Crackles of Hatred

Silencing murderous messages is not as easy as it sounds

LAST year, as Kenya slid into mayhem, the words that sputtered forth from crude transmitters were cryptic but, to those in the know, horrifying. “People of the milk”, a reference to the cattle-owning Kalenjin people, were urged to “take out the weeds in our midst”— in other words, the Kikuyus. Meanwhile Kikuyu broadcasters inveighed against the peril posed by “animals from the west”: this meant the rival Luo (from which Barack Obama originates) and Kalenjins.

In East Africa this use of radio to incite ethnic slaughter recalled an even darker episode: the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which a station called Radio Mille Collines (Thousand Hills Radio) seemed to be directing the massacres. It not only poisoned the general atmosphere but urged on the killers, with phrases like “cutting the tall trees” and “killing the cockroaches”.

In an era of drones and spy satellites, it may seem odd that crude simple radio transmitters can still make huge mischief.

Read more in The Economist


Protecting the bagel and other national treasures

Amid the parade of iconic brands that adorn Beverly Hills is an unexpected piece of culinary culture from home. There, one block from Rodeo Drive, is a small establishment called St. Urbain Street Bagels that offers up Montreal’s famous foodstuff in a bakery full of historical posters of the city.

The sight of a distinctive Canadian culinary item in the world’s most famous shopping district might be cause for pride. Except for one fact: The doughy confections for sale in Beverly Hills have as much resemblance to Montreal bagels as Velveeta does to cheddar. Rather than burnishing the city’s gastronomic image, the pseudo bagel cheapens it.

This diminution of a favourite food raises the question of whether Canada should be doing more to protect its distinctive culinary products.

Read more in the National Post

Why Canada has to wait for its Obama moment

Many Canadians shared in the sweet sense of pride as they watched the first black U.S. President take his oath of office. That moment, still lingering, symbolized an opportunity for Americans to feel free of their racial demons.

Watching the inauguration, it was hard not to long for an Obama moment of our own – for the emergence of a transcendent figure who could help Canadians move past their own racial troubles. In our country’s case, it would mean the election of an aboriginal person capable of unifying and representing all Canadians. Unfortunately, this will not happen any time soon.

A comparison between the political progress of African-Americans and Canadian aboriginals is not necessarily intuitive. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that each became their country’s most maligned and disenfranchised citizens. Why then has their recent experience been so different?

Read more in the Globe & Mail

Resolution Revolutionary

As court cases go, this was hardly a run-of-the-mill contract quarrel. The parties were major airline companies from France and Libya. Their contract stated that any dispute was to be resolved by arbitration in Montreal. Oh, and the French company was arguing the contract did not apply in light of UN sanctions placed on Libya after the 1998 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

For newly minted lawyer Frédéric Bachand, the 1999 case was not only a baptism by fire in the world of international commercial arbitration, it was also an opportunity to participate first-hand in an emerging field of law—one in which he has since become a world authority.

Read more in Headway Magazine

Time to Streamline the Societies?

How much is independence worth? Canadian lawyers may be asking this question as they prepare to pay their annual law society dues. If the rest of the world is any indication, the self-governing model that underlies Canada’s legal profession may soon face a day of reckoning.

And contrary to conventional opinion, that may not be a bad thing.

Our tradition of self-governance has remained largely unchallenged for more than two centuries.

Read more in Canadian Lawyer magazine

Bring on the Bandwidth

Students expect more Internet access than ever, and universities need to involve everyone in deciding how to provide it

Universities accustomed to gripes about classroom and office space had better get ready to deal with complaints over another scarce resource. As they welcome young people who have spent more of their lives on the Internet than watching television, Canada’s universities will be expected to provide bandwidth – lots of it – to their incoming students.

Read the full editorial in University Affairs

Are you Ready for Avatar Rights?

The world has seen its share of rights movements in recent years. That may not prepare it for the claims of the latest group seeking recognition – digital people.

As online computer games soar in popularity, the distinction between animated characters and their real life creators is eroding. This has given rise to perplexing new questions about the extent to which we have rights in our digital identities.

The popularity of avatars has much to do with the emergence of the online self. Avatars are the custom-designed figures created by computer users to play video games or to participate in a variety of online worlds. Recently, some nasty events have befallen these avatars, bringing moral or financial injury to their creators. Consider one famous example.

Read more in the Toronto Star

War Crime Stopper

Payam Akhavan sips coffee amidst student chatter in a downtown Montreal cafe. Gentle eyes and salt-and-pepper hair complement the gracious voice that has persuaded everyone from first-year law students to the United Nations about his very big ideas on conflict resolution and genocide.

Since his seminal article “Beyond Impunity: Can International Criminal Justice Prevent Future Atrocities?” was published in the American Journal of International Law in 2001, Akhavan has been regarded as one of the most influential human rights thinkers.

See more at: Headway Magazine

Why not a Scholarhip for White Men?

Official gender discrimination on campus is supposed to be a thing of the past. It is curious then to discover an aspect of university life where blatant gender bias is permitted to survive conspicuously and unchallenged. The discrimination in question concerns the many scholarships which are granted only to female students.

A quick perusal of the awards page at the University of Ottawa reveals that there are at least a dozen scholarships available only to women. Historically, such awards could be justified on the grounds that female students were underrepresented and frequently confronted with institutional sexism. Today, they are simply unfair.

Consider that on a typical Canadian campus, women make up over 60 per cent of the undergraduate student body and that their presence is no longer restricted to traditionally female disciplines like arts and education. Today, women make up a majority in law and management. In medical studies, the numbers are particularly striking. At one Quebec university, a recent first-year medicine class was 80-per-cent women.

Read more in the Ottawa Citizen