MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

'When my kid comes home having smoked a joint, he'll be told he can do that when he is out of high school, not sooner'

November 21 2005
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

'When my kid comes home having smoked a joint, he'll be told he can do that when he is out of high school, not sooner'

November 21 2005

MAIL BAG

'When my kid comes home having smoked a joint, he'll be told he can do that when he is out of high school, not sooner'

Up in smoke

I was struck by several things in Marni Jackson’s article about marijuana smoking with children (“Pass the weed, Dad,” Cover, Nov. 7), such as the challenge of trying to teach kids how to exercise good sense around any substance that impairs judgment. It’s not too surprising that every family Jackson interviewed that was concerned about their teens’ marijuana use had a parent who smoked it. Kids don’t listen nearly as much as they watch and learn. And apparently what those kids have been watching and learning is not only pot smoking but some shame, dishonesty and inconsistency from their parents. Of course, none of this is confined to marijuana. Another common scenario I see in my practice is a parent who is alarmed by their child’s marijuana use but unwilling to face their own alcoholism. I suppose “do what I say, not what I do” hasn’t become any more successful as a parenting technology than it ever was. The reality is that marijuana causes numbing and forgetting. What if the environments of these teens and adults inspired something other than a desire to tune out?

Dr. Conrad Sichler, Burlington, Ont.

It’s all very simple. Not everything is for children—not pot, booze, sex, or credit cards. When my kid comes home having smoked a joint or consumed alcohol, he will be told that it is something he can do when he is out of high school, and not sooner. If he says, “But you do it,” I will answer, “Yes, because I am an adult, your father. There are things permitted to me that are forbidden to you, and pot is one of them.” I will not go into a song and dance about how marijuana will ruin his life, because that is a lie. When the time is right, I will teach him about all the illegal drugs, their history, their effects, when they are useful and when they cause harm.

Harry Fisher, Woodland Hills, Calif.

I remember my parents hiding their pot smoking from me, or at least pretending to. And they were hard on my sisters and me when we were caught with marijuana. In addition to the “Don’t you smoke pot” speech, we got a “And I better never catch you with my pot” speech. I never hid the fact that I smoked marijuana from my daughter. We didn’t have a medical marijuana law in Oregon in 1993 when my cancer was finally diagnosed, but we did have the Drug Abuse Resistance Education

program at her kindergarten. She came home in tears because a policeman told her that marijuana could kill. I looked into her eyes and told her, “That man lied to you.” We talked about the drugs for my cancer treatment. But mostly we talked about how it was important for her to know what was right and what was wrong for herself and not to just go along with what some jerk in a uniform told her. When

the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act was passed, it changed my life. Mostly, medical marijuana patients are very open about their use and we are able to be honest with our families without the disapproval that recreational smokers have to endure. Many of us are teaching our kids that medical marijuana is a very serious medicine for seriously ill or hurt people rather than a party toy for everybody.

Jenifer Valley, Portland, Ore.

You make no mention of the Health Officers Council paper, which was released last month. This discussion paper suggested that all currently illegal drugs should be regulated and controlled by mainstream society. Drug prohibition produces a robust black market that spawns significant health and social pathologies, engages our youth, makes drugs widely available, and enriches criminals. The time is right for us to move away from a failed criminal justice approach to controlling drugs. We need to explore a public health approach to create drug control legislation based on evidence and the reduction of harm.

Mark Haden, Vancouver

I was misquoted in “The cannabis connoisseur.” I explained that indica and sativa were thought to be subspecies of the undomesticated ruderalis plant, not that indica was a subspecies of sativa. As well, I said mixing tobacco with pot was “a European thing,” not bongs. Chris Bennett, Vancouver

The other day, I heard a father say that he preferred to be known as his son’s friend. That is a real cop-out. Teenagers need fathers and mothers. They need direction. They need discipline. They need role models. They need attention. They need love. They have enough friends to steer them down those paths that lie. Sometimes, many times, a parent has to be an a-hole in the eyes of their children. And to that mother who is worried because her kid is smoking upstairs, I say, what on earth are you doing about it?

John Morrison, Mill Bay, B.C.

AIDS and the numbers

I wish Barbara Amiel was right when she writes that “possibly the truth is that African AIDS cases are considerably fewer than reported” (“Are AIDS stats real?” Column, Oct. 31). But the facts on the ground do not support her theory. In the 25 African countries where World Vision operates AiDS-related programs, our staff members daily witness a predictable pattern of death and dying that is destroying the continent’s economic and social fabric. Annihilation is how African leaders describe it. How many more reports and counter-reports do we need to convince us that this is a global emergency? The world has known about this crisis for years, and yet our intervention is still so inadequate that I find myself vacillating between anger and tears, especially when I visit communities in Africa. During local meetings I’ve attended over the past five years, when I ask how many people have lost relatives as a result of HIV/AIDS, without exception almost everyone raises their hands. The next time I sit beside an African mother who is dying, I’ll comfort her with Amiel’s musings that the stats might be off.

Dave Toycen, President, World Vision Canada, Mississauga, Ont.

Amiel asks for facts, yet commits the first sin of responsible research, quoting from one source, Tom Bethell, who apparently finds the number of AIDS victims questionable. There is current research from many reliable sources, Canada’s Stephen Lewis being first to mind. Her most offensive comment is that she supposes, “Heterosexual AIDS suits Western egalitarian fashions.” I suggest that the poor women of Africa who contract AIDS because their husbands bring it home from the brothels of the cities see it as neither fashionable, nor egalitarian. Her shallow treatment of this horror is in equating deaths from AIDS with deaths from foul water. While both are critical issues in Africa, the clear difference is that AIDS begets more AIDS, creating a pandemic that has not been arrested. Eleanor Huber, London, Ont.

Going ballistic

Kenneth Whyte’s Q & A with author and former defence analyst Elinor Sloan (“Secure Canada. Or else.” The Maclean’s Interview, Nov. 7) misleads Canadians into thinking that missile defence can save us from enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles. Actually, missile defence is part of a scheme to rationalize spending hundreds of millions of dollars on arsenals that will function at least as easily for offensive purposes as defensive ones. The military-industrial complex is on course to make the U.S. preeminent in space. With American space weapons able to attack targets anywhere on earth, the U.S. will be able to control the ultimate military high ground. It is our duty to oppose such militarization. E.P. Wilson, G abrióla Island, B.C.

A clear, concise, compelling argument for participation by Canada in the missile defence system of North America. An unpopular stance on a critical issue. Bravo!

Frances Bennett-Sutton, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Who’s on first?

Peter C. Newman is entitled to his opinions but not factual errors. When Newman writes in his story about the possible Hudson’s Bay Co. takeover that “Mosdy Scots from the Shetlands and Orkneys, the early Bay men... were the original Canadians,” he insults the obvious fact— recognized by all objective Canadian historians—that the Canadiens, as French

'I'll sit beside a mother dying of AIDS and comfort her with musings about the stats being off and say we can't help until we have the proper numbers'

explorers after Jacques Cartier became known, were the original Canadians, not the British, and certainly not the Scots (“A soft target,” Business, Nov. 7). These original Canadiens became the co-founding race and nation (as described by Lord Durham) with the British at Confederation. Newman is also out in left field when he writes, “Although it [the Hudson’s Bay Co.] owned the world’s most valuable land monopoly...” because he fails to explain that the land was acquired by a takeover of Aboriginal territories in much the same manner as it is about to be taken over by, in Newman’s terms, “an American vulture fund.” André W. Payant, Ottawa

Conduct unbecoming

With the release of the Gomery report, Canadians as a whole should be both ashamed and furious (“It’s not over yet,” Politics, Nov. 14). We should be ashamed that we have a government that has acted in a manner usually attributable to some Third World dictatorship, and furious that tax money collected from all over Canada has been siphoned into the pockets of Liberal-friendly businesses and donors. To be cynical, yes the money was wasted, but at least it was wasted and misspent in the Quebec economy. What about how the rest of Canada views the scandal? When Ontario and parts of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces re-elect a Liberal government, the silence that is noted west of Thunder Bay will be the temporary speechlessness of the majority of westerners when they realize their true place in Confederation.

John S.J. Bradley, Edmonton

Once upon a time there were two Canadians, one a civil servant, the other a powerful politician. These two Canadians would find themselves embroiled in a scandal that rocked their nation. Each man reacted in very different ways as the scandal unfolded. The civil servant’s actions put his job in jeopardy and forced him into early retirement. The politician’s inaction safeguarded his lock on the highest office in the land.

Allan Cutier, the now-famous sponsorship whistle-blower, began noticing irregularities in the Public Works procurement process in 1994, well before the sponsorship program was created. A career bureaucrat, his job was to negotiate and sign procurement contracts with suppliers of advertising to the government. He found himself on a direct collision course with Chuck Guite almost immediately after he started working for him. He started keeping a computer log of department irregularities and for the next 18 months he copied official documents he knew he would need in the future. Finally, after consulting with the Professional Institute, he filed a grievance with the internal audit department of Public Works. Ostracized by his colleagues, he was hauled up on the carpet by Guite and told his job was about to become redundant.

Paul Martin was Canada’s Finance minister and VP of the Treasury Board for almost 10 years from 1993 to 2002. He was the most senior Liberal cabinet minister from Quebec. In late 1999, the Globe and Mail broke the first wave of news on irregularities in the government’s sponsorship and advertising procurement. In 2000, a second internal audit found the Treasury Board’s rules were not followed. These events were widely reported in the national press. While Martin was still Finance minister in early 2002, he received a letter from Akaash Maharaj, the Liberal party’s national policy chair, outlining concerns about questionable activities in the Quebec wing. Sheila Fraser released her “broke every rule in the book” report in May 2002. Just one month after the damning report was released, Martin resigned from cabinet, not because of the report but his inability to work with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Paul Martin stood on the sidelines and waited four years to do something. He had multiple opportunities to confront his colleagues and right the ship. He repeatedly chose the path of least resistance. Hoping the mess wouldn’t stick to him, he hid behind his rift with Chrétien.

The most admirable of human qualities is the courage to stand up to your peers. As many have acknowledged since the release of the Gomery report, Allan Cutler is a rare and courageous man. Now retired, Cutler has his own private consulting practice speaking and advising on ethical procurement. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair that as a result of his actions, Cutler lived a nightmare and was forced to retire early on a reduced pension while Paul Martin’s inactions led to the PMO.

Susan McArthur, Toronto

The business of war

Brian Bethune’s otherwise excellent review of Peter Hessel’s book The Mystery ofFrankenberg’s Canadian Airman (“The unknown soldier,” Books, Nov. 7) is tarnished by his opening line, which suggests that, collectively, Canadians now feel guilty about bombing German cities in World War II. If Bethune took the time to interview Canadian flyers who survived those missions, or German aviators who

'Privilege is invisible to those who have it, and white people are the people of privilege in our society. To those without it, the inequities are obvious.'

participated in the blitz of London, he would find that those men do not share today’s obsession with guilt, or a desire to find someone from whom they might seek forgiveness. They were at war, in the business of destroying their enemies and their support systems, and that included killing people. But it is hard to imagine those German civilians were less loyal to their country than Londoners were to

theirs, or that they felt any more guilrafter killing airman Jean-Maurice D’Avril thanthe men who yelled “bombs away” over Chemnitz. TomPhilp, Colborne, Ont.

Sex—and style—still sell

When I read the lyrics And I like the way you still say please / When you’re looking up at me in the Nickelback article (“Hell-bent for home,” Music, Oct. 3l), I was irked. But then I moved on to the article on Michaëlle Jean (“Rideau Hall oh la la,” Governor General, Oct. 31), which uses every narrow and discriminatory female stereotype going, discussingjean’s shopping patterns, her emotional openness, her conservative eating habits, even sexualizing her walk. There was far less emphasis put on her ideas. The message is, women are given positions of power and prestige based on their attractiveness and stylishness—and that people are drawn to Jean because she is sexy and sultry. I find it debilitating to think that a popular, well-respected magazine could degrade women in such a way and get away with it. Bridget Arsenault, Sackville, N.B.

Life after torture

I have read accounts of torture by barbarians of every stripe and I am at a loss to comprehend how humans can endure such abuse (“ T begged to confess,’ ’’Justice, Oct. 31). I am

always left to speculate upon the after-effects of such treatment. For example, would Canadian William Sampson, who tells such an awful tale of torture in a Saudi prison, now be sterile as a result of these attacks? What would be the long-range effects of the other abuses he suffered? No amount of training or other hardening-up can prepare humans to withstand torture, physically or psychologically.

The torture Sampson describes makes hazing seem like a kid’s game.

Don Carter, Brighton, Ont.

Stirring the melting pot

White people aspiring to be colour-blind do a serious disservice to all non-whites and whites alike (“White like us,” Column, Oct. 24). Subscribing to this notion of not wanting to notice anyone’s skin colour ignores the very real fact that we live in a society where it does matter what your skin colour is, like it or not. To ignore this is to ignore the multitude of experiences of racism and discrimination that non-white people endure. Privilege is invisible to those who have it, and white people are the people of privilege in our society.

To those without privilege, the inequities are obvious.

Brenda Tombs, Vancouver

Although I don’t believe we yet have a utopian society where every race, culture and class grouping has equal rights, I do believe that we are headed in that direction. In my neighbourhood, we have people of every race and religion who live together and go to school together, browse at the library together, shop in the same stores and try to raise their children to not only respect and care for their neighbours but to refuse to give up the idea that we can live in harmony. This doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes we take a step back, sometimes we take two steps forward.

But the reality is we are learning together. We may never be colour-blind (that would be unfortunate because colour is a beautiful thing), but maybe we can become colour-rich.

Jill DaSilva, Calgary

We need a hero ^

Thank you for the story on Const. Stephen Knight (“The bravest man in Canada,” Profile,

Oct. 24). This was a real story about a real person and real accomplishments in saving two people from imminent death. Stephen’s selflessness is a ray of sunshine in a bombardment of stories on rapists, murderers, silly celebrities and other assorted psychos. Shirley Brown, Coles Island,

Queens County, N.B.