Our readers write: ‘Pity the nation that despises its children’

Feedback on the housing bubble, oil sands rhetoric and the ‘unaffordable baby,’


David Cooper / Toronto Star / Getstock

Typically Canadian

Great article on Chris Hadfield (“The man who fell to Earth,” National, Oct. 14), but his comment in the interview that he and his wife “have lived out of Canada for 26 years” caused me to wonder about being Canadian. Just a couple of years ago Michael Ignatieff was accused of not being Canadian because he was “out of Canada” for a little over 30 years. Is there a number of years when we automatically no longer qualify to be called Canadian?

David McTavish, Cobourg, Ont.

Questioning tolerance

This country is in serious need of the ability to have an open dialogue about “tolerance” (“Land of intolerance,” National, Oct. 14). Unfortunately, a large number of Canadians don’t have the maturity to have such a conversation, using that overused word “racist” for anyone who has a difference of opinion. Whatever happened to listening to both sides without passing judgment? That’s what inevitably leads to tolerance.

Nick Kossovan, Toronto

Would any of this anti-Muslim sentiment have occurred without women clad in burkas and niqabs? I doubt it. These garments are seen by many as symbols of female oppression, rejection of Western values and unfathomable violence within Islam, and, globally, against “non-believers.” These garments predate Muhammad. The Prophet recommended modesty, not concealment. The problem is that under our “don’t pick on anyone” policy, the only way to deal with the burka seems to be to cast a very wide net.

J.T. Reid, Oakville, Ont.

It is curious you label negative attitudes about Islam as “intolerance” when to reject Islam based on rational, fact-based arguments could be a reasonable position to take. It is beyond doubt that religious texts are not the “words of some deity” but the writings of men from ancient tribal societies. Like all religious texts, the Quran contains humanistic ideas, right alongside justifications for outright evil. Imagine a world where no civil society allowed the “revealed truth” of some god to justify a position on social justice or any other human capacity for thought and creativity. This would be a world that would come as close as possible to a place of relative peace and tolerance of our differences.

Dave Webster, Sudbury, Ont.

Such a sad and distressing article about Canada, a land that has always prided itself on its acceptance and welcome of “the other.” Perhaps that is more perception than reality. Perhaps we have always been a “land of intolerance” and we’ve just been deluding ourselves. I think of the treatment of our Aboriginals, the imprisonment of Japanese Canadians, the exploitation of Chinese immigrants who built the ribbon of steel that now crosses our country, the denial of basic human rights to our Jewish neighbours. The list goes on and on. The Charter of Quebec Values is just the latest incarnation of racial and religious intolerance in our home and native land. We can no longer—if we ever could—smugly congratulate ourselves on our welcoming practices as a nation.

Linda C. Hunter, Calgary

We’re all a bunch of babies

I was sickened after reading “The unaffordable baby” (Society, Oct. 7). Pity the nation that despises its children, who are its future. Pity the children who are raised by daycare systems because mothers and fathers are too busy making money to make the sacrifice of actually being home to raise their kids. Parents will recover from the cost of raising a family, but kids who hardly see their parents may not.

Jenn Gunnink, Chatsworth, Ont.

You make several ridiculous assumptions in arriving at the cost of an “unaffordable baby,” including the most expensive child care possible, many expensive extracurricular activities and a fully-funded university education. My husband and I have four young adult children; according to your article, they must have cost almost our entire take-home salaries from the past 27 years! Are we magicians? Of course not. Among other things, you ignore the fact that the first child is the most expensive: furniture, stroller, car seats, etc. Subsequent children cost less. Children are a source of great joy; I hope the young couples reading your article realize there is no dollar figure to be put on that.

Judy Duivesteyn, Erin, Ont.

Bursting the housing bubble

To think that “saying no wasn’t easy” for a 23-year-old considering the purchase of a $500,000 condo highlights the very issue surrounding bubbles (“The housing trap,” Business, Oct. 7). The current generation seeks to start out with assets that the previous generation might have spent their entire working lives aspiring to. This may be more symptomatic of human greed than any “housing trap.”

Peter Jansen, LaSalle, Ont.

Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey reported that the Canadian home ownership rate is now sitting at 69 per cent—up from 68.4 per cent five years prior. Your story reported that the rate had “soared close to the 70 per cent level,” and a single comma later, that number is interpreted as “nearly three-quarters.” A quick lesson in fractions may be needed: “two-thirds” is nearer to the facts, and just as easy to understand.

Tony Downey, Calgary

Toning down oil sands rhetoric

It’s extremely disingenuous to group the grassroots opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline with people who have or have had pipeline investments, like Tom Steyer (“Why the flow of oil cannot, and should not, be stopped,” From the Editors, Oct. 7). Opponents from across North America who see that the effort to curb the usage of fossil fuels, which the editorial itself acknowledges would be a good thing, must start somewhere. We have to stop saying yes to every investment in this industry on the basis of strict economics that do not include the externalities associated with these fuels. Once infrastructure is in place, it’s very difficult to mothball it, and the economic incentive to continue to exploit the tar sands resource will be that much more difficult to overcome. The fight over the Keystone XL is not being waged by “fanatics” or “extremists,” but by regular people who know that stopping this pipeline from being built won’t solve the climate change problem by itself, but that it’s a powerful gesture that acknowledges that we need to start cutting ties with this ultimately damaging resource.

Jeff Wishart, Tempe, Ariz.

Eyes on the road

Every time I read that yet another study has found that texting while driving causes slower reaction times and more crashes (“The chase is on,” Society, Oct. 14), I am left incredulous—not at the conclusion, but at the fact that this is not clearly obvious to anyone with a minimum of intelligence. Not a week passes that I do not see oncoming drivers approaching me at 90 km/h with their eyes looking at their laps instead of the road. It’s time to place the same harsh sanctions against texters that apply to drunk drivers. I’d rather take my chances on the highway with the drunks. They may be seeing two of me coming at them, but at least they see me!

Mark Cosgrove, Orleans, Ont.

The ghosts of Poland

The article “Poland’s dark hunt” (Society, Oct. 14), by tracing the patterns whereby human beings are inured by various types of intimidation to inhuman treatment of a minority to the extent that “torture and extermination” become almost normal and everyday, is an interesting study, but it isn’t quite fair to target Poles exclusively. It is obvious that all populations can be so manipulated. There was a lot of anti-Semitism in Canada in that era, and African-Americans were still being lynched in the U.S. Even FDR would not bring in a law specifically against that abomination. These days it is the Arabs and Muslims who are subject to demonization. Anti-minority hatred is easy to detect and trace after a genocidal disaster: the idea is to prevent it from ever developing beforehand.

Doris Wrench Eisler,

St. Albert, Alta.

When Jan Grabowski’s book Hunt for the Jews was published in Poland, historians pointed out that it missed some rescue efforts in the rural county under study. Significantly, the Maclean’s article fails to mention that any form of help to Jews in German-occupied Poland was forbidden under pain of death, and that more than 700 Christian Poles were put to death for this “crime.” Poles are, by far, the largest group of rescuers of any country recognized as “righteous” by Yad Vashem. It is no revelation that some Poles collaborated with the Germans, including members of the local police. These individuals are not, however, representative of the Polish nation. The Polish underground state condemned their activities and executed a number of collaborators. Collaborators were found in every country in Europe.

Halina Kornatowska-Dinner,


Who wants a long, sick life?

It is certainly good news that Canadians are living longer (“Ignore the fear-mongering. Life is good, and getting longer,” From the Editors, Oct. 14). But Statistics Canada also has some very concerning news about the health of Canadians: more than half of us are now overweight or obese. Obesity causes heart disease, diabetes, and many other health conditions that seriously impact quality of life. A long life isn’t always isn’t a good life when you are seriously impacted by a debilitating disease. That’s the point of Ontario doctors’ campaign against obesity, and it’s why we’ve implored our government and society to find ways to teach people about healthy choices and ways to prevent diseases brought on by poor lifestyles. If we’ve sounded strident, it’s because the problem is only getting worse.

Dr. Scott Wooder, President,

Ontario Medical Association,

Stoney Creek, Ont.

Fear-mongering math

The infant mortality rate in Canada was not 9.6 per cent in 1981, as stated in your editorial, “Ignore the fear-mongering. Life is Good, and getting longer” (From the Editors, Oct. 14). Common sense would surely dictate that Canada would not have experienced an infant mortality rate of almost 10 per cent, even 32 years ago. Your math skills fell a bit short when you equated a death rate of 9.6 per 1,000 live births to be 9.6 per cent rather than 0.96 per cent.

Al Pollock, Calgary

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