We’re pleased to announce the 2008 Student Blawger of the Year.
The LawIsCool team selects an individual who has made a unique contribution for the past academic year worthy of recognition.
This year’s award goes to Daniel Simard, for his courage and fortitude in addressing some very controversial and topical issues.
A short biography of Daniel Simard is included in the end of this post.
Major Issue of the Year
One issue that garnered considerable attention was that of the human rights complaint against Maclean’s.
Some continue on their hateful diatribe. Steyn says in the Feb. 25, 2008 issue,
I don’t ascribe to the concepts of “homophobia” and “Islamophobia.” They’re lame rhetoric sleight to end the argument by denying it’s an argument at all: you don’t have a political disagreement with me over gay marriage or sharia, you have a mental illness.
Although the case is still pending, we can already see some fruitful results out of the complaint.
Now Singing a Different Tune
The editors must have realized that the comprehensive review of 19 straight articles over a two year period, all one-sided, cannot cast the publication in a favourable light to the public, who have now looked at the magazine with greater scrutiny.
And regardless of what people might think about Human Rights Commissions, in this case they appear to be effective.
In the same Feb. 25 issue, they interviewed former Vice-Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, Graham E. Fuller, with the headline ‘Even if Islam had never existed, there would still be huge areas of potential conflict between East and West.’
Fuller made stirs in the political community with a substantial article in the Jan/Feb issue of Foreign Policy called, A World Without Islam.
He effectively dismisses the notion that current global conflicts are fully grounded in theological differences, and instead cites cultural backgrounds, geopolitics, colonial legacies, and socioeconomic conditions that would result in a very similar situation had the world religion not even existed.
But even the Greek Orthodox Church that dominated the Near East had their differences with Western Europe that would create similar dichotomies in the modern world, or so Fuller argues.
Those that attempt to pin violence on specific religious doctrines find arguments of convenience alone. They ignore that substantial portions of the Arab population are still Christian today. Even more interestingly, prominent Arab Church officials have repeatedly called for violent Crusades, in support of factions you might not initially expect. Some have even blessed and encouraged the use of suicide bombing as a tactical approach.
Regional ideologies are used, regardless of what they are, by political entities and social revolutions for their own selfish ambitions. And no specific ideology has increased the risk, or created a unique situation, that would otherwise not exist.
The Biggest Terrorists are Actually Elves
Similarly, in the Mar. 24, 2008 issue of Maclean’s, Andrew Potter cites the contemporary issue of Foreign Policy (again).
This time they quote former CIA case officer Marc Sageman, who proposes that homegrown terrorists have little structural or ideological ties with international organizations, and instead are “alienated young men ‘seeking thrills and a sense of significance and belonging in their lives.'”
Potter likens such misguided youth to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF or Elves), “the most successful terrorist organization in North America;” modern vandals that engage in eco-terrorism and are considered the number one domestic threat.
And Potter is also correct when he states that, “What often fuels the fire of domestic terrorism is not ideology, but alienation.” But such feelings of alienation in Canada are primarily felt from media like Maclean’s, who have repeatedly distorted and vilified religious minorities in an unjust manner for the sake of selling copies.
People rise to expectations. Or sink to them.
The solution cited from Sagemen in Maclean’s, instead of fear-mongering and exaggerating threats, is to treat them like common criminals and deny them sensational coverage.
Those that do inadvertently glorify them, even if through some rather distorted narrations, are probably more directly responsible for inspiring violent ideology than any organization or movement overseas.
The Experts Disagree – Unanimously
It’s almost as if the editorial staff at Maclean’s said,
Hey, if everyone who actually knows anything about this subject are proposing significantly different explanations and solutions for the most complex situation in the world today, maybe we should at least consider their perspectives.
It’s justice that binds us together. Those that say nothing against injustice are the most frightening of all.
When Maclean’s does go before the Human Rights Tribunals, at least now be able to demonstrate some balance, even if it is a tad late. At the very least, regardless of the outcome of these specific complaints, the process has demonstrated some limited success.
We’re pleased to present the award to Daniel Simard due to his advocacy on this subject in the face of adversity, and expect great outcomes from his legal career.
Daniel Simard is currently enrolled in York University’s joint Bachelor of Laws and Masters of Environmental Studies program. He is in his second year of the program and his first year of law at Osgoode Hall Law School.
York University has been Mr. Simard’s post-secondary institution of choice, where he holds a specialized honours undergraduate degree in psychology, graduating magna cum laude. During this time, he was a long standing member of Professor Kerry Kawakami’s social cognition lab, where his research focused on stereotyping, implicit biases, self orientation and group assimilation. His work in this area contributed to two peer reviewed manuscript submissions to reputable psychological journals.
In addition to academics, Mr. Simard was involved in various academic and non-academic extra-curricular activities during his undergraduate tenure. At York he was involved in many organizations, which include the Undergraduate Psychology Students Association, York Debating Society, and Student Ombuds Services. Outside of the university he was an integral part of Baycrest Centre’s Youth Volunteer Program for a number of years, and helped tutor youth through Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies (JUMP) tutoring program.
He accepted an offer to York’s Faculty of Environment Studies as a graduate student immediately after the completion of his Bachelor of Arts degree. He received a Graduate Entrance Scholarship and was offered a position as graduate assistant, where he held a position with Wild Garden Media Centre in which he helped organize the 13th annual Eco-Art and Media Festival. For his research proposal examining the impact of the media and Canadian legislation on Canada’s Muslim Diaspora he was awarded a prestigious Ontario Graduate Scholarship.
Through his work with the Muslim community he became highly involved in a controversial human rights complaint against Maclean’s magazine for the publication of several articles in which he perceived to be inflammatory and discriminatory in content. His advocacy efforts in this area produced many newspaper articles co-authored with past and present colleagues at Osgoode Hall. He has received varied criticism for his position on this issue which has sparked national debate.
Mr. Simard enjoys travel, and during extended breaks he makes frequent flights to Europe and the United States. In his daily leisure time he prefers to spend it with a few good friends and family, that is if he is not at the gym maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He has contributed periodically to Osgoode Hall’s student run newspaper, the Obiter Dicta, and has been known to add the occasional post on the blogosphere.
He currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where he has lived for over 25 years. He has one sister who is in her final year at Osgoode Hall.