The white ‘intruder’ who’s fighting for black rights
When Premier Ike Smith of Nova Scotia announced last December that 32-yearold Marvin Schiff, a former Toronto newspaperman, was stepping into the newly created $ 16,000-a-year job as the province’s director of human rights, the black community was aghast. Many wanted one of their own in the job. Some were convinced the appointment was an act of discrimination.
Upset, Schiff laid his new job on the line, demanded — and got — an immediate investigation of charges that black applicants had been ignored. It was an appropriately bold beginning. (The official and widely accepted finding: unsuccessful candidates never got the courtesy notices they deserved, but there was no discrimination.) By then, Schiff remembers, many critics of his appointment had admitted privately that their protests were political, not personal, “and they would give me a chance.”
So far, he’s used the chance vigorously — helping to write the province’s new Human Rights Act, which was passed in April; encouraging formation of community groups to tackle human-rights problems; consulting on such problems as summer employment for Halifax’s black students and planning a program of public education on human rights.
Along the way, he’s been winning respect from the black community. H. A. J. Wedderburn, president of the Nova Scotia Association For The Advancement Of Colored People and a member of the Human Rights Commission, says, “I believe he can do the job and should be supported.” Donald Oliver, a black lawyer who is president of the Neighbourhood Centres, concedes, “He’s better than an ordinary WASP. Being a Jew, Marvin belongs to an ethnic minority and can appreciate the situation.”
Schiff says cautiously, “I think I have a fundamental agreement with about everybody. Now what we need is evolutionary change at a revolutionary rate.”
The hotline mayor who’s got a whole town tuned in
In some cities you need a whole delegation behind you to get in to talk to the mayor. In Sault Ste. Marie you can pick up your telephone any morning and tell Mayor John Rhodes a thing or two while the whole town listens in.
Rhodes, 39, a onetime traffic sergeant who got into broadcasting 12 years ago and politics six years later, has been mayor since January and somehow finds time to continue three other daily jobs — as an early-morning disc jockey, host of a one-hour, mid-morning program, Hot Line, both on station CJIC, and as evening sportscaster on the station’s TV affiliate.
How does he manage it all? “I don’t fish, I don’t hunt, I don’t golf,” he explains. “But I also don’t like to sit around.” Not that he has the chance. He’s up each day at 5.30 for a full morning at the radio station. Then it’s over to City Hall for the afternoon, into the TV studio over the dinner period, then back to City Hall, usually, for evening meet-
ings, until about midnight. (His wife, 12year-old son and two younger daughters count on seeing him weekends.)
Rhodes admits his local fame as a broadcaster helped him get into office initially (as an alderman, in 1963) but doubts that it’s the main thing that keeps him there: “I think after you’ve served, people start to judge you on what you’ve done. If they don’t like you, they’ll turf you out.”
Rhodes was already an alderman when the radio station got him started on Hot Line. At first, the show was dominated by callers wanting to talk about City Hall problems, and Rhodes had to handle them diplomatically and deftly. (“He thinks quickly on his feet,” says an admirer, former mayor Alex Harry.) Now questions and comments range widely in subject, with City Hall topics a minority. Even so, Rhodes believes the program is invaluable for the way it personalizes the office of mayor.
“Very few people call me and say, 'Hello, Your Worship,’ ” he notes proudly. “It’s mostly, ‘Hello there, John.’ ”
The fighting feminist who’s at war with ‘superior’ men
If Bonnie Kreps, 32, is to destroy Canadian society as we know it (a feat she intends to accomplish as soon as possible), she feels she should divorce her husband.
She’ll continue living with him, though. After 11 years of marriage. Miss Kreps, as she prefers to he known, is still rather fond of Prof. Rodney Kreps of the University of Toronto and their seven-yearold daughter Lisa. Divorce is a matter of principle: she’s not anti-male, but as cofounder of the newly formed New Feminists she’s opposed to everything that subjugates woman to man. (“I got married before my feminist views hardened.”)
Last fall, to get “a wider platform for my radical views,” she became a researcher-interviewer on CTV’s W5, made A Report From Down Under, a profeminist TV film, and plans a sequel.
Meanwhile, she’s promoting the NF and spreading the word. Only two months after its breakaway as a tiny splinter from the Marxist-oriented, publicity-shy Women’s Liberation Movement, her group was boasting 35 members — all 100-percent hardnosed zealots, since men and lukewarm club ladies needn’t apply, and their message brooks little compromise: women must challenge the whole socioeconomic structure men use for keeping women subservient. Every woman must be free to live alone or with a man, to become pregnant or not, to have or not have babies; free, in short, to develop as a human being. “We have to get rid of the conjugal family unit.”
Does Prof. Rodney Kreps buy all this? For about eight argumentative years he didn’t, but gradually he came around. Now, between getting on with his half of the household chores, he says with surprising conviction, “Liberated women make more interesting, more worthwhile life partners.”
The professor who talks to the birds
This summer. Dr. J. Bruce Falls, 45, of the University of Toronto, has garbed his dumpy frame in army-surplus fatigues to lead half a dozen zoology students into Ontario’s Algonquin Park, looking for white-throated sparrows. He’s no ordinary bird watcher; he talks to sparrows through portable hi-fi equipment.
On previous expeditions Dr. Falls tape-recorded the sparrows’ chirps and whistles and sorted out their meanings. Now he can predict how a white-throat will react when a given phrase is played back. Falls is, of course, not the first person to notice that birdsongs have explicit meanings. “But we’ve taken it a step further,” he explains, “and broken down each song to its individual parts.
We now know how to reproduce the sparrow songs that tell other birds such things as species, sex. location and territorial claims.”
Once, Falls set up a stuffed whitethroat in front of his loudspeaker and played the song of an “outsider.” The bird that had staked a claim to that territory arrived swiftly and sarig his “keepaway” warning. When the stuffed bird failed to retreat, the ‘-‘reigning” bird attacked.
“The white-throat has one of the stronger territorial instincts,” Falls explains, which is why he chose the species. “It’s part of a project to determine how some -á'nimals control their population. We’ve studied mice and several species of birds in Manitoba and Ontario.”
Some of the things they’re learning could prove useful in controlling human population — if. Falls says, people prove smart enough to imitate wildlife.
The scientist who invented GIRLS to predict the future
What will life on our planet be like in, say, the year 2000, if we keep poisoning our atmosphere, water and food?
Few men are better equipped to answer that question than Dr. Crawford (Buzz) Holling, 39, head of University of BC’s new Resource Science Centre. Specialists from various disciplines have often grappled individually with such questions, but Buzz Holling had experts
— in economics, planning, geography, land use, mathematics, agriculture, forestry and systems analysis — pool their knowledge and feed it into a computer.
Co-ordinating the team was a touchy problem for Holling, an ecologist (one who studies interrelations between living things and their environment). Each specialist had his own jargon — and his own territorial imperative. “Oh, the fights we had at first!” Holling sighs. Patiently he soothed egos and got differing minds devising an “academic Esperanto” for the computer.
For their test project (dubbed GIRLS
— for Gulf Islands Recreational Land Simulator) the team got the computer simulating conditions on the balmy Gulf Islands, to show future effects of population growth. A clump of tourist hotels by 1975? The simulator would describe their effect on water resources, land' prices, wildlife and scores of other factors. A “land bank” by 1995? Again, a response of detailed predictions.
Now three major U.S. universities want to set up their own versions of GIRLS, and land developers and bankers are clamoring to learn its answers. Next project: an a. bitious study of the Vancouver region.
Is Holling depressed by these glimpses of the future? Far from it. “Even five years ago I wouldn’t have believed we could have the hope we have today.
“For the first time in history we have the desire to correct our mistakes — and the conceptual tools to do the job.” □
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