MAIL BAG

‘RCMP informant Mubin Shaikh wants a raise? I think that’s called a Shaikh-down.’

August 25 2008
MAIL BAG

‘RCMP informant Mubin Shaikh wants a raise? I think that’s called a Shaikh-down.’

August 25 2008

‘RCMP informant Mubin Shaikh wants a raise? I think that’s called a Shaikh-down.’

MAIL BAG

ANTI-DEFAMATION RULES

LUIZA CH. SAVAGE’S excellent article about Islamic states using the United Nations to enact international “anti-defamation” rules is long past due and should be widely disseminated (“Stifling free speech—globally,” World, Aug. 4). The stream of UN resolutions against “defamation” of religion passed by the UN Human Rights Council beginning in 1999 and then passed in 2005 by the UN General Assembly poses a grave and present danger to human rights everywhere, and perhaps even to freedom of religion itself. Human rights are paramount in a democracy and must not be allowed to be subsumed under, or defined by, religion. UN anti-blasphemy laws making religion sacrosanct are regressive and incompatible with democratic and evolutionary concepts of human rights. It is time for Canadians to take a stand, inform themselves on this extremely complex issue, and demand appropriate action from their political representatives.

Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert, Alta.

WITH THE WEST moving toward a godless society at lightning speed, adherents of Islam are clinging to their faith with as firm a grip as they can manage. Never before in the history of mankind has any religion been as harshly criticized as Islam has been lately. As Islam is not a closed religion, freedom of speech is welcome as long as it is constructive. There is no other purpose served other than to hurt Muslims when derogatory cartoons of the prophet of Islam are produced. Asma Fatima, the Pakistani diplomat quoted in your article, was right when she said, “The cartoon issue really, really hurt Muslims around the world,” and, “There are certain things that should not be said.”

Syed A. Rahman, Edmonton

IN WRITING ABOUT ME in her article, your writer Luiza Ch. Savage properly states: “David Harris, a former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, was sued for remarks he made on the Ottawa radio station CFRA linking a Canadian Islamic group to a controversial American organization.” But this misses the good news: moderate Muslims and nonMuslims came together and helped me successfully fight off the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations’ (CAIR-CAN)

libel lawsuit. CAIR-CAN surrendered. Then, in 2007, the U.S. Justice Department named CAIR, CAIR-CAN’s mother organization, an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation trial in Texas. The blogosphere blazed while CAIR/CAIR-CAN’s North America-wide lawsuit program targeted numerous media and other commentators. Despite the publicity, nothing was heard from Amnesty International, PEN, Human Rights Watch, or any other such groups. Now that hard-liners have escalated

to the next offensive—harnessing Canada’s own human rights commissions for Saudistyle censoring of Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and others—some rights groups might finally bestir themselves to action. We need some explanation as to why our free-expression advocates went AWOL when they were so desperately needed.

David Harris, President and CEO, Democracy House, Ottawa

INFORMATION BREAKDOWN

SO MUBIN SHAIKH, the “Toronto 18” informant, wants the RCMP to pony up another $2.4 million to elicit his, er, co-operation, does he (“$2.4-million raise?” National, Aug. 4)? That’s not a raise. I think that’s what you might call a Shaikh-down.

Mindy G. Alter, Toronto

IT’S BAMBI, OH DEER

I AM A LONG-TERM, active and vocal environmentalist who read Charlie Gillis’s article about the deer overpopulation problem with interest (“The Bambi epidemic,” Nature, Aug. 4). I have watched this evolving problem for the last 20 years, and I’ve become frustrated with what I term “bleeding-heart nature lovers” who don’t seem to recognize the basic premise in natural populations (including human)—they expand until something stops them. The robin population in my area had expanded to nuisance proportion, until this spring, when a couple of young owls decided that robin tasted just fine. How many ecosystems will the deer harm before a top predator deals with them? What will stop the deer if humans aren’t given the rights and the tools to do so—a virus, starvation or a cougar? Are any of those options more humane than properly regulated hunting? I believe people can be found who are capable and willing to do this, and they might just consider themselves environmentalists. Joan Pashley, Vancouver Island, B.C.

ALTHOUGH YOUR STORY focused on whitetail deer in Eastern Canada, the problem with their blacktailed cousins on the West Coast is similar. In Victoria, deer are moving into town and are now a common sight in any of the more woodsy parts of the city, but the problem in the city is nothing compared to the ecological devastation deer are causing on the southern Gulf Islands. On most of the newly created Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, deer make a mockery of the park’s objective of preserving biodiversity. On Pender Island, in areas designated as Garry oak meadows (an endangered ecosystem), there are no Garry oak, arbutus or maple seedlings. Understorey plants that should be present can only be found on places the deer can’t reach, such as near vertical cliff faces. It has been said that you can attract deer on the island by starting a gas chainsaw because they come to strip

the leaves or needles off of any branches left on the ground. Humans have caused this unnatural situation and humans have a responsibility to correct it. An integrated program of fencing and culling could still save at least a sample of rare ecosystems.

Bruce Pendergast, Victoria

ASK YOURSELVES, as you sit in your suburban backyard, why we’re being overrun by deer. As more and more development takes place over the entire country, where do you think these animals are going to go? The claim that there are many more deer than there were 50 to 100 years ago is totally false.

These animals have had their territories totally destroyed by human invasion, and they are consequently pushed into smaller and smaller areas. Just remember, humans aren’t the only species to inhabit the earth.

So all you people who say you live “in the country” on a postage-stamp-sized lot, wake up and think about the other animals whose homes you have destroyed, then stop complaining when they start wanting some of it back. Jane Moore, Ottawa

THE “BAMBI EPIDEMIC” may soon be followed by a Lyme disease epidemic, and it is scary. Thank you for alerting people to the threat in Canada, as, unfortunately, we do not hear much from our officials about it. The illness often mimics symptoms of other diseases like fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, heart and even psychiatric problems, and people often do not know they have it. The sick often see many doctors before they are properly diagnosed, if ever. In the meantime, they suffer from a slew of weird symptoms, such as pain, weakness, red swollen joints, brain fog, memory loss, paralysis, and yes, sometimes Lyme disease can lead to death. I am going to send a copy of your article to the Ministry of Health. Maybe it will start collecting hard data and do proper surveillance across the province of infected ticks and actual cases of Lyme disease. It’s time to start taking this disease seriously. Ewa Milewska, Brampton, Ont.

WICKED GAMES

AS A VARIETY STORE owner and purveyor of cigarettes, I read your article about cigarette companies and corner stores working together

to survive with interest (“Butts on the line,” Business, Aug. 4). I can only shake my head at the way the government thinks. To say that the elimination of power walls is to protect children is asinine. Children still have their parents, family members and peers to emulate. Furthermore, if protecting children is the aim of the government, then why is the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation pushing scratch-and-win tickets named

after games that children enjoy playing? This week I received a new game from the OLG— Snakes and Ladders (to go with Bingo and others), named after a game that surely is not played regularly by adults.

Brian Witzel, Ingersoll, Ont.

A WIFE BY ANY OTHER NAME

IN HIS PROFILE on Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s wife (“Janine Krieber has some ideas she’d like to share,” National, Aug. 4), John Geddes makes an issue of political wives deciding whether to keep their own last name or to adopt their husband’s. But Krieber has no decision to make. For women in Quebec, like Krieber, this is a total non-issue. Since the Quebec law changed on April 2,1981, the past generation of married women—and men, for that matter—cannot legally change their last name due to marriage. Your birth name is your name for life. Women who married before 1981 can use their husband’s name, if they wish, but all medical files, for instance, are in their birth name. And that’s fine by me. Judith Brown, Longueuil, Que.

WORLD TRADE WOES

SO, THE WORLD TRADE Organization talks have again collapsed, as Andrew Coyne predicted they would (“Are world trade talks

about to collapse?... I wish,” Opinion, Aug. 4). Coyne was dead on. If all food production were supply managed, the average consumer would be looking at a threefold increase in his food bill. Obscene prices for products from the dairy and feather industries (producing down for clothing and bedding) are only tolerated because everything else is so cheap. This cannot and should not go on forever. Farmers in the other agricultural fields, such as grains, oilseeds, beef, pork and others, are abandoning these industries in droves. The solution to providing a fair and reasonable income to food producers is not at the WTO negotiating tables, but in a rethinking of our whole agricultural policy at home. It is refreshing to see this issue tackled in the mainstream press. At stake is the availability of a safe, affordable food supply delivered by a healthy agricultural industry. This profoundly affects every man, woman and child in this country.

Dell Mooney, Wawanesa, Man.

COYNE SAYS that countries should dismantle their trade barriers even if other nations do not reciprocate because consumers would save so much. While this is true, it ignores the other side of the coin. One-sided free trade leaves consumers in the low-tariff country richer, but their industries and businesses non-competitive and dying, making them poorer in the long run. One need only consider the multi-billions of agricultural subsidies (a form of non-free trade) dished out by the U.S. and France that are a major component of the grinding poverty in parts of Africa. Short of countervailing duties and other nonfree trade measures, what should a unilaterally free trade, defenceless country do? We want to hear from the economists on this one. Frank Gue, Burlington, Ont.

BRINGING UP BIAS

WHILE READING your story about the Winnipeg mother who lost her kids over her beliefs (“White-pride mom,” National, Aug. 4), I found it disturbing that the authorities would take children away from their mother for her ideals, whether or not they conform to our thinking. Where were the authorities when Mr. and Mrs. Khadr took their children—including Omar—to the Middle East to be trained as boy soldiers and terrorists? I certainly do not condone hatred and discrimination and I don’t always agree with what parents teach their children, but where do we draw the line? Claire M. Schmidt, Windsor, Ont.

NATURE-CHILD REUNION

I APPRECIATED Zachary Sniderman’s article on our children’s declining level of environmental literacy (“How can a bird compete

with Yoda?” Nature, Aug. 4). However, I was disappointed to see no mention of one of Canada’s leading environmental education programs, the Get to Know program. Wellknown Canadian artist and naturalist Robert Bateman has long recognized the critical problem of our collective alienation from nature. Back in 2000, he started the program to encourage youth to “get to know” their wild neighbours. The program’s initiatives include a popular annual nature art and writing contest, a national speakers bureau, parks programs in Vancouver and Toronto, a conservation centre in Alberta, and an interactive CD with nature videos and virtual hikes. The interactive CD is aimed at youth in urban centres, where environmental literacy is considered most at-risk, and features a wealth of information about native species and local parks, designed to inspire youth to discover nature for themselves. Bateman and partners of Get to Know have made the CD available for free to almost 700,000 students attending public schools in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver. Children today may not be as familiar with nature as those from previous generations, but this effort is bringing together organizations from across Canada to catalyze a nature-child reunion. Braden MacDonald, Kelowna, B.C.

THE SOUND BARRIER

I READ YOUR ARTICLE about Le Circuit MontTremblant, its owner, Lawrence Stroll, and some complaining neighbours, with considerable interest (“Ferraris in the forest,” Society, Aug. 4). My family and I have vacationed annually in Mont-Tremblant for probably 20 years, and owned our own condominium, in hearing range of Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant,

until this spring. When the track was upgraded in 2000 and began to come back to life, it just added more appeal for us to experience the culture, beauty and recreational activities that Tremblant has to offer. It’s a terrific destination, in both winter and summer, and the chance to see, hear and smell fast cars or motorcycles for a few weekends in the summer brings more visitors and more diversity

to this wonderful spot. With its Québécois culture, excellent food, diversity of people and things to do, Tremblant provides Canadians with a little bit of Europe in their own backyard. To the neighbours of Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant, I say, come on folks, it’s only for a few days each summer.

Jim Oliver, Simcoe, Ont.

TREMBLANT MAYOR Pierre Pilon shows a certain dichotomy in his dismissal of those who would live near a racetrack and then complain about noise. It was exactly this community that was courted by Tremblant lawyers for affidavits when Mayor Pilon underwrote a class action suit against Le Circuit as an attempt to enforce his newly established noise regulations; regulations he later absolved in a negotiated settlement with Le Circuit. I cannot imagine that any responsible government would identify an industry as a polluter, take an action against it to enforce its own regulations, and then turn around and say, “Well, yes, whereas you are a polluter, sure, we’ll let you dump your toxic waste into our common water or air for 52 days over your five-month season instead of the entire 150 days.” Pollution is pollution. No business should have a grandfathered right to pollute with impunity.

Alan Klinkhoff, Mont-Tremblant, Que.

I WAS FORTUNATE to be in attendance at this July’s Ferrari Challenge in Mont-Tremblant. While I am sorry that the exclusive homeowners in the area are unhappy with the noise, I am not sorry that I contributed to the local economy by leaving behind hundreds of dollars that will stimulate jobs for those who don’t live in such lofty accommodations. If tourism is the lifeblood of the region, it needs to be nurtured for all types of people.

Susan Ferguson, Bobcaygeon, Ont.

SPANKING WORKED

REGARDING RACHEL Mendleson’s article about rising youth crime rates (“Why youth crime rates are higher,” National, Aug. 4), I fully believe the blame for this lies at the feet of society, our government and our courts. The government has stripped away all of our parental rights and bars us from disciplining our children, and by discipline I do not mean abuse. Yes, I got spanked in my time, and it worked. Yes, in my school we got the strap for serious infractions, and it worked. Kids and teens back then weren’t running around with their pants down to their knees, cursing and swearing and disrespecting their elders like they do now. Yes, we rebelled, but nothing like the offensive ways kids do today. I get sick to my stomach hearing some people

blaming the problems with the children of today on parents. It’s obvious that the parenting methods the government is trying to force on us are not working.

John Hasek, Foxboro, Ont.

IN PASSING

Isaac Hayes, 65, musician/songwriter. Best known for the iconic theme from Shaft, he influenced the musical genres of soul and disco. His sexy baritone crooning and spoken-word performances inspired other black entertainers such as Barry White and presaged the birth of rap. In later years he achieved more fame by providing the voice of Chef on the risqué cartoon series South Park.

Bernie Mac, 50, comedian. An accomplished stand-up comic, he found fame playing opposite George Clooney in the Oceans Eleven films. Beginning with an appearance in Damon Wayans’s Mo’ Money in 1992, he made almost three dozen films and two TV series. Among his movies was a remake of 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. He died of complications from pneumonia.