THEMAIL

November 10 2003

THEMAIL

November 10 2003

THEMAIL

‘Strange thing about surgical wait times, isn’t it? When was the last time a person of fame or wealth had to wait? So much for “universal” health care.’

Letters to the Editor: letters@macleans.ca

Healthy cynicism

Children are stressed and their parents depressed, seeking comfort through food and tobacco, you say (“5 ways to make Canadians healthier,” Cover, Oct. 27). If the burgers and smokes don’t kill us, we’ll be forced to wait for hip replacements and nursinghome placements while working at McDonald’s because of our valueless pension plans. Worse yet, Alzheimer’s is being labelled the disease of the new millennium. What are we saving ourselves for?

Betty Bryenton, Halifax

As a psychologist who has treated obesity for many years, I know how extremely difficult it is to live with and overcome. The development of national programs for the prevention of obesity is critically necessary. We have become a culture of spectators rather than participants. Large segments of our economy are reliant on a steady supply of efficiently entertained and powerfully passive audiences to flow through our theatres and rest comfortably in front of computers and TVs. Even outdoor activities tend to be mechanized rather than some health-promoting human-powered activity. People ride powerboats and “personal watercraft” rather than canoes or kayaks. Country trails tend to be dominated by all-terrain vehicles instead of hikers or bikers. This is a heavily advertised, profit-driven phenomenon that needs to be competed with through an equally powerful campaign of advertising and support for activities and lifestyles that keep us active and alive. Another powerful market force contributing to our toxic environment is the food industry, which continually tempts people with high-fat and high-calorie foods. Of course, personal responsibility is critical to the maintenance of good health, but national responsibility is no less critical to the health of our nation. John Fleming, Toronto

The five problems you mention are of great importance to the health of Canadians. But all are symptoms of the disease that afflicts us as a society: the refusal to take responsi-

bility for, and behave in a preventive manner toward, our own health. I doubt there is one adult Canadian who is not aware of the effects of poor eating habits on cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Yet we refuse to limit our consumption of the things that we know will make us ill. We wait until the test results are through the roof and the doctor is waving the prescription in our face before we cut back on the habits we know are bad for us. We count on pharmaceuticals to magically repair the damage we have been doing for years. Only when we grow up and start making wiser choices to protect our own bodies will the increase in disease start to level off.

Fiona Hill, Burlington, Ont.

TV tactics I Shout louder, kids, to help the leader find his way

Noting a photo of New Brunswick Premier and potential Conservative Party leader Bernard Lord in our Oct. 27 issue, Paul Lamothe of Edmonton thinks he looks like Steve, former host of the children’s show Blue's Clues. “Steve got lots of help from the children yelling answers at the screen,” writes Lamothe. “What would happen to Bernard in Ottawa’s Question Period?”

The urge to merge

As a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, I am having a hard time deciding whether or not I should approve of the PCAlliance merger plan (“Two to tango,” Politics, Oct. 27). If we are dropping the “Progressive” from Progressive Conservative, is it because the egos of the Alliance members would be too bruised to concede too much to the Tories, or because this new party will not be progressive? Perhaps both. If it is the latter, we are in trouble. Canadians fear social conservatives. They don’t fear fiscal conservatives. Leadership is key. Not Stephen Harper or anybody equally ideological. Perhaps not even Mike Harris. Electing Scott Brison, a young, socially progressive, fiscally responsible MP, would draw young, more liberal voters. This new Conservative Party must appeal to the broad centre, as well as the more right-wing side of the electorate to succeed in the next election.

Mark Casey, Grenoble, France

How can it have been forgotten that Progressive Conservative Party leader Peter MacKay became the leader with votes he gained specifically on the promise that he would not entertain discussions about uniting with the Alliance?

Gwllyn Timmers, Vancouver

It appears that certain members of the Tories and Alliance have undertaken a long and tortuous journey only to find that they’ve come full-circle to the same place. Might I propose “Regressive Conservative” as an appropriate name for this new creation? Marcus Anderson, Toronto

Canada’s political right is in disarray, not again but still. It seems there is always a fringe group willing to break away for its own narrow political agenda. Where other parties tend to come together in unity for political strength, the right divides itself. In the 1920s a group of disgruntled farmers, formed the Progressive Party of Canada, only to return to the fold in 1942. Other right wingers who could not get what they wanted within the party formed the Social Credit Party, the Western Canada Concept, the Confederation of Regions and the Reform party of Canada. Having been born and raised in Alberta, it is very noticeable that so many of these people are from my own province, and strange that so many who have so much claim to be so downtrodden within the party and within Canada. The Liberals will never be challenged until the conservatives elect a leader with the courage to stand up to the whiners and say, “No you do not come back under your terms, you no longer use blackmail to get your own way.” Bill Stuart, Okotoks, Alta.

Ivory powers

In “Ivory and Forgery” (Archaeology, Oct. 27), John Geddes raised questions about the authenticity of a 3,000-year-old carved ivory pomegranate, included in an upcoming exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It is extremely unfortunate that the article is based on questions raised by only one person and not on any new scientific findings. In fact, this artifact’s authenticity is overwhelmingly supported by extensive research conducted over the past 20 years by the Israel Museum—a highly respected authority on the Biblical period—and leading experts in the field around the world. Mark O’Neill, Vice-President, Public Relations and Publishing, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Que.

Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal's Museum of Archeology and History, where the exhibition Archaeology and the Bible is currently being presented, would like to make it clear that the information on the inscription on the ivory pomegranate was arrived at following thorough scientific research involving the Israel Museum (the owner of the pieces exhibited), the Israel Antiquities Authority and independent Canadian and Israeli experts. Nothing in your article indicates what new information or scientific analysis convinced Prof. Frank Moore Cross, who had previously authenticated the pomegranate and its inscription, to reverse his position. It is only natural that there should be some doubts regarding an object that is not a “well-documented find of a reputable archaeological team.” But for such doubts to be expressed without supporting evidence is unlikely to shed valuable new light on what are sometimes controversial topics. Robert David, Professor, Old Testament, Faculty of Theology, Université de Montréal

Target practice

Well, I’m so sorry that Barbara Wickens and the rest of her generation had it so tough (“Boomers have it tough, too,” Essay, Oct. 27). Her complaints sound a lot like my parents’—“We had to walk to school uphill both ways”—and her list of deprivations (200 students in first-year pysch class and not owning anything original or unique) sounds rather childish to me. The group she is really berating is not Generation X, as she puts it, but the “Bust” generation (1966 to 1979), the smallest cohort in the last 50 years. Well, I have a list of grievances, too. Despite graduating with an honours BA and working for three years overseas, I’m back in Alberta working for a travel agency making less than $20,000 a year. Well, that should be plenty to pay off my $30,000 in student loans. The reason boomers can afford to buy high-end merchandise is that the rest of us actually had to pay for our educations and are trapped in low-end Mcjobs. Oh, by the way, in my first-year psych class there were over 400 students.

Jamie Friesen, Edmonton

Learning to love Haiti

Alexandre Trudeau says he went to Haiti looking for the joy he finds in Africa, but found agony instead (“In the shadow of suffering,” Haiti, Oct. 27). Where did he look? I have been to Haiti about 11 times since 1997. It is precisely the joy of the people amidst their suffering in this devastated nation that keeps me going back. Haitians are famous for their smiles, for praising God when they wouldn’t be condemned for doubting His existence, for singing when tears would make so much more sense. My Haiti has violence, unrest, disease and a poverty so oppressive it is palpable, yet it is so much more.

Ludlia Afonso, Board Secretary, Hearts Together for Haiti, Kingsville, Ont.

I imagine much of the mail you receive in response to Alexandre Trudeau’s article on Haiti will be angry, or at least feisty, admonishing him for what he didn’t see. Mr. Trudeau’s intention in travelling to Haiti was explicit and refreshingly honest. For 500 years, Haiti has been exploited by greedy, powerful, arrogant and well-intentioned “visitors.” It has taken me well over 30 years and as many trips to Haiti to understand how one can walk respectfully with one’s fellow man given such obvious disparities. What I do know is this: there can be joy in Haiti when we first choose to understand and accept the roots of its undoing, and respond responsibly and respectfully. Something in Mr. Trudeau’s article makes me wish that there were more like him in this world. Haiti, for one, needs them.

Betsy Wall, Executive Director/Program Manager, Foundation for International Development Assistance Canada, Waterloo, Ont.

Never again

I am likely as guilty as anyone of being able to hear news stories that describe atrocities being committed in our world and not fully appreciating what I am hearing. So, I would like to thank Gen. Roméo Dallaire for drawing attention to this issue in a way that makes it impossible for people like me to ignore (“Bearing witness,” Maclean’s Excerpt, Oct. 27). The events in Rwanda that the general describes should never be allowed to happen. The world community has the ability to ensure that the random slaughter of thousands of innocent people does not occur. I would like to see the general’s recommendations on how Canadians can help to prevent such a tragedy.

Michael Routledge, Winnipeg

Brain surgery

Canada has a long history of expertise in neurosurgery with great contributions by many talented surgeons, including the world-renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield. The neurosurgical procedures they developed now enable physicians like Mark Bernstein (“Neurosurgical nausea,” Over to You, Oct. 20) to intervene and save a life where once the patient would have died. Bernstein’s operative team and the staff at Toronto Western Hospital did an outstanding job. As an emergency physician now involved with the exploration of space and the development of new technologies to help deliver health care to astronauts, his story brought back many similar memories from my own clinical experiences. Canadian expertise in telecommunications technology will be a central element in the provision of telemedicine support to under-serviced parts of our country in the future. Canada is now leading the world in a new field of medicine based on space technology. Surgeons may now use advanced telecommunications technology to perform “tele-robotic” surgery, performing procedures on patients in another part of the country. Yet, as we strive to improve health care with new technologies, in the end we realize it is really all about doing our best for our patients. We are fortunate to have so many talented clinicians and researchers in Canada doing their best for Canadians every day.

Canada leads the world in using ‘tele-robotic’ surgery to perform procedures on patients in another part of the country

Dave R. Williams, Canadian Space Agency Astronaut, Houston