MAIL BAG

‘We should be asking NATO countries to join our forces in support of the Afghan mission’

December 10 2007
MAIL BAG

‘We should be asking NATO countries to join our forces in support of the Afghan mission’

December 10 2007

‘We should be asking NATO countries to join our forces in support of the Afghan mission’

MAIL BAG

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH US

THE CONDITION of our Mounties is lamentable (“What’s really killing the Mounties,” National, Nov. 26). The “old boys’ club” must go. This will ruffle feathers, but drastic measures are required to stop the sinking ship from going under. One suggestion would be the hiring of police chiefs and other top police personnel to help commissioner William Elliott erase the closed-shop mentality. Jonathon Gatehouse and Charlie Gillis write that one in eight members is now receiving disability pay. This is one of the key reasons. Also, recruiting is down. Why? What about the storm of bad publicity the Mounties are receiving, including the taser death at the Vancouver airport? And why don’t the Mounties pay a salary to new recruits during their six months of basic training? This is the 21st century. Charlie Fillmore, London, Ont.

I BELIEVE AN investigative report should be an unbiased view of facts on both sides—not an exploitation-driven diatribe against a national organization; a report that provides no balance to the completely negative message—the RCMP is in ruins. Yes, the organization is currently suffering some intense growing pains, but what about the other side of that story? You focus on the acts of a reprehensible few. Where is the story about the 25,000-plus members who are satisfied with their jobs? The men and women who get up every day, put on a gun and badge and strive to keep the peace with commitment, responsibility and respect? Where’s the story about the RCMP members in red serge who get stopped on the streets of Canadian cities to have their pictures taken with strangers because those strangers see that red serge and know it as an international icon of Canada?

The RCMP is currently experiencing challenges no different than any other organization that has been in existence for 130 years. Many corporations have similar lawsuits pending but are not under the same level of scrutiny as the RCMP. Our national police force is under increasing pressure to function as a public corporation, driven by the bottom line. How do you make the transition from a tradition of protection to a budget-conscious organization that is able to balance its workers’ needs with the need for public safety? That’s a challenge I wouldn’t

want to face on a daily basis, would you? Tobi Siegersma, Calgary

HOW THE RCMP could allow incidents worthy of investigation to fester to the breaking point is a question that must be answered. Still, surely the force is not completely broken yet. As a Canadian, I have had nothing but the highest regard for the RCMP—it’s a proud part of who we are. Let’s not lose sight of a very important fact: there are thousands of RCMP members doing great work day in and day out, and for all the right reasons. Harold L. Floyd, Samt John, N.B.

THE COVER photo showing a Mountie wiping a tear from his eye—the inference being that the state of affairs in the RCMP is driving its members to weep—is, in reality, a Mountie overcome by grief at a colleague’s funeral. This is a low blow, even for the media.

Russ Butler, Kanata, Ont.

ALL THE NEW commissioner needs to do is have a long coffee break with Gen. Rick Hillier and discuss the differences between leadership and management in the Canadian Forces and the RCMP, and the purpose of culture in both organizations. I’m sure the two can work it out for the benefit of the Mounties. Donal Lang, Victoria

COMING HOME

THERE IS NO master plan for getting Afghanistan on its feet (“Exit date: 20??” National, Nov. 12). The planning is a piecemeal busi-

ness pointing out contradictions of the conflict rather than tracing a dependable path to peace. In his article, Paul Wells gives readers some much-needed depth with respect to the war Canadian servicemen and women are fighting in the strife-torn country. The United Nations Tower of Babel, placing 37 nations in a war theatre without an apparent centralized military command umbrella, seems to be leading to unnecessary casualties while delaying democratization of the country. According to the article, the warlords, criminal elements and insurgents are becoming stronger even with the nation’s increased commercial productivity. Until the West loses its insatiable appetite for illegal drugs manufactured from the local poppy fields, warlord/criminal GNP, and an increasingly strong insurgency, will undoubtedly outperform legitimate commerce. The article points to the real possibility that the Western alliance’s Afghanistan soldiers, police officers, NATO troops, and civilians will continue to die whether our troops come home tomorrow, in 2009,2012, or decades later.

Canada should consider withdrawing its military if NATO allies do not respond with a unified plan to provide additional troops before the 2009 deadline that Canada’s Parliament will soon debate. The troops want to complete the mission, but it is the duty of our government and the people of Canada to limit the mission and protect the military from unnecessary casualties.

Bob Gordon, Española, Ont.

OUR SOLDIERS are in Afghanistan because they are needed. It would have been lovely if the Taliban had handed over their weapons and left, but this is not a perfect world. For the betterment of the Afghan people, it is more important that a girl child can go to a school without danger and that roads and schools and homes and businesses be rebuilt. There are those who are demanding that our forces come home, but what happens then? Do the Afghan people just fall by the wayside? What our soldiers are accomplishing gives me pride. If anything, we should be asking the nations of NATO to join these men and women in support for the mission. Let us not shrink from our moral responsibilities as human beings.

Margo May Taylor, Ancaster, Ont.

WAGING WAR IN TINSELTOWN

THE CONSERVATIVE celebration over the commercial failure of recent films about American wars in the Middle East that lack blackand-white heroes and villains strikes me as premature (“Hollywood shoots itself in the foot,” Steyn, Nov. 26). How does Mark Steyn know moviegoers stayed away from the film Rendition because of objections to its story? Did people flock to American Gangster in order to rubber-stamp gangsterism? Steyn’s thesis lacks a basic understanding of conflict narrative in storytelling. He seems to suggest that our entertainment, and possibly our news as well, should focus on the noble war in order to appeal to the average Joe. For those of us with our heads out of the sand, a few movies about torture and war profiteering don’t come out of any dreaded liberal moral abyss, no matter what Steyn says.

Peter M. McCarron, Kitchener, Ont.

SPECIAL ED IN THE OIL PATCH

POOR SPECIAL Ed Stelmach—he never passed Economics 101, and now he is being attacked by Preston Manning (“An Alberta sucker punch,” Nov. 26). The premier’s canned spiels would have us believe that reduced investment will result in increased cash flows from oil and gas companies in Alberta. Meanwhile, B.C. and Saskatchewan have learned that reduced royalties, even royalty holidays, attract energy investment. They are gleefully watching each petro-dollar spent multiply four and five times to create mini-booms in their backyards.

And while Ed may have had some room to move on oil sands royalties, he is choking the lifeblood out of the natural gas industry. The layoffs are already starting, and the rural areas of the province are being hit especially hard as rig utilization hovers around an abysmal 38 per cent. Hopefully the Conservatives

will realize he’s neither conservative nor a leader and oust him before he can do any more damage.

Ken Fast, DeWinton, Alta.

SIMPLY BEE-UTIFUL

THE PHOTOGRAPH of a “bee” illustrating your brief story about the New York Times mistaken idea that honeybee males are worked to death (“Stop the presses... the plight of male bees,” Nov. 26) is a fly, not a bee. In fact, it is one of several species of flower flies (family Syrphidae) that mimics bees to gain some protection from predators. The image in your magazine is a bit small to tell for sure, but it is probably the narcissus bulb fly. Bees differ from flies in having four wings (flies have only two), but are most easily distinguished from flies in the field by their very different antennae. Like male bees, but unlike female bees, flies also lack a sting.

Steve Marshall, Professor, Department of Environmental Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ont.

CARS AS APPLIANCES

A DODGE CARAVAN is the epitome of the concept that a vehicle is an appliance (“It all comes down to six questions,” Family finance report, Nov. 26). I will never own a minivan, even though I have four kids, and I need to express how much of a mistake it is to view a vehicle purchase as a non-investment. Cars like the Subaru Impreza have extremely high resale values. The Impreza also comes in a station wagon, which is fine for a family. The Dodge Caravan has half the resale value. It is not sensible, as your expert recommends, to get a box-on-wheels for $30,000 and sell it for $9,000 four years later, when you can buy a high-quality used car for $25,000 and sell it for $15,000 four years later.

Josh Cosford, Hamilton

‘Izzy Asper was a man of great energy and large vision. But that did not encompass the teachers and their families on that long ago day.’

THE ASPERS’VISION

IN RESPONSE to your story about my family (“Living up to Izzy: how dad’s dreams are still the Asper’s biggest problem,” Business, Nov. 12), I want to point out that the national campaign of $105 million from the private sector for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights doesn’t belong to any one ethnic group or any one city. We hope that all communities across Canada will see the benefit of establishing a permanent home for Canada’s human rights journey, where all our stories will be featured and where, through education, we can inspire transformation.

To that end, we are very grateful for the support we’ve received from all donors, including that of our dear friend Gerry Schwartz. His gift was one of the first we received, and was made at a time when the museum was just a vision. This donation provided the kind of endorsement we needed to keep moving the project forward. Since then, we have raised over $10.5 million from nearly 200 Ontario donors and are deeply grateful for the support from all Canadians and all levels of government that has led us to achieve $245 million of our $265 million goal so far.

Gail Asper, Winnipeg

YEARS AGO, my husband and I joined hundreds of other teachers and their families at a Pacific National Exhibition building in Vancouver. We were there because of the collapse of the teachers’ co-operative, and an offer was being made by Israel Asper. He was a chain-smoking man who languished against

the podium offering a few cents on the dollar to “save” the co-op members, many of whom lost their life savings.

Last April, according to your article, Stephen Harper announced that Canadians will be funding the running of Izzy Asper’s grand vision—giving some $22 million a year, as well as $100 million in public money toward the construction of the Museum of Human Rights. Yes, Izzy Asper was a man of great energy and large vision—unfortunately they did not encompass the well-being of the teachers on that long ago day.

Elin Ross, Vancouver

IN PASSING

Antonio Lamer, 74, judge. His career as a Supreme Court of Canada justice, and later chief justice, coincided with the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His court modernized criminal law and upheld rights of the accused. Lamer’s decisions shaped legal understanding of moral culpability, right to counsel, and search and seizure.

Vladimir Kryuchkov, 83, spy chief. He became Mikhail Gorbachev’s head of the Soviet KGB in 1988, but later conspired with party hard-liners to oust Gorbachev in a coup, which collapsed three days later. After Vladimir Putin’s election in 2000, Kryuchkov reappeared at official Kremlin events.