MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

March 27 2006
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

March 27 2006

MAIL BAG

'How can you call the Supreme Count ruling about kirpans good news? A dagger (ceremonial or not) is a weapon and kirpans are in the hands of high school children.

Memo to Harper

In Harper’s Eleven (Cover, March 13), John Geddes writes that Stephen Harper’s admirers say “polls showing Canadians weren’t really outraged by the [David] Emerson defection vindicate Harper’s instinct to largely ignore the media frenzy.” Memo to those people: Canadians are outraged, British Columbians are outraged, and Vancouverites are especially apoplectic in their response. Even many Conservatives, more privately than openly, are mad as hell. According to a February IpsosReid poll, in Conservativedominated areas of B.C., three-quarters of those polled were calling for Emerson’s immediate resignation. Hopeful opinion and selective quotation of what little favourable polling exists over the Emerson affair won’t change the reality on the ground: most Canadians want David Emerson to run again as a Conservative, as he promises he will, not at some imaginary future date but right now.

Michael Watkins, Vancouver

I am surely not alone in my anger over the blatant sexism demonstrated by your magazine in labelling Rona Ambrose “The Beauty” in Harper’s cabinet. As offensive as this is, what I find most discouraging about your article is the sense of vindication you seem to have. Ambrose has admitted, after all, that her looks may have played a role in her appointment to cabinet. But if we think about that for a moment, a journalist must have asked her if her looks and youthfulness had anything to do with her promotion. As if the nature of any such question isn’t demeaning enough, it is her answer that is now being used to justify degrading her in your article. In an air of lightheartedness and fun comparing Harper’s cabinet to a fictitious group of clever thieves, you have taken a woman of power in this country and told her that all we see is her looks and in her male counterparts, what we see is power.

Krista Ghanekar, Mississauga, Ont.

Why wasn’t Emerson included in your review of cabinet ministers? I was looking forward to getting some insight into why Harper would pick him over others in his

party. Unfortunately you didn’t give me any. Thanks for nothing.

Lisa Harder, Edmonton

After reading your story, one word came to mind—smug. It is a truism that governing a country is one thing; having a business plan is quite another. For Harper to have former members of the Mike Harris government, as well as Brian Mulroney’s, only serves to remind me of the continuing problems we have as a result of their preconceived notions of what Canada needs. I admire Stephen Harper’s rise to power. But, hey, he should not let it go to his head. There is a country in need of leadership, not unnecessary backslapping.

Norman Thomas, Minden, Ont.

Witch hunts and other stakes

Do the editors of Maclean’s condone Barbara Amiel’s use of her column as a platform for launching a personal defence of “alleged ‘corporate criminals,’ ” such as, who else, her spouse, Conrad Black (“Joe McCarthy, tragic hero,” March 13)? Only Amiel could begin an article ostensibly about Joe McCarthy, George Clooney and filmmaking and, through bizarre twists in reasoning, conclude with a rant supporting downtrodden multi-millionaires. Only Amiel could be so obtuse as to ask what is brave about a film (Good Night, and Good Luck) chronicling a time when freedom of speech and thought lost ground during an anti-Communist witch hunt, when that film was made in the midst of the current politi-

cal climate in the United States, where, when it comes to speaking freely, the feeling is, if you aren’t with us, you are the enemy. I, for one, wouldn’t pay to see any of Amiel’s fevered fiction on the big screen.

Margaret Dobson, Calgary

In her column, Amiel writes about so-called inactive pedophiles and says, “Today’s witch hunts target citizens whose erotic fantasies are stimulated by photos of children. We all but give them yellow arm bands after triumphantly jailing them.” I sincerely hope that she isn’t suggesting that a pedophile, inactive or not, is anything less than reprehensible. And I hope any future offspring of mine are not subjected to a society that, 300 years from now, regards pedophiles in the same light as those innocent women burned to death in colonial Salem. This woman, intelligent and witty as she may be, does not deserve a public forum.

Jim Dickie, Fredericton

Panning kirpans

In the March 13 issue, in the 7 Days section, there’s a report on Canada’s Supreme Court ruling that the blanket ban on kirpans was an unreasonable infringement on freedom of religion (“Dangers and daggers”). How can you call that good news? What about an individual’s personal safety? Is this not a right or at least something we should do our utmost to protect? A dagger (ceremonial or not) is a weapon that can be used to injure or even

T read with interest your interview with Dr. Brian Day and was far more relieved at the end of the article than I was at the beginning. His approach seems reasoned.'

kill. These weapons are in the hands of high school children. What were these learned judges thinking? In this day of rage and violence, aren’t we asking for more trouble? Ken Hughes, Alexandria, Ont.

Given that a 2.5-cm knife blade can be lethal (a jab just to the left of the sternum will puncture the heart nicely: I have done the autopsy to prove it), and that a concealed blade can become visible in about two seconds, what sort of restrictions can school boards come up with to neutralize this potential weapon? Among high schoolers, it’s all about intimidation—you don’t necessarily have to kill somebody to push people around. In an era of zero tolerance for drugs and bullying, exactly how do school boards plan to neutralize daggers in school? Do all kids get to wear one?

Not censorship—suitability

As a teacher-librarian of an elementary school and a participating teacher in the Silver Birch program for more years than I can count, I had

the pleasure of reading Deborah Ellis’s book Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak (“Seen not heard,” Education, March 13). I found it to be probably the most thoughtprovoking non-fiction I have read this year. I found myself thinking about it for days afterwards. Ellis should be commended for writing this kind of young adult fiction about sensitive issues. However, my concerns are not with the book itself, but with its choice by the Silver Birch committee. This exemplary reading program is for students in grades four to six who, for the most part, read these books independently of adult discussion. On their own, children at this age neither understand nor appreciate the various opinions and accounts outlined in Three Wishes, no matter how balanced they claim to be. For this reason, and this reason alone, I have removed the book from our school’s Silver Birch program. Instead, I believe it should be on the required reading list of every political leader in the world today. Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.

Pauline Pezzack, Brampton, Ont.

Noah Richler’s story completely misses the point of the objection of the Canadianjewish Congress to this book’s inclusion in the Silver Birch program. Richler presents himself as a champion of free speech and an opponent of censorship. These are not the issues on the table. Most educators agree that The Merchant op/enice is suitable for senior students. Most educators would likely agree that Schindler’s List is not an appropriate choice for students in Grade 1. The publisher of Ellis’s book notes, on the back cover itself, that Three Wishes is most suitable for students in grades six-plus. There is nothing unreasonable or censorious in a principled objection to the age appropriateness of a book. Indeed, the irritation evinced by those who disagree with our position, and the misrepresentation of that position, is far more telling. School boards deal with issues of age appropriateness on a daily basis. One wonders why this is any different.

Frank Bialystok, Chair, Community Relations Committee, Canadian Jewish Congress Ontario Region, Toronto

'The headline on the article about Rosalind Wiseman's book—"Moms we hate"—is exactly what is wrong with representations of female relationships in mainstream media'

Private health care ire

I find it odd that in so many of the articles written about the privatization of our health care system, the blatant conflict of interest regarding increased salaries for physicians is not addressed (Interview, March 13). Surely this would have been a valid question for Kenneth Whyte to ask Dr. Brian Day, especially with Day using Europe as an example, where the top doctors jump ship to private clinics or hospitals and often more than double their salaries, leaving the public hospitals and teaching institutions wanting (see Sweden, Italy, Germany and England). Also, regarding our poor world ranking, Day might have explained that in countries with parallel systems the onus is often on physicians to report success (or failure) of treatment. This is clearly a conflict of interest and may lead to inflated numbers, since it is in the best interest of the private physician, clinic or hospital to pad their numbers to attract clients. Perhaps this helps explain Italy’s No. 2 WHO ranking. From my experience working in Italy’s health care system, it is far behind Canada’s. Of course, if you are rich and can afford to stay in one of the spa hospitals, yes, Italy may not be a bad place to fall ill.

Daniel Benoit, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Center for Biomedical Engineering Research, University of Delaware, Newark, Del.

I would like to correct an error in your article. Dr. Colin McMillan from P.E.I. is the incoming 2006-2007 president of the Canadian Medical Association. I have been nominated to become president next year.

Dr. Brian Day, Vancouver

I read with interest your interview with Day and was far more relieved at the end of the article than I was at the start. His approach seems reasoned. My concern is this: how come no one who feels a need to reform our system in a way that includes more private delivery has ever clearly shown how it’s done in the top five countries? I’ve been listening to this debate since the early ’90s and no one has ever explained how France can satisfy the needs for MRIs and hip replacements in just two weeks. I’m all ears, but until I get a clear sense of where this process might lead, I will not trust any advocate of private care to be anything more than a mouthpiece for an American-style system. As well, with all the money that is supposedly being sunk into

the system, why is our doctor-to-patient ratio so bad compared to the Europeans? In Alberta, there are not enough specialists and technicians. Despite the money that has been spent since the mid-’90s, it was the draconian cuts to personnel, and the sell-off of facilities in places like Calgary, that placed us in this pickle. Until the shortage issue is addressed, nothing will change.

Tim Bryson, Claresholm, Alta.

Day does not represent my point of view. I am a family physician in B.C. and recently moved here from the U.S., where I became very familiar with the many faces of privatization. It is no solution to health care shortages, organization deficiencies, integration of care, or improved health care for the population at large. It is a road to multi-tier care which exacerbates differences between haves and have-nots. Although people often attach disclaimers, such as that they want to look at other systems in Europe and not to the U.S., the fact is that the U.S. is a powerful neighbour with many private concerns anxious to take advantage of the Canadian market. Better to pay attention to the recommendations of the Romanow report to improve health care.

Dr. Khati Hendry, Summerland, B.C.

Toxic mom poison

While I haven’t read Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads, I can tell you that the headline you wrote on this article is exactly what is wrong with representations of female relationships in mainstream media (“Moms we hate,” Society, March 13). It is a sensationalistic title for an article about a book that is trying to understand the judgment of others in an increasingly, and bizarrely, competitive parental sphere. I’m disappointed that Maclean’s is jumping with both feet into that toxic game.

Jennifer Lamben, Toronto

Just the facts, ma’am

Mark Steyn’s evisceration of the intellectual pomposity that is Environics’ Michael Adams was delicious to read (“Science as strong as

the Orgasmatron,” Books, March 13). Adams’ assertions in Fire and Ice (not the least of which was the pejorative title) wouldn’t have passed scrutiny in a first-year statistics class. At least it wouldn’t have in mine. God knows what they’re teaching these days. Adams’ pretension in his writing and media appearances is always the same: that he is a dispassionate, scientific observer investigating the facts and, whoops, what do you know? Each time the facts point to Canada, good, America, bad. The reality is that Adams is a particularly distasteful example of an anti-American propagandist who wraps himself in pseudo-scien-

tific method. Steyn’s review may go some way toward turning the tide.

Ron Moore, Toronto

Thanks to Steyn for steering me clear of any Environics polls in the future. I couldn’t help but notice that in the recent federal election, every pollster came across on TV as a pundit, complete with their own rationalizations for every trend that their polls revealed. How about just the facts, and leave the spin to the spinners? Most of this social science “deep thinking” is nonsense, and any connection can be assigned to anything regardless of facts. I will burst Adams’ “SUV theory” personally by admitting that I did indeed lust after a Nissan Pathfinder this spring when shopping for a new vehicle. We settled on a Nissan minivan, not out of any ecological philosophical position, but for two reasons: lower cost and more space. I think we Canadians are pretty much the same as our neighbours, or perhaps I’m just a wannabe gas guzzlin’ American and I needed Adams’ science to help me realize it.

Ben Moore, Vernon, B.C.