Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor for July 2017

Maclean's readers write in about our stories from the last month

Youth must be served

We have observed that a fair amount of recent coverage has centred on the idea of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council as a partisan or exclusionary group (“Whose kids are these?” National Notes, June 2017). Although all of us maintain an active interest in Canadian politics, we are not, have not been, and never will be an extension of any political party. While it may be tempting to speculate that our youth inclines us to agree with the Prime Minister simply because of his office, this would be a disservice to us and to young people across the country. To allay some concerns about media training we received, a (very) brief summary would be: “You speak to government, not for government.”

The Prime Minister’s Youth Council

Remaking promises

I wish to express my gratitude to Maclean’s and Nancy Macdonald in particular for the inspiring interview with Perry Bellegarde (“The Interview,” July 2017). I must admit I was somewhat ignorant of the reality of the signed treaties between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples (of which I am one), specifically the significance of the “clasped hands and buried hatchets.” Maybe starting on the 150th birthday celebration of this amazing country of ours we could begin to revisit the original intent of the treaties, which was to mutually benefit from sharing the land and its resources with our Indigenous peoples for “as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grass grows.”

Linda Kermode, Parksville, B.C.

Sorry, Amelia

You show the historic photograph of four women who were some of the leaders in the campaign for the vote in Manitoba in 1916 (“Trailblazers,” Society, July 2017).

Three are correctly identified but you have misspelled the name of the most interesting of the group. Amelia Lemon Burritt (not “Burrito”!) was 93 when the picture was taken. The women are pictured with petitions that they presented to the premier for the final proof that Manitobans supported the vote for women. All the other people who campaigned provided the first official petition, which contained 39,584 names they had collected. Burritt’s petition was presented separately because she had collected 4,250 names by herself. Her achievement is particularly impressive when you consider that she collected those names walking door-to-door from Headingley, Man., to Winnipeg—in all weathers.

Burritt lived to be 104, a lively lady until the end. The name is associated with Burritt’s Rapids, Ont., her husband’s original home. The people of that area might appreciate the correct spelling as well!

Linda McDowell, Winnipeg

Caught in the Act

Stephanie Whitecloud-Brass makes some very good points (“Celebrate Canada? Not yet,” The Canada Project, July 2017). The First Nations were treated very badly in the past. Hopefully Canada has moved on. But now it is recovery time. Now it is time for the First Nations people to join the Canadian pantheon as full-fledged citizens.

The Indian Act treats the First Nations people like children. The first step is to get rid of the Indian Act. All the First Nations’ reserves and settlements should be reclassified as municipal districts within the province where they reside. All the new municipal districts would be brought up to provincial standards. As Perry Bellegarde says elsewhere in the issue, the First Nations people would then have their own government; as a municipal government, not as a national government. Band payments would stop, to be replaced by the same provincial and federal supports as other municipalities receive. These changes would provide education, health care and civic services on par with all the other municipalities within the province. The First Nations culture would be preserved to the extent that they choose to preserve it, fitting in with the realities and technologies that now exist.

First Nations people now have the opportunity to move from second-class citizenship to full Canadian status. To continue under the treaties and the Indian Act means the First Nations will never have the freedom they desire, and need, to heal from earlier oppression.

Glenn P. Davies, Calgary


In a special commemorative issue dedicated to celebrating our country’s 150th anniversary, Scott Feschuk could have celebrated our wildly talented and internationally successful musicians (“National anthems,” The Canada Project, July 2017).

Drake and The Weeknd rule R&B. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings smashed Nashville. Instead of celebrating our wide range of incredible musicians, Feschuk chose to reduce our national musical output to the requisite Nickelback bashing.

Everyone I know who has dealt with the band says they are your typical Canadians. They’re polite, respectful and genuinely nice guys. They don’t deserve this latest round of Nickelbashing. Feschuk says their songs are unoriginal, then writes a column that’s sad and trite, nothing more than the same smug, puerile diatribe he’s heard from everyone else. He also missed the obvious reference to the Pied Piper of Hamelin in the flute lyrics he mocked. Maybe Chad Kroeger should take up that flute and lead the rats like Scott Feschuk out of Toronto, out of the pages of our “national magazine” and back to journalism school.

Susan Carrington, Deseronto, Ont.

Crossing Canada

All the parts of this road trip (“Dreams of Canada,” National, July 2017) were both fascinating and of warm relevance. It certainly made me proud, once again, to be a Canadian. I was adopted, but it doesn’t really matter who your ancestors are—people are definitely at their best when they have a true sense of belonging, whether it is through family ties or through history. Well done Mr. Abel.

Sam Newman, London, Ont.

The Allen Abel piece on Uranium City was fascinating. I have one small reservation. The comment about uranium ore “so hot that it will kill a man in hours” is stretched beyond the bounds of artistic licence. There is no uranium ore at any mine, anywhere in the world that could do that. The ore being mined in Canada today is considered high-grade, but the associated radiation risks are low and are easily managed using simple controls. Great story, though.

Gord Struthers, Saskatoon

Thank you for your recent edition of Maclean’s, “The Canadian Dream at 150.” Of concern to me is the seemingly increasing attitude of discrimination toward Canadian Muslims. These people need our acceptance and support. These recently arrived Muslims would be at risk of death like the rest of us if Islamic State were to succeed in their dictatorship of the mind. Our land must be maintained as the land of the free, being experienced in the loss of life in two world wars. Freedom of thought must be maintained for all.

June Lowrie, Tillsonburg, Ont.

Small sample sizes

I was quite troubled by Andray Domise’s article claiming “immigrant Canadians seemed to be the most resistant to acknowledging racialized and cultural issues, and held the most assimilationist attitudes” (“The impulse to assimilate,” The Canada Project, July 2017). You focused on the “bigotry” of immigrants with “thick Caribbean accents” who did not support the intake of Syrian refugees. This was based on a 2015 call-in discussion on G98.7. Besides your attempt to smear Caribbean immigrants based on an unscientific poll, perhaps what bothered me the most was the absurd link to how quickly Caribbean immigrants assimilate and the desire to keep out refugees based on “pathological stereotyping.” If these callers did assimilate, they would follow the Canadian view of welcoming refugees. Assimilation is not the problem, the callers are.

Articles like these hurt rather than help. It portrays immigrants as victims of “assimilationist pressure” and “microaggressive interactions” rather than brave folk who fearlessly venture into the unknown in hope of a brighter future for their children. Andray, you have the exceptional opportunity of writing for Maclean’s. You can write articles that lift us all or you can write articles that keep the divisiveness flowing. Think about the platform you have and how you should use it.

Nalini Chariandy, Mississauga, Ont.

Let us choose

Our ultimate goal should be to provide full educational funding for every student in whatever school their parents choose (“Editorial,” June 2017). I’m appalled that we extend special funding to the Catholic systems based on religious sect and utterly fail to extend the money needed to support the learning of children with physical or learning disabilities. Our spending system is entirely skewed. If we were to do more for those children while they’re young, it’s feasible they would need less public support as adults.

Marilyn Thornton, Bridgenorth, Ont.

What are they conserving?

Political parties have always changed and evolved, but when Canadian conservatives promote policies from a foreign country that are totally alien to their own conservative history and tradition, I object (“It’s not so bad. Really,” National, June 2017).

The present party appears to be doing its best to destroy the legacy of early conservatives who were so instrumental in building Canada. The first public broadcasting system, which later became the CBC, was set up by a Conservative government in 1932, and also in that year, a Conservative government established the first handgun registry. A conservative is supposed to favour their own country’s traditional views and values. The present Canadian Conservatives should really change their name, as they have thrown the traditions of their party and country in the rubbish bin.

Sharon Ramsdale, Vernon, B.C.

Good point

There appears to be a lot of chatter regarding Canadian values (“The true test of Canadianness,” The Canada Project, July 2017), but are new immigrants aware of this? Does this preoccupation with values presuppose that immigrants who come from strong, ancient cultures have no values? The immigrant is not a barbarian, but comes to Canada following the points system laid down by the Canadian government. They have only come to work. Immigrants did not anticipate shedding their identity, customs, mindset and values for “liberal values” the moment they set foot on Canadian soil. Many of them shy away and cling to their community and mores for comfort. It is the second-generation immigrant who changes, as they are more distanced from the mother country. The mindset of people changes with each generation, depending on their family and upbringing. Laws do not bring about instant changes in thought and behaviour. Society changes slowly. Be patient.

Maria Jacob, Mississauga, Ont.

The potential of PrEP

No one is pushing gay men to take PrEP and stop using condoms (“Does PrEP, an HIV-preventing drug, make sense for gay men?”, macleans.ca, Jun. 23, 2017). Gay men and others at risk for HIV infection, including women, are learning more about their options and deciding if taking a daily pill makes sense for them as an additional means of prevention.

As a national network of sexual health advocates, doctors and researchers, CanPrEP recommends that PrEP be offered to people who engage in behaviours that place them at increased risk of contracting HIV using a clear set of guidelines to help individuals and their health care providers make informed decisions. Together they can decide if they fit the risk profile and if potential benefits (avoiding an incurable HIV infection, peace of mind) outweigh the potential risks (side effects, renal and bone toxicity).

Many of the fear-based arguments used in the article are a reminder of the moral panic that emerged over public coverage for birth control.

The fact is, bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates have been climbing for years, in many other countries, and well before the advent of PrEP. We agree that STIs are a major public health concern that warrants increased awareness, vigilance and health promotion interventions. PrEP provides a further opportunity to engage and follow HIV-negative people in care, to ensure their adherence to the medication and to keep them healthy through increased testing for a wide range of STIs. It is not yet clear what contribution PrEP may be having to the ongoing epidemics of STIs, and members of our group are actively researching this important issue. Regardless, PrEP has been proven to be a safe, well-tolerated, efficacious and cost-effective intervention that can reliably prevent one of the most serious and stigmatized infections that humankind has seen in generations.

Your article comes at a crucial time in our efforts to improve access to the full toolkit of HIV prevention measures, including PrEP, which has the potential to significantly reduce the number of transmissions that still occur needlessly each year.

John Maxwell, executive director of AIDS Committee of Toronto, and Darrell H. S. Tan, clinician-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases

What’s the beef with tofu?

It was disappointing to read Peter Shawn Taylor’s account of hospital food in his article, “Is this the end of Tim Hortons on hospital grounds?” The underlying implication that good-for-you food is not and cannot be appetizing and enjoyable is a misconception that has been perpetuated for too long. What is perhaps most discouraging is that the article criticizes the hospital community in its attempt to role model evidence-based nutrition by selling and serving foods that better align with those they counsel patients to eat on a regular basis.

I am proud to work with 20 hospitals in the Champlain region of eastern Ontario that have been actively and successfully increasing healthy foods and beverages (and decreasing the unhealthy ones) in their cafeterias, vending machines, gift shops and franchises. They are truly walking the talk. To those hospital leaders, thank you for being bold, and for investing in the health of your workforce, and your community.

Of course, we will always have choice—to purchase or not purchase. And no one would deny that an occasional treat is part of a healthy pattern of eating. But we are currently bombarded with messages and opportunities to indulge in unhealthy eating at every turn. As a society, we must reshape our food environments in favour of healthy choices—and local hospitals are a great place to start.

Dr. Andrew Pipe, chair of the Champlain Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Network at the University of Ottawa’s Heart Institute

Omar Khadr and the law

I was somewhat taken aback reading Garnett Genuis’s op-ed about Omar Khadr, (“The ‘grievous injustice’ of the Khadr settlement”) particularly his reference to international and domestic legal norms to justify a harsher stance. Mr. Genuis argues that at 15, Khadr was hardly a child soldier when he fought in Afghanistan, and refers to the Convention on the Rights of the Child permitting states to recruit at that age. What Mr. Genuis doesn’t acknowledge is that only 40 states still recruit that young, and that treaty law and customary international law require states to take all steps to prevent this. Even in cases where children were legitimately enlisted in the armed forces after the age of 15, there are no cases where older child soldiers have been subject to any punishment for crimes committed before the age of 18. Customarily, the focus has been on rehabilitating older child soldiers. This was a far cry from Mr. Khadr’s experience. Instead of rehabilitation, he was interred and likely tortured in Guantanamo Bay before enduring many more years in prison.

Mr. Genuis also argues that we’ve already shown Khadr all the forgiveness he deserves since Khadr now gets to live in the “best country in the world.” Requisite patriotism aside, this sentiment misrepresents the issue. Khadr is a Canadian citizen and is entitled to live here; it is no some expression of grace on our part that he be allowed to reside in Canada. Omar Khadr may not have been a saint, but he was a child soldier and a Canadian citizen. We owed him better than what he endured, and the Government is now rightly paying the price for its indifference to the rule of law.

Matthew McManus, Ph.D in socio-legal studies and L.L.M in international human rights law

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