September 9 2002


September 9 2002


‘I can attest to the ongoing Canadian attachment to the rails. For a 19-year-old, travel by train has brought the

COUntry tO life. -Jeremy Hessing-Lewis, Vancouver

In this fair land

The luckiest thing that has ever happened to me is that I was born in Canada. Although I thank my stars every day, reading articles like the ones on train travel and its benefits (“All aboard,” Cover, Aug. 26) confirm my good fortune. The beauty of Canada is in its citizens and its landscape. That its politicians choose to squabble and behave dishonourably should relegate them to a single column in your magazine. Bring on more great stories about us and our land.

Sheila Cumberland, Toronto

The new Renaissance trains are not accessible to 15 per cent of Canadians—those with disabilities. The cars are in fact less accessible than VIA’s old rolling stock. VIA missed a golden opportunity to bring barrier-free cars into service. Canadian manufacturer Bombardier constructs accessible passenger rail cars that are sold in the United States for use by Amtrak. Passenger rail is an important symbol of Canadian nationalism. With the incorporation of the Renaissance cars into the VIA system, Canadian rail transportation is becoming a symbol of exclusion and discrimination to people with disabilities. Pat Danforth, Transportation Committee Chairperson, Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Winnipeg

Train in South Africa. Just last month, my wife and I took the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Calgary and were in complete awe the whole trip. The scenery, the train, the service, the food, the experience-all amazing. We also take the train from Toronto to Montreal every June to see the Canadian Grand Prix. Via Rail needs to dramatically improve its service—the train is always late, the food and wines are poor, the service is so-so. They’re sitting on a gold mine if they can only get their act together.

Peter I. Volny, Toronto

I grew up on the Prairies in the ’50s where the rail line was not only the backbone of the economy of tiny Lloydminster, Alta./Sask., it was also the backbone of my imaginary voyages. The article brought back so many memories—from my first glimpse of the mountains to seeing the entire country when we moved from Lloydminster to Sydney, N.S., in 1964. It’s my hope to someday take my daughters on the same trip.

Shawn Rosvold, Brooklyn, N.Y.

As a travel aficionado, I’ve been on several of the best-known trains in the world, including the Orient Express and the Blue

I thoroughly enjoyed your article on modern train travel. This got me thinking about family history when my father and uncles had their schooling on “wheels.” Back in the ’20s and ’30s, school cars were dispatched up north to Ramsey, Ont., by the CPR to educate the children of employees who maintained the tracks. Mary Ann Worden, Ottawa

Professional pride

I am a police officer, a professional who takes pride in myself and the way I conduct myself on the job and off duty. For Barbara Amiel (“You can’t be serious?” Aug. 26) to say that “most police ... are

scavengers” would be the same as me stating most journalists are the type that caused Diana, The Princess of Wales’s death, or most journalists are of the same calibre as Geraldo Rivera.

Mark Auger, Airdrie, Alta.

Recognition overdue

I am pleasantly surprised to learn that the Canadian government has finally decided to acknowledge the efforts of the Canadian troops who fought at the Medak Pocket (“Firefight at the Medak Pocket,” Military, Sept. 2). As a reservist attached to the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, during their 1993 tour of duty in Croatia, I had expected that the undeniable success of this action would have been heavily publicized. Instead, for political reasons, our government downplayed the whole affair. Although I did not participate in the battle, I am well acquainted with many who did. Without exception, I saw every one of them as far different men than the ones I knew prior to the battle. They did not come home looking for widespread public adoration. However, I believe that some recognition would have meant a great deal to them.

Eric M. Watkin, Orillia, Ont.

Living in Lotus Land

“A scary summer” (Environment, Aug 26) only confirmed my belief in B.C.’s distinctiveness within Canada. Here in Victoria, this summer has been far from scary; it’s been as beautiful as it is every summer—lots of sunshine, blue skies and pleasant temperatures. There’s been no oppressive heat and humidity, no smog, no thunderstorms, no mosquitoes—and there’s certainly been no snow or rattlesnakes to worry about. I hope the summer weather improves for the rest of Canada. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy living (smugly) in paradise.

Steven Murray, Victoria

Education and income

Throughout Mary Janigan’s column “The cost of college” (Aug. 26), the term “post-secondary education” is consistently equated with a university education. Today, the term post-secondary is more broadly defined to mean education at community colleges, technical institutes,

CEGEPs (in Quebec), private colleges and trades training as well as university education. It is absurd for the column to suggest that only Canadians with a university education are the main contributors to the push for productivity improvement in our country. All post-secondary graduates contribute to productivity improvement. Keith McIntyre, Burlington, Ont.

My impression, based on having taught at five Canadian universities, is that the current norm is for Canadian students to finance their post-secondary education themselves. Unlike in the United States, where I went as a graduate student and where many parents take out second mortgages to pay their kids’ college costs, the expectation here is that since most post-secondary students are legally adults, their parents aren’t obliged to support them. So I’m bewildered by the government’s RESP program and your enthusiastic support for it. Why should today’s students be paying such high tuition and receiving such limited financial assistance to subsidize the educational savings of parents who can already afford to set aside $2,000 a year for their children who won’t be attending university for another 15 years?

David Mirhady, professor of humanities,

Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.c.

On the defensive

Peter C. Newman’s interview with Defence Minister John McCallum, “Canada’s critical choice” (Defence, Aug. 26), is right on the money. What are we prepared to pay for insurance for our country? Perhaps more importantly, if we are not prepared to pay, is it moral to send out young men and women into harm’s way with outdated equipment and without our support?

Don Schepens, Sherwood Park, Alta.

Inestimable damage

The article and photos in “The flood of ages” (Europe, Aug. 26) could not fully describe the damage, and the lost lives and cultural monuments, in central Europe this summer. The damage is estimated in billions of euros. I felt ashamed as a Canadian to learn that Canada sent $50,000 as a help to the Czech Republic. The amount is insulting to them and

minuscule in comparison to help by other nations and international organizations. Ivo Tyl, Osooyos, B.C.

Palestinian aid

If Anna Porter is sponsored by the Canada-Israeli Committee, is she not writing as a lobbyist rather than as a journalist and should this not be indicated at the beginning of her article? Porter puts her objectivity in doubt by not even mentioning the comparison Palestinian death toll for the period of the second intifada. She should know full well that the death toll among Palestinian children is far higher than among Israelis.

Nicholas Newman, Montreal

And Nikes for all

In “Building a new nation” (East Timor, Aug. 19) on Canadian aid to East Timor, you have made the all-too-common mistake of measuring the quality of life of a so-called developing country in terms of net annual income, expressed in dollars. The populations of such countries with largely subsistence economies mostly produce their own food, build their own shelter and make their own clothing. I was especially appalled by the sentence about one East Timorese man: “He can’t really say how much he earns in a year, but it’s clear from his torn shirt and shoeless children there isn’t a lot.” For people in a country such as our own, shoelessness may be a sign of poverty, but in many countries with a warm climate, shoes are never worn by children and often not by adults either. What does the writer want the world to do? Ensure that people earn enough money to buy Nikes for all?

E. J. (Ted) Bond, Tamworth, Ont.

Inspirational survivors

I wish to express my gratitude for the poignant and uplifting story of the young cancer survivors at Camp Oochigeas

(“Profiles in courage,” Life, Aug. 26). I myself had been touched by cancer and found the children’s inspirational and transcendent message to be moving. Cancer is no longer about death but about life, and this significance was conveyed courageously by the wisdom of children who have never lost sight of how precious life is.

Daniel Kowbell, Toronto

Use according to directions

’’The killing fields” (Environment, Aug. 26) contains some very serious allegations. We think that the Canadian public, and parents of small children in particular, deserve to know the facts regarding pesticides. All pesticides used in Canada are registered by one of the most stringent regulatory systems in the world—Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. When homeowners or farmers need to use pesticides they do so with the assurance that every product has been extensively tested for value, safety, and health and environmental impacts, especially on children and other vulnerable populations. More than 200 tests are undertaken to ensure the safety of human health and the environment, including comprehensive testing on non-target plants, beneficial insects, fish, birds, earthworms, bees, algae and countless other species. Furthermore, pesticides aid in the production of safe, affordable food supplies and protect our homes, gardens, schools, railway lands, forests and recreational properties from disease and damage each and every day.

Lome Hepworth, President, CropLife Canada, Kimberley Bates, Executive Director, Urban Pest Management Council of Canada, Toronto

The common notion that ladybugs, honeybees and the like are “useful insects” seems to imply that unless an animal or a plant is “useful” to humans, it is useless. In nature everything is useful because everything is connected to everything else. Despite our scientific advances, a great deal of the ecosystem is unknown to us. Destruction of any species produces a chain reaction that usually goes unnoticed by humans until it is almost too late to save that species.

Trilochan S. Bakshi, professor emeritus of biology at Athabasca University, Edmonton