All Posts Tagged With: "ottawa"
Why Canadians shouldn’t feel so smug about this video
A video is making the rounds showing students at Harvard University struggling to answer a simple question of world geography: what is the capital of Canada? Canadians love this game. We congratulate ourselves for knowing plenty about the US while looking down our nose at Americans who know nothing about us. And the fact that even the best and brightest Americans—Harvard students no less—are so ignorant, well that’s just the whipped cream on the ice cream isn’t it?
But it’s a silly game and we should stop playing it.
For one thing, in videos like this there is no way of telling how many students came up with Ottawa but weren’t shown in the final edit. For another, we should acknowledge that at least most of the students seemed embarrassed by the fact that they didn’t know. And besides, Canada, unlike the UK or France or Japan, is one of those cases where the capital city is not the largest or most prominent city—so it’s a tricky question. I bet most Canadian students think the capital of Australia is Sydney.
But the main reason we should stop finding ways to feel superior to Americans when it comes to a world knowledge, is that, if we faced facts, we would have to admit that we are not much better. Sure we know a fair bit about the US because we are awash in American media, but what about the rest of the world?
Indeed, if you are a Canadian university student, why not take a little test right now? Consider, for example, the world’s ten most populous countries. Can you list all of them? And if you can, can you name the capital cities of each of them? I’m going to assume that you know the capital of China is Beijing, but what about India? Mumbai? Guess again.
Put your hand up if you know the capital of Brazil. Now put it down if you thought it was Rio de Janeiro—it’s actually Brasilia. Do you know the capital of Pakistan, the world’s sixth most populous country? How about Nigeria, the seventh? Can you name any cities in Nigeria?
Don’t get me wrong: I think world knowledge is important. But there is a lot more to knowing about the world than knowing game-show style trivia. It’s more important to me that people know more about efforts to reduce poverty in Bangladesh than the fact that its capital is Dhaka.
Let’s hope they are studying that at Harvard. And everywhere else.
Todd Pettigrew is an associate professor of English at Cape Breton University.
Six died in crash
OTTAWA – Police and accident investigators prowled the crumpled wreck of a city bus Thursday, seeking clues as to why it crashed through a safety barrier and slammed into a Via Rail train the day before, killing six people.
Just west of the bus, rail workers toiled to replace tracks bent out of alignment by the subsequent derailment of the locomotive and one of its four passenger cars.
City crews spent much of the day picking up debris from around the crash site.
Meanwhile, police formally identified the dead as Michael Bleakney, 57; Connor Boyd, 21; Karen Krzyzewski, 53; Kyle Nash, 21; and Rob More, 35. Bus driver Dave Woodard, 45, was also killed in the crash.
“Our thoughts are with the victims, their friends and families,” the police news release said.
Five of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene; one died later in hospital.
Neighbours worry about 16 students next door
A single-family dwelling in Ottawa is in the process of being converted to a three-storey monster house for 16 people. The home on Aylmer Ave., near Carleton University, will likely house students.
That project will go ahead, but in a surprise move on April 30, the city approved a temporary bylaw banning new applications for such conversions in the areas around Carleton and the University of Ottawa. The law could last up to a year, giving the city time to decide on new standards.
The sudden moratorium on new monster houses shows the tension between neighbours in single-family homes and the growing number of Ottawa post-secondary students looking for housing in their peaceful neighbourhoods.
What students are talking about today (February 28th)
1. Students at McMaster University got creative crossing their slushy Hamilton, Ont. campus after a major winter storm hit Ontario on Tuesday. They paddled across it in a canoe. Someone made a video and posted it to YouTube where it already has 55,000 views and was shown on air by CBC News Network. Meanwhile in Ottawa….
2. Ryerson University student Sarah Santhosh wants to start a men’s issues group on campus called the Ryerson Association for Equality that would discuss mental health, male youth violence, misogyny, as well as gender disadvantages in education, the workplace and custody battles. “Universities are supposed to be places where any and all ideas are accepted and discussed. Nothing should be too taboo for discussion,” she told The Eyeopener. It’s unclear whether the Ryerson Students’ Union will prevent the group from gaining status considering vice president equity, Marwa Hamad, previously said that, “marginalized or underprivileged student members should be the focus of equity service groups on campus.”
Canadian Blood Services needs to change its policies
Students at Carleton University voted this week to continue refusing to work with Canadian Blood Services because of the organization’s policies, which prevent most gay men from donating.
I, for one, applaud the students’ decision.
Of course, Blood Services must take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the blood supply, but all reasonable precautions does not mean every theoretical precaution. Blood is tested before it is used, and Blood Services could reasonably ask questions about recent high-risk behaviour.
To ban all men who have had sex with other men, even once since 1978, is going too far. It excludes numerous healthy donors, generates ill will among citizens generally, and, worst of all, promotes the false and damaging stereotype that being gay is equivalent to being diseased and vice versa.
Hundreds protest on Parliament Hill
Hundreds of scientists donned in black made a sober march to Parliament Hill today, where they gathered to mourn the ‘death’ of something they knew well and loved: evidence.
Ottawa scientists organized the protest, which was orchestrated to look like a funeral, to oppose was what they say is a deliberate campaign by the federal government campaign to reduce the capacity of federal institutions to collect evidence and bring it forward to inform citizens.
They were provoked by the elimination of the mandatory long-form census last year, and recent closure of a laboratory that monitors climate change in Nunavut.
Organizer Katie Gibbs told the CBC that regardless of political ideology, the importance of facts is something all Canadians should agree to preserve:
“Regardless of the decisions that the government decides to make, our democracy depends on an informed public.”
A simple solution for the Christmas controversy blues
Last year around this time I was startled to notice a small nativity scene set up in our university cafeteria. I considered making a formal complaint to the effect that at a public university such overtly religious symbols should be avoided. But it was only a little one, and even my great and growing peevishness has its limits.
Still, it’s easy to see why Christmas poses such a problem for educational institutions. On one hand, it is a venerable annual tradition for millions, with a seemingly endless store of symbols and songs to draw upon. On the other hand, for many, it is among the holiest days of the year, and one still hears a phrase like “the true meaning of Christmas” where “true meaning” is meant to suggest the religious meaning.
And so it is no surprise that controversy and indignation has become one of our new favourite holiday traditions.
Latest in U Ottawa language tussle
A University of Ottawa professor stole a National Bank sign set up on campus because it wasn’t available in French. François Charboneau, an assistant professor of Political Studies told CBC News that he did so because he wanted to send a stronger message than simply “making another complaint.” All official signs must appear in English and French at the university, but many companies providing services on campus, such as construction companies and food shops, don’t follow the same rules. That’s because the 1974 provincial act that made the university bilingual says it must support this mandate in “programmes, central administration, general services, internal administration of its faculties and schools, its teaching staff, its support staff and its student population.” It says nothing of ancillary services. It isn’t just francophones who are often frustrated by the relationship between English and French on campus. An anglophone student recently wrote of her frustration about French-only signs and service at a Quizno’s sandwich shop on campus.
Former player rescues team with $2.5-million gift
Football fans in Ottawa will soon have one more team to cheer for. Carleton University will launch a new varsity team in 2013.
It’s all thanks to a philanthropist — entrepreneur and former Carleton Ravens defenceman John Ruddy — who gave the proposed team a $2.5 million boost, matching other fundraising for a total of $5-million in start-up capital.
The Carleton Ravens were axed in 1998 due to financial shortfalls, which came after a poorly played season.
The new team will be controlled by an alumni association called Old Crows Football Inc., which will include community members and the university’s administrators. The university plans to refurbish the old stadium, add new seating, a new press box, a new locker-room and fitness facilities.
For the government relying on academic research is bad politics
An outsider to Stephen Harper’s Ottawa might easily be forgiven for assuming that this summer’s uproar over the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap the long-form census was an isolated event. How could a debate, no matter how heated, over the way government gathers statistics signify much beyond the argument’s own peculiar details? But ask prominent scientists and researchers who’ve struggled to influence federal policy over the past few years, and they’ll quickly link the census flap to wider misgivings about how the Harper government uses data and evidence—or refuses to—in shaping policy.
On sensitive files from crime to health, taxation to climate, the Harper government has often clashed with experts who argue the fruits of their research are undervalued by the Conservatives in the development of new laws and regulations. “I think,” says Gordon McBean, a University of Western Ontario geography professor and internationally respected climate-change scientist, “there is a significant problem—unwillingness to entertain, or invite, or listen to, people who are experts in their fields and want to provide advice and guidance to the government.”
Since he’s a prominent advocate for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, McBean might be suspected of merely having an axe to grind, considering the Harper government’s track record of hesitant steps, at most, on the global warming file. But it’s not just that frustrated academics turn resentful when Conservatives look skeptically, even dismissively, at the recommendations that flow from their work. In fact, the Prime Minister and some of his closest advisers have occasionally expressed reservations about letting expert views directly inform their policies.
During the 2008 election campaign, Harper boasted that his party’s platform was grounded in real-world experience. “Grand blueprints that have been done on the blackboard,” he said, “endorsed by experts with no practical experience in the economy or society, are disastrous.” Harper added that he had steered away from that kind of expert-approved policy-making, at precisely the point when Stéphane Dion, then Liberal leader, was moving his party toward it with his elaborate “green shift” plan to tax carbon.
Painful experience lay behind Harper’s conscious move away from the influence of academic research. His former chief of staff, Ian Brodie, talked candidly about the transition at Montreal’s McGill University last year, in a panel discussion on the role of evidence in policy-making. Brodie recounted how Harper had run in the 2004 election on a tax-cuts platform carefully constructed along lines favoured by tenured economists. “We promised a comprehensive system of moving brackets around, cutting bracket rates, multi-year this, multi-year that, a corporate income tax cut as well,” he said. “A program so well thought out that even the people who wrote it can’t remember the details now.”
The Conservatives lost that election. The setback, Brodie explained, led Harper and his advisers to radically rethink their approach. By the 2006 campaign, Harper was pitching a simple idea, cutting the Goods and Services Tax, which was almost unanimously opposed by mainstream economists. But if experts would have overwhelmingly preferred reducing the tax burden on income and investment, voters liked the sound of Harper’s uncomplicated pledge to slash the widely resented consumption tax. That GST promise helped them win, and Harper’s team learned to treat conventional wisdom among specialists with a certain disdain.
On another key Tory policy theme—law and order—Brodie touted conflict with academics as good politics. Most university criminologists say there’s no evidence to back up the Tories’ heavy emphasis on imposing longer prison terms. They point to studies showing that more jail time doesn’t reduce crime. At the McGill panel, though, Brodie said voters tend to side with Conservatives when they argue with “sociologists, criminologists, defence lawyers and Liberals” about prison terms. “Politically, it helped us tremendously,” he said, “to be attacked by this coalition of university types.”
So not only do Harper’s advisers suspect that following expert advice leads to unsaleable policies, they also think battling the experts can boost their popular standing. In the census controversy they seem willing, almost eager, to take on virtually the entire Canadian research establishment. Among the many groups arguing for keeping the mandatory long-form census, which Harper is turning into a less reliable voluntary survey, are the Canadian Economics Association’s executive, the C.D. Howe Institute’s president, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Institute of Planners.
The National Statistics Council found itself in perhaps the strangest position. The 40-member expert group is appointed by the government, supposedly to provide advice on statistical matters. But when it came to deep-sixing the long-form census—the most consequential federal policy change on stats in memory—the council was kept entirely in the dark until the decision was announced. One of its best-known members, former Finance Department and TD Bank Financial Group economist Don Drummond, said discovering they had been frozen out was “shocking.”
In rare unanimous decision, Ottawa city council votes to remove 28+ age limit on student passes
Ottawa’s city council has voted unanimously to allow students 28 and older to purchase student bus passes again.
City council set the age limit on student bus passes last December, and once the policy took effect in July students began protesting the decision.
Students from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa presented council with 2,400 signatures demanding that the policy be reversed. Student groups argued that all students face the same type of financial barriers, regardless of their age.
Many city councillors spoke in favour of the motion, some admitting they had made a serious mistake. Others also took the opportunity to criticize council’s decision to reject a universal bus pass proposal earlier this year.
The move will cost OC Transpo $220,000 per year, but saves students 28 and older about $20 on a monthly bus pass.
City council will decide Sept. 9 if it will reverse policy forcing students 28+ to purchase pricier adult pass
The City of Ottawa is one step closer to removing an age limit for student bus passes, a move that student groups have criticized since the policy started in July.
The Ottawa transit committee voted unanimously to recommend city council reverse a policy that prevents students 28 or older from purchasing a student bus pass. Council will revisit the issue on Sept. 9, but a reversal will need the support of 75 per cent of council as it has already been debated once this year.
“It’s going to take some convincing,” says Nick Bergamini, vice president student issues with the Carleton University Students’ Association. “But we’re going to be lobbying really hard in the next few days.
“It’s our top priority.”
The age limit means that students 28 and over will have to pay the $84.75 adult price for monthly bus passes, instead of the $65.25 student price. In an eight-month school year, this would mean an additional cost of $156 per student. Students who normally purchase semester passes will pay an additional $194 over two semesters, while those who purchase a yearly pass will pay an extra $268.60 per year.
The age cap affects thousands of students across the city, including Will Samuel, a 32-year-old anthropology student at Carleton University. He says he is going to have to make sacrifices to pay for his bus pass this year.
“Every year I rely heavily on every penny pinched,” says Samuel, who is in the fourth year of his honours degree. ”I can either not afford books, a new winter coat I desperately need or glasses and contacts to replace my four year old glasses that are damaged.”
Many local student groups made presentations to council, including both undergraduate and graduate student associations at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, the Algonquin College Students’ Association and several other smaller universities and colleges.
Over 50 people showed up to the transit committee meeting to support a reversal of the age cap policy, says Bergamini. He says representatives from CUSA will be collecting petitions and meeting with city councillors throughout the week to try and win support, while similar initiatives are underway at other schools.
The age limit on student passes would save OC Transpo, Ottawa’s transit provider, $220,000 per year, according to internal estimates. But students have argued that they are already overburdened with tuition payments and living expenses, and that an age limit is an unfair cash grab.
OC Transpo has been struggling to balance the budget since a 51-day transit strike last winter cost it millions of dollars in revenues. A recent OC Transpo report also revealed that it spent nearly $2 million over budget paying workers overtime to repair and recertify buses after the strike.
Ottawa researchers study flesh-eating fiction for answers
A number of articles surfaced Aug. 18 about a study conducted by a professor and team of students concerning the outcomes and preventative possibilities of a zombie attack on the human population.
O.k., wait. Zombies?
According to the Toronto Star report, University of Ottawa mathematics professor Robert Smith and three students from both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University “spent a month doing research consisting mainly of watching zombie movies and playing zombie video games.”
While this sounds like an extremely awesome way to “conduct research,” I was a bit skeptical on its credibility.
Reading on, however, I learn this research was then used to create mathematical models to conclude whether or not the human race could survive a zombie plague and incorporated it into a paper entitled: “”When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection.”
On top of narrowing the zombie ‘type’ they used for their model to the “slow” kind (Phew, the infection-ridden, speedy buggers from 28 Days Later still give me nightmares), the team took into account the different incubation and spread of ‘zombification’ times across a population that vary from countless zombie movie plots to games.
Now, to anyone who’s watched Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, heck, even Shaun of the Dead, a million times and watched their dedicated group of friends team up to play Left 4 Dead more than is recommended for good health, you’d know the chances of making it out alive are slim — and especially if you remember to watch the credits for Zach Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.
Not surprisingly, this is what the researchers discovered as well.
The study concluded that the only way to rid the world of zombies (hypothetically, of course) is 10 consecutive days of military strikes.
Great. I’m thoroughly amused. But where are they going with this?
The research paper, according to the article: “Takes a decidedly lighthearted approach to exploring serious, real-world infection rates.”
In the wake of an ongoing swine flu pandemic that joins a long list of deadly viruses, including the recent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), studies contributing to fighting the spread of infectious diseases could be significant life-saving strategies. However, I don’t think I’ll hold my breath if the solution for a zombie-like pandemic is military annihilation of all infected beings.
Interesting, though, is the idea we can look into popular culture and movie magic — literally figments of our own imaginations — to gleam ideas for real life problems. Though zombies fall on the extreme side, examining statistical models on how to fight infection (fictional or real) may provide the answers we need, and therefore, is a step in the right direction.
Now, if only someone would start studying Ferris Bueller to figure out how to get kids to stop cutting class.
- photo by quixado
Students call age limit on discounted passes ageism, cash grab
As of July 1, student bus passes in Ottawa will only be available to those 27 and younger – and some students are not too happy about it.
Older students must now pay the full adult rate for a monthly pass, $84.75, instead of a $65.25 student monthly pass. They can no longer purchase semester or annual student passes, which offer additional savings.
Student outrage has sparked a Facebook group with nearly 1,500 members as of July 16. Student leaders in Ottawa condemned the new policy, which passed last December.
“If you’re a student, you’re a student,” says Erik Halliwell, president of the Carleton University Students’ Association. “Many people are still in school after the age of 27, and many people are going back to retrain during the recession.”
He says the change affects about 3,300 students at Carleton University, including over 1,000 undergraduate students.
Algonquin College Students’ Association president Mike Hirsch calls the change “a tremendous mistake” that “unfairly disadvantages a very large demographic at Algonquin College” in a letter to the Ottawa Citizen.
Although Hirsch could not be reached for comment, Halliwell says the ACSA is circulating a petition to remove the age limit.
Halliwell says he also intends to petition city councillors, and thinks the issue could become important in the 2010 municipal election. City council cannot revisit the issue until next year unless a special motion passes with support from 75 per cent of city councillors.
Representatives from the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa have also expressed concern, but could not be reached for comment.
Some students are expected to attend tonight’s Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Committee meeting to plead their case, but Halliwell says the student union is preparing to confront council in September.
Several students have posted much harsher criticisms on a Facebook group called “Against the Age-Cut Off for Student Bus Passes.” Complaints range from “discrimination based on age” to “cash grab,” though some students have defended the policy.
The age limit will save Ottawa’s public transit service, OC Transpo, about $220,000 a year, according to the motion passed by council. The limit is based on the amount of time a student would take to achieve a doctorate if they were in school continuously.
OC Transpo’s revenues are down this year after a 51-day strike by employees took buses off the road. Several other changes have been made to increase revenue, including increased prices for bus fares, tickets and passes. Council also rejected a proposal for a universal student transit pass at the University of Ottawa last March.
Don’t be born in Ontario
For med school hopefuls, Ontario might seem like the perfect province to live in.
There are 17 med schools in the country. Six of those are in Ontario, more than any other province. But as I recently discovered, being born in Ontario is actually a huge handicap.
Most med schools prefer applicants from their own province. It makes sense: if you train local doctors, you produce local doctors. It’s not unusual to reserve 85 percent or even 90 percent of the available seats for in-province applicants. Most med schools even have higher entrance requirements for out-of-province applicants.
Everyone likes their own brand.
Except for Ontario. Not a single med school in Ontario reserves spots for Ontario applicants.
On the surface, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario might seem like exceptions to the rule. On it’s website, Northern says that it encourages applications from “students who are from Northern Ontario and/or students who have a strong interest in and aptitude for practicing medicine in northern urban, rural and remote communities.” Western Ontario gives special consideration to applicants from “rural/regional communities in Southwestern Ontario.”
But neither of these med schools actually reserve spots for in-province applicants. Not to mention, those “rural and remote” communities that Northern Ontario mentions could actually be anywhere across Canada.
McMaster’s policy is a bit more complicated. They don’t actually reserve med school spots for in-province applicants. Instead, they award 90 percent of interview positions for Ontario residents.
Yeah, I know. I had to read that twice, too.
It means that once you reach the interview stage, it doesn’t matter which province you’re from.
Even if McMaster offered a genuine advantage to in-province applicants, it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. With over 4500 applicants and a success rate of 4.9 per cent in 2006/2007, getting into McMaster is like winning the med school lottery.
End to two-month-long strike could depend on Liberal support
The federal government is prepared to end the continuing misery of Ottawa commuters by legislating striking transit drivers back to work, Labour Minister Rona Ambrose said Wednesday.
Although she cautioned that a speedy end to the nearly two-month-long dispute, which at times has paralyzed the city, will depend on co-operation with the opposition Liberals.
“When the government sees a situation where there is clearly no compromise or no flexibility being shown by either side to reach an agreement, it is our obligation to act,” she said. “I’m prepared to introduce back-to-work legislation. However, I do need the support of the opposition.”
Ambrose said there were overtures made to the Liberals about supporting back-to-work legislation. But it was unclear late Wednesday whether they would support the measure. The NDP have said they will not.
Earlier in the day, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty pressed the federal government to end the labour dispute, which comes under Ottawa’s jurisdiction because the bus routes cross the Ontario-Quebec border, into Gatineau, Quebec.
“It’s dramatically affecting our economy at a time when we can’t afford to have these kind of things get in the way,” said McGuinty, who represents an Ottawa riding in the legislature.
McGuinty’s comments came as the Amalgamated Transit Union rejected the City of Ottawa’s “revised bargaining strategy,” saying the city has failed to significantly alter its position.
They also follow attempts by McGuinty’s own government to force striking faculty at York University in Toronto back to work after an 83-day strike that locked out thousands of students.
In Ottawa, the union representing OC Transpo drivers, dispatchers and mechanics had returned to the bargaining table with city negotiators and a federal mediator Monday after city council changed its contract proposal.
But ATU International vice-president Randy Graham later said the city’s new contract offer was “show,” and the talks broke down yet again.
The city remains “entrenched” on the issues of wages and work schedules, Graham said.
24-year-old student was handling two “highly unstable” chemical compounds
The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that two University of Ottawa students are recovering after a minor chemical explosion at the school’s biosciences complex Wednesday afternoon.
Paramedics treated a 19-year-old woman for minor chemical burns to her hands and a 24-year-old man was treated for a cut to his face and chemical burns to his hands and face. According to the Citizen, his injuries are serious but he is currently in stable condition.
Ottawa fire District Chief Monty Malloy says it is his understanding that a student brought an experiment from the lab into the lunchroom area. “Whatever happened caused a minor explosion,” he says.
The explosion blew out a couple of windows and damage to the building is estimated at $500.
Acting paramedics team leader Jason St. Pierre said the man was handling two “highly unstable” dry chemical compounds — sodium-azide and cyanogen-bromide — when an accident that caused the explosion occurred .
An Ottawa fire hazardous materials team also arrived on-scene to check the building and decontaminate the people involved.
A recent article in Macleans reports that Victoria is the only city in Canada that- get this- discharges its sewage “raw.” Meaning, if Victoria’s human waste was a DVD, it would be the complete and uncut edition. Victoria is Canada’s disgusting child. The one who pees all over the toilet seat. The one who, after [...]
A recent article in Macleans reports that Victoria is the only city in Canada that- get this- discharges its sewage “raw.” Meaning, if Victoria’s human waste was a DVD, it would be the complete and uncut edition.
Victoria is Canada’s disgusting child. The one who pees all over the toilet seat. The one who, after eating a Caesar salad, gets a white creamy moustache. When Victoria, Ottawa, and Toronto had a family barbecue, Victoria picked his nose and then rubbed his finger in Ottawa’s hair. Toronto, too mature and sophisticated for such childish behaviour, went indoors and watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
After Macleans finally provided proof in a previous issue that Canadians are better than Americans, I was feeling pretty smug. Superior. Arrogant (American, almost). But it doesn’t matter if we’re richer and healthier: we crap in the ocean.
Sure, if we were American, we would be nobly crapping in the ocean to provide a source of methane gas to underwater vents. We would be crapping in the name of Freedom and patriotically slow-motion rippling flags. But it’s still pretty embarrassing that Victoria clearly didn’t sign the Charter of Not Being Repulsive.
But really, why waste so much money on plumbing? It would be less expensive to set up toilet paper stations along the beach.
Yup. I would hate to be a fish in Victoria.