The Mail

The Mail

The global patient

April 7 1997
The Mail

The Mail

The global patient

April 7 1997

The Mail

The global patient

"Our book and their movie”? Oh, come on. The English Patient, as both a book and a film, is a product for a global audience (“The Canadian patient,” Cover, March 24). It’s fiction. It is a fine film, but no more or less a contribution to Canadian culture than the many hundreds of other films actually shot in Canada for the same global audience in the past few years. It was nice to see the few teasers in the script for Canada, but it wasn’t a story about Canada or Canadians. Who cares where it was made or by whom?

Bob Delaney, Mississauga, Ont. ®

Scarcely a week passes without Maclean’s worthy scribes lamenting either the accelerated ruin of the CBC, the sadly underfunded state of the arts, or our inability as Canadians to field surefire winners in the field of cinema. Various scapegoats are found, usually politicians, all of which


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brings me to wonder: when the Top 10 films, popular songs, bestselling books and television shows are usually American, who on earth are we kidding? We are our own worst enemies. With one hand we wave the rattle of alarm, even while we manipulate the television remote control with the other. With this in mind, it would come as no great surprise were we to discover that the greater portion of these alarmist diatribes had been written while the complainer watched Seinfeld.

Keith Helwig, Beaconsfield, Que.

As long as Canadian films have “a pathological taste for dark, antiheroic, sexually transgressive dramas,” they don’t deserve public support either through tax dollars or at the box office. We do need, however, to provide the resources to heal the minds and souls of those who produce such films.

Gavin Richardson, Charlottetown

Most Canadians don’t seem to realize that supporting Canadian cultural products is not just a duty, it is a requirement of national understanding. If we are to maintain our cultural products here, we must learn to appreciate them here, rather than holding them up to American or international success benchmarks. Alanis Morissette’s failed career as a Paula Abdul clone here in Canada taught her one thing—to get an American record deal. This is the sad state of affairs for Canadian artists who are tired of pursuing an increasingly small, fickle and largely unappreciative audience in Canada. Yes, Canadian cultural producers have an international audience; no, we don’t support them, at least not until they acquire that international audience. Hence, the problem is not that they abandon us, but that we abandon them.

Phil Saunders, London, Ont. Ill

To answer the question “Why can’t Canada make its own hit movies?” don’t blame it all on money. Canadian movies are virtually synonymous with being bad. Make movies that people want to watch, and they will watch them.

Garry Solonynko, Edmonton

The price of gold

When people read stories like “Greed, graft, gold” (Cover, March 3), most are probably impressed by the billiondollar figures cited. What they may not know is that these profits are made while indigenous people die fighting for their land and their lives just outside the fences that barricade the mining sites. Near the U.S.-owned Freeport-McMoRan gold and copper mine in Irian Jaya (Indonesian New Guinea), hundreds of indigenous Amungme people have been terrorized or imprisoned, and according to some reports, even killed following attempts to table their concerns about the confiscation and destruction of traditional lands and river systems. Similar maltreatment of people by Indonesian soldiers has taken place near the Busang gold find in Indonesian Borneo. The operations of overseas mining companies should not be glorified and discussed only in terms of the profits made. Instead, such operations should be critically examined in terms of the social and environmental costs paid by the indigenous landowners. In too many cases, the price paid is the obliteration of both the natural environment and the way of life of the people whom that environment has nurtured for millennia.

Catherine Ngenge, Lorengau, Papua New Guinea

Paying for the CBC

Naturally, those who love the CBC wish to keep it as it is—paid for in the main by those who don’t love it and don’t see it as the nation’s glue (“Rabble-rousing for the CBC,” Media, March 24). But it’s not fair to force taxpayers to pay the entertainment bill of a small minority. CBC devotees tend to think those who are not are uncultured and unpatriotic—and maybe there is some truth to that, but not a lot. Rather than squawking about losing their CBC perk, fans should be looking to a PBS-type operation that woulu pay its own way.

Neil Gillespie, Qualicum Beach, B. C. H

Duplicitous, cowardly, calculated. How else to describe the Liberals’ deportment ovei CBC funding? After their Red Book promise, who could have imagined such a brazen choking of the CBC? Lacking the courage tc be forthright on their intentions, their slow strangling of the CBC is calculated to reduce this last bastion of national culture to a pak image of its former self. And now, to add in-



The Road Ahead

Rid campuses of officious poohbahs

suit to injury, they lob $10 million back into the ring to smooth things over for the probable election. How dumb does this government think we are?

Cresswell Walker, Nanaimo, B.C. ill

The Trudeau record

I must really take strong issue with Dalton Camp’s petulantly dismissive comments on Pierre Trudeau as prime minister (“Can we tell the kids about Trudeau now?” Guest Column, March 24). To characterize Trudeau as “our first celebrity in the media age of instant fame,” as though there were no real substance to his 15 years as Canada’s prime minister, is grossly unjust. Yes, the Trudeau record is flawed, but it can point to some notable accomplishments, such as the great victory for the federalist cause in the 1980 Quebec referendum, the charter of rights, the major reduction in poverty in Canada during his years in office (a trend that has been lamentably reversed since the late ’80s), and the widely hailed campaign against the escalating nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Trudeau’s stature on the international scene was the highest ever enjoyed over a long period of time by a Canadian prime minister, and this fact cannot be glibly attributed to “celebrity status.”

Beert C. Verstraete, New Minas, N.S. Ill

Trudeau was a disaster as a prime minister. This arrogant, flatulent pseudo-intellectual is responsible for turning our parliamentary system into an elected dictatorship. Here was an arrested mind that never met a dictator he didn’t admire, who studied under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics when Laski concluded that parliamentary government is really incompatible with socialism. Bring back Dr. Foth.

R. H. Nucich, Revelstoke, B. C.

Did you know there are many mini-police states within democratic Canada? These are organizations that have been declared (by the Supreme Court of Canada!) not to be covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—namely, our universities. Campus administrators are unaccountable mandarins who rule their domains by their own philosophically twisted “justice” systems of policies and procedures, which often infringe on basic human rights. Zero-tolerance policies make everyone on campus afraid of saying the “wrong" thing, expressing an unwelcome opinion or even casting a misperceived glance lest they be hauled into a kangaroo “harassment” court for violation of “political correctness.”

Ironically, these officious poohbahs who police everyone else are often guilty of inequitable, incompetent or even dishonest decisions on all aspects of university life. And people who protest such unfairness are either ignored or promptly taken care of—whether by being cowing through severe discipline or enticed into early retirement. Utter frustration leads the victims of these injustices to despair, which, when di-

Hector Hammerly,

Professor of linguistics,

Simon Fraser University,

Burnaby B.C.

Risky appointments

Your article has dispelled the arguments supporting Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s efforts to nominate female candidates for the upcoming federal election (“Ordering equality,” Canada, March 24). Female politicians do remain a rare breed, and as opportunities arise, we should make every ef-

rected inward, results in physical illness, depression and the abandonment of promising careers. Directed outward, this despair may trigger emotionally unstable people to take the law into their own hands, resulting in tragedy.

How can such potentially explosive situations be defused? First, by having the Supreme Court of Canada declare that public universities are covered by the charter of rights. No publicly supported institution should be allowed to exclude itself from the charter’s purview. University students, faculty and staff should have the same rights to freedom of expression and interaction that all other Canadians enjoy. Second, university “harassment” should either be declared illegal or drastically curtailed by court supervision. Third, all administrators should be evaluated anonymously, at regular intervals, by the people they oversee. Then, those whose performance is rated unsatisfactory should be removed from any administrative position for at least five years. Finally, we should seriously consider permanently replacing our academic administrators/power “junkies” with professional university managers.

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.

fort to help them, but not appoint them. My political instincts suggest that women who accept the helping hand of the party leader do so at considerable political risk. They miss out on the tough but essential experience of contesting the semifinals of the selection process. You cannot be taught, you have to experience a process that tests your mettle and gives people an opportunity to


develop a relationship with you. In addition, there is an unspoken regard among members of Parliament for all of those who got there because of their own merits. Creating lame duck MPs bypasses the legitimate validation of constituents.

Jan Brown, MP, Calgary East

Clearly, there can be no question of the need to correct gender imbalance in the House of Commons and the treatment of women in our society in general, but the majority of electors in Canada do not vote for the person in their riding. Most of us vote for the representative of a party based on the charisma and qualities of its leader and/or the degree to which we are satisfied with how it has governed. But imagine if Chrétien announced his wish to appoint men to his choice of 25 selected ridings. We’d be hearing loud screams of foul play from sea to sea.

Don H. Caplan, Edmonton

The heart of a city

As a former Torontonian, I read your cover story on the city’s vote on becoming a megacity with great interest (“The fight for Toronto,” March 17). I believe that by not accepting the plan to change Toronto into a megacity, residents are leaving the government with little choice but to cut other services in order to balance the provincial budget. Understandably, most in the city seem to fear what might happen if Toronto became a megacity. Yet as a current resident of San Francisco, I can attest that the diversity of the neighborhoods may be preserved even within a large city. After all, the distinctiveness within a city depends more on the beliefs in the hearts and minds of its residents than it does on the administration of its municipal government.

Jeffrey Butler, San Francisco

Lost in translation

Why is Quebec Liberal Leader Daniel Johnson so puzzled with Western Canada’s rejection of Quebec as a distinct society (“Can Daniel Johnson overcome Bouchard?” The Nation’s Business, March 24)? He suggests the meaning is weighted differently by translation and wants to know what we would give up by accepting this. We would be giving up our equality as Canadians. The connotation of superiority is obvious. A Canada without Quebec is preferable to the burden of Ottawa’s endless bribery.

Kelly Ross, Abbotsford, B.C.