The Mail

The Mail

July 12 1999
The Mail

The Mail

July 12 1999

The Mail

Canada’s history

I read “Canadas century: 25 events that shaped the country” (Cover, July 1) while on an airplane over central British Columbia. As I read about our soldiers’ great triumphs at Vimy Ridge and in Holland, I looked out the window and saw the mountains, lakes, farms and cities from where they came and for which they fought, and I nearly wept with pride. All the credit is due to Canada, of course, but thanks to historians Jack Granatstein and Norman Hillmer for reminding us of the great places we have been, and the great promise Canada holds for the future. Darren Blois, Kamloops, B.C.

As a First Nations subscriber, I was quite upset over your so-called 25 events that shaped the country. Your historians forgot to mention that Canada did not allow the First Nations people to vote until I960. They neglected to mention the Oka crisis, but thought it important to note the FLQ crisis. Your historians forgot to mention the residential schools that tried to kill a language and a culture during this century (until 1969). You mention the creation of the new territory of Nunavut; however, it seems you think it was a bad idea. I hope that, like South Africa, someday in the near future the First Nations will also reclaim their country.

Gil McGillivary, Edmonton

Your Canada Day package is brilliant—concise, informative and very readable. For someone who became a Canadian citizen 35 years ago and has grown to love this beautiful country and its lifestyle, I cherish the stories that shaped this young country. I hope that your package will become required reading for every schoolchild and new immigrant. As for me, this edition will be lovingly preserved in my history file.

Marlies Loukko, Delta, B.C.

Jack Granatstein and Norman Hillmer are right in selecting the 1917 Halifax explosion as one of 25 key events that shaped modern Canada. It brought war home to Canada and North America. However, Macleans account reflects our limited knowledge of Canadian history. The French munitions ship Mont Blanc exploded after colliding not with a Belgian ship, but with a ship from Sandefjord, Norway. IMO, not Imo—the letters are initials—was chartered by an American relief organization to carry supplies for Belgium. En route to New York City, she stopped in Halifax because the British required all neutral North Atlantic traffic to undergo inspection.

There was no panic, justified or otherwise, on Mont Blanc. No crew member headed for the boats until Capt. Aimé Le Mêdêc ordered his ship abandoned. No one tried to “scuttle” Mont Blanc. Boats from Niobe and Highflyer and the tug Stella Maris tried to take her in tow because she was on fire and drifting towards Picton. None of these sailors knew Mont Blanc might explode: her cargo was secret. They did know Picton carried ammunition and that worried them. Officially, the number who died is 1,963, not 1,600.

Joseph Scanlon, Director, Emergency Communications Research Unit, Carleton University, Ottawa

Several years ago, my wife and I and my brother who was a navy veteran made a special trip to visit the lovely cemetery where prime minister Lester Pearson is buried at Wakefield. It is not an easy cemetery to find, hidden in the hills and lanes that mark that beautiful part of Quebec. It was a spring day, and snow was melting and mud clung tenaciously to our rubbers. But the anticipation of visiting that site made any inconvenience tolerable. All of us, however, were saddened by the fluttering of a faded, tattered Canadian flag at the entrance to the cemetery. Here, where lies the body of the one who ensured we have a flag. Surely one of the important tasks of those who are the keepers of our history is to ensure that the simple dignified gravesite of one of our illustrious prime ministers has at its gate a crisp Canadian flag to remind us of his significant achievements.

About the victims

I was dismayed when reading your article “The massacre at the Ecole polytechnique” when I realized that you had not included any of the names of the 14 women who were murdered on Dec. 6, 1989 (“Canadas century: 25 events that shaped the country,” Cover, July 1). Marc Lépine’s name has been immortalized by media coverage, but I believe that there are very few Canadians who could name even one of the women whom he murdered: Genviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, AnneMarie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Maria Klueznick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte.

Rachel Hurst, St. George, Ont.

Letters to the Editor should be addressed to: Maclean’s Magazine Letters 777 Bay St., Toronto, Ont. M5W IA7 Fax: (416) 596-7730 E-mail: Maclean’s welcomes readers’ views, but letters may be edited for space, style and clarity. Please supply name, address and daytime telephone number. Submissions may appear in Maclean’s electronic sites. E-mail queries about subscriptions or delivery problems should be addressed to:

Bev Johnston, Burlington, Ont.

It isn’t the cancellation of the Avro Arrow project in 1959 that upsets me. I understand that unpopular decisions sometimes have to be made by governments. What I cannot forgive thenPrime Minister John Diefenbaker for is his morally criminal act of ordering the destruction of all the existing aircraft, as well as the plans and documents. These items were part of our shared cultural history, and were precious objects that should have been preserved. I was 13 years old in 1959, and in love with airplanes. The Arrow set my imagination on fire, and as a symbol, made me believe that we in Canada could do anything. When those airplanes were so wantonly and thoughdessly destroyed, we were all left with an impoverished view of our future, and a thick cynicism about the place of vision and imagination within our ambitions.

John A. Hawkins, Edmonton

The environment

David Suzuki’s essay on the millennium (“Saving the Earth,” June 14) should be required reading for all mankind. I was born in the small fishing community of Loon Straits on Lake Winnipeg, where there are no more fish and no more loons. The condition in which we leave our Earth to our children is an inheritance of far greater value than the condition in which we leave our bank accounts.

Marie Monkman Coe, Yellowknife

The Suzuki essay was wonderful. I’m not much of an environmentalist; I think “they” will take care of any problems that we, horribly resplendent in insatiable consumption, create for ourselves. Nor do I envision some sort of

global meltdown some time in the beginning of the next century as some suggest; but I do appreciate Suzuki s simply eloquent argument that it is not “stuff” that is most important in life, rather it is familial and communal bonds that, I lament, are sorely lacking. We’ve created this greedy, egotistical world where the individual is vying for prestige at the price of another’s loss. Our sense of belonging is diminished and undermined by our selfishness.

Vincent Rock, Burnaby, B.C.

David Suzuki writes a compelling essay on the need for halting the environmental impact of uncontrolled growth. He stops short, however, of tackling the real growth issue, which is overpopulation. Contrary to his basic argument, economic and social development help prevent the total annihilation of remaining pristine ecosystems. Imagine if there were no thermal, nuclear or hydroelectric power plants, and the world’s billions were scattered freely to chop down trees for firewood and eat every living thing they could find. For proof of this one only needs to look at the paths of ecological devastation created where there is litde economic development but high concentrations of people. Suzuki would do well, as would we all, to tackle the religious and social restraints that restrict birth control as an effective tool for preserving our world, for therein lies the real solution to the problem.

Craig Smith, Richmond B.C.

Political rewards

In the pantheon of ministers-counsellor for public affairs in the Canadian Embassy in Washington, there’s one you omitted who also fits the mould—my father, George Elliott (“Let’s hear it for the old pork barrel!” From the Editor, June 21). After advising Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau in several elections, he served from 1977 to 1982—right between Dick O’Hagan and Pat Gossage —and referred to his time in Washington as “a lark.”

Victoria Elliott, Washington