The Mail

The Mail

June 10 1996
The Mail

The Mail

June 10 1996

The Mail

Lesser of two evils

I was dumbfounded when I read the article “A furor over fraud and illegal spending” (Canada, May 27). I couldn’t believe that Quebec’s chief electoral officer would think that depriving 10,000 people of their vote was a lesser ill than paying to bring people to a rally. The political scientist from Concordia University, Guy Lachapelle, notes that democracy is a very fragile thing. Would it be democratic for the country to be broken up with about 80 per cent of the citizens having no voice in it, let alone a vote?

N. E. J. Davies, Regina

'The real Canada'

Written basically as an advertisement for neoconservative David Frum, his new book and his Winds of Change conference in Calgary, Diane Francis’s May 20 column indulges in some dubious political and economic analysis as well as some outright distortions of Canadian reality (“The challenge facing small-c conservatives”). Quoting Frum approvingly, she says that Canadians live in suburbs, drive to work, shop in malls, invest money in mutual


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funds, love country music and hate paying taxes. Francis neglected to mention that the definition of “Canadian” in this context is middleclass, white Canadian. Presumably no one really lives in Montreal’s St. Henri or Vancouver’s East End. Francis likes to see herself as a crusader for the average person, as the nemesis of the elites. And who exactly are these elites? They are the media, the politicians, union leaders and academics. The economic elite, that group that is

probably the most influential in determining the basic contours of the lives of Canadians, is conspicuously missing from her laundry list Finally, on the one hand, she approvingly cites Frum to the effect that Canadians have a dependence mentality where they have the audacity to demand social programs in order to rectify poverty and ignorance, and on the other hand, Francis says that a poll for The Financial Post proves that Canadians don’t love their welfare state. Now, either Canadians are a governmentdependent lot or they are government hating. Or perhaps they are both, if we dare talk about Canada having more than one class of people. We shall leave the neoconservative spin doctors to decide how they want to cast their illusions about Canadian society, but all we hope is that they take a better look around them at the real Canada and stop insulting our intelligence.

If the dominant Canadian ethos is “make a buck, keep a buck and keep it to themselves”—something I simply do not accept—then I am heading back to the land of narcissism, Scrooge, paranoia and handguns where I was born. As one of Diane Francis’s beloved (and quite apparently envied) “American cousins,” all I can urge her to do is “Come on down.”

Jan Michael Sherman, Watson Lake, Yukon

Voter disenchantment

That former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed was able to hang tough while his Alberta Conservatives overtook the Socreds is not applicable to the present national situation where our social and economic shape is so bad that dillydallying is no longer an option. To Peter C. Newman

Grown-up feminism

I greatly enjoyed your article about Marion Woodman (“A midwife of souls,” Profile, May 13), but I am surprised and puzzled by the phrase “feminists accuse Woodman of consorting with the enemy.” What an unfortunate homogenization of “feminists,” most of whom—at least in the mainstream, nowadays—don’t have an “enemy" as you suggest. This characterization of a complex group of individuals and schools of thought as being subject to knee-jerk and paranoid reactions is particularly disappointing coming on the heels of your article about women and spirituality, which dealt with feminism without falling into this trap (“Is God a Woman,” Cover, April 8). This simplistic language serves only to perpetuate a stereotype that the feminism movement has long since outgrown.

Catherine Drake, New Orleans HI

and Lougheed, the Reform party is an abomination that capitalizes on recent Tory misfortune (“A positive view of conservatism’s future,” The Nation’s Business, May 27) and not a representation of most Canadians’ thorough disenchantment with their governance since 1968. Lougheed’s current views from Tucson, Ariz., are interesting only in that they depart from those he held as Alberta’s premier in the olden days. I think he should wear a hat in the Arizona sun.

Neil Gillespie, Qualicum Beach, B.C. HI

Plutonium disposal

Your article on the proposed disposal of weapons-grade plutonium was more than a bit of a disappointment (“Debating the CANDU option,” Environment, May 6). It opened by perpetuating the myth of plutonium’s supposed status as “one of the world’s most toxic substances.” This statement was originally made by Ralph Nader. When Dr. Bernard Cohen of the University of Pittsburgh offered to eat as much plutonium as Mr. Nader would caffeine, Mr. Nader declined. He was wise to do so, since one gram of pure caffeine will kill you dead. The same is not true of plutonium. In fact, during the Manhattan Project, 26 people accidentally ingested amounts of plutonium far in excess of what is now considered a lethal dose. By 1987, only four of the workers had died and only one death was by cancer. The expected number of cancer deaths in a similar group is two to three. Also, the photo is out of context for the story, as the protesters were carrying

“No more Chernobyls” signs, and implies that the use of weapons plutonium, which would help to pay for the refurbishment of the Bruce “A” units and so contribute to economical production of electricity in Ontario, would somehow result in increased public safety concerns. This implication is completely false.

Patrick Reid, Saint John, N.B. HI

Reserved for war

I agree with letter writer Kim Mathieson that reservists have been working in a tough environment for a long time (“Military turmoil,” May 20). I would add further the concept that Winston Churchill put forth that reservists are “twice the citizens” for their commitment to their families, communities and country. Reservists in the armed forces, even in America, are sometimes thought of as second-class persons. It wasn’t until the Gulf War that U.S. politicians realized reservists were important to the political outcome of their agenda as well as the strategic military outcome of the operation. To be so myopic as to think that reservists cannot “play” in the Ottawa environment is to embrace the philosophy practised during the Vietnam War. Canada, don’t let that happen.

Lieut. Kevin M. Brown, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, Springfield, Va. HI

U.S. death squads

íí'T'racking the death squads to Canada” J. (World, May 13) gives a glimpse of the issue of U.S.-sponsored death squads in Central America. We will have U.S.-sponsored war-crime trials for the Serbs responsible for the atrocities committed in the recent civil war in the former Yugoslavia. In areas of U.S.-sponsored terror—Chile, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua—we have U.S.-sponsored amnesty programs. The whole situation would

be laughable if it were not so tragic in terms of the loss of human life and the ability of the media in North America to ignore the obvious contradictions in U.S. foreign policy.

Fred Tait, Rossendale, Man.

Pending charges?

I read with great interest your articles on the Dorothy Joudrie trial (“A turbulent and troubled life laid bare,” Canada, May 13, and “Dorothy Joudrie’s ‘nightmare’

ends,” Canada, May 20). I would be interested in knowing, as would a lot of your readers, what weapons or firearms charges have been brought against her for smuggling a restricted weapon into Canada under the front seat of her car, albeit unintentionally. Even for the United States, I would consider a person with a handgun, especially a Berretta .25-calibre semi-auto-

matic, to be somewhat questionable and dangerous. If there have been no charges, could the dissociative state have been lengthy in the eyes of the law?

Wayne Nowlin, Cranbrook, B.C.

Homosexual equality

The road being taken by so many governments equating gay relationships with heterosexual ones is not only premature but inappropriate (“A tortuous road,” Canada, May 13). I am in no way an advocate of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Neither, however, can I advocate equal status—such as adoption rights, marriage, social benefits. If one is gay, then that is their reality. But they cannot expect equality with heterosexual couples.

Dave Whynot, Bridgewater, N.S.

Hidden agenda

I was pleased but amazed with “Power to the media” (Cover, May 27), about politics and the media in British Columbia. To say that the media dominate the political agenda is obviously true, but it is most unusual for the media to raise the issue. Indeed, as a democracy, we face something of a crisis because of this. The fact is that the media are corporations and, therefore, express the corporate political agenda.

Journalists always make a big thing about censorship, but they consistently ignore the biggest thing about censorship.

John H. M. Andrews, Vancouver

Educational challenge

As an aspiring teacher, I support innovation in the education system, but I cannot support the trivialization of mainstream education (“Brave new schools,” Cover, May 20). Once upon a time, in loco parentis meant that teachers had the right to act in place of parents, whether it came to educational, disciplinary or other

needs; now, it seems that a basic tenet of education means that teacher action in any circumstance is likely to be challenged by often misinformed parents. While schools have been called on to teach everything from calculus to AIDS awareness, teachers

have had to assume every role from educator to counsellor to babysitter. And for what thanks from students and parents?

J. Paul Jacula, Oshawa, Ont.

Thank you so much for your wonderful article on the Sheila Morrison School (“Discipline rules”). I can’t begin to describe the joy of seeing my son regain his selfesteem and pride of accomplishment while attending Sheila Morrison. What a relief it was, after years of agony watching an obviously bright young man descend in frustration and anger to become a virtual dropout by Grade 10. He will obtain a university degree next year!

Leona Peterson, Lethbridge, Alta.

Caring, more or less

In ‘Trafficking in false hopes and heartbreak” (An American View, May 27), Fred Bruning states that “they want to make a killing and they could care less whether the local high school gets a new science lab.” If one could care less, by implication, one has assigned at least some degree of importance to the subject. The phrase should properly be that they couldn’t care less, indicating that the subject holds the absolutely lowest degree of importance.

Laurence M. Hall, Burnaby, B. C.