’In response to this tragedy we are redoubling our efforts’

Letters to the editor, Oct. 29, 2019: Readers weigh in on the controversy surrounding Fiera Foods, the end of a long federal campaign and a domestic violence crisis

Doug Ford doesn’t care about temp workers

After the death of Fiera Foods worker Enrico Miranda, Deena Ladd, the executive director of the Workers’ Action Centre penned an op-ed about the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Act and its existing provisions, which may serve to better protect workers like Miranda.  

In a piece published by Maclean’s on October 29, 2019 (“Doug Ford doesn’t care about temporary workers”) Deena Ladd attempts to politicize the tragic death of one of our workers by making false allegations, incorrect assumptions and erroneous statements. This is unfortunate, as is the decision by Maclean’s to publish such misinformed commentary without at the very least checking the facts. It is true that Enrico Miranda was critically injured while on the job and later succumbed to those injuries. It is true that his loss is a tragedy, one that we mourn along with our extended Fiera Foods family. Finally, it is also true, but ignored in this piece, that every workplace accident has its unique set of facts, including in our case, the unfortunate traffic accident last year in an allied company’s parking lot. It is categorically false to imply that Mr. Miranda was treated, trained or supported differently from full-time employees – temporary and full-time employees receive the same health and safety training and education – and it is equally untrue to state that the legislative change Ms. Ladd points to would have prevented this death. Ms. Ladd knows this, however has chosen to take the opportunity she sees in tragedy to drive her political agenda. At Fiera Foods we have always been fully committed to the health and safety of all those who enter our workspace. Like all comparable companies in the food tech, manufacturing and agricultural sectors, we rely on temporary labour to respond to shifting customer demand, and because of this we focus on ensuring consistency throughout our training. In response to this tragedy we are redoubling our efforts – we have appointed David Young, a former Ontario Attorney General and experienced counsel at several public inquiries, to lead a comprehensive review into the health and safety culture and practices at FieraFoods and allied companies. Mr. Young and his team have been mandated to identify areas of vulnerability and recommend potential improvements. We are also working collaboratively with the Ministry of Labour and will be willing participants in any efforts to make regulatory changes that will increase workplace health and safety. Fiera Foods was founded and continues to be operated by first generation Canadians. We are immigrants to Toronto who are proud of the growth of our business and the opportunities this company provides to hundreds of employees and their families. As we move forward, Fiera Foods will continue to mourn Mr. Miranda, support his co-workers, friends and family and seek to use lessons from this tragedy to make our workplaces safer for all those who enter them.
—Boris Serebryany, president and CEO, Fiera Foods

Minority government

A day after the 2019 federal election, Senior Writer Paul Wells reflected on the long, gruelling campaign—and wondered how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would change his approach as he leads a minority government.

I have to agree with Paul Wells’s analysis on the 2019 federal election. My only question is why he didn’t make the leap of going back to the basics. Should we not vote for the local representative who has our interests at heart, no matter which federal party (if any) he or she belongs to? Many of these interests should cross party lines because any region has many competing interests. Can we not encourage our representatives to break party solidarity? It gives too much power to the leaders, who all appear to be unwise, inexperienced and/or inept. No ruling party wants proportional representation because its power bases would be destroyed. Could independent or less party-motivated representatives bring about change? If we, the downtrodden voters, were to vote for the best local representatives, could we not change our whole system to be more of what our parliamentary system was intended to be?
—Rolf Hauser, Okotoks, Alta. 

I just completed reading Paul Wells’s summary of the political landscape of the election campaign and thought it was brilliant. His analysis is one that can be broadened generally to the state of societies around the globe and how they are being led. Resolving the anthropogenic sources contributing to global warming is no simple task. It would require the single most complex organizational undertaking in the history of the human race and leadership that is presently not visible on the global stage. Children march in the streets, anxious about the future and proficient at distinguishing the problem; yet they are incapable of effecting solutions because their cognitive processes have not yet matured sufficiently and they have not acquired adequate skills and knowledge to propose effective solutions that result in structural and systemic change—something mature adults have had limited success with lately. The climate change problem would be easily resolved if we simply stopped using carbon-sourced energy. What prevents that? To quote Greta Thunberg: “money and fairy tales of eternal growth.” The answer may be even more fundamental than that: society is not intelligent enough to organize itself in a peaceful, productive, co-operative and sustainable manner. We shouldn’t stop trying.
—Alan Gorman, Toronto

So Justin Trudeau’s campaign strategy now includes balancing toddlers on one hand? For what purpose? To show that he’s such a strong, capable leader of our country? Or maybe to let us know that he’s moved on from costumes, push-ups and boxing to balancing acts? When will our political candidates realize that what we really need from a prime minister is not drama and theatrics but solid policy, economic sense, strategic leadership and clear vision?
—Margaret Stinton, Calgary

Canadian voters deserve pity! None of our political leaders are statesmen with clear and inspiring national visions that unite Canadians. Instead, voters are bartered in an open political market where myopic promises are traded for votes—a choice as appealing as a Big Mac to vegans. The choices before voters are stunningly vacuous, if not perilous. More than one leader recites a never-never-land wish list that will enslave the next two generations with impossible debt. If bankruptcy isn’t enough, our house may collapse without deep structural reforms, including proportional voting and the abolition of anachronistic politics. The obsessive mantra of climate change is blinding all to the increasingly unstable world around us. Do leaders not understand that we are on the cusp of a Third World War? Relations with polarizing, desperately poor world masses are nowhere on the political radar. Also absent is urgent attention to food and agriculture, innovation and cybersecurity. Without inspiring statesmen with vision, a bleak house will be the one predictable outcome of this election!
—Denis Caro, Ottawa

Wisdom of youth

Midway through the federal campaign, Senior Writer Anne Kingston wrote that if millennial voters turned out in droves as young voters did in 2015, the Greens could benefit. As it turned out, the Greens did increase their vote share and gained another seat in the House of Commons—but the demographic breakdown of voters by age isn’t yet known.

Why did it take a 16-year-old child to chastise world leaders, as Greta Thunberg did at the UN Climate Action Summit, for their inability to come up with a solution for the environment? The leaders of most countries reach these huge agreements and state that they will take care of the world we live in and be better stewards of the planet. The Paris Agreement was a grand idea. The 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Copenhagen and Cancún agreements (2009) were great, but they didn’t seem to go anywhere. I feel embarrassed about my country’s petty arguments over climate and environment taxes. I understand that we’re a resource country, but why can’t we come to a complete agreement about what is right for the environment? My generation X was told that if the world didn’t do something by 2010, the damage to the environment would be irreversible. Well, that deadline has come and gone, and I feel disappointed with myself and my generation for not doing enough and not speaking our piece louder for Mother Earth. It took a well-spoken 16-year-old from Sweden to humiliate the world into understanding that her generation does not want this.
–Naomi Perreault, Salmon Arm, B.C.

Greener oil sands

In October, Alberta Correspondent Jason Markusoff took a critical look at oil companies’ claims that oil sands extraction is less carbon-intensive than many alternatives.

I read the article about bitumen with keen interest. I mostly wanted to see what smoke and mirrors the oil industry was going to employ to greenwash their operations this time, but also partly wanted to see if they really could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and produce oil in an efficient and environmentally sustainable way. It does seem like significant progress has been made to reduce energy consumption and, as a result, GHG emissions, although it still appears—despite the “misspeaking” of the CAPP president—that tar sands oil lags behind most other sources. Another section of the article listed some of the different areas that the corporations are looking at to more efficiently extract bitumen from the sand. One was to “inject solvents into the thermal wells.” And where exactly would these solvents end up, I wonder? If I summon all my optimism, I can perhaps imagine they will be recovered and re-used as part of the process. More likely, I can see them being pumped into the existing tailing ponds where they can gradually leach into surrounding water sources. I understand [people who] want to carry on doing business as usual and protect the jobs of workers in the industry, but at some point one has to recognize reality and adapt accordingly. Imagine the positive impact of investing the money and effort that is being spent on trying to make this process more efficient in a transition to renewable energy development. [It’s] something the rest of the world would love to purchase from Canada. Meanwhile, Jason Kenney keeps fiddling while the forests burn.
—Graham Tarling, Victoria

In all likelihood, the world will continue to burn oil, at diminishing rates, for the next 50 to 75 years. Embedded in the Canadian public service are more than enough mathematicians and scientists with more than enough knowledge to calculate within a reasonable margin of error how much oil the world will use over this period, and how much of that market will be filled by Canadian production. To the non-oil-producing provinces—especially Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, whose pointer finger grows ever larger with each new fashionable “seen being seen” wave of wealthy protesters in million-dollar yachts—if Canada is serious about cutting emissions, it needs to phase out the oil and gas industry. If Canada is truly a nation, we need to help the oil-producing regions to transition their economies by paying those regions fair value for the lost revenue. We all took the money.
—Mark Whiffen, Ottawa

Lethal partners

In September, Senior Writer Anne Kingston published a months’-long Maclean’s investigation into intimate-partner violence that revealed how systems, politicians and people have failed women and girls.

A friend forwarded the article by Anne Kingston. It horrified me. Sixty years ago, I missed being killed with a pipe wielded by my then-husband because someone drove into the driveway at the moment he raised the pipe above his head to strike me again. I was so discouraged and disabled when I read Maclean’s that I stayed in the house alone with the doors locked for several days. It was as if I had fallen into a black pit of hopelessness. Similar things have been written by many superb authors for at least the past six decades. The situation described by Kingston is, unfortunately, very true and, in reality, much worse. While such articles are commendable for their honesty, research and motives, will they bring changes? I sincerely believe, from personal experience, that words alone have not caught and will not catch the attention of people who have the power to make changes. Every day, Canadian men kill, maim and violate the souls of their intimate partners and traumatize their children for the rest of their lives. This worldwide criminal behaviour is accepted, condoned and ignored by Canadian women as well as men. It’s easier to pretend that it doesn’t happen in our “civilized” nation. More discouraging, the men who commit these heinous crimes against our mothers, sisters, friends and selves are not punished as they should be. In reality, their offences are condoned; they are called merely “crimes of passion.” Women make excuses for them. Many blame the women. What would it be like if all murderers said, “He or she made me do it.” I challenge readers to work together to create a solution that effectively changes attitudes toward women and keeps girls and women safe. We are not chattel.
—Doreen Roland, Peterborough, Ont.

As adults, people often live what they learned as children. The term “intergenerational” is key. In Anne Kingston’s article, she describes domestic abuse as a “crime of control.” This is often learned behaviour—a son who witnessed his father’s control over his mother, who was defenceless and submissive without the necessary support to leave. The message rings loudly: intimate partners can be controlled, power can net results, entitlement is one-sided. Fathers, if this rings true for you, seek help to break the cycle of abuse so that your sons and daughters understand the makings of a healthy relationship where equality and respect flourish. Mothers, seek safety and do not return.

—Catherine Hammill, Kincardine, Ont.