SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - December 11, 2009

December 11, 2009

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: Dec. 4-11, 2009

SFU people were all over the news this week: From stories on the introduction of farming to Britain 6,000 years ago, to the outlook for a greener Canada of tomorrow. From the misuse of prescription narcotics to measures to stop laptop thefts on the Burnaby campus. And from a report slamming the RCMP to a report on disastrous salmon runs, and to SFU being named a top “family-friendly” employer.


  • Canwest News Service quoted Benedikt Fischer of SFU Health Sciences in a story on how deaths from the misuse of prescription narcotics have nearly doubled in 13 years, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The study noted prescription opioids can kill if mixed with alcohol or prescription sedatives.
    “‘This is a prominent, very prevalent problem,’ said Benedikt Fischer, a public health professor at Simon Fraser University. ‘It comes from an unexpected side, namely medications we all think are just therapeutic and safe and wonderful because we get them from the pharmacy and the doctor. But they obviously bear a lot of risks and harms.’''
    The study looked at Ontario deaths, but Fischer said that while data is not available for the entire country, he suspects a surge in opioid-related deaths can be found nationwide.
    Fischer also contributed a commentary on the study in the CMAJ, saying the profile of those dying may be shifting from marginalized people to more from the "middle class."
    The news story appeared on The National on CBC-TV, with Fischer saying: “The prescription opioid problem is probably a bigger problem overall in terms of public health impact than the problem of heroin or cocaine use if you look at overall numbers of people who are involved but also the morbidity and mortality consequences.”
    Stories also ran in the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun (“I would hypothesize that we prescribe a lot more of these drugs than we need to prescribe.”) and the Montreal Gazette. did a story, too.
  • Julian Somers of SFU Health Sciences was in a New Brunswick-based web magazine,, in a story on a five-year study (by the Mental Health Commission of Canada) that will see 1,325 homeless people afflicted with mental illness given a place to live.
    "‘It's a significant commitment to people and family members of the homeless that we're going to discover something that will change the service landscape for the better,’ said Julian Somers, an associate professor Simon Fraser University who will be conducting research at the Vancouver site of the project.”
  • CTV News reported the city of Vancouver has ordered the removal of a mural outside a Downtown Eastside gallery, depicting the Olympic rings as four sad faces and one smiley face. Patrick Smith, director of SFU’s Institute of Governance Studies, said: "I think the city has kind of caved in. . . It [the Olympic movement] dictates an awful lot to local citizens.”
  • The Financial Post section of National Post ran an online debate on financial risk management that included Robert Adamson, executive director of the CIBC Centre for Corporate Governance and Risk Management in SFU Business:
    “Financial instruments were created that (meant) too much reliance on mathematical and mechanical tools for managing the risk.” Changes are being contemplated in Europe and the U.S. “Whether or not these changes ever see the light of day, they are being considered and debated in a way that they are not in Canada.”
  • Canwest News Service sent across the country a newsfeature that explored this: “Depending on whom you choose to believe, a wholesale expansion of British Columbia's electricity supply is either fiscal folly or a wise investment in the future.” Among those quoted was Marvin Shaffer, a consulting economist and adjunct prof in SFU’s graduate public policy program:
    “We are certainly paying more than the market would pay for (privately generated power). If BC Hydro was a commercial enterprise, or if (Hydro subsidiary) Powerex was doing this as a commercial venture, they wouldn't buy power at the prices BC Hydro is paying.”


  • As Britain’s Daily Telegraph put it: “The French have always believed that they are more sophisticated than the British and now archaeologists have proved them right.” And that refers to SFU archaeologists Mark Collard and Kevan Edinborough, and colleagues in London. summed up their paper in the latest Journal of Archaeological Science:
    “Mark Collard from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and his colleagues studied carbon-14 dates for ancient bones, wood and cereal grains from locations across Great Britain. From this they were able to assess how population density changed with time, indicating that around 6000 years ago the population quadrupled in just 400 years This coincides with the emergence of farming in Britain.
    “Such a population explosion almost rules out the idea that farming was adopted independently by indigenous hunter-gatherers, says Collard. Pottery remains and tomb types suggest the first immigrants came from Brittany in north-west France to southern England, followed around 100 years later by a second wave from north-eastern France who settled in Scotland.”
    The Asian News International news agency moved a story to its clients, and we saw it as far away as India’s Hindustan Times and Pakistan’s news website. And on the science site
    An unedited copy of the study is available at


  • News media made much of an open letter to Prime Minister Harper from some 500 Canadian scientists—including a couple of dozen from SFU—on the eve of the U.N. Copenhagen conference on climate change.
    It said in part: “We urge you now, more than ever, to commit Canada to taking domestic action in line with keeping global warming less than 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature, as a part of a fair, effective and science-based global greenhouse gas reduction treaty. . . . Canada should be a global leader in averting dangerous climate change, and our country has the resources, tenacity and vision to achieve this."
    SFU signatories included Felix Breden, Leah Bendell, John Clague, Isabelle Cote, Lawrence Dill, Nicholas Dulvy, Elizabeth Elle, Gwenn Flowers, Allison Kermode, Karen E. Kohfeld, Ken Lertzman, Jim Mattsson, Arne Mooers, Inigo Novales Flamarique, Wendy PalenEvelyn Pinkerton, John Reynolds, Bernard Roitberg, Anne Salomon, Cyril Thong, Brent Ward, Tony Williams, John Welch and David Zandvliet.
  • Energy economist Mark Jaccard was on the As it Happens show on CBC Radio (a million listeners around the world) explaining why some proposals aired at the Copenhagen conference are seen by developing nations as "climate colonialism" or "climate culturalism".
    In the end, "what goes on behind the scenes among a few countries" is a key to success.
  • In a pre-conference address at Whistler, Jaccard had a message for politicians. As reported in the Whistler Pique: "We need to get away from the world of targets and we need to get to the world of policies that achieve targets. You can rant and rave about how our targets should be. I guess we were talking about 25 to 40 per cent below our 1990 emissions levels by 2020. That is really unachievable for Canada and I think if a politician ever says ‘I've got that target’, then all the environmentalists will applaud and we'll all applaud, the media will applaud and that'll be a huge mistake. It'll be Kyoto all over again."
    The Whistler Question also did a story.
  • In an advance story on the Copenhagen conference, The Vancouver Sun cited Jaccard as “a globally sought expert on greenhouse gas emission policies” who has a “non-partisan approach”.
    His consulting company issued this year a report on cap-and-trade and carbon taxes as tools for reducing emissions without sacrificing the economy. “Jaccard has said publicly on many occasions that he does not care which policy is adopted—his only interest is seeing a meaningful reduction of emissions that does not destabilize the Canadian economy. . . .
    “However, the report was quickly rejected after its November release by both federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach—even though, Jaccard noted in an interview, it was premised upon the work of the federal government's own advisory body, (the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy).”
  • Citing the context of the Copenhagen conference, the Society for Bangladesh Climate Justice announced in Vancouver a seminar on climate-change impacts on Bangladesh. Speakers include public policy prof John Richards.


  • There was strong media coverage of a report from a think-tank of scientists (including SFU researchers) on this year’s disastrous Fraser River sockeye returns. “The weight of evidence suggests that the problem of reduced productivity occurred after the juvenile fish began their migration toward the sea.”
    John Reynolds, SFU’s Tom Buell chair in salmon conservation, was quoted in the Globe and Mail: "Fraser River sockeye are almost unable now to replace themselves." And The Canadian Press quoted him as saying: “This is now the way that things may well be for the future, especially under the predictions we have for climate change.”
    At a news conference, Reynolds told reporters the “many knowledge gaps” as to why salmon runs are down call for more research, including work at sea and not just on the rivers.
    As well, he said: “We need to compile historical data on the abundance and health of farmed salmon along the sockeye migration route in order to better understand the potential for transmission of disease and parasites to wild salmon.”
  • Genome BC sent national media a release about how the Atlantic salmon species will have its genome fully sequenced, thanks to an international collaboration involving researchers, funding agencies and industry from Canada, Chile and Norway.  On the project’s executive science committee are SFU’s Willie Davidson and Steven Jones.


  • The Burnaby NewsLeader featured SFU’s “bait laptop” program. Quoted (and pictured) was Kiehah Kim of SFU Campus Security. “Already, thefts in the library dropped by 20 per cent in September and October, compared to the same period last year, said Kim. ‘It's had an impact ... Word gets around quite quickly.’"
    Word got around quickly in media circles, and Kim was interviewed on GlobalTV, as the station did a feature that included demonstrations of how the bait-laptops sound alarms if picked up.  CTV and The Vancouver Sun also pursued Kim.
  • Public policy prof Kennedy Stewart wrote a guest column for The Vancouver Sun on the BC government’s appointment of a Local Government Elections Task Force to look at and revamp how local elections are conducted in this province.  “The premier has trusted this undertaking to a very competent team.  . . . The task force team would appear to have the right combination of knowledge and toughness needed to clean up local politics in this province.”
  • The Vancouver Sun carried a newsfeature on how “almost 17 years after the Woodward’s department store closed, the long-awaited revitalization of the landmark site is finally taking shape.” The story added: “Workers are racing to put the finishing touches on Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts, which will relocate there.”
    Developer Ian Gillespie pointed to the presence of a new London Drugs store. “To them it was a natural fit, to come back and do something. . . . They saw it as important for Vancouver to be there. Brandt Louie is not just the owner of London Drugs, he’s also the chancellor of Simon Fraser [University]. I don’t think that’s coincidental.”
    Then, as the “Woodward’s Food Floor” opened at Nester’s in the Woodward’s development, the relocation of SFU Contemporary Arts came in for mentions in numerous media.
  • The Burnaby NewsLeader featured the “Starry Nights” astronomy program offered for school kids by the Science in Action outreach program at SFU.
    Physicist Howard Trottier was quoted: “I want them to be passionate about something, even if it’s not science. If I get them onto astronomy, all the better. I love doing what I do and I want you to love doing what you do.”
    Also quoted: SFU Communication student Michelle Murvai, a volunteer with the program.
  • The Province once more turned to criminology student Dustin Paul for a story: “Wheelchair-bound SFU student pawn in transit dispute”. He’s been in a wheelchair since a motorcycle crash six years ago. He counts on HandyDart buses, but the drivers are on strike. And now “notices have just gone up announcing that the elevator he counts on to get up to the SkyTrain guideway (at Production Way Station) will be closed Dec. 14-Jan. 8.
    “‘I’m frustrated with the whole process,’ Paul said Sunday in the wheelchair-accessible apartment where he lives alone, struggling to become a productive member of society. ‘There’s a lot of finger pointing going on, and not much else. It’s the middle of winter, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of thought going into who their clients are. I don’t know why HandyDart isn’t considered an essential service.”


  • The Canadian Press quoted SFU criminologist David MacAlister in a national advance story on the release on Tuesday of the report of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP on the death of Robert Dziekanski, who was Tasered by RCMP at the Vancouver airport in 2007.
    Said MacAlister: “If there are no real teeth to it, we might question why we would have an entity like this and have it looking into very serious issues.” He added that the RCMP has traditionally been reluctant to accept some of the commission's recommendations.
    "As an organization, they think they do a pretty good job of looking into any problems and coming up with their own ideas about how to make things better. They seem to be a little resistant to external forms of criticism."
    Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, was interviewed by CFAX Radio in Victoria.
  • Last week, we mentioned that MacAlister had been interviewed by The Province and The Vancouver Sun on why RCMP Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson had been charged only with obstruction of justice for his actions after his car collided with a motor cycle, killing Orion Hutchinson, 21.  We learned later that MacAlister also did interviews with CBC Radio, CBC-TV, CTV, GlobalTV, CKNW and 24Hours—and all on the same day.
  • The Vancouver Sun asked Rob Gordon to comment on a UBC study that UBC said could help investigators determine whether a crime had been committed by one or by multiple perpetrators. Said Gordon: “The idea of developing typologies of offenders is not new, but certainly comparing individual perpetrators with multiple perpetrators, that is something that has not been done to any great extent. This may provide us with some new insights into the conduct of people who commit murders.
  • Criminologist Liz Elliott was in a Vancouver Sun story on how the number of people in jail awaiting trial or sentencing exceeds the population of convicted prisoners serving sentences. She said politicians are driving a get-tough approach, pushing judges to set a high bail. And that forces defendants—sometimes innocent people—to stay in jail and eat up tax dollars while they await trial and sentencing.


  • The Globe and Mail carried a feature on university and college branding. Anson Lee of Karo Design, SFU's branding consultant, was interviewed about a game used by SFU student recruiters, in which potential students brainstorm to solve problems using the different disciplines taught at SFU. How, for example, would geography, computer science and dance help provide medical assistance in a remote area of the B.C. Interior?
    "At the end, Mr. Lee said, the recruiters would tell the students: 'What you've just experienced in the last five minutes is what it's like to think at SFU.' Now, he explained, 'The kids walk out of that with a feeling of the SFU brand, without being told what the brand is.'”
  • Education Canada featured the LUCID program in Prince Rupert: LUCID standing for Learning for Understanding through Culturally inclusive Imaginative Development, a partnership of SFU Education and the Prince Rupert Aboriginal Education Council.
    SFU prof Mark Fettes, project director, was quoted: “For us it’s when the child’s whole spirit is engaged that the serious learning gets done. So we try to build classroom experiences that make that more likely to happen for a wider range of kids. That doesn’t mean that you never use text books or worksheets or pencil-and-paper tests, but you certainly don’t rely on them to do most of the work of teaching.” (PDF at
  • Meanwhile, the Alaska Highway News had a short story on grads of the AHCOTE (Alaska Highway Consortium on Teacher Education) teacher-training program.  “AHCOTE is a joint project of Simon Fraser University, Northern Lights College, School Districts 59, 60 and 81, the University of Northern B.C. and the local teacher associations.”
  • The Vancouver Sun’s online education pages carried a story on a report from SFU’s Centre for Education Research and Policy, saying the inclusion of special-needs children in BC classrooms does not negatively affect the achievement of other students. “Whatever B.C.'s teachers are doing to support students with disabilities and their classmates, it is successful in ensuring that there are no detrimental side-effects of the inclusion policy," said study co-author Brian Krauth.
  • National Post carried a feature on Christopher Spence, director of education for the Toronto District School Board (260,000 students).  The newspaper noted: “He got into Simon Fraser University on a football scholarship. After graduating with a degree in criminology, he joined the BC Lions as a running back. An Achilles tendon injury cut short his football career after just two seasons, and then, ‘I was able to use my degree to go on and do other things with my life.’”
  • The Saint John (NB) Telegraph-Journal reported on the arrival of Chris Martyniuk, molecular biologist, as Canada Research Chair at the University of New Brunswick’s Canadian Rivers Institute. The paper mentioned: “The Sarnia, Ont. native got his bachelor's degree at Simon Fraser University.”


  • SFU was for the second time in three years named one of “Canada's Top 100 Family-Friendly Employers” in Today's Parent magazine. This following on the university’s third straight selection as one of Canada’s top 100 employers. Reasons cited in Today’s Parent included SFU’s parental leave top-up payments for new mothers, fathers and adoptive parents, on-site daycare, a summer day camp program for school-age children of employees, and “a generous tuition subsidy” for employees.


SFU Athletics kept news media up to date with info and statistics as:

  • Midfielder Colin Streckmann of the Clan men’s soccer team was named the Brine-NAIA men’s soccer National Player of the Year. Earlier, he was selected as the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) Player of the Year.
    NAIA’s news release noted: “Streckmann led the Clan to a berth in the Men’s Soccer National Championship Semifinal round and a 20-4-0 record. He compiled eight goals and seven assists (23 points) during the course of the year. His assists total tied for the team lead.”
  • The not-so-good news was that the Clan was eliminated from the NAIA national soccer championships in Fresno CA, losing their semi-final game 3-0 to the top-seeded Lindsey Wilson College (KY) Blue Raiders.
    “We ran into an unbelievably talented team that deserved to beat us 3-0,” said SFU head coach Alan Koch following the game. “This was an incredible season, one of the most successful for this program in the past 22 years. To get to 20 wins and to make the Final Four, I am extremely proud of these guys.”
  • Lauren Lachlan of the Clan women’s soccer team was named an NAIA women’s soccer Second Team All-American. SFU goalkeeper Cassie Newbrook won an honourable mention in the NAIA All-American selections.
  • Laurelle Weigl of the Clan women’s basketball team was named Canada West Athlete of the Week after a big game (25 points and seven rebounds) to help the Clan win its 43rd consecutive game. That was 95-69 over the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades.
  • The Clan women’s wrestling team finished third over-all in the Harry Geris Memorial Open in Williamsburg KY. The Clan defeated the host school, as well as Missouri Valley and the University of Calgary, but fell to Oklahoma City. Stacie Anaka, Victoria Anthony and Danielle Lappage were undefeated in their weight classes.

As well:

  • Burnaby Now reported: “The Simon Fraser University football team lost one DesLauriers and cheered another in the same day.  Clan defensive coordinator Lou DesLauriers announced on Nov. 26 that he will not be returning for a fourth season.  Under DesLauriers, the Clan had the second-ranked defence in the Canada West conference.  That same day, son Anthony DesLauriers was named to the 2009 Canadian Interuniversity Sports All-Canadian first team as a free safety.”


  • Neil Branda, Canada Research Chair in Materials Science, got another big hit for his team’s experiments in using light to “turn on and off” a chemical in tiny lab worms.  This week the Science Friday program on National Public Radio posted a video on the experiments. “Footage courtesy of Neil Branda/Simon Fraser University . . . Viewed 4829 times.”
    The video is at:
  • Political scientist Andy Hira was on CKNW, doing yet another interview on his paper last week that concluded: “Using Afghanistan as an example we see that the only logical road to success in nation-building, should we choose to continue it, is long-term occupation.’"
    Hira said earlier on CKNW: “The flaw in the whole strategy to begin with is that we’re sending soldiers over. We’re using a strategy based on conventional warfare. . . . Do we just think the terrorists will disappear? It’s certainly unlikely.”
    Hira also did an interview—by e-mail—with Burnaby Now.
  • The science-and-technology website picked up an SFU news release from last week on the role of SFU and Barbara Frisken in an experiment on the International Space Station. Frisken, her husband and co-investigator, physicist Arthur Bailey, and postdoctoral fellow Juan Sabin worked with NASA through the Canadian Space Agency on BCAT-5. That’s a project to investigate the behaviour of particle suspensions, known as colloids, in zero gravity.
  • The Vancouver Sun picked up a Canwest News Service feature from last week on how the year-end holiday season can be stressful. “Ironically, Christmas songs on the radio and TV programs depicting happy families can generate feelings of sadness, says Joti Samra, a psychologist and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University's faculty of health sciences. ‘We think our lives should be like this,’ she says. ‘In reality, there's no such thing as a perfect family.’"
  • The Cape Breton Post finally ran a Canadian Press feature from October on how “sustainable” has become an overused buzzword. “Emilia Kennedy, a Simon Fraser University master's candidate, is currently doing her thesis on this subject. The 28-year-old said it's ‘urgently necessary’ to start raising concerns about a word that is so important, yet so broadly used.”


As well as releases mentioned above, SFU sent out news releases on how:

  • SFU physicist Bernd Stelzer literally ran to tell his colleagues when subatomic particles collided at the highest energies ever reached in a laboratory—in the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator in Switzerland. SFU is hosting one of Canada’s four Tier-2 data centres that collect and analyze ATLAS data.  Other SFU researchers include physicists Mike Vetterli and Dugan O’Neil. And Jennifer Godfrey, one of O’Neil’s PhD students, is working onsite in Switzerland.
  • Retired biology prof Thelma Finlayson has been awarded the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made a distinguished contribution to the province in areas in which SFU has a major interest or direct association.
  • SFU’s is taking part in a research project by SRI International, an independent nonprofit research and development organization in California’s Silicon Valley. SRI, initially founded by Stanford University, will lead a global research team to examine online behavior in virtual gaming environments. SFU Education prof Suzanne de Castell heads SFU’s researchers.

ALSO in the NEWS

  • Sirona Biochem Corp., a Vancouver biotech company focused on drug development for diabetes and obesity, announced to media the appointment to its scientific advisory board of Mario Pinto, chemical biologist and also V-P of research at SFU.
  • The Lawyers Weekly (based in Markham ON) looked at “green” buildings and their certification. “Gordon Harris, CEO of the SFU Community Trust—the master developer of UniverCity, the model sustainable community adjacent to Simon Fraser University—agrees that the community must have other attractions in addition to sustainability. UniverCity offers green amenities such as a discounted transit pass. Now in its third year of operation, the program is subscribed to by 50 percent of UniverCity residents.”
  • The Vancouver Sun used a photo ofSFU Education prof Heesoon Bai, teaching deep breathing and meditation to philosophy of education students. This to illustrate a story on “mindfulness" as an antidote for stress.
  • The Province and the Vancouver edition of Metro reported on the eviction of tenants from a Vancouver house, by a landlord who advertised the place for rent during the 2010 Olympics.  One of the tenants: Sue Brown, a grad student in SFU Criminology. The Canadian Press described her as perhaps “one of the first public victims of Winter Olympics evictions”. But the Pivot Legal Society said the tenants don’t have much recourse because they signed leases that expired Jan. 31, believing they would then go to a month-by-month agreement.
  • Business in Vancouver featured MBA grad Ben Sparrow and his company, Saltworks Technologies, which is developing a process it says removes salt from seawater at a fraction of the cost of other desalination processes.
  • The Whistler Pique and the Squamish Chief reported the election of a new member tothe Squamish Nation band council: Christopher Lewis. A senior policy advisor with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, Lewis has a BA in Geography with a minor in First Nations Studies from SFU.


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