Coming down on the pipeline
Your Feb. 3 cover headline, “How one Nebraska rancher killed Canada’s oil sands dream” proves you have your heads in the sands. What you think is Canada’s dream is a nightmare. Thank the Almighty there are farmers like Randy Thompson and Alberta’s Aboriginal people to slow down this runaway train.
Dennis Breadner, Blue Mountains, Ont.
That gun-totin’ rancher fighting the Keystone XL pipeline did us Canucks a huge favour, and we’re too wimpy and ignorant to see that (“End of the line,” National, Feb. 3). We should be building our own refineries in Alberta, lots of them.
Jim Lauder, Peterborough, Ont.
I find it incredible that Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s president of energy and oil pipelines, can righteously claim that “TransCanada didn’t just dream up the route out of thin air,” then go on to reveal that “the route chosen was simply the shortest.” Was there really no consideration given to the environmental risks and impacts on the Sand Hills aquifer? Was there really no consideration given to accommodating landowners like Randy Thompson? Does Pourbaix really expect us to trust our rivers, lakes and aquifers to a company whose primary consideration when choosing a pipeline route is its “obligation to minimize the miles of pipeline”?
Thomas Kuntz, Kelowna, B.C.
The Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010 involved around 900,000 gallons, not barrels, as you wrote—about a fortyfold difference. And there have been much larger inland oil spills in the U.S. (and in Canada). What is surprising and unfortunate is that, despite a century of oil pipelines and spills, we still have a limited understanding of the ecological risk or resilience.
Stewart Rood, Professor of Environmental Science, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alta.
Of facts and friends
Emma Teitel’s comment on Stephen Harper’s speech (“A friendship with few benefits,” Feb. 3) misses the mark on several points, but one in particular: Modern anti-Semitic rhetoric is alive and reborn as a virulent anti-Israeli movement. Anti-Israeli activists are obsessed with demonizing Israel, even if the overarching goal of helping Palestinians is better served by aiming their eyeglass elsewhere, for example, on the incredibly corrupt Palestinian leadership. The international community is quick to condemn Israel alone, and its rare support is always conditioned or rebalanced with the perennial “but,” even as volleys of rockets fall on Israeli civilians. Teitel agrees that “modern boycotts of Israel do sometimes come from an anti-Semitic place,” yet she disagrees that this is similar to anti-Semitic boycotts in the 1930s. She writes that the Israeli army isn’t like a defenceless shopkeeper in 1930s Germany. But it is precisely Israeli businesses and shopkeepers who are boycotted, not the Israeli army. One crucial truth she swept under the rug is that Palestinian attitudes still place a higher value on dying than on living, as evidenced by the frequency of suicide bombings. Only a sanguine culture of death would purposefully target children: This is the obstacle to peace, not settlements. To unequivocally support the main victim of this medieval nihilistic drive is the right thing to do.
Jean-Marc Perelmuter, Victoria
Emma Teitel was right on the money when she stated that, if Harper agreed that one can criticize Israeli government policy and still be a good friend to Israel, then it really was his duty to voice his own government’s official stand in opposition to the building of permanent Israeli settlements in the West Bank. What better time to discuss this obstacle to peace in the region than right there, in person, with his friend? As a Canadian taxpayer, I helped pay for his visit there, and also for his entourage of 200. Frankly, I am very disappointed.
G.A. Teske, Sherwood Park, Alta.
Emma Teitel argues that Israel deserves criticism for its “hawkish” settlement policy. Despite the fact that I don’t support most Conservative policies, I do believe that Harper’s speech to the Knesset was one of the most remarkable and courageous speeches I have ever heard, and contradicted the lie told by such people as Jimmy Carter that Israel is an apartheid state. The “boycott Israel” movement, and the singling out of Israel for criticism in the United Nations, is nothing more than the face of anti-Semitism today. Harper has stood out as no other world leader has done and has proven to be a man of principle, humanity and deep conviction.
Alan Weiss, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que.
Silken Laumann’s family speaks
This letter is written by members of Silken Laumann’s immediate family in response to your excerpt from her autobiography and your interview with her (“Silken Laumann’s secret,” National, Jan. 27). None of the family was truly consulted during the writing of the autobiography; not all of us were given the book prior to its release. For the record, whether intentionally or not, many “facts” in the autobiography and reported in the media were either not true or exaggerated.
Every life has challenges. We acknowledge the challenges in our family; however, one should consider that sometimes a challenge becomes larger than life with the telling and retelling. Success is never an individual enterprise. We all stand on the shoulders of others, including our family, whose support is freely offered. This support was indeed offered to Silken throughout her youth, and included professional help when needed. Silken’s father showed his moral support by attending every important sporting endeavour, despite family responsibilities and a demanding business. Silken has also benefited from the greatest gift, love.
While we, as members of Silken’s immediate family, do not agree with much of the autobiography and interviews, we love our daughter and sister. We are proud that Silken has used her life largely for good. Silken truly is courageous, caring, and inspiring. We celebrate her accomplishments and her many contributions to others and to Canada. Life is difficult, but it is also rich, and an incredible gift. We are thankful for our family with all its warts. We rejoice in the joys and pains and look forward to many years of gatherings with our now large Canadian family! Thank you, Canada, for welcoming two young immigrants, for providing opportunities and for allowing our family to contribute.
Daniele Laumann Hart, sister, Halifax
Siegrid Prinkalns, mother, Cape Coral, Fla.
Hans Laumann, father, Mississauga, Ont.
Dementia vs. euthanasia
Murders by, and of, sufferers from dementia are truly tragic and will increase in number, so long as we as a society grow older and persist in our hypocrisies (“Old and dangerous,” Society, Jan. 27). Attitudes are changing: In five American states, assisted suicide is now legal and, according to a 2012 Angus Reid poll, 86 per cent of Canadians support legalizing doctor-assisted suicide to give people who are suffering an opportunity to ease their pain. We all know pain and fear dementia that we do not experience directly until it creeps over us, smothering our memories and rendering us less than human. By what right does society deny me and others, currently still in full possession of our senses, the right to be euthanized if, and when, we are pronounced demented by qualified authorities? I am old and fear pain and death, but far less than I fear dementia.
Nic David, Cochrane, Alta.
Separation of church and art
One should have great sympathy for the opposition movement in Russia, given the autocracy of President Vladimir Putin. But such sympathy should not extend to the clichéd justification offered up by Russian dissident Masha Gessen (Interview, Jan. 27), who praised Pussy Riot for their 2012 foray into Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to stage “performance art.” To call such an invasion of religious space a “great work of art” with the hackneyed assertion that such art “should be jarring for its culture” is profoundly misguided. Such clichés undercut the necessary support dissidents require, and also damage a more elevated notion of art. Magnificent art need not always be about flower vases. Art can be both beautiful and honest. But to invade religious space, where others seek transcendence and beauty, is not to create art, great or otherwise. Instead, it is to extend the political into every nook and cranny of our lives—ironically, the exact problem with autocrats such as Putin. Such “art” also pollutes such places of sublime refuge with narcissism.
Mark Milke, Calgary
Let sleeping Nazis lie
Germany is spending enormous amounts of time, resources and money to search for and persecute cooks and laundry workers all over the world as accessories to murder (“Rounding up the Nazi minions,” International, Jan. 27). “Simply being where the killing took place would be enough for a conviction,” you state. Wow. Yet the liars, like George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who are responsible for the devastation of Iraq and the death of about a million Iraqis, and millions more crippled for life and left homeless, are raking in millions in speaking fees. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. Only with justice, honesty and truth can there be a healthy future for humanity, and what’s left of nature.
Gunther Ostermann, Kelowna, B.C.
A matter of great interest for all
Some of your readers may have fallen out of their chairs when they read, in “Payday is a long way off” (Economy, Jan. 27) that a 10 per cent rate on a loan for 14 days is “an annual interest rate of 261 per cent.” It reinforces, unintentionally, perhaps, the very fallacies so shamefully exploited by payday loan companies themselves. The example doesn’t even come close: The real rate is 1,102 per cent annually. This is not a small discrepancy. To argue that loans are never taken on for a whole year is mere sophistry: The annual rate is the same whether it is for two weeks or a decade. It is unfortunate that an opportunity was missed to expose the true scale of a problem that afflicts so many of the most vulnerable.
Geoff Galloway, Saskatoon
Missing in maternity leave
Your article about maternity leave (“Is maternity leave a bad idea? Society, Jan. 27) missed something glaringly obvious: Without a quality daycare system in this country, many women have no choice but to stay on maternity leave for a year. As a self-employed professional, I had to return to work two weeks after the birth of my child, while my partner stayed home for the next nine months (men can only take a maximum of 35 weeks leave). It is difficult to find space in a daycare that accepts infants aged less than a year; I was lucky. That’s not to mention the expense: Most families are reluctant to begin paying the $1,000 to $1,800 a month in daycare fees any sooner than they have to. So women are essentially “stuck” in the one-year maternity leave: no daycare, no work.
Elaine Tindall, Vancouver
In the article “End of the line” (National, Feb. 3), we wrote that U.S. President Barack Obama mandated the first-ever nationwide fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks. Instead, he increased existing standards, and introduced the first-ever standards for commercial vehicles.