it has to be part of the next paradigm shift.

Chapman said that merely “reacting” to each crisis then “fixing” the transmission route will never work in the longer term. We need a predictive model, one that nips the problem in the bud, or prevents it from happening in the first place. That means employing ecological principles, as he outlined in a 2014 paper in Evolutionary Applications. Local people can be part of the ecosystem, not unnatural impositions on it.

At the same time, they also unwittingly tear the food web, allowing animal diseases to jump the species barrier previously kept in check by impenetrable forests or relatively low human population. The chain of Ebola transmission can start when someone handles fresh bushmeat (wild animals killed for human consumption), primarily local chimpanzees, which also get sick and die from the virus. Among Africans, bushmeat is more a cultural commodity than a source of sustenance, perhaps explaining its continued appeal to emigrants. It is exported—in tons annually—to places like Paris and New York, as luxury meat for expats. So we have “the legitimate right to close it down” says Chapman. “It’s… eaten by the rich: …people [who] don’t need the protein.”

Chapman warns that Ebola and related zoonoses will continue to flare up unless we address this issue.

The good news, says Chapman, is that the 2014 epidemic is making us more aware of the extent of the bushmeat trade. It is also forcing us to take emerging diseases more seriously.

Although we will eventually contain this outbreak, “it’s going to erupt again,” he says. “Let’s use this as a warning.”

 

Exhibition spotlights art icon’s sketchy past

mar, 2015-01-20 16:10

One of the sketches by Group of Seven co-founder and former architecture professor Arthur Lismer currently being exhibited in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room.

by Andrew Mahon

As exhibitions go, the items being displayed might strike some as curious – seven pieces of Faculty Club stationery, three napkins, an old library slip and a lecture program from 1949-1950.  However, these particular scraps of paper served as mini-canvases for Arthur Lismer, a faculty member at the School of Architecture in the forties and fifties who was also one of the most famous painters Canada has ever produced.

A founding member of the fabled Group of Seven, Lismer’s unique style and his depictions of scenes from the Maritimes and Georgian Bay are celebrated in museums across the country.  Lismer was also an accomplished McGillian. He joined the School of Architecture as a sessional lecturer in 1943 at the invitation of John Bland, the school’s director, and was appointed assistant professor in 1945. He taught the “History of Art and Theory of Design” and “Freehand Drawing” and led the Sketching School with Gordon Webber before retiring from the University in 1955.

During his time at McGill, Lismer was a keen observer of life on campus and recorded his astute – and often amusing –  impressions in the form of casual sketches. When McGill acquired one of these quirky works (an ink drawing on a framed napkin) last year, it was the cue for the McGill Library to take stock of the University’s existing collection of Lismer sketches and that, in turn, led to the preparation of the exhibition by assistant librarian Jennifer Garland, MLIS’07.

“Rare Books and Special Collections holds some 30 sketches from Lismer’s tenure at the University and into his retirement,” says Garland. “Many of the pieces depict campus life and capture aspects of McGill at a particular time in its history.”

Since opening in November 2014, the Lismer exhibition has attracted a diverse audience and resonates with many alumni.

“One visitor to the exhibition was a student of Lismer and was delighted to see his work,” says Garland. “He recalled Lismer as having a wry sense of humour and a real presence. Another visitor said that her family has one of his napkin sketches framed at home.”

Many of the sketches were made while Lismer dined at the Faculty Club, one of his regular haunts. They are the Instagrams of his day, rapid-fire renditions of fellow professors, campus locations and hot topics. There is a Parisian café-like sketch of the proposed library terrace and a depiction of a stained glass window in Redpath Hall.  The ‘new’ library tunnel generated two sketches. On one sketch [1953-1955], a sardonic annotation has been added: “we were talking about the new library tunnel and its misuses. If heads must roll, why not roll them in this tunnel?”

“A lot of the drawings are annotated, we believe, by Richard Pennington [University librarian, 1947-1964], to provide context for the conversation that inspired the drawing, and to identify the subjects in the portraits,” says Garland.

The same Pennington apparently objected to a fern-like plant which had been placed in the Faculty Club. In response, Lismer sketched an alternative, if somewhat racy, use for the plant (hint: think Benny Hill).

While the exhibition offers a selection of Lismer’s work, additional McGill sketches of and by Lismer hang in the Faculty Club. These are part of the McGill Visual Arts Collection, which also holds several Lismer paintings. Caricatures drawn on the plaster walls of the Arts Building East Wing, before renovations, are also documented in the McGill Archives. Garland says that the Library would like to continue researching Lismer’s McGill years and is considering creating a digital exhibition to be viewed online.

*****

‘Arthur Lismer’s McGill Sketchbook’ is on view in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room, 4th floor, 3459 rue McTavish Montreal, until 1 March, 2015.  The Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room is open Mondays – Fridays, 10am to 6pm.

 

Another date with the Academy

mar, 2015-01-20 13:30

A scene from Torill Kove’s Oscar-nominated Me and My Moulton

by Daniel McCabe, BA’89

Oscar voters obviously have a soft spot for the gentle, quirky charms of Torill Kove’s films. Kove, MUP’89, recently scored another Academy Award nomination, as Me and My Moulton made the shortlist for Best Short Film (Animated). It’s the third Oscar nomination in that category for the Norwegian-born, Montreal-based Kove – her previous film, The Danish Poet, won the Oscar in 2007.

Schulich School of Music jazz studies professor Kevin Dean is a big fan of Kove’s work. “I think her stories are very emotionally rich and her drawing style [is] quite unique and beautiful.” He isn’t exactly unbiased in his appraisal – Kove is his wife and Dean supplies the musical scores for her celebrated films.

“It’s very convenient having the composer living under the same roof,” says Kove. “It’s very practical to be able to bounce ideas off each other about what might work. I really enjoy working with him. He just gets me.”

Filmmaker Torill Kove (Photo by Ida Meyn)

One of Canada’s top jazz trumpeters, Dean says his collaborations with Kove provide “a nice challenge and a change from what I usually do.” Me and My Moulton draws its inspiration from Kove’s childhood in Norway. “In this case, she was quite specific,” says Dean. “She wanted music similar to the music that was playing in Norway in the sixties. Her father really liked Hammond organist Jimmy Smith and played his records a lot. Since I play a bit of organ, it was easy to use the Hammond as a sort of soundscape focal point – and easy to write a few things and run them by her to see what she liked. Overall, I just try to write music that enhances the mood without being intrusive.”

“The film definitely has autobiographical elements,” acknowledges Kove. Me and My Moulton focuses on a young girl and her (and her sisters’) desire for a bike, her occasional exasperation with her loving, but unconventional parents, and the realization that the seemingly perfect lives of her neighbours aren’t so perfect after all. One of the film’s funniest sequences involves the sisters repeatedly tumbling off the family’s stylish, but tippy chairs.

“We really did fall off chairs, I did wish we had a stay-at-home mom and I was embarrassed by my father’s moustache,” says Kove of some of the film’s plot points. Her frustrated young narrator declares, “Ten thousand men in our town, one single moustache – and it has to be on my dad.” Were moustaches really so rare in Kove’s Norwegian neighbourhood?

“Oh, yes,” confirms Kove. “I clearly remember events at my school and as my dad was coming down the street, boys would be gathered at the windows, saying, ‘He is there! The guy with the moustache!’”

Producer Lise Fearnley has worked with Kove on the animator’s last two films, including Me and My Moulton. “She has a very warm sense of humour and her stories always have many layers,” says Fearnley.

Kove studied urban planning at McGill in the eighties. “What you learn in urban planning is how to have an interdisciplinary approach to your work, how to collaborate with other people and how to think in big pictures. I only worked in urban planning for a short time, but I feel I use those skills every day.”

While the Oscar attention is nice, Kove says the real pleasure in being an animator comes from doing her work. “You get to build your own world. It takes a long time to get a film finished, but you get to build a bit of it every day and that’s very gratifying. I also really enjoy the collaborative aspect to it.”

Kove has worked with the National Film Board of Canada on her three Oscar-nominated films and she is grateful to have the NFB supporting her efforts.

“The NFB doesn’t have a mandate to make a huge profit, so it’s possible to do some risk-taking. It can be a very different experience when you’re working with producers whose livelihoods depend on the productions doing well [financially].”

Kove’s films tend to straightforward. “I like to be clear. Some animated filmmakers challenge their audiences with a more obscure approach and that’s a legitimate way to go. There are many movies made in Montreal, at the NFB and elsewhere, that do different things with a more abstract approach, an almost impressionistic non-narrative approach. Those films don’t typically get noticed at the Oscars, but I want to wave the flag for them because [filmmakers] all learn a lot of lessons from them.”

She says she is looking forward to some of the more unheralded aspects to the Oscar ceremonies next month. “There is a tour for the animators. We all drive around in a van and go off to Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks. It’s an opportunity to meet the animators working in those places. There is another event organized by the Academy where all the nominated short films are screened and I’ll get to meet the other nominees.”

Dean muses about Oscar encounters of a different sort. “I remember standing shoulder-to-shoulder [in the men's washroom] with Michael Caine the last time Torill was nominated. It is always fun when one runs into the famous or infamous in that situation, and it’s a good story for the relatives back in Iowa.”

RELATED READING:

And the Oscar goes to… Torill Kove, MUP’89, for The Danish Poet.

Meet five McGill graduates with the most important behind-the-scenes jobs in the film industry–producers

 

The economy and the environment: Do we have to choose?

lun, 2015-01-19 13:20

Associate professor of economics Christopher Ragan chairs Canada’s new Ecofiscal Commission (Photo: Owen Egan)

As a former adviser to both the Canadian finance minister and the governor of the Bank of Canada, McGill associate professor of economics Chris Ragan is no stranger to government policy. As the chair of Canada’s new Ecofiscal Commission, his next challenge will be to influence policy in an era of growing environmental challenges.

The commission was officially launched in November, boasting a group of 11 top economists from across the country and an advisory board that includes a former prime minister (Paul Martin) three former premiers (Jean Charest, Mike Harcourt and Bob Rae) and a former leader of the official opposition (Preston Manning).

The group’s funding comes from private donors — which should safeguard it from the fate of some Royal Commissions which were summarily shelved, with their reports gathering dust on those proverbial shelves. The commission is not beholden to any government, but it is committed, over the next six years, to providing practical solutions to many of the ecological and pollution problems faced by governments across Canada. They plan to release a new report roughly every four months.

The commission’s first report, on carbon pricing, has already spurred considerable reaction and debate from many sides of the political fence.

McGill News contributer Sylvain Comeau recently sat down with Ragan to get the scoop on the new commission.

Can you define the term ecofiscal?

Ecofiscal policies are those which can improve the economy and the environment at the same time. [For example] we are talking about pricing various kinds of pollution, and then recycling these revenues back into the economy, to generate further economic benefits.

Our biggest obstacle is confronting the mindset that you can’t have a better economy and a better environment at the same time. If there is a single idea that has brought our members together, it’s the idea that we can do better, both economically and environmentally, through ecofiscal policies.

There are fiscal structures, at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels, that are pushing us in the wrong direction. They don’t attach a price to pollution, so they are effectively encouraging pollution. But they do tax income, profits and innovation — even though we want more of these things, not less.

We need to correct this imbalance, rejigging the fiscal structure, so that we discourage pollution and encourage what we want.

So we need to move away from the notion that the economy and the environment are always in conflict? Is that a myth?

Yes, it is a popular myth. But increasing evidence suggests that there is no tradeoff between the two; a healthy and clean environment is a foundation for a strong economy. Canadians are starting to recognize that there are massive economic costs associated with damage to the environment.

Here is just one estimate, from the Canadian Medical Association: over the next 20 years, the health costs from air pollutants alone will be over $200 billion dollars. That doesn’t even count the cost of lost productivity from people who can’t go to work because they are sick, or the cost of cleaning up the environment.

Ecofiscal policies aim to reduce this environmental damage, as well as the resultant economic costs.

There are a lot of big names on the commission. Is that to raise the profile of the group, or because they have a lot to contribute?

We have 14 exceptional Canadians on our advisory board. They are from business, civil society, environmental groups, and from across the political spectrum. They can offer advice from their regions, from their different perspectives, and, yes, also raise our profile.

But, because they span the Canadian space, they also help convey the message that ecofiscal reform is something that all Canadians can get behind. This is not about Conservatives versus Liberals, business vs. labour, right vs. left or east vs. west. This is about sensible policy.

There are 11 economists in the group. Twenty or 30 years ago, would economists have paid this much attention to environmental protection?

I don’t think that a group of economists would have done this 30 years ago. That reflects the changing viewpoint over time, and the fact that, decades ago, we had fewer environmental challenges.

It’s really important that this commission be driven by economists; it’s not just the message, but the messengers. When a group of very experienced, policy-savvy economists stand up and say ‘good environmental policy is actually good for the economy’, hopefully people will pay attention.

Your first report, in November, was about carbon pricing. In many media and Internet reactions to the report, people were saying that the commission is calling for carbon taxes. What’s the difference between carbon pricing and carbon taxes?

Carbon pricing means that a price is attached to the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. That price can be created through a tax, through a cap and trade system (in which greenhouse gas emitting companies must buy credits from the government, with the funds funneled into green technology) or a hybrid of the two. So it doesn’t have to be accomplished through a tax. And when we write our reports on carbon, we will address the pros and cons of different pricing mechanisms.

Our commission is directed at pollution pricing in general, which includes carbon, but also includes many other kinds of pollution. However, the media focused pretty quickly on carbon. That’s just the nature of the public debate today. I keep reminding people that there are a lot of environmental challenges which have nothing to do with carbon. We want to address those as well.

Why are some Canadians so opposed to carbon taxes or pricing? Do they see it as adding to their tax burden?

One of the key points of the ecofiscal approach is that we are not advocating an overall increase in the tax burden, nor in the scale of government. I would argue that most opponents of pollution pricing would change their minds if they saw their personal income tax lowered accordingly. Then what do you do with the revenues generated by pollution pricing? You can lower taxes, you can give the money back to families, or you can finance critical infrastructure upgrades. That’s a central part of ecofiscal reform.

We feel that Canadians shouldn’t be indifferent to how our governments raise revenues. Compared to income or payroll taxes, pricing pollution is far less damaging to the economy. If we replace income tax revenue with pollution pricing revenue, we can maintain the current size of the government while changing behaviour quite markedly. We would provide incentives for companies to pollute less, and invest in green technology. We would also gain economic benefits from the reduction of personal income tax.

Besides carbon, the commission is planning to tackle issues such as municipal waste, traffic congestion, and air and water quality. Can you tell us about some of these?

We will be viewing these through the lens of ecofiscal policies. Water use is a good example. Under the current system, you pay a flat fee for water use, and then use as much water as you want. An ecofiscal view would say that this encourages a tremendous amount of waste. Why not price it per litre or 100 litres of water, and then reduce city taxes? Some cities have tried this and found, unsurprisingly, that people will conserve much more water.

So ecofiscal policies are incentives-based.

Yes, and they have become necessary because of the increasing scarcity of resources. Look at the example of traffic congestion. Sometimes we get 90-minute traffic jams in Toronto or Montreal. What is the scarce resource?  Road space. And when people are spending enormous amounts of time white-knuckling it in their cars, that’s a massive economic cost.

The ecofiscal solution is road pricing. London, England introduced road pricing in its high traffic congestion zone, in the middle of the city. If you drive there, you have to pay. What happened? Traffic in that area dropped dramatically.

I think Canada is actually behind many other countries, in terms of ecofiscal policies. Singapore introduced water pricing, with the money being redistributed to the lowest income households. Denmark introduced carbon pricing as an overall reform of their tax system.

Are there many hurdles to overcome before ecofiscal policies can become commonplace in Canada?

People think there are lots of obstacles, and that it will be controversial. But this is not the first time Canadians have come together to debate controversial policy decisions. For example, the creation of public health care in the sixties and seventies, the Canada Pension Plan in the sixties, and Free Trade in the eighties. The latest battle, in the nineties, was over deficit reduction.

Today, all of these are viewed as essential parts of our policy landscape.

Ecofiscal reform is the next great policy opportunity. It will be controversial, and that’s okay. But I think there are a lot of potential benefits, and it’s time we started the discussion.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

RELATED READING

Quebec finance minister Carlos Leitao, BA’79, faces tough choices.

Economics professor Tom Naylor is not afraid to court controversy.

 

How Samir became Sugar Sammy

mer, 2015-01-14 17:14
by Brendan Kelly, BA’85

He is still one course shy of completing his McGill degree in cultural studies, but Samir Khullar did pick up a new nickname while he was at McGill. It seems to be working out for him.

McGill can take some small credit for its role in the Sugar Sammy phenomenon. The Montreal stand-up comic, who has shaken up the cultural milieu with his bilingual wisecracking, actually began his entertainment career while he was a cultural studies student at McGill in the late nineties. It was during his McGill studies that Samir Khullar picked up the moniker ‘Sugar Sammy.’

Though he never finished the degree — he says he is still one course shy of graduating — Sammy enjoyed his time at McGill. “I loved it. I had so many friends there. It was a great experience. I feel like going back some day, maybe to do an executive MBA when I have time. Right now I have zero time to do this.”

When he was at McGill, the way he paid for his expenses was by throwing parties at clubs on St. Laurent Blvd. and his target market was McGill students. So he’d spread the word about the parties in the McGill Ghetto and on the downtown campus. Some of Sammy’s earliest comedy routines made their debuts at these parties.

“This was before the Internet,” says Sammy. “So there were posters. There were flyers. There was word-of-mouth. There were different groups I was part of. I was part of this fraternity. When I invited the girls from school, I used to let them in for free and have them drink for free and take care of them, and they’d all keep coming back to my parties and they gave me the nickname ‘Sugar Sammy.’” The name stuck.  “It’s a good move [to let the women in for free] because the guys will pay whatever.”

The parties proved to be profitable. “I paid my tuition and then some. Instead of going out and protesting student fees, I was like – ‘Why don’t I find my own way?’ And it helped me find out how to produce my own shows.”

That indie do-it-yourself approach helped Sammy when he started up the absurdly-popular “You’re Gonna Rire” show. He pitched the idea of a bilingual comedy show to promoters and without exception, all the established players in the laughs biz told him it would never fly, that neither francophones nor anglophones were ready for a stand-up gig half in the language of Deschamps and half in the language of Seinfeld.

So Sammy set up his own company, Sugarnation, and did it himself, with the Canadiens-owned promoter Evenko eventually partnering with him.

The industry players were so wrong. Since it debuted at the Olympia Theatre in February, 2012, Sammy has been packing the 1,300-capacity hall on St. Catherine St. East ever since. He has sold 285,000 tickets, for the bilingual “You’re Gonna Rire” and the all-French “En français svp!” In the spring of last year, American trade newspaper Billboard reported that Sugar Sammy was the top-grossing domestic artist in Canada over the past 12 months, outselling artists like Billy Talent and Blue Rodeo.

But it’s not just about ticket sales. Sammy, as much as anyone, represents the changing face of Quebec, literally and figuratively. Due to Bill 101, this Côte-des-Neiges product of Indian origins was forced to go to French school, which is why he’s fluently bilingual, and though he is an unabashed federalist who loves to skewer hardcore Quebec nationalists, Sammy is proud to be the poster boy for the society created by Bill 101. He didn’t grow up in the same world as the anglophones and francophones of the pre-Bill-101 era who lived in entirely separate communities and all-too-often looked at each other with suspicion.

That new reality is a big part of his comedy.

“I love the fact that people are saying [my show] is a good example of [the post Bill 101 reality] because you actually see anglophones and francophones hanging out together in one room and being interested in the same things,” says Sammy. “Maybe we’re forming a common culture together that was pretty split-up before. On the other hand, because I’m doing this, some people are accusing me of being a threat to Québécois culture because I no longer see Quebec as being [simply] white francophone. I think it’s part of the richness of this society that we have and we have to appreciate it rather than seeing it as a threat.

“What I communicate in my shows is who I am and how I grew up. I’m just being honest. I’m not trying to change Quebec for the worse. I’m trying to represent who I am. And people appreciate seeing something different on TV and on stage. Comedians are like the anthropologists of society. We look at society and we report back to our audience about it in a funny way. I feel there’s a benefit to being bilingual and multilingual.”

Some still see Sammy as a confrontational figure. Just look at the furor in some of the French media following his recent advertising campaign that included provocative ads in the metro featuring prominent English text — basically pleading for someone to file a complaint with the Office de la langue française. (Someone did.) But on the flip side, Ces gars-là, the TV comedy he created with filmmaker Simon Olivier Fecteau, was a big hit on the V network and, in what was a first for the French-language TV milieu ici, was popular with both anglo and franco audiences. The concept of the show is to generate laughs via the cross-cultural tension created by this duo made up of a bilingual guy of Indian origin and a white francophone.

“It’s no longer francophones versus anglophones,” said Sammy. “There are still some people hanging on to keeping the two sides apart. But I’m not part of that.”

“You’re Gonna Rire” continues at the Olympia Theatre, while the second season of Ces gars-là will premiere on V on February 9.

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You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Comedian Ophira Eisenberg, BA’95, did a lot more than just kissing.

A pair of McGillians play crucial roles on the frank and funny TV series Mohawk Girls

 

In memoriam – Fall/Winter 2014

mar, 2015-01-13 17:34

1930s

ANNA TRITT SILVER, BA’32,
at Montreal, on June 19, 2014.

MARGARET MCKAY SHELDON, BA’33,
at Rutland, Ver., on May 19, 2014.

WILLIAM MAXWELL TAIT, BA’34, MDCM’39,
at Vancouver, B.C., on July 28, 1998.

GEORGE GREMPLE HART, BSc’39, MDCM’41,
at Lake Placid, N.Y., on May 13, 2014.

B. SEYMOUR RABINOVITCH, BSc’39, PhD’42,
at Seattle, Wash., on August 2, 2014.

1940s

KERR LACHLAN WHITE, BA’40, MDCM’49,
at Charlottesville, Va., on July 22, 2014.

JACK GOTTHEIL, BA’41,
at Montreal, on September 26, 2014.

STELLA HAMILTON, BA’41,
at Toronto, on April 12, 2014.

THOMAS L. CHOWN, BCom’42,
at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., on May 20, 2014.

MARGARET PATRICIA DAVIES, BA’42,
at Ottawa, on July 15, 2014.

ANGELA BURKE-KERRIGAN, BA’42,
at Knowlton, Que., on September 30, 2014.

CHARLES G. RAND, MDCM’42, DipTropMed’50,
at Kitchener, Ont., on May 1, 2014.

DONALD W. TULLY, BSc’43,
at West Vancouver, B.C., on May 29, 2014.

 

Gerald Hatch (left), BEng’44, DSc’90, had a rare combination of skills. Blessed with an inventive mind, he had a PhD from MIT and several patents to his name. He was also able to take in the big picture and understand the many varied challenges involved in launching major engineering projects. Starting with just five employees, his engineering consulting business grew into a prosperous company with an international reach, employing more than 12,000 staff in 65 offices on six continents. An inductee of both the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame and the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, Hatch was a generous philanthropist, donating more than $5.8 million to support research, scholarships and graduate fellowships at McGill, mostly in the Faculty of Engineering.  He died on June 9 in Toronto.

ROLF DUSCHENES, BArch’45,
at Saint John, N.B., on June 23, 2014.

MERRILL E. NESSETH, BSc’45, MDCM’47,
at Windsor, Ont., on October 24, 2014.

IVAN M. SPEAR, MDCM’45,
at Worcester, Mass., on October 18, 2014.

JANET ELDER, BA’46, BLS’47,
at Montreal, on July 8, 2014.

HENRY M. MARCOVITZ, BCom’46,
at Montreal, on October 7, 2014.

ROBERT A. MACBETH, MSc’47,
on June 17, 2014.

DONALD A. REDMOND, BLS’47,
at Kingston, Ont., on October 22, 2014.

 

Before attending university, William Tetley, BA’48, served as a midshipman with the Royal Canadian Navy. The sea would also play a major role in his academic career as he became a world-renowned authority on maritime law. One of his books, Marine Cargo Claims IV Ed., received the Canadian Bar Association’s Walter S. Owen Book Prize for the best book in law in the English language. A former chair of the International Maritime Arbitration Organization, he also served as a cabinet minister in the Quebec government from 1970 to 1976 and introduced the province’s first consumer protection act. A professor of law at McGill since 1976, Tetley received his Faculty’s F.R. Scott Award for Distinguished Contribution in recognition of his many achievements. He died on July 1, in Montreal.

J. GORDON BARRINGTON, BA’48
at Murrieta, Calif., on April 8, 2011.

ROY V. JACKSON, BCL’48,
at Wilmington, Del., on September 3, 2014.

MARY PATRICIA O’NEILL, BLS’48, MLS’69,
at Halifax, N.S., on October 5, 2014.

SYLVIA ONESTI RICHARDSON, MDCM’48,
at Tampa, Fla., on October 24, 2014.

LLOYD GEORGE STEPHENS-NEWSHAM, PhD’48,
at Toronto, on July 29, 2014.

RICHARD TREMAINE, BSc’48,
at Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., on September 20, 2014.

GERARD MICHEL BOISSONNEAULT, BEng’49,
at Ottawa, on October 11, 2014.

REV. FRANK P. GILMORE, BA’49, BD’52,
at Kirkland, Que., on June 12, 2014.

BERNARD LANG, BEng’49, MEng’53,
at Montreal, on June 12, 2014.

ROLAND LOISELLE, BSc(Arg)’49, MSc’51,
at Navan, Ont., on April 22, 2014.

ELIZABETH DOREEN LOOSMORE, BSc’49,
at Victoria, B.C., on February 9, 2014.

SYDNEY PHILLIPS, BCL’49,
at Toronto, on November 12, 2013.

NATHAN STOLOW, BSc’49,
at Williamsburg, VA, on October 28, 2014.

1950s

JOHN B. CLAXTON, BCL’50,
at Montreal, on October 12, 2014.

MARY SKELTON LANDRY, BA’50,
at Montreal, on May 5, 2014.

HARDING E. BISHOP, BSc’51,
at Toronto, on August 8, 2014.

PETER W. CASE, BSc(Agr)’51,
at Stratford, Ont., on July 17, 2014.

FRANK FREDERICK HUBSCHER, BCL’51, LLM’53,
at Laguna Niguel, Calif., on August 29, 2013.

RICHARD F. KENNEDY, MDCM’51, Dip.Surg’57,
at St. John’s, Nfld., on April 11, 2014.

MABEL ORR MCVITTIE, BSc’51,
at Ventura, Calif., on June 14, 2014.

KENNETH H SANFORD, BSc(Agr)’51, MSc’63,
at Kentville, N.S., on June 11, 2014.

LUBA SLUZAR POPE, LMus’51, BMus’56,
at Ottawa, on September 10, 2014.

PATRICK STOKER, BArch’51,
at Montreal, on July 5, 2014.

JOHN M. F. GAREAU, BSc’52,
at Calgary, Alta., on July 30, 2014.

JOHN R. HUCKELL, MDCM’52,
at Edmonton, Alta., on July 1, 2014.

BERNARD LEDERMAN, BEng’52,
at Montreal, on August 29, 2014.

MARGARET A. MULLIGAN, BSc(HEc)’52,
at Ottawa, on July 31, 2014.

THOMAS INGLIS PAUL, BCom’52,
at Toronto, on September 3, 2014.

In 1953, Yves Clermont, PhD’53, and his McGill colleague and mentor C.P. Leblond published a landmark research paper that focused on the first identified population of stem cells — indeed, the paper marked the first use of the phrase “stem cells” in biological science. Clermont would also make invaluable contributions to our understanding of how sperm cells develop. A gifted scientist, he was also a dedicated teacher, winning the Faculty of Medicine’s Osler Award for Teaching in 1990. According to Jennifer Lippincott Schwartz, the president of the American Association for Cell Biology, Clermont was “a great scientist, his knowledge is not replaceable.” The emeritus professor of anatomy and cell biology died on October 10 in Montreal.

DAVID TENCER, BCom’53,
at St. Andrews, N.B., on September 18, 2014.

GEORGE CANN, BEng’54,
at Newmarket, Ont., on April 4, 2014.

PIERRE N. DUFRESNE, BEng’54,
at Ste-Adèle, Que., on June 25, 2014.

SOLOMON S. GOSSACK, BCL’54,
at Montreal, on September 1, 2014.

ARGODS B. LIEPINS, BArch’54,
at Ottawa, on October 14, 2014.

DONALD F. ROSS, DipEd’54,
at Montreal, on October 18, 2014.

E. DEANE WEEKS, BSc’54,
at Toronto, on May 8, 2014.

EARL VINCENT DUNN, BSc’55, MDCM’60,
at North York, Ont., on September 3, 2014.

GEORGE B. PAYNE, BEng’55,
at Toronto, on August 20, 2014.

ALBERT M. ROGERS, MDCM’55,
at Rockland, Me., on September 10, 2014.

ALAN C. WEBSTER, DipAgr’55,
at Cowansville, Que., on July 27, 2014.

ALAN W. ZELLER, MDCM’55,
at New Harbor, Me., on May 4, 2014.

C. BRANDON CHENAULT, MDCM’56,
at Texas, on September 16, 2014.

DAVID B. GEORGE, BSc(Agr)’56,
at Guelph, Ont., October 4, 2014.

CHRISTOPHER C. HART, BEng’56,
at Cobourg, Ont., on June 17, 2014.

ANDREW HRNCHIAR, BSc’56, MDCM’58,
at Ottawa, on October 25, 2014.

MARION “JUNE” MCDONALD, MSc’56,
at Toronto, on October 2, 2014.

JOHN HEBERT STANDISH, DipAgr’56,
at Rougemont, Que., on June 2, 2014.

EUGENIJUS A. DAINIUS, BEng’57,
at Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., on September 25, 2014.

CHARLES FERGUSON, MDCM’57,
at Winnipeg, Man., on August 19, 2014.

EDWARD J. ROACH, BSc’57,
at Sechelt, B.C., on October 12, 2014.

CAROL ROWAT, BSc’57,
at Montreal, on June 12, 2014.

ROBERT T. MERKI, MDCM’58,
at Millville, N.J., on June 13, 2014.

EDWARD R. RAPATZ, MDCM’58,
at Sacramento, Calif., on June 18, 2014.

PAUL C. SCHEIER, DDS’58,
at Orchard Park, N.Y., on July 26, 2014.

MICHAEL E. A. SHAW, BSc(Agr)’58,
at Ocho Rios, Caribbean, on July 22, 2014.

STANLEY E. BEACOM, PhD’59,
at Melfort, Sask., on June 17, 2014.

ROBERT J. GALL, BSc’59, MDCM’63,
at Toronto, on July 5, 2014.

WILLIAM LUDEMANN, MDCM’59,
at Nashville, Tenn., on February 16, 2014.

1960s

PAUL G. DYMENT, MDCM’60,
at Topsham, Me., on July 31, 2014.

MOHANDAS M. KINI, PhD’60,
at San Francisco, Calif., on September 24, 2014.

BETTY J. SECORD, BN’60,
at Saskatoon, Sask., on September 28, 2014.

CECILE SOLOMON, BA’60, MA’71, BCL’76, LLB’77,
at Montreal, on September 18, 2014.

JOHN H. SAIKI, MDCM’61,
at Albuquerque, N.M., on August 8, 2014.

ABRAM BER, BSc’62, MDCM’66, GradDipMed’71,
at Arizona, in June, 2014.

ERIC BIERMAN, BEng’62,
at Ottawa, on July 13, 2014.

RONALD CAYNE, BSc’62, MEd’67,
at Montreal, on October 3, 2014.

MEREDITH M. SILVER, MSc’62,
at Toronto, on April 25, 2014.

JOHN PETER SULLIVAN, MDCM’62,
at Phoenix, Ariz., on October 26, 2014.

STEPHANIE GARNER, BA’63,
at Montreal, on May 29, 2014.

 

In 2008, the McGill Cancer Centre received a new name to pay tribute to a transformational multi-million dollar gift from Rosalind Goodman, BA’63, LLD’11, and her husband, Morris Goodman, LLD’11. As generous as that donation was, Goodman wasn’t someone who simply wrote checks to good causes. She seized every opportunity to champion the research going on at the Goodman Centre and was the driving force behind its popular annual lecture series and the hugely successful galas that raised more than $6 million in support for the centre. “Rosalind Goodman had a special ability to inspire the people around her,” said Principal Suzanne Fortier. Goodman passed away in Montreal on August 11.

 

E.A. (TED) MACDONALD, BArch’63,
at Belleville, Ont., on August 8, 2014.

CHARLES SEAMONE, BArch’63,
at Nanaimo, B.C., on November 19, 2013.

JOHN T. CHAFFEY, MDCM’64,
at Bend, Ore., on May 21, 2014.

GARRY NORRIS, MSW’64,
at Kenora, Ont., on May 27, 2014.

ANDREW BERCZI, MBA’65, PhD’72,
at Waterloo, Ont., on June 14, 2014.

MAURICE BORTS, MBA’65,
on August 22, 2014.

JUDITH FISH, BA’65, MEd’82,
at Montreal, on August 31, 2014.

SUSAN GOLDMAN, BA’65, MSc(A)’67,
at Gatineau, Que. on August 17, 2014.

GEORGE CHEHADE SABA, BA’65, MA’67,
at Beaconsfield, Que., on October 22, 2014

SUSAN COUTURE, DipEd’66,
on July 16, 2014.

RUDI H. HENNING, BSc’66,
at Toronto, in February, 2014.

HELEN SHAFIG MINA, MSc(A)’67,
at Montreal, on October 27, 2014.

BRENDAN V. BOYLAN, MSc’68, PhD’74,
at Dublin, on July 7, 2013.

MARSHALL FINKEL, BSc’68, MDCM’72,
at Delray Beach, Fla., on April 22, 2014.

PHILLIP A. ROSSY, BSc’68, PhD’73,
at Westwood, N.J., on August 19, 2014.

IAN G. LUMSDEN, BA’68,
at Fredericton, N.B., on June 5, 2014.

NORA MALOUF, BA’68,
at Montreal, on July 19, 2014.

GEORGE R. RADWANSKI, BA’68, BCL’71,
at Toronto, on September 18, 2014.

GEORGE M. GRIFFITHS, DDS’69,
at Toledo, Ont., on September 21, 2014.

CHENG-TZU THOMAS HSU, MEng’69, PhD’74,
at Red Bank, N.J., on July 31, 2014.

BEN A. WESHLER, BCom’69,
at Cote St-Luc, Que., on July 14, 2014.

1970s

KWABENA KYEI-ABOAGYE, MSc’71, PhD’72, MDCM’78,
at Tamale, Ghana, on July 24, 2014.

MARC AMZALLAG, MA’71,
at Montreal, on July 11, 2014.

EDWARD V. CHAFFEY, DipEd’72, BEd’76,
Dip ColTeach’90, on June 17, 2014.

JAMES F. SYMES, MSc’73,
at Nantucket, Mass., on August 31, 2014.

GLENN RIOUX, BCom’78, DPA’80, MMgmt’04,
at Montreal, on September 27, 2014.

ELIZABETH COMPER, MLS’79,
at Toronto, on August 22, 2014.

GIANNI GIOSEFFINI, BEng’79, MEng’81, MBA’85,
at Ottawa, on July 8, 2014.

1980s

CYNTHIA GORDON, CertEd’74, BEd’81,
at Brossard, Que., on January 21, 2014.

DIANE VAUTOUR, BA’82,
at Nanaimo, B.C., on September 17, 2014.

EUNICE A. TEES, BA’83, MA’88,
at Montreal, on June 19, 2014.

CESAR DUBLER, LLM’84,
at Fribourg, Switzerland, on June 9, 2013.

SHIRLEY JACKSON, BEd’84,
at Richmond Hill, Ont., on July 16, 2014.

ANN FINDLAY REDFERN, BA’86,
at Hudson, Que., on October 19, 2014.

JUNE PLAMONDON, BA’89,
at Oakville, Ont., on July 17, 2014.

1990s

JUAN CARLOS MASNAGHETTI, BEng’90,
at Montreal, in October, 2014.

BEVERLY MARILYN BRONFMAN, MA’92, PhD’99,
at Montreal, on June 15, 2014.

SHU-LING CHEN, BSW’92, MSW’93, PhD’07,
at Montreal, on July 29, 2014.

FABRICE ROUAH, MSc’98, PhD’07,
on September 14, 2014.

JENNIFER RESSA ZIMMER, BA’98,
at Halifax, N.S., on September 20, 2014.

2000s

ELISE PAULA ZACK, MMgmt’03,
at Toronto, on July 31, 2014.

MARIKA ARCHAMBAULT-WALLENBURG, BSc’08,
at Toronto, on July 20, 2014.

FACULTY, STAFF & GOVERNORS

A longtime professor of law at McGill, Patrick Glenn was one of the world’s most respected authorities on comparative law. The first non-American to be named president of the American Society of Comparative Law, his expertise was sought on projects ranging from civil code reform in Russia to judicial education in China. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Glenn was awarded the Prix Léon-Gérin by the Quebec government in 2006 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to scholarship in the social sciences. He died in Montreal on October 1.

 

 

JACK COHEN, BSc’55, MDCM’59, faculty member,
Faculty of Medicine, at Montreal, on August 22, 2014.

PURDY CRAWFORD, emeritus governor,
at Toronto, on August 12, 2014.

SARAH P. GIBBS, emeritus professor of biology,
at Newport, N.H., on September 25, 2014.

JAN JARCZYK, retired professor, Schulich School of Music,
at Montreal, on August 3, 2014.

JOACHIM LAMBEK, BSc’45, MSc’46, PhD’50,
Peter Redpath Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics,
at Montreal, on June 23, 2014.

JOSEPH MARCHILDON, BEd’93,
former assistant coach for McGill Redmen football team,
at Montreal, on June 22, 2014.

EDWARD MCKYES, BEng’66, MEng’67, PhD’69,
retired professor of bioresource engineering,
at Sainte-Anne-De-Bellevue, Que., on May 27, 2014.

DAVID FATE NORTON, emeritus professor of philosophy,
at Victoria, B.C., on November 8, 2014.

ROBERT SAMUEL REMIS, BSc’67, MDCM’72,
former faculty member, Faculty of Medicine,
at Toronto, on September 25, 2014.

 

 

 

 

Life and love on the Rez

ven, 2015-01-09 17:42
by Mark Lepage, BA’86

The cast of Mohawk Girls includes McGill alumna Heather White (second from right).

Cynthia Knight, BA’97, describes her TV series Mohawk Girls as “a Sex in the City on the Rez,” thereby sparing her interviewer the minor cultural risk of doing so.

It’s an apt tag line for the dramedy, a minor TV rez-olution set in real-world Kahnawake and dealing with real-life issues in a novel First Nations context. The show stars Heather White, BEd’11 (Caitlin), Maika Harper (Anna), Brittany LeBorgne (Zoe) and Jenny Pudavick (Bailey) – all of whom are at least part First Nations – as four twentysomething young women on, yes, the Rez, experiencing the community-specific but also universal issues of their age group. “They’re issues that any young woman can relate to, and certainly any young minority women,” says writer Knight, who co-conceived Mohawk Girls with Tracy Deer, an award-winning filmmaker who grew up in Kahnawake.

Deer is deeply involved in creating projects that focus on and expose her community and had previously made a short film on the subject of the trials and tribulations of four young Mohawk women. She and Knight bounced around the more ambitious idea of “drawing comedy and drama together – like life,” says Knight. “It just seemed really appealing to do something approachable on girls dating and mating and fashion and fun – but on the reserve, to really dispel some myths and stereotypes.”

At issue are oppositional pressures: ambition/desire versus community/tradition/obligation, “in a fun, entertaining way, not a preachy way, to show the real face of Mohawk people and the complexities of their lives beyond the core issues we always hear about in the newspaper,” says Knight.

There was Central Mission 1: “Let’s entertain people.” Central Mission 2 is to inform and potentially redefine. Sex in the City, sure – but with fewer shoes, more issues.

Heather White believes the show delivers on both counts. “It addresses the idea of identity and the politics around that, and how unique Kahnawake is.

“Not once have I been able to turn on the TV and find someone like myself there,” says White, a McGill-trained teacher in addition to being an actress. “Sure, there have been programs with native actors, but we’re not really discussed aside from the news, and barely after the fur trade. And I don’t look like Pocahontas walking down the street in buckskins.”

There is saucy language and frank (if comic) sexual scenarios, with an updated high-heels-and-tattoos look. “We are, after all, on after 9 pm.” says White. “My character has more of a serious storyline than the others.” But love, lust, promiscuity, infidelity, self-esteem and race/tribe loyalty filter through every episode.

“I’m not native,” says Knight (she’s Jewish). “But when I was a kid, my mom had a friend in Kahnawake and we used to go there all the time. And that woman had a really big house with a swimming pool.” Not the double-wide wheel-less trailer from northern CBC reports on First Nations plight. “So when I grew up and later heard about Mohawk and native people and all these preconceptions, it was so different from the notion I had.

“They have an incredible sense of humour, there’s so much levity. And they also have this community outreach and support and solidarity.” She tells the story of a Mohawk woman who fell ill, and whose neighbours raised  $30,000 for her care. “I mean, if I got sick, I’d starve!”

APTN was the first broadcaster to support the show, but now a second, Omni, has stepped up, airing the series in English and MandarinWhile it has not happened yet, the show will eventually be broadcast in Mohawk. Which will send its self-affirming message inward to the community but also reaffirm its mission.

“I think what a lot of people overlook is context,” White says. “At McGill, we’re taught to know the context of the environment, to understand the world before you offer an opinion. One thing Canadians assume is that all First Nations groups are the same. There’s this big umbrella of Native-Métis-Inuit.” White, who is half Mohawk (Quebec) and half Stoney (Alberta), says that the umbrella conceals the differences, complexities and contrasts between peoples.

“So much of our history has been silenced. We are not in the Quebec curriculum. Art is at the forefront of social change. So I hope Mohawk Girls will build bridges.”

Feedback from viewers within and without the community has mainly been positive.The Toronto Star applauded the show for “[looking] at issues of racism, sexuality and culture in a frank and oftentimes subversive way,” while the Globe and Mail declared that the series was often “laugh-out-loud funny.”

“People have been excited about the production values and the content,” says White. Feedback closer to home? “I know my husband thinks it’s hilarious,” says White.

Mohawk Girls airs Tuesdays on APTN and Sundays on Omni at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Thirteen episodes have been shot.

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Running with the Bulls

jeu, 2015-01-08 15:33
by Benjamin Gleisser

Ram Padmanabhan is the vice president of financial and general counsel for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

On some afternoons, when the United Center, the home of the Chicago Bulls, is empty of cheering fans, the sounds of basketballs thumping and athletic shoes squeaking on the polished wood floor lure Ram Padmanabhan, BA’90, out of his office. Padmanabhan, the Bulls’ vice president of financial and general counsel, sits alone in the stands and watches the players warming up for the upcoming game.

“It’s one of my most enjoyable things to do,” he says. “Nobody else is around. I hear the music for the night’s game being tested on the PA system, and watch the players shooting around.”

For Padmanabhan, a sports fan who grew up collecting hockey and baseball cards, playing pickup basketball and soccer games in high school, and who counts former Bulls great Michael Jordan among his favorite athletes of all time, his job is a dream come true.

His responsibilities include overseeing the financial functions and handling all legal affairs for the Bulls. He prepares and reviews player contracts, sponsorship agreements, and television and radio deals, and makes sure the company is in compliance with applicable government and league regulations. He heads a staff of seven people.

He loves his work – even when acquaintances and fans want to give him a piece of their mind about how the team should be run.

“I tell them I’m not the one making decisions about who’s out on the court and how much playing time someone’s getting,” he says with a laugh. “In the sports industry, we deal with something a lot of people are passionate about. We’re in the paper every day, people watch us on TV and they talk about us on the radio. We have Chicago Bulls fans around the world. I encounter lots of people who have opinions about how things should be run. But that’s what makes this business so novel.”

Padmanabhan joined the Bulls in 2013, at a time when the team was on the upswing. In fact, some sportswriters had picked the Bulls to win their division this season and then charge into the Eastern Conference Championship. The Bulls currently lead the Central Division, after shaking off a so-so start that was compounded by injuries to key players.

“When the team struggles, it affects you,” Padmanabhan says with a shrug in his voice. “The job is especially fun when the team thrives.”

When Padmanabhan realized early in life that he wouldn’t make it as a professional athlete, he began investigating different career paths. He enrolled at McGill and concentrated on liberal arts courses, then gravitated toward economics, thanks in part to several professors who made the curriculum fascinating.

“I had a pretty good idea I wanted to go to law school, and I could see how the principles of economics could be used to explain how rules of law ought to be,” he remembers. “I especially enjoyed Thomas Naylor’s class on the ‘Underground Economy,’ and I liked Christopher Green’s class on ‘Industrial Organization.’ He really made the subject matter interesting.”

Padmanabhan earned his JD at Northwestern School of Law in 1993, clerked for a federal judge in the US Court of Appeals and started his practice at Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis. He moved on to Katten Muchin Rosenman, a Chicago-based law firm whose clients included the Bulls and the Chicago White Sox. Later, he was vice president, chief counsel-corporate and company secretary at Aon plc, where he oversaw the company’s global financing arrangements, mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance.

When the Bulls had an opening for a general counsel, a team executive remembered working with Padmanabhan, and approached him about the job.

“I said, ‘Absolutely!’” he remembers with a laugh. “For me, an avid sports fan, I was thrilled to be practicing law for a sports team.”

While his job is the fulfillment of a dream, there is still one more item to cross off his bucket list – to lace up his sneakers, go down onto the arena floor when no one else is around, dribble a basketball and shoot a few baskets. Perhaps someday, he says.

When asked if there is a motto he lives by, he quotes Albert Einstein: “‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new,’” Padmanabhan says. “In other words, try to do things outside your comfort zone, and get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I think that is a philosophy that applies in any endeavor and makes life far more interesting.”

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