The Mail

November 25 1996

The Mail

November 25 1996

The Mail

Black's competition

Having recently been forced to cease publication of our weekly real estate paper, I was less than comforted by Hollinger chairman Conrad Black’s assurances that “there is no reason to be concerned about ownership concentration in the media” (“The prince of papers,” Cover, Nov. 11). I wonder if Black would spread some of that comfort to the five people who have lost jobs as a direct result of a policy of Hollinger-owned papers in this area offering six weeks’ free advertising. As a small company that had competed successfully for six years with the Thomson newspaper chain, we are not


should be addressed to:

Maclean’s Magazine Letters

777 Bay St.,Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7

Fax: (416) S96-7730

111 E-mail:


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.

afraid of competition. Six weeks of free advertising, however, would seem to be a tactic designed to knock out competitors.

Patrick Kell,

Publisher, What’s Happening Publications, Belleville, Ont.

Your coverage of the recent activities of Conrad Black, with the use of such terms as “storm trooper” for Black and “human chainsaw” for Hollinger president David Radler ignores the necessity for change in the media. Too many Canadian newspapers are filled with boilerplate from foreign sources and stories about the same people revelling in their 15 minutes of fame. Conrad Black recognizes the first law of information—you can upset people, you can motivate people, you can anger them. But you should never bore them.

Jim Lotz, Park Lane, N.S.

I care not one whit whether Conrad Black makes a bid to control every newspaper on earth. If he does not produce a quality product, his empire will decline in both size and influence. And media people will report in depth on the rise of the next news mogul. Messrs Black and Radler happen to be the latest bulls in the woods.

Tom Cassan, Dundalk, Ont.

Interpreting the Bible

Genesis opens dramatically in its first chapter, reading, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” But it is obvious that the same Spirit has not yet moved upon the author of In the Beginning, Karen Armstrong (“Back to the Bible’s beginnings,” Religion, Nov. 11). God has been condemned before, and there is little new here, but to her credit, Armstrong rightly clarified the biblical characters as “a ragged cast of mortals.” Believers are grateful that God did not choose superior human beings on which to base the scriptures but always “struggling human beings” who would choose to follow Him. Armstrong may choose to live in a state of fury, but God is love and His story invites many like her to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Gerry Organ, Hillsburgh, Ont.

In fact, the Bible is best understood as archetypal representations of human psychological motivation. The story of Abraham’s

Endangered species

I just finished your Nov. 11 Canada Notes and was struck by something ironic. You had a piece on the new endangered species legislation that would provide for fines of up to $500,000 and up to five years in prison for tampering with the eggs of an endangered species (“ ‘A passing grade’ ”). On the same page, you had an article on Preston Manning’s views on the rights of the human fetus (“Constitutional rights of the fetus”). It is a strange world we live in, because the same people who would call Manning’s pro-life stance "rhetoric of the American extreme right” would say that the endangered species legislation should have been tougher.

Connie Wilkins, Sydenham, Ont.

attempt to sacrifice his son Isaac, or the story of Noah’s castration by one of his sons (the Jewish Midrashic tradition makes it clear that the biblical account was edited) alert us to the problem of Oedipal conflict. Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt (the biblical parallel to the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo) demonstrates frozen emotions in women who have not successfully made the transition from girlhood. Like few other classical literatures, the Bible has been made innocuous through literal interpretation. It needs to be restored to the practical resource that it originally was.

I. M. Friedman, Saltspring Island, B.C.

It is unfortunate that Karen Armstrong’s experience of “the sacred,” was fragmentary, confused and ambiguous. My relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is anything but.

J. David Avery, Oshawa, Ont.

Morey played Buddy

Be advised that Morey Amsterdam, best known for his role on The Dick Van Dyke Show, played the role of Buddy Sorrell, not Alan Brady, as you reported incorrectly in Passages (Nov. 11).

J. W. Collins, Blind River, Ont.


Seeking excellence

I was distressed to read Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy’s response to the allegations of unfairness in grants to the arts (“Undiplomatic service,” The Arts, Oct. 28). The last thing Canada needs is yet another attempt to “seek the best balance from across Canada.” What we need is to recognize excellence, not political agendas. Grant applications should state the criteria for judging, and the applications should be judged on those criteria and no others. Anything else is unfair and condescending to the artists and a disservice to Canadians.

Ron Coleman, El Cerrito, Calif. Ill

Your article shows why bilingualism/biculturalism is not working in Canada: it’s too expensive. The problem with all social engineering is that it is based on the faulty premise of unlimited wealth; there is no way to pay for it.

Canada’s debt problem is largely due to the policy of appeasement towards Quebec. With limited funds to go around, the government reacts by playing favorites.

This creates a morale problem, undermining the work ethic and further contributing to the economic slide.

Jim Davis, Toledo, Ohio

No subsidies

Regarding “Battling Canada Post” (Business, Oct. 21), I wonder how we can have it both ways. We want a corporation that doesn’t compete with competitors, yet one that makes money. For decades, we subsidized Canada Post through our taxes, now we subsidize it through our junk mail. The latter costs me far less. Let’s not make Canada Post inefficient so we have to subsidize it through our taxes once again.

Alain Kolt, Morden, Man.

'Prejudice and fear'

The article ‘The evil that is Halloween” shocked me. As a neopagan and as a history student, 1 am willing to stake my reputation that Halloween is not a time that “witches meet to worship the devil,” which Marilyn Keirstead noted in a letter to parents regarding banning the festival at three day-care centres she operates in Fredericton (Opening Notes, Oct. 28). I am offended

'All social engineering is based on a faulty premise'

that such an uninformed statement could ever be uttered. I am also shamed that she is instilling prejudice and fear in the hearts of children, the very ones she seeks to protect from the evils of this world.

Krista Russell, Stittsville, Ont.

Parents vs. teachers

ííT)ower to the parents” is looking at a 1 Band-Aid solution to the public education system in Canada (Education, Oct. 21). Public schools have been forced to try to do what they will never be able to do—to meet every parent’s needs. To satisfy one group is to anger another. The clear solution that will result in major financial benefits is to provide funding to regulated private schools that are able to meet the unique demands of parent groups. The teacher-student loads will be eased, the parents will be happy, and the government will save money. What more can you ask for? The problem is that parent power has been overlooked in favor of teacher unions. The issue of a power grab should be labelled power loss by the bloated bureaucratic public schoolteachers federations. The authority should always have been with the government, not the unions.

Kevin Honey, Victoria 111

The aging of Gen X

Why do Maclean’s and other media always refer to twentysomethings, such as 23-year-old Chantal Kreviazuk, as being Gen X (“Gen X revisited,” People, Nov. 4)? If you had read Douglas Coupland’s novel, you would know that those born at the end of the baby boom, between 1960 and 1966, made up the characters in Generation X. The younger members of the real Gen X would now be 30 years old.

Ian Allen, Cranbrook, B.C.

More dinosaurs

I would like to offer my opinions on Buzz Hargrove’s letter (“Corporate dinosaurs,” Nov. 4). He states that productivity is “booming.” By this, does he mean that his membership is more efficient and working harder, or does he mean that more vehicles are being sold? While productivity may be up, I

don’t for a second believe that the whole machinery is nearly as efficient as it could and should be. Both management and the unions need to smarten up on this—-just have a look at the price of a new vehicle from any company. Maybe the companies and the unions should reduce or hold the already very high wages, increase questionable efficiency and pass the savings along to the consumer instead of the other way around. The companies have all lost a sale—I can’t afford a new vehicle. As for the unions, they are just as much a dinosaur and they have lost any last support I may have had for them.

M. T. Jon, St. Thomas, Ont.

Perhaps I missed something in Lynn Pollock’s letter of Oct. 28 (“Security strike”), but she said if the Canadian Auto Workers union didn’t win its fight with General Motors over “outsourcing”—what a dreadful concocted nonword—then the economy of Canada will go down the toilet, pronto. What I fail to understand is, if GM were to outsource some of its work to independent companies—who will produce the same items but probably at a reduced cost—how that will cause the economy to blow a tire? Surely, the economy will roll along as before except that workers other than GM’s will produce the goods. In my she decades of living in this country, it never fails that someone, somewhere, will attempt to complicate a simple thing.

Bob Orrick, Richmond, B. C.

'Lovable curmudgeon'

Who would expect to draw a chuckle by mocking my city’s famous ravines (“The newest best city in the world,” Allan Fotheringham, Nov. 4), with their silence, beauty and mystery? Poor Foth. He must know his time as a lovable curmudgeon is running out. But he does write well when he sticks to subjects he knows something about.

Jack Brunke, Toronto

The tax man cometh

The almost violent response to Revenue Canada’s planned requirement to report offshore assets in excess of $100,000 (‘Taxing foreign havens,” Business, Nov. 4) was quite inappropriate. Anybody with a clear conscience—anybody who reports income from such assets annually to Revenue Canada, as the law requires—cannot possibly object. These people don’t mind all the benefits of Canadian residence or citizenship but are unwilling to make their fair contribution by paying all taxes required by law. Do they expect others to absorb their share?

Kurt Maurer, Vancouver



I found the glorification of Pierre Trudeau’s fathering children in his 70s distasteful (“Pop culture in a new light,” The Maclean’s Excerpt, Oct. 28). Evidently, “the greatest pop star this country has ever produced” doesn’t have to practise safe sex.

Stephen Gero, Montreal

Real hockey

Jonathan A. Larson’s article on the decline of hockey in Canada has merit (“Advice from a saddened American,” The Road Ahead, Oct. 21), but the decline goes even further than that. As the cost of equipment, registrations, ice time, tournaments, and the travelling distances for all-star teams keep rising, it’s no wonder that the best players sometimes don’t play with others of the same calibre. It seems the more money you have, the better team your child plays on. Having been around hockey all my life, I thought it was supposed to be fun for the kids, but with amateur sports funding cuts by the government, a win-at-all-costs attitude by coaches and parents, and inner-city league fighting, maybe now some people realize why kids play one season and are never seen again. I am involved with a junior house league (threeto 12-year-olds), and the pressure put on these little ones is hard to believe. The league does its best to supply donated equipment to players who would go without, and, though it was too bad Team Canada lost, what’s important to me is that I have to find a helmet for a four-year-old so he can play, because the look on a youngster’s face when he scores his first goal is really what hockey is all about.

Joanne Barrie, St. Catharines, Ont.

'Parenting courses'

It seems incredible that we must spend such a large amount of our society’s resources to protect our children (“Children in danger,” Canada, Sept. 30). Dealing with the root cause is important, but if the statistics are indeed accurate, then it would seem to be a priority to change our curriculum in public and high schools to include mandatory parenting courses to teach upcoming generations what is right and what is wrong in this crucial area.

D. A. Pearlman, Ottawa

The senseless deaths of children is a very high price to pay before our country realizes that our system really needs a complete

overhaul at all levels, if we can expect to give our children the minimum protection they deserve. I recently met a 17-year-old who had just been released from the custody of youth protection authorities after five years. This young man appeared very hardened for his young years, chainsmoked during our meeting, and was completely distrustful of any social workers—claiming physical and sexual abuse, and encouragement to use drugs, among other incidents. What

words to hear from a young person who depended on the system to protect him. One may stop to wonder what type of irreparable damage his experiences with the authorities may have caused him and how they will affect his future. May God help our country if these scenarios are as widespread as they are claimed to be.

Judy Mrenica, Montreal

Your article indicates that at the time of Sarah Podniewicz’s death, her father, Michael Podniewicz “was on parole after serving three


years of a five-year sentence.” Podniewicz was on statutory release at this time, not parole. Statutory release is a provision in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act whereby certain offenders who have served two-thirds of their sentence in prison are permitted to serve the rest of their sentence in the community under supervision. By law, most federal inmates must be released on statutory release. This is not a National Parole Board decision.

Sheila Watkins, Director, Communications, National Parole Board, Ottawa

'The right place'

Your cover story “Cashing out” (Oct. 28) points to an important rejection of urban society and Western values among Canadians. With the vast area and variety of living space in this country, it is a tragedy when modern institutions demand that so many people crowd into artificial city environments. I think that there is more hope for humanity and building healthy communities when people move closer to their natural world and organize into smaller groups. We who choose to live closer to the spirit of Canada aren’t really cashing out—it’s the city dwellers who are unfortunately cashing in their lives for a reality that misses the point so eloquently made by Henry David Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify. Our life is frittered away by detail.”

Allan Sugg, Queen Charlotte Islands, B. C.

Eight years ago, we bought a house in Hamilton because the prices in Toronto were out of reach (as were the rents). Eight years of commuting to Toronto virtually seven days a week convinced us to downshift out of the highway fast lane and move back to Toronto. We were lucky to find a smaller home Cess to clean!) on a quiet street, backing onto a forest, with a park at the end of the street, great neighbors, and 30 minutes from downtown by subway. We are no longer tied to the car and the commuting bus 22 hours a week. When one’s priorities are in the right place, it is possible to live a simpler life in the big city.

Ai ja Abens, Toronto

I recently left my employment with the provincial government to move back to the rural community where I was born and brought up. What a change. Even though it took a while to adjust, my blood pressure and my stress lev-

'The simpler life can also be lived in the big city'

el have been significantly reduced. And in the long term, our two children will be better off. Even our married life has seen some improvements.

Gilles Allain, Cocagne, N.B. S

Our society’s values must shift from admiring material goods and overconsuming our resources to a simpler lifestyle that is more in touch with our true basic needs. In a world surrounded by BMWs, Starbucks and cell phones, this value shift often seems very unlikely. Congratulations, however, to those who are getting a lot more out of life with a lot less.

Kristina Bouris, Victoria 111

Balancing the facts

Diane Francis repeatedly parrots the “more jewelry” to Quebec line (“Children suffer while their parents bicker,” Column, Oct. 14). Why does she not provide her readers with some balance? Why does she not mention the federal support for Turner Valley oil back in the 1930s? Why does she not talk of federal largesse to Newfoundland regarding Hibernia? Why does she not acknowledge federal jewelry bestowed, for years, on the West in the form of the Crow rate? What is her spin on a $200-million bridge gifted to 130,000 Prince Edward Islanders—was that a bribe? There is little in her pieces to suggest that she really understands very much about Canada.

D. T. Bath, Peterborough, Ont. Ill

Diane Francis’s column was the most cognizant bit of writing I have had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. One of the first orders of business for our government, in seeking ways to guarantee that our country should remain united from sea to sea, may well be in legislating that the nation’s capital be removed from the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The greater areas of Hull and Ottawa should be combined as one entity outside the jurisdiction of either province, and be designated Canada’s capital, similar to the unique position enjoyed by Washington. The obvious benefit to our country would be an overall sense of security of place that at present does not seem to exist. It could also enhance the feeling of Quebecers that they may really belong in this great country.

Peter L. Cottingham, Neepawa, Man.


Turner and Crash

It would seem that as the public debate over David Cronenberg’s new film, Crash, rages on, Ted Turner’s desire to ban the film in the United States is going to do nothing but fan the flames (“Waiting for Crash," Films, Nov. 11). I would hope that the day has not come when a billionaire businessman can promote and enforce censorship upon the rest of society. Cronenberg’s film is a complex and intense study of the relationship between man and machine and the evolving nature of human sexuality as a result. If Turner deems the film to be lowly, exploitative trash, then so be it. But as always, society has a right to judge that for itself.

Greg Vickers, Toronto HI

The most shocking thing about Crash is that viewers are shocked. The “outrage” evoked by this film is a sad comment on the dearth of exposure to literature in this continent. A compelling aspect of any artistic medium is that it can cross everyday boundaries, exploring the shadow side of the psyche, as famed psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung framed it. What I find truly perverse is the hypocrisy in the reaction to this film. I had prepared myself for bloodiness, which I thought must accompany a film about car accidents. Not so. The amount of gore in this film was a trickle compared with Hollywood’s endless oceans. What it does offer is a brilliantly produced, deftly acted, unconventional tale depicting a set of weirdos in the grip of an overriding neurosis. So cut the hypocrisy, Ted Turner. It would be a terrible waste if Crash were to end up as roadkill en route to the fame it justly deserves.

Zoé Kessler, Toronto HI

I was deeply disturbed that you would selfrighteously slam Ted Turner for refusing to release Crash, a movie about “characters who get their sexual kicks from car accidents.” Copycat crimes do happen and peo-

The Road Ahead

Canada's 'delusion of grandeur'

Canada’s peacekeeping efforts should be reined in after a realistic appraisal of past and current efforts. To me, Canadians have delusions of grandeur as peacekeepers if we expect to be a major player in the world scene. We cannot afford this exaggerated role. It is dangerous and costly.

True, we are our brothers’ keepers, but reality must place a ceiling on our efforts. Recent history shows a never-ending escalation for peacekeeping forces. The demands have completely overwhelmed the financial and human resources of the United Nations. Canada cannot ignore this reality.

Ending conflict and preserving peace is for major-league players. Canada should not commit more fiascoes of the Somalia, Haiti and Cyprus types. For 32 years, Canada maintained a peacekeeping contingent to separate Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Yet in 1996, the two sides have shot at each other as if our quarter-century of effort had not existed.

Lloyd Axworthy, our foreign minister, understands what is required internationally. He recently issued a statement recognizing the need for a rapid deployment group, re-

Harvey L. Webber,

Sydney, N.S.

alizing that response time may separate success from failure.

In the past, each peacekeeping intervention was ad hoc, conceived and developed from scratch. Obviously, the immense pressure of warlike conditions meant haste and waste. It also often meant failure, with conditions having deteriorated past correction. Now, Axworthy believes Canada should provide immediate backup to United Nations missions. He wants a welltrained, self-contained contingent, ready at a moment’s notice to stop conflicts from escalating. In theory this is admirable, but in practice it is dangerous for Canadians.

When we dispatch rapid deployment Canadians to a trouble spot, they will need backup. Supplies, equipment and all support services must follow. That is what I fear. The Canadians on-site will need more and more support, all at Canada’s expense, while the United Nations debates what action should be taken and by whom.

Therefore, I advise caution. The United Nations should continue its role in peacekeeping. But it needs the commitment and participations of all nations. Canada, with its population of 30 million, should do only its proportionate part.

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.

pie like double murderer Paul Bernardo immerse themselves in pornography and take the worst from films like these. Maclean’s seems to be increasingly taking the tone that any form of public censorship is anathema. I am thrilled to see Turner taking a stand against the tide of filth coming from jaded film directors.

C. E. Bristow, Toronto

Tree farming

Diane Francis’s column suggesting that forests are composed of trees that should be treated as “gigantic vegetables,” reflects a frightening level of ignorance. Canada has about 60,000 species of insects that clearly play a vital and dynamic role and most of these are found in forested areas. To treat such complex ecosystems as a large


garden, planting, weeding and harvesting a few species, would certainly result in ecological disaster. Her further suggestion that the responsibility for the management of our forests be sequestered to ministries of agriculture is particularly ironic. About half of the insect species in Canada are undescribed and unnamed. Canada’s only group in insect taxonomists, those who describe (or should be describing) our biodiversity, is in the research branch of Agriculture Canada. The group is currently in the process of

further downsizing to a hopelessly inadequate number of scientists and a mandate restricted to agricultural problems. They were once housed in a centre of excellence called the Biosystematics Research Centre, but are now renamed the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre. Canadians would do well to study Costa Rica, which has a government-supported and well-financed research centre responsible for the description and interpretation of its flora and fauna. That country, at least, under-

stands that the diversity present in its ecosystem is vital to the successful care and management and ultimately to the future of the country.

Art Borkent,

Research associate, Royal British Columbia Museum and American Museum of Natural History,

Enderby, B. C.

Diane Francis’s column on the forest sector was a big hit with me and a lot of other British Columbians. The misguided nature of international campaigns against Canadian forestry, the importance of investment in forest renewal, the environmental benefits of wood products—these are all issues that many of us have been working hard to bring to public attention. Seeing them reflected in Maclean’s tells me that the tide of public opinion has turned in favor of an industry that—as Francis points out—gives Canada one of its greatest competitive advantages and should be a source of great national pride.

/. J. Munro,

Chairman, Forest Alliance of British Columbia,


I guess that if Diane Francis claims that “trees are simply gigantic vegetables,” she would claim that mountains are just giant gravel pits and lakes are just giant toilet bowls. I thought the hubris whereby the human creature saw itself as the measure of all things died in the Guns of August. I was wrong. It lives on in the mind of Diane Francis.

Mark Parent, Canning, N.S. Ill

Same, but different

I find the interpretation of the poll results in “How very different we are” (Special Report, Nov. 4) misleading. Canadians and Americans have much more in common than the results indicate. We all have basically the same wants and needs, but Americans have already achieved more in the areas of employment and unity. By contrast, Quebecers, who have decimated their economy with their obsession with language and race, seem completely different from other Canadians.

Ted Banks, London, Ont.

'Of time and place'

Quebec’s former Ft.-Gov. Jean-Fouis Roux didn’t have to leave his job, nor did he have to apologize (“Paying for the past,” Canada, Nov. 18). Deeds mean more than words and his deeds and fine record are above reproach. Fifty-four years ago, Roux marched in an antiwar parade with his fellow French-Canadian students, who also marched against the war after Stalin and

Hitler signed the infamous treaty that divided Poland for themselves. It is said that Roux and his friends acted the way they did because it was a matter of time and place. True, but today is also a matter of time and place. A time when we should take heed of the many young people across Canada and the United States who are being misled by people who spread the evils of racism, neoNazism, white supremacy and the armed militia. Many of us won’t be here 50 years from now, but our efforts to make a better world for our grandchildren would also help make a better world for those of us who still inhabit this beautiful world.

Jack Ravinsky, Montreal

Luck of the draw

Concerning your article “In the fickle hands of Lady Luck” (Personal Finance, Nov. 4), every time I buy a lottery ticket, I feel my chances of winning are fifty-fifty— either I win or I don’t.

Ross Hryhorchuk, Chaplean, Ont.

Honorable mention

For the Maclean’s Honor Roll, we would like to nominate a woman who holds tremendous international influence in social and humanitarian affairs, and yet is one of today’s most under-reported Canadians. Tamar Oppenheimer, Order of Canada, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, the first woman to achieve this level in the United Nations, and recipient of the 1995 UN Association of Canada Medal of Honor, has contributed leadership and wisdom to her country and its reputation abroad for half a century. In addition to holding numerous directorships of Canadian charitable organizations, she maintains a high profile for Canada in the international community. In 1987, she was president of the UN summit of drug abuse, and in 1995, director of the UN youth leadership summit. She has continued to this day to mentor professional women in Canada, particularly those making a contribution to justice internationally.

Marcia V. J. Kran and Luis F. Molina, Vancouver

I would like to nominate Canadian mountain bike star Alison Sydor for the Maclean’s Honor Roll. Sydor has helped put Canada on the map in the sporting world for the past several years, primarily by winning the World Mountain Bike championships for the past three years. This is an extraordinary feat for any athlete, male or female, in any discipline.

Gabriel Reid, Comox, B. C. Ml