SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - August 13, 2010

August 13, 2010

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: August 6, 2010 to August 13, 2010.

It was a very busy week for SFU experts as several big stories kept the media hopping. The biggest story involved HST opponents who were upset that B.C.’s chief electoral officer chose not to forward their petition to a special legislative committee. Doug McArthur did several interviews, including CTV, CKNW and CBC.

The SFU Pipe Band continued to be treated like rock stars in Scotland, where they will compete in the World Pipe Band Championships 2010 this weekend.


  • Simon Fraser University political policy analyst Doug McArthur was very popular with the media this week. He was much sought after for his opinion following B.C.’s chief electoral officer’s refusal to forward the successful HST campaign results to a special legislative committee. McArthur was interviewed by several newspapers and also appeared on TV and radio. He said stalling the petition means trouble for Gordon Campbell and the B.C. Liberals. McArthur told CTV News: “No one can tell him he’s wrong and therefore he has to reverse his position – other than a judge. He’s avoiding public opinion. He’s hiding from it, so that makes me feel that he knows public opinion is going against him.” McArthur added that HST opponent and former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm’s ultimate goal is to get rid of the B.C. Liberals. “I think he would like to see the Liberals disappear – that would be his preference – and that he would like to see a new right wing party come up around clearly defined conservative populist principals.” McArthur’s comments were also picked up by the Alaska Highway News, Mission City Record, The Globe and Mail, and The Georgia Straight. He also appeared on CBC-Radio, CFAX radio (Victoria), and CKNW’s Bill Good Show.


  • SFU molecular biology and biochemistry professor Steven Jones and SFU grad Marco Marra made the front page of The Vancouver Sun this week. Both of them are part of the B.C. Cancer Agency Genome Sciences Centre team. Jones is among the researchers that recently cracked the genetic code of a rare tongue tumour that metastasized. Using advance DNA sequencing techniques developed by Jones and other bioinformatics experts, the scientists discovered genetic changes that had accumulated in the tumour. They then developed a personalized drug regime that stabilized the aggressive cancer for several months. In essence, this research will allow doctors to deliver personalized therapies tailored to the genetic make-up of individual cancers. “This is exactly the kind of thing we dreamt about 10 years ago: that one day, patients will come through the door and we’ll sequence their tumours,” Jones said in the article. Said David Levy, president of the B.C. Cancer Agency: “This is an important advancement in cancer treatment. Genome sequencing has the ability to help guide clinical decisions, offering personalized treatment strategies, and improve the quality of life of people living with cancer in B.C.” This article was also published by other Postmedia News newspapers and websites, including The Province, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Nanaimo Daily News and Edmonton Journal, as well as Global BC.


  • It’s good news for commercial fishermen as forecasts of seven to 11 million sockeye salmon returning to the Fraser River appear to be true. SFU fish biologist John Reynolds told the Royal City Record that while this is good news, we should not celebrate quite yet. “Everybody knows that salmon have good years and bad years," said Reynolds. "The thing to bear in mind is the parents of the current generation that are coming back now were obviously different than the ones that spawned the disastrous run last year. These are fish that went out to sea as juveniles in 2008, and what this is telling us is that sea conditions when they first entered the marine environment from the mouth of the Fraser and first started working their way up the coast, meant they probably encountered better sea conditions in terms of either food or fewer predators than their predecessors." He was also interviewed by the Peace Arch News,, CBC News, and Chilliwack Progress.

  • The Globe and Mail also quoted Reynolds and his colleague, Diana Allen, about low river levels in B.C. due to a dry summer. According to the Ministry of Environment, the Peace, Liard and Skeena regions have been classified as Drought Level 3, which would indicate “concern for fish and water supplies, unless significant rainfall occurs." Some areas in those regions only received a quarter of the amount of rainfall expected for this time of year, said the article. Dry periods could affect salmon spawning in two ways – by creating water levels that are too low for fish to swim in, or by increasing water temperatures, which deteriorates fish habitat. “It’s the heat that is actually more critical sometimes than the low flows," Allen said. Added Reynolds: “We are on the edge of the temperature at which salmon can get into real trouble. Climate change is happening, and I’m afraid that the future of the Fraser is a much warmer one.”


  • Coverage of the SFU Pipe Band continued to pour in as the group played concerts in Scotland as tune-ups for the World Pipe Band Championships 2010. The Burnaby NOW wrote a feature about a documentary on the six-time world champions that was broadcast by CBC-TV last weekend. The piece focused on what it’s like to play in the pipe band and was produced by SFU’s Learning Instructional and Development Centre (LIDC). “We wanted to tell the story of the band’s rise to the top at the Worlds through the eyes of these incredibly talented pipers and drummers, and of the sacrifices they’ve made to get there,” said LIDC film producer Jordan Paterson. SFU cameraman Thomas Buchan filmed the documentary on location in Scotland. “The film tells the story well,” said pipe major Terry Lee. “It captures the mood and spirit of the band as we prepare for what has become a defining moment for us every year.” Scotland TV (STV) interviewed pipe sergeant Jack Lee and also provided video coverage of the pipe band performing for the public. The Burnaby NewsLeader has published several articles and photos about the pipe band, plus video clips. CityTV’s Breakfast Television show did a live interview with pipe sergeant Jack Lee via Skype. He said: "We've been here for three or four days and have done quite a bit of practising. The Scottish weather is just beginning, which means it's raining every day now, but we're just practising and getting ready for the championships on Saturday.  … The pressure is on. We feel confident that we can be one of the contenders for sure. But beyond that, it's a very competitive race. We've won the championship six times, including the past two years. But there really are two or three bands right at the top and it could go any of three ways, I would say. So the pressure is on to really perform, because it's a very, very tight competition." A couple of pipers – Will Nichols and Gordon Conn – also played Scotland the Brave in the morning broadcast. Jack Lee also did a live radio interview with CKNW. He talked about a number of challenges the pipe band faces this year: “The first one is the standard is so high and we’re in a neck-to-neck contest with two others – a band from Belfast and a band from Dublin. There’s very little to pick between the three of us. We were fortunate enough to win the last two, but the band from Belfast won the two before that and we were second both times.” The pipe sergeant also shared some insight on the popularity of the band and drawing on talent from around the world. “We’re very fortunate, we’ve become a destination band for a lot of pipers and drummers around the world,” he said. “We have a lot of people in the band. On this trip, we have 27 pipers who have made the band but we can only play 24, so three won’t get a chance to play. There are also two or three drummers in that situation, too.” Jack Lee was also interviewed by Global TV. Watch the SFU Pipe Band in action this Saturday live via video streaming from the BBC:


  • A couple of SFU experts were much consulted after the second largest landslide in Canadian history occurred at Mount Meager, about 150 kilometres north of Vancouver. It took out a mountainside and part of a glacier. According to The Province, “The slide apparently occurred when the flank of Mount Meager collapsed, sending it over the front of Capricorn Glacier and bringing down 40 million cubic metres of trees, mud and boulder debris.” The landslide led to the evacuation of nearby Pemberton. SFU slide expert John Clague said the landslide “happened in the valley most prone to landsides in the country.” He said landslides also blocked Meager Creek in 1998 and 2008, and speculated that warm weather triggered the slide. "The warm weather melts the snow and ice, which seeps into the rocks and then triggers the failure," he said. This article was also picked up by other papers in the Postmedia News network, such as Montreal Gazette and The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon). The Globe and Mail, Mountain FM, and CTV News also interviewed Clague. His colleague, earth sciences associate professor Brent Ward, was quoted in an article by The Vancouver Sun, Metro News, Lethbridge Herald, and The Canadian Press, and also appeared on CBC News, CTV News, and News1130.


  • SFU’s John Richards collaborated with three other public policy experts in an opinion piece published in The Globe and Mail calling for retention of the long-form census. Those opposed to the federal government’s plan to scrap the long-form format say data collected from Canadians will be unreliable if the census is voluntary. Many organizations rely on census data for evaluating and planning programs. “This is an occasion for MPs to stand up and be counted,” public policy professor Richards and his colleagues wrote. “We call for the three opposition leaders to agree on the text of a resolution in defence of census integrity and preservation of the mandatory long form … parliamentary endorsement of the integrity of the census would be a powerful affirmation of a core Canadian value.”

  • Canadians need to be aware about a U.S. Congressman wanting to kill a proposed pipeline that would carry Canadian crude oil to American refineries, wrote SFU political scientist Alexander Moens in an opinion piece in the National Post. Congressman Harry Waxman has powerful allies in Washington, D.C., and has the support of 49 Democratic colleagues on his side. Moens warns there are serious consequences on both sides of the border if the pipeline project is shelved. “If Keystone XL is not built and Waxman and company are able to hold up other pipeline proposals, Canadian crude oil exports to the United States will lose at first 600,000 barrels per day in future income and eventually nearly one million barrels per day,” Moens wrote. “It is worth for all Canadians to take a look at what amount of export income we are talking about. Assume a heavy oil price of US$80 a barrel and it comes to nearly US$30-billion per year. Without that income, Canadian imports from the rest of the world cannot be financed without running large trade deficits. This is not just an issue that Alberta faces, this is a vital economic interest for all Canadians.” He added: “… green lobbyists have no strategic vision about trade and energy interdependence between the United States and Canada and do not care that an end to Canadian oil would mean that America must buy more oil from Saudi Arabia or Venezuela or any other dictatorship run by oil.”

  • SFU archaeology grad student Doug Ross was interviewed by the Lewiston Morning Tribune (Idaho) about his work at a former Japanese internment camp in the Idaho wilderness. The site used to have barracks and gardens and held 256 Japanese men during the Second World War. Ross is part of the team using ground-penetrating radar, shovels and other methods to peek into the past. “Their findings will help explain how internees coped in a remote location far from their homes and families,” the article said. “Some of the items found during the month-long dig at the site include glass ink bottles, an antique Vicks VapoRub jar, broken crockery and buttons. One of the finds researchers are most excited about on a recent July day is shards of a broken rice bowl with ‘Made in Japan’ printed on the bottom. The white bowl is painted with blue plants and animals.”

  • Özlem Sensoy, an assistant professor with SFU’s Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, talked about the role online dating websites play in South Asian communities in The Globe and Mail. The article looked into websites catering specifically to South Asians and how they are different than mainstream ones like Lavalife, eHarmony and Plenty of Fish. “The whole paradigm of dating sites themselves is a very Western, commercial, capitalist creation,” Sensoy said in the article, which added that ”online dating, which is basically shopping for a mate while sitting alone at your computer, runs counter to the “collectivist, family-based” South Asian communities, but that these sites offer a ‘safe place’ to try it out.” The article said many of the dating profiles are monitored by parents of the users, and in some cases created by the parents for their children. “It isn't just two individuals getting married: It's two families coming together,” said Sensoy. “That's a cultural lens that's not a part of mainstream dating sites.”

  • International security expert André Gerolymatos was on The Christy Clark Show on CKNW, talking about the expected arrival off B.C. of a ship carrying an estimated 490 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. Asked what Ottawa needs to do in such cases, he said: “They would have to limit the amount of time refugees can stay in Canada if they come in illegally, and they would also have to take into account the people who have been conned into buying false documents and using up their life savings. And we would have to work with the local governments (in the homelands of the refugees) to discourage this human trafficking.” Several callers said the refugee ship should simply be turned around and sent back. Gerolymatos disagreed: “If we send them back in that ship they’ll never make it back. If you put them on a (proper) ship and send them back they go back to absolutely nothing. They go back to dying of hunger, dying of poverty. Maybe we should give them a little bit of cash so they can re-establish themselves in their own country.”


  • Forest fires throughout B.C. last week led to poor air quality and warnings to people with health concerns to avoid strenuous exercise outdoors. Haze was visible throughout the Lower Mainland as more than 400 wildfires continued to burn around the province, according to CBC-TV. SFU assistant health sciences professor Ryan Allen told CBC-TV viewers that jogging outdoors was not advisable. "Stay indoors to the extent possible, particularly … people with asthma, people with emphysema, people with cardiovascular disease," he said.


  • Police had no choice: CBC-TV Vancouver interviewed SFU criminologist David MacAlister about a Williams Lake man who was tied to a chair in an RCMP jail cell for hours. After watching video footage from a jail-cell camera, MacAlister responded to comments from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which said restraining the man was “unnecessary and potentially dangerous.” He said: “Presumably, this detachment didn’t have an empty cell that didn’t have anything in it. So the officers were improvising and trying to find some way of making do with a bad situation.” The RCMP said the man was seen standing on a toilet in the cell, trying to reach an air vent. Mounties also said the man was warned not to climb around the cell before he was restrained.

  • MacAlister was also interviewed by several media outlets regarding previously unreleased information from the Robert Pickton trial. In a story by The Canadian Press, the reporter wonders if jurors would have convicted Pickton on a more serious charge of first-degree murder if they knew about other details that the trial judge had banned from publication. MacAlister said while the publication ban may seem awkward, it was necessary, but he also added that it’s in the public’s interest to eventually be able to see all the evidence. “We do, as the public, have a right to know what’s going on. Even if it means that we weren’t allowed to know at the time, as long as we eventually get to know that, that’s a half-decent compromise.” Some of the publications and news websites this article appeared in were: Yahoo! Canada News, Winnipeg Free Press, Lethbridge Herald, and MSN News.

  • Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, told The Province he believes the targeted murder of a former Hells Angels member may have been an inside job. He described it as “an internal disciplinary matter” after Juel Ross Stanton was gunned down at his home Thursday morning in Vancouver.

  • A 12-year-old Nanaimo boy who’s had 100 run-ins with the police in the past two years was charged with armed robbery Wednesday. But SFU criminologist Ray Corrado says it’s unlikely the youth will end up in custody. “While it’s rare, this type of criminal behaviour is just part of a larger syndrome of problems that the youth has,” he told The Globe and Mail. Corrado says substance abuse, family conflict and anger management issues can lead to youth delinquency, but believes this boy, in particular, can be reformed through intervention. “An overwhelming number of these kids, 95 to 98 per cent … can be helped.”

  • Money is not necessarily the root of all evil, according to Victoria police chief Jamie Graham, in the Victoria News. In a three-part series, the newspaper does a ride-a-long in a police cruiser on a weekend evening and also examines the pressure of trying to do more with fewer resources. SFU assistant criminology professor Rick Parent agrees that more money for under-staffed municipal police forces in B.C. would help, but perhaps more importantly getting direction from the provincial government may help even more. “(Governments) put very little planning and foresight into long-term policing. Especially in Victoria,” Parent told the newspaper. “They have all these little departments running themselves and the provincial body who deals with (them doesn’t) take any time to deal with policing.”

  • Economy up in smoke: If marijuana was legalized in the United States, would it cripple the Canadian economy? This is the question floating around with a California referendum on the horizon that would legalize the drug, writes Douglas Quan with Postmedia News. It’s estimated that about 70 per cent of all marijuana that is produced in our province is sent to the U.S. and much of it to California. But “B.C. bud” is still coveted by most and is in a better position to survive in a tougher market. SFU economist Stephen Easton says the Canadian-grown marijuana industry has continued to thrive despite the rising loonie. “It’s a very resilient industry and very adaptive.”

  • Kim Rossmo, adjunct prof in SFU Criminology, geographic crime profiler and former Vancouver police inspector, was on the On the Coast show on CBC Radio, talking about the Robert Picton murder case, and calls for a public inquiry. First, he hit back at former Mayor Philip Owen, who had said: “The police department got paralyzed for several years while Kim Rossmo was going through his gymnastics."  Retorted Rossmo: “Completely unfounded, entirely inaccurate (and) it’s just totally untrue.” Then Rossmo said an inquiry is ”most likely” needed.  “But first we need to see what is in the internal police reports. . . . To me it’s very informative that the Vancouver Police Department has called for a review. That says they think more needs to be done.” He said of when he worked on the case: “There were issues and problems at the personnel level, at the organizational level, and at the structural level of policing with both the Vancouver Police Department and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  . . . It’s like an airplane crashing, with many things happening at the same time, and that’s exactly what happened with the Pickton case. With two organizations at the same time it is in many ways like a perfect storm. As long as we don’t have a regional police force in the Lower Mainland there’s going to be gaps and there’s going to be cracks.”


  • The Vancouver Courier wrote an article about six SFU students who went to the United Kingdom to learn about urban sustainability building techniques. They were enrolled in a three-week residential summer school program called The Culture of Building, which is offered by The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment. His Royal Highness Prince Charles, who met with the students during a visit, established the foundation. SFU student Steve Chou said in the article: "Vancouver often looks to high technology solutions in its pursuit of sustainability. It is clear to me that there are many more opportunities to pursue sustainability in the more traditional urban forms that can be found in the older European cities." Anthony Perl, director of SFU’s Urban Studies program, says Vancouver has a lot to learn from Europe. "(Vancouver) is not particularly ahead of the game. It'll take one thousand years to answer that question, but we're not out of the game," Perl said. "When you go to a place like the U.K., where people have been building and refining cities and other scale of settlements for millennia, it's a little bit easier to see in that longer-term framework than in a city like ours that's so new, where everything seems to be instant. What we think of as long term of 25 or 30 years is just a blink of an eye, really, in sustainability time." The residential summer school ended with a week-long design workshop where students design a structure that will be built by the prince’s building craft apprentices.


  • SFU track star Jessica Smith, who has won numerous NAIA middle distance national championships, brought home some more hardware recently, according to the North Shore News. This time she won gold and bronze for Canada at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association Under-23 championships held in Miramar, FL.

  • Bruce Langford, head coach of SFU’s women’s basketball team, just finished a basketball camp in Penticton that attracted 97 high-school players. In the Penticton Western News, he said there were many familiar faces of players who attended previous camps. “You always see improvement. Do they build on what we teach?” he said in the paper. “They can work on it in their driveway or with local teams.”


  • The North Shore News featured one of its local residents, Imrahn Mitha, who is an SFU student currently traveling with Global Vision as a youth ambassador. The 21-year-old political science and economics major is meeting with government officials and industry leaders in China and Malaysia. "This will be a trade mission, but more than anything else, it will be a chance to represent the North Shore and highlight things about the community that are important,” he told the newspaper.

  • SFU health sciences researcher Benedikt Fischer was featured in an article published by The Globe and Mail focusing on a proposal to distribute “crack kits” in Nanaimo. The story stems from Fischer’s recent study showing the urgent need for targeted drug prevention and treatment programs for those addicted to crack – especially those in small communities. The kits contain clean pipes that addicts can use to smoke crack – the idea is this will stop them from sharing pipes and contracting hepatitis C or HIV. The idea to distribute the kits has the support of Nanaimo’s mayor and RCMP force so far. Fischer is curious to see how this project will lead to shift in drug-use behaviours: “We essentially need to understand: Does this intervention really improve public health in any way. The other thing we want to know is what is the community response like. What’s the response politically? Will the police support it?”


  • Have skis, will travel: While in western Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains this summer, SFU business and health sciences student Justin Long got a chance to ski. It’s a far cry from Whistler-Blackcomb but he took advantage of the opportunity while on a trip to raise awareness about childhood diseases in Africa, such as AIDS and malaria, and money for a Mbarara children’s hospital. “I’ve always had a passion to ski in Africa,” the Nevada native said in an article by The Reno Gazette-Journal.


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