The Mail

The Mail

January 11 1999
The Mail

The Mail

January 11 1999

The Mail

Paying tribute

I was very pleased that Dr. John Butt, the chief medical examiner for Nova Scotia, was included in your 1998 Honour Roll (Cover, Dec. 21). I am from Nova Scotia, near Peggys Cove, and I must say that he and his team did an outstanding job after the crash of Swissair Flight 111, considering the situation. This was a very hard time for everyone, and because of his sensitivity Dr. Butt took a very difficult task and dealt with it in a very compassionate way. If the Honour Roll could be endless, it could also pay tribute to all of the countless volunteers, the RCMP, the military and the fishermen who worked incredibly hard during a very difficult time.

Lyne Brun-Tobin, Lower Sackville, N.S.

Congratulations are in order not only for the 12 accomplished Canadians on your 1998 Honour Roll, but also to the team who had the foresight to recognize volunteerism as a deserving segment of our society, too often overlooked. I am sure you have inspired thousands of Canadians. Françoise Girard

most certainly deserved the honour. As our neighbour in a military community in Halifax 23 years ago, it was readily apparent then that she is a very special, caring person.

Beg and Velma Daws, Chilliwack, B. C.

Eating humble pie

As a transplanted Canadian, I delighted at Finance Minister Paul Martin’s active—and correctopposition to the major bank mergers (“Bitterness on Bay Street,” Business, Dec. 28/Jan. 4). The point is obvious: Canada’s banks have en3 joyed an uncompetitive free ride for longer than most of us have been alive. That they are out of touch with their present markets has been a snickering point for a very long time: look at the rise and power of credit unions or caisses populaires in Quebec, the West and the Maritimes. Where, then, are the world bankers among these four institutions? Before world-class banking, there needs to be world-class skills among Canada’s bankers. Working on that agenda, the banks can come back much less arrogantly and ever so humbly in, say, five to seven years.

Patrick L. Bishop, Philadelphia

As a bank employee and a shareholder, I can see the only way to ensure continued profitability in view of increasing competition is for the banks to review the feasibility of continuing their retail operations as they have in the past. One of the few ways to preserve our jobs was for the merger to proceed. To those who lobbied against the merger, I can only say: “Please stop being so good to me!”

Lonnie Benson, Saskatoon

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

should be addressed to:

Maclean’s Magazine Letters

777 Bay St.,Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7

Fax: (416) 596-7730

E-mail: letters@macleans.ca

Maclean’s welcomes readers’ views, but letters may

be edited for space and clarity. Please supply name,

address and daytime telephone number.

Submissions may appear in Maclean’s electronic sites.

NATO and nukes

Strategic nuclear deterrence is a complex subject. Unfortunately, much of the current debate on Canada’s position on a no-first-use policy for NATO has been simplistic and emotional. Andrew Phillips’s article “Tussling over nukes” (Dec. 21) adds a refreshing element of common sense that has been missing from the debate thus far. Poking a finger in Uncle Sam’s eye may provide a warm feeling for some Canadians, but it will damage our relations with the United States and there will

Hockey fights

I felt your articles were a little drastic and obviously showed that you have never played hockey (“Thugs on ice," Cover, Nov. 9). If you have, it’s not the same hockey that I’ve played for 13 years. When emotions are running high in a body-contact sport, there are bound to be fights and skirmishes. Fights are what generate energy for the players and fans. Fans don’t pay their money to see a bunch of Europeans using the neutral-zone trap with the goaltenders seeing 10 shots in a game that ends in a 2-1 score. And by the way, Don Cherry knows what he is talking about when it comes to hockey.

Clint Keller, Eston Composite School, Eston, Sask.

be a loss of goodwill. It seems to me that there are more effective ways to satisfy the Canadian urge to make the world safer than to continue to kick our good neighbour (and defender) in the shins.

Glenn Brown, Kingston, Ont.

Military harassment

While I have nothing but sympathy for anyone who suffers sexual harassment or abuse of authority while serving in our Canadian Forces, I am appalled by Maclean’s decision to sensationalize the issue by devoting no less than four cover stories to it last year (“Of rape and justice,” Cover, Dec. 14). I do not deny that there are some problems with both harassment and the grievance system, but your choice to emphasize this while practically ignoring all the good efforts and hard work of our troops is a kick in the teeth to those dedicated personnel who are striving to do their best while faced with constant cutbacks and severe shortages of staff and equipment. As for the enormity of the problem, I must have led a charmed life for the 20 years I spent in uniform. The rare problems of this sort that I saw were dealt with promptly and satisfactorily. I did manage to enjoy a successful and gratifying career, as have thousands of other women. I guess these stories just don’t sell magazines.

Sgt. Michèle Ashby (ret.), Rankin Inlet, N.W.T.

I finally had the opportunity to read your much-talked-about issues that dealt with sexual assault and the Canadian Forces. I found them upsetting but quite accurate. I, too, was assaulted, one year ago while serv-

THE MAIL_

ing in Bosnia. I brought charges against my assailant, and he was recently found guilty and sentenced to eight months in military prison. I would like to say that the Forces are doing their part in trying to eradicate this problem and the newly formed National Investigation Service is considerably effective with the reports that it does receive. Unfortunately, I feel that change will be slow to come due to the nature of the military. It is a lifestyle in which alcoholism and promiscuity play a major role. It won’t change until those outside the circle of power start respecting others and see their own behaviour for what it is. I know that my case is just one of many, but I fear that there are other victims who have not spoken out yet. My one big wish is for these people to have the courage to do so. That is the only way to put an end to all this violence.

Janice Victor, Red Deer, Alta.

In the Maclean’s Honour Roll (Cover, Dec. 21) regarding Dee Brasseur, the statement “In 1979, when the Canadian Forces agreed to accept female pilots ...” is misleading inasmuch as this action was the direct result of the 1978 Human Rights Act, which stated there could be no discrimination on the basis of sex. In 1979, the Forces initiated a series of trials known as SWINTER (Servicewomen in Non-traditional Environments and Roles). With the passing of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 and the Human Rights Tribunal decision in 1989, the Canadian Forces were directed to stop the trials and to open all military jobs to women within 10 years. Therefore, under Canadian law, all jobs (except on submarines) are open to women if they can meet the standards of the job. It should be understood that all major changes within the armed forces come from legislative change in society.

Lt.-Col. Shirley M. Robinson (ret.), Former deputy director of women personnel, Canadian Forces, Gloucester, Ont.

The Road Ahead

Corporations as good dtizens

It’s tough these days, what with family obligations, demanding jobs—if we’re lucky enough to have one—and the challenges of everyday living. With all that to keep us busy, meeting our responsibilities as ethical consumers, investors and citizens can be overwhelming, if not impossible.

Given local concerns about homelessness, unemployment and poverty, and global issues like climate change, child labour and international human rights, how can the average consumer or investor distinguish between good companies who are leading the way in environmental performance and ethical responsibility, and the poor performers, who are acting irresponsibly or operating entirely outside the law?

What is the truth about Nike’s labour practices in developing countries? Is its suppliers really giving their employees decent working conditions and honouring their human rights? And what about Shell Oil’s alleged involvement in the repression of the Ogoni people in Nigeria?

Both Shell and Nike have gained international notoriety because of the controversy over their track records on social performance. But what’s even more interesting is how those two companies responded to the flood of international criticism and bad press. Both companies recently released reports by independent consultants, hired to provide objective and independent reviews of their operational commitments to social standards and ethical responsibility.

But for a cynical public, those responses may have been too little, too late. To be credible, a company is far better served by conducting and releasing independent re-

Coro Strandberg,

Board chairman,

Vancity Savings Credit Union,

Vancouver

views of its social and environmental performance more frequently, before a public scandal has broken, before environmentalists, labour advocates and citizens groups challenge the company’s performance on the public stage.

Does that sound idealistic? In fact, in their efforts to enhance corporate accountability and responsibility, a number of benchmark companies are experimenting with a new approach to corporate reporting: the social audit. Companies such as The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, Royal Dutch/Shell, The Co-operative Bank (Britain) and Toronto’s Metro Credit Union are having independently verified reviews conducted by trained “social auditors” who review corporate claims of environmental and social responsibility.

Much like a financial audit, which public companies are required by law to produce every year, social audits can give investors and consumers independent verification of a company’s claims of social responsibility. Consumers should not just accept companies’ claims of social and environmental responsibility. They should ask to see their social audits.

As this form of corporate disclosure gains momentum, it will be much easier to distinguish between companies dedicated to improving their social and environmental impact and those that are only paying lip service to these ideals, or worse, violating our public values and our public trust. Social audits provide the information we need to align our values as parents, workers and citizens with our actions in the marketplace.

The Road Ahead invites readers to advance specific solutions to Canada's political, social and economic problems. Unpublished submissions may run condensed as regular letters or appear on an electronic bulletin board.