The Mail

The Mail

September 13 1999
The Mail

The Mail

September 13 1999

The Mail

Politics, B.C.-style

I refer to David Mitchell's cover essay about B.C. politics (“A poisonous atmosphere,” Aug. 30). I find it strange that a “political historian” does not appreciate the crucial role played in a

functioning democracy by a robust and aggressive Fourth Estate. This role is never more important than when the government of the day is dishonest and incompetent. The NDP eked out a tiny majority in the last election by fraudulently claiming to have balanced the provincial budget. Since then, their political fortunes have declined dramatically, a process accelerated by their spectacular mismanagement of the treasury.

Journalists reported all of this, of course. But the whopping majority of British Columbians, like myself until two years ago, who wish to be rid of Glen Clark and his colleagues are not the dupes of a media conspiracy, nor are we parties to “character assassination.” We just know rotten government when we see it. Robin Baird, London

David Mitchell’s fatuous essay on the B.C. political scene labels the provinces media as “among the most aggressive and bloodthirsty in the country.” Hardly. In fact, former premier Bill Vander Zalm was shown to have, at a minimum, poor judgment and an egregious conflict of interest. Mike Harcourt fell on his sword for the sake of his party. Glen Clark was unable to be either candid or truthful with the electorate. The media simply reported the facts. The survival of democracy in British Columbia, in large part, is because of, rather than in spite of, the media. Mitchell, a former Liberal and independent member of the British Columbia legislature, would do better to focus on fund-raising rather than political commentary.

David E. Bond, Port Moody, B.C.

Responsible journalism in British Columbia is an oxymoron. In fact, I sometimes wonder about the media in the rest of Canada.

Trevor Peasland, Victoria

David Mitchell is right on in his description of the B.C. media. While no fan of Glen Clark, I was shocked and disgusted by the TV coverage of an RCMP search of his home. Who wouldn’t be stunned and speechless if a drug-style police raid was eagerly accompanied by the ravenous cameras of a vengeful media? And with his wife and young children present as well. An

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Blaming the soldiers

As a former Canadian army reservist, I am appalled at our government’s recent efforts to shift the focus of the criminal investigation of why medical documents were removed from soldiers’ files to an alleged personal vendetta against former warrant officer Matt Stopford (“A poisoned inquiry,” Canada, Aug. 23). This is the same “cover-yourderrière” mentality the military used in the Somalia inquiry, and when confronted with suspicious deaths of Forces personnel. It seems that the department of national defence resorts to the old catch-all: when all else fails, blame the soldiers. The veiled implication is that Stopford did something to cause his own soldiers to want to poison him. And that some of these soldiers were cowardly enough to commit this act. I was privileged to serve with then-Sgt. Matt Stopford in 1990-1991, when he became my regiment’s training assistant in Peterborough, Ont. Stopford was a tough, thorough and professional soldier who was proud of his job and his unit, the famous Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He was extremely concerned about his troops’ well-being, taking his own rest time in the field to coach us in tactics. His concern at one point led him to offer his own cot to a soldier without. That Stopford was poisoned by his own people is, in my view, highly unlikely. The government owes him and all Canadian veterans who sacrificed and served in Croatia an apology, a health study and an independent inquiry. They are ethically and morally responsible to provide this for the man who offered me his cot eight years ago.

Wayne A. Gordon, Labrador City, Nfld.

ordinary citizen would not have been subjected to such an insensitive intrusion on his personal privacy. Which brings up the inevitable question: who tipped the media about the search, and why? Was there a leak of confidential information from the RCMP? Should there perhaps be another investigation to plug the leak before another hapless public figure finds himself or herself humiliated on national TV? When a powerful, unelected and irresponsible group

creates and controls news events, rather than fairly and accurately reporting what happens, all of us lose. And the first thing we lose is trust in those who are attempting to deceive us.

Maureen James, Winnipeg

And in this corner

I was amused that commoner Barbara Amiel felt she had to come to the defence of her personal powerful baron, Conrad Black (“In defence of Conrad Black,” Aug. 30). Calling Maclean’s Managing Editor Geoffrey Stevens a rodent and Allan Fotheringham a gossip columnist was a pitiful effort to support a meagre moot point on behalf of hubby Conrad. To the rest of us commoners, Black and Jean Chrétien are still two spoiled rich kids arguing over a marble game.

Larry Amiot, Plamondon, Alta.

Given that my family has a longstanding history of being Liberal party supporters and that I have no great love (or patience) for the political views of Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel, I find myself in the most distasteful situation of being in agreement with her. To my mind, the issue in this case is the abuse of power by Jean Chrétien to punish someone for whom he apparently has a personal dislike. By using his power as Prime Minister to pursue personal vendettas, he has proven he can run with the big boys. We expect that sort of callous behaviour from big business, but the government he heads is supposed to represent us. I, for one, don’t appreciate being represented as vindictive.

Michael Jewison, London, Ont.

Methinks Madame Black protests too much. I’ve concluded that Geoffrey Stevens was in no way unkind in his jocular assessment (“Pray, has anyone seen his peerage?” From the Managing Editor, Aug. 16). People with such thin skins should not delve into politics, peerages or onto public platforms. Barbara Amiel was also unfair to Allan Fotheringham. She should realize that

he is the main reason why most of us read Macleans from back to front, not always making it through to her column.

Harlan Green, Dewberry, Alta.

Barbara Amiel is articulate and undeniably intelligent, but isn’t coming to the defence of her powerful husband like carrying coals to Newcastle? It was embarrassing to read. And I, fool that I am, thought that with intelligence and privilege went good sense.

James Strachan, Banff, Alta.

After reading Barbara Amiel’s column, I can tell her that really, Geoffrey Stevens’s only crime was thinking anyone really cares about Conrad’s title. Is that over Amiel’s head?

Annis Karpenko, Toronto

1 very much enjoyed Anthony WilsonSmith’s column “The Liberals’ Black knight,” (Backstage, Aug. 23). Conrad Black may be likable to some and disliked by others, but he should be treated fairly by this country. Chrétien represents all of us as Prime Minister and his actions against Black were petty and small-minded.

Ted Little, Kincardine, Ont.

Allan Fotheringham’s column “The wishes of Citizen Black” (Aug. 23) left me rather bemused. Canadians have the right to dual citizenship. I hold two passports and my allegiances are rather clear:

I am a citizen of Canada and a Portuguese native. What I really don’t understand is the big fuss being made about Black’s right—or lack thereof—to receive a title from a country of which he is also a citizen. If the British government chooses to honour him by bestowing a lordship on him, who are we to argue? Who does it harm?

Alexandra Mendes, Brossard, Que.

Refugee policy

Maybe I’m out of date, but when I was growing up, refugees were not people who paid a criminal a large sum of money, or people who deliberately destroyed all

record of who they actually were (“Canadas open door,” Cover, Aug. 23). Nor did real refugees attempt to sneak into our country. Sneak out of theirs, certainly, but not into ours.

M. E. Lang Collura, Campbell River, B.C.

1 can understand why these people would want to come to Canada, as I am an immigrant myself, from Britain. No one can doubt that they are desperate people who feel that they have no options available to them. However, my sympathy ends there. While Canada is proud of its humanitarian standards and feels unable to deny these people access to the country, it is effectively making two sets of standards for people wishing to immigrate here. When my son and I moved to Canada back in 1995, we came legitimately as the dependants of my husband, a Canadian soldier. Despite this fact, the immigra-

tion process took almost two years and cost us approximately $2,000. In addition, I was legally unable to work, and we had expenses such as medical costs for which we were personally responsible. I ask for no special treatment. Yet when I see this government allowing people to come into this country, however sad their situations, in such a comparatively easy manner, it is galling to say the least.

Joanna Caldwell, CFB Petawawa, Ont.

As an immigration lawyer from the United States vacationing in Toronto this summer, I found your cover story particularly interesting. Partly in response to similar occurrences several years ago, the U.S. government implemented a policy of detention of asylum-seekers. But our experience in the States has clearly shown that such a policy of detaining those who seek pro-

tection is foolish, costly and defeats the purpose of a humane immigration policy. From a purely practical point of view, if asylum-seekers were free to work, they would be paying taxes rather than costing taxes. There is, however, another aspect that is more difficult to measure. That is the toll on our vision as a nation. Something happens to a country when it begins to detain those seeking freedom. There is no question that there must be a way to address these smuggling rings, but detention of those seeking protection is not the way.

Joyce Antila Phipps, El Centro Hispanoamericano, Plainfield, N.J.

Congratulations to the Canadian immigration department. They have just opened the doors to a flood of pseudo-refugees who will inundate our coasts for years to come, putting a heavy burden on unwilling and already overtaxed Canadian taxpayers. Legitimate immigrants are welcome, but why ruin it for them by letting in hordes of queue-jumpers? These ships

can and should be intercepted and turned back before they enter Canadian waters. Refusing to let them into Canadian waters, and if they manage to sneak past, refusing to let them land, will show other countries where we stand on illegal entry and human smuggling.

Helen Kaulbach, Halifax

As a former colleague of William Bauer on the Immigration and Refugee Board, I fully support his conclusion in the cover essay that it is “A time for tough measures.” He did not, however, explain (except to say “patronage”), some key reasons for the appalling record of that tribunal. While claimants are represented by counsel, there is almost never an adversarial balance in the hearings. And far too many appointments have been made of people who are predisposed to accept claimants’ stories at face value or have a vested interest in having refugee claims accepted. Claims that are denied have to be supported by written decisions that must stand challenge in the Federal Court:

many members are incapable of such a task, and others are too lazy to make the attempt. Two governments of different stripes have proved incapable of making appropriate appointments to the board. Abolish it and give the job to trained professionals.

Hugh R. Hanson, Toronto

Heaps of praise to you, Macleans, for illuminating solid reasons and true Canadian spirit with regard to the contentious issue concerning the handful of Chinese boat people to land on our shores. I especially liked Irving Abella’s take on the situation as he points out how the bitterness and fears that some of the population feels are unjustified (“ ‘Let’s get a grip’ ”). Canadians’ fears are being fuelled by sensationalist media coverage and are being perpetuated by their own sorry ignorance.

Vincent Rock, Burnaby, B.C.

Raging debate

As a Canadian academic living in the United States (supposedly part of the brain drain), I moved to the States simply because there was an appropriate job offer (“What’s right—and wrong— with Canada,” Special Report, Aug. 16). As a result of fiscal conservatism in Canada, the money available to postsecondary institutions for both operating grants and research is severely limiting Canadians’ ability to conduct research and compete globally. (Sadly, Canada spends 1.65 per cent of GDP on research and development, compared with 2.55 per cent in the United States and 2.98 per cent in Japan.) My take-home pay in the United States may be higher than it would have been in Canada; however, I have had to pay out of pocket for many services that are included in the Canadian safety net

(such as universal medical coverage, lower university/college tuition, unemployment services). And lower taxes in the United States result in a level of anxiety that is not experienced in Canada. We live with the fears that our health coverage may not be adequate under all circumstances, that our coverage may be cancelled at any time or that our premiums may be increased at any time. Canadians know what kind of country they want. It is time that some in the media and in industry realize this and accept the will of the majority.

Farahad Dastoor, Orono, Me.

Canada is in some ways one of the best places to live, and I am not unhappy with the level of taxation I face, considering the benefits. I think we have one of the best health-care systems available. But I now find myself strongly considering moving to the United States. Brain drain? You bet. For higher pay? Uh-uh. For lower taxation? No way. I am considering moving because, despite Canadas enviable position as having a relatively just and accepting legal foundation, we still have many problems. Legally, we have been making great strides in guaranteeing the rights of all Canadians. Unfortunately, the typical social attitude here, especially in Alberta, is far less advanced than what can be found in some areas of the States and especially in Western European countries. It is easy for us to blame the brain drain on things we cannot personally control. It is far less easy to admit we are part (if not most) of the problem. So San Francisco wins right now. Especially when it comes to living as a gay man.

Delwin Vriend, Edmonton

‘Neutered pussycat’

As a retired herald painter, I find it quaint and sad, but typically Canadian of Gov. Gen. Roméo LeBlanc to declaw the once-proud heraldic lion (“A nip and a tuck for a viceregal lion,” Canada Notes, Aug. 30). The heraldic beasts displayed their claws to symbolize the courage and determination of the bearer of the arms. As the Queen’s representative in Canada,

our Governor General has apparently hastened to correct any false impression the world might gain from the old symbol that Canada as a nation would upset anyone. Apparently, we must not give the impression that we would ever draw a line in the sand and say to another nation or individual: “That’s as far as you go, now back off.” The removal of those bright red claws is perhaps symbolic of the way we as a nation treat our armed forces. Now, instead of a virile symbol of national pride, we have a neutered pussycat whose mouth is permanently clamped shut for fear it might say something that could offend a feisty foreign dictator.

Frank Hird-Rutter, Duncan, B.C.

Postpartum care

A Scarborough hospital study concludes that the decline in the length of hospital stays after giving birth “may be harmful to babies’ health” (“Home too soon,” Health Monitor, Aug. 23). The implicit conclusion to increase the length of hospital stays is not the solution. New mothers do not need to be kept away from the comfort of their home and the support of their families just so they can consult with an on-call nurse at sporadic times during their stay. What they do need is more convenient and comprehensive access to postpartum support the first few weeks after birth to avoid common problems in newborns such as dehydration and jaundice. Women who choose to give birth with midwives, either at home or in the hospital, have 24-hour pager access to one of their two midwives for six weeks postpartum. A midwife visits the mother in her home on the first, third, fifth and 10th days after birth, when she not only checks the health of the baby, and that breastfeeding is proceeding successfully, but also examines the mother to ensure she is recovering well. With the birth of my second child in November, I hope I can return home from the hospital within hours after the birth. Save the cost of the obstetricians and longer hospital stays for high-risk pregnancies and births with complications.

Claudia Morawetz, Toronto