The slippery slope
Thank you for taking a reasoned position on the York University reasonable accommodation issue in your editorial (York Is Not A Slippery Slope – Jan. 13) and providing a balanced context.
As a spiritual counsellor with decades of experience, I have mediated many requests for cultural, religious and social accommodations within various institutions. I have always found that resolutions lie in reviewing each individual case on its own merit and avoiding overgeneralization.
Human societies have evolved through mutual accommodation and respect. Multiculturalism is not merely a word but a process that has shown the world how Canada accepts diversity without compromising its core values or by demonizing differences.
Shahina Siddiqui, executive director, Islamic Social Services Association, Winnipeg
First, it seems relevant to remind ourselves that Mr. X is in fact a consumer of an “educational” product financed by Canadian tax dollars, which flow to universities and colleges for the delivery of fee-based courses. Presumably, the student knew in advance that he might have to meet his online classmates in person at some point.
Second, York University is not a religious organization; it is a secular institution whose charter is based on equality and egalitarian standards, which means that Mr. X should be expected to interact and respect the rights of all his classmates, including female ones.
Third, this incident should be a clarion call for universities to re-examine the acceptable range of protective actions for human-rights cases. It is one thing to acknowledge religious holidays and quite another to endorse a student’s refusal to interact with female peers.
Anna Dowbiggin, MBA, doctoral candidate in business administration, Toronto
Prof. Paul Grayson made an academically sound decision, and in ordering that it be overturned, the dean was infringing on his academic freedom. An instructor’s judgment in an academic matter is not the final word, but only the University Senate, advised by the appropriate committee, has the right to overturn it.
Michiel Horn, professor emeritus of history and university historian, York University
The law is a very dull instrument when it comes to protecting individual rights. The more we legislate them, the greater the potential for conflict. Human diversity guarantees this.
What if we all made one simple shift? Instead of always worrying about our own rights, we choose to worry about the other’s first? What if everyone did unto others as they would have them do unto themselves? Wouldn’t this change everything?
Of course, this is naive, but against such a gracious approach, we wouldn’t need laws.
John Van Sloten, New Hope Christian Reformed Church, Calgary
While I disagree with the student’s personal religious views, I fail to see how this particular request impinges on anyone’s right to gender equality. The student’s irrational fear of interacting with women seriously affects no one but himself.
I also wanted to say that Sheema Khan’s discussion (Gender Equality Is Not Negotiable – Jan. 13) of gender “segregation” at religious events was honest and accurate. However, there is a definite distinction between “segregation” and “separation” – not all Muslim women object to separation at such events. Provided that I have equal access to resources, that I am able to engage with proceedings and audience, that there are no physical barriers between myself and the proceedings, and that I feel my thoughts are equally welcome and valued, then separation doesn’t really bother me.
Finally, if people really do care about gender equality in academic settings, I’d advise them to look into a much more serious issue: the threat of gender-based violence at schools like York. Sexual harassment, assault and a general absence of a sense of safety are realities that female students constantly have to consider.
Sanaa Ali-Mohammed, Mississauga
(No) moral foundation
Re A Hard Pope For Capitalists To Love (Jan. 13):
Good for the Pope! Capitalism fails when it is driven by the human “predatory” instinct. A few capitalist countries have developed fair models through a mixture of regulation, innovation, taxation and social safety nets that serve their constituencies well, and their economic performance is usually better than the norm. Any country with a managed democracy, and I do not exclude Canada, will not serve its citizens well. It is the very “ethos of individual responsibility [that] has provided American capitalism with its moral foundation” and I wouldn’t disagree – there is none unless you believe that it’s moral to exploit your fellow citizens.
If capitalists start to love the Pope, he will have failed in his mission to create a more caring world.
Dennis Casaccio, Clementsport, N.S.
Add to subtract
The hand-wringing (Sit Back, Relax And Count to 10 – Jan. 11) accompanying Canada’s “slip” from the top 10 is yet another symptom of our society’s growing innumeracy. The graphic that accompanies Saturday’s Folio (Math Scores – The Sum Of Our Fears – Jan. 11) shows Canada falling from seventh place out of 39 countries to 13th place out of 65.
In fact, only Switzerland has moved ahead of Canada since the 2003 result; the rest are newcomers to the rankings. A bit of old-fashioned arithmetic will quickly show that Canada has plummeted all the way from the 82nd percentile to the 80th – hardly worthy of the hyperbole.
Ian Wigle, Toronto
Heart of gold, but …
After Neil Young takes on the Conservatives (Neil Young Amps Up His Oil Sands Protest – Jan. 13), perhaps he could take on his fellow celebrities and their consumption? I dread to think how much of the planet has been ripped up to make way for their affluent lifestyles.
John Clench, Vancouver
Anyone who knows me knows how much I admire Neil Young’s music, his outrageous harmonic rants, Crazy Horse, From Hank to Hendrix. But Neil, stick to the music.
A true environmental activist would have produced this charitable social event on the Web, engaged millions more paying fans, saved them from driving to the venue, trucks hauling the gear, and dare I say, perhaps fewer corporate jets ferrying the rock stars. Just saying …
David Yorke, president, Umpires TV/Radio Inc., Toronto
The supposed bicycle being pushed in the World Digest photo (The Aftermath – Jan. 13) has no tires, chain or brakes. I suggest that Freud would have said, “Sometimes a bike is not a bike.”
Ian Guthrie, Ottawa