'It's so sad that we are a nation of strangers'

Letters to the editor, June 21, 2019: Readers weigh in on the North Pole's migration to Russia, hardening attitudes on immigration and (still) SNC-Lavalin

Strangers in paradise

In May, editor-at-large Scott Gilmore wrote about how Canadians don’t really know each other, not once we leave our immediate surroundings. “We don’t even vacation in Canada,” he wrote.

I couldn’t agree more with Scott Gilmore—many people I’ve spoken to, and kicked in the ankle for their lack of interest, don’t seem to have the urge to see our beautiful country. But the answer I receive from many of my travelling friends is that it’s too expensive to fly in Canada and costs less to fly to, for example, England, and this is true. What a pity. Having lived on the Prairies and travelled east to see family—and on to Prince Edward Island—I am truly amazed by this land of ours. Eastern Canada is wonderful, but little can beat visiting the north shore of Lake Superior, then heading across the Prairies—wheat, sunflowers, canola, rapeseed, a painter’s delight—and reaching the Rockies, so amazing and pristine. How insignificant one feels among the mountains (they would be a good place to send some of our politicians, to ground them). It’s so sad that we are a nation of strangers.
—Rosemary Carman Avery, Cobourg, Ont.

Schizophrenia’s range

In May, Brian Bethune wrote about The Ghost Garden, by Susan Doherty, which delves into the damage wrought by schizophrenia, one of the most terrible and terrifying mental disorders known.

There were some overly broad, not entirely accurate statements in the piece on Susan Doherty’s book about people with schizophrenia (“Finding the human amid psychosis,” Memoir, June 2019). The article states that “shame and shunning” still dominate the lives of the mentally ill. But, despite what the generic “the” suggests, we with mental illness are a widely diverse demographic: we can earn in the millions or not, hold every university degree or none at all, work in every profession or hold blue-collar jobs. The article also suggests that schizophrenia invariably marginalizes people, but in fact, as with many illnesses, there is a range. All of my acquaintances with the disease hold doctoral degrees and teach at university, whereas for others, it can be so severe that a person has no contact with reality as we know it.
—Harold A. Maio, Fort Myers, Fla.

Inflated interest in rates

At Maclean’s Live in April, senior writer Paul Wells spoke at length to Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz about the housing market, Canada-U.S. trade, what it’s like to be a central banker in the age of Donald Trump, and more.

Reading your interview with the governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, I note that your interviewer thanked the governor for not raising the interest rate, prompting my three comments listed below. First, by lowering the interest rate to near zero, the bank has thrown under the bus all those who spend less than they earn. To gain a decent return on their nest egg, a citizen must now enter the investment lottery. Best of luck! Second, because inflation currently runs at about two per cent, any funds that people may have in ordinary bank accounts are actually losing value day by day. Third, to raise the interest rate to a normal, say, three per cent too quickly would cause havoc among citizens with substantial mortgages and household debt. To raise it gradually over, say, several years means that people like me of advanced age may not live to see the day. There must be better ways of controlling inflation.
—Charles Van Wagner, Courtenay, B.C.

Shifting lights

In April, Alanna Mitchell wrote about a geopolitical shift, sort of. The magnetic North Pole, which spent many years in the heart of Canada’s Arctic archipelago, is on the move—to Russia.

Your article about the magnetic North Pole migrating out of Canadian territory left out one little detail: the Northern Lights. Typically, the aurora borealis is seen most often in a circular, band-shaped area away from but centred on the pole, which includes a large swath of Southern Canada. The fleeing pole could be taking the Northern Lights with it, which might be why I haven’t seen them for some time now.
—Ross Peters, Dartmouth, N.S.

Take a look, Canadians

In April, contributing editor Andray Domise wrote about Canadians’ hardening attitudes towards immigration, and argued that ignorance about the life of an immigrant plays a central role.

I was sadly disappointed to read that there was a poll conducted in April that concluded 40 per cent of Canadians feel there are too many visible minorities being let into our country, based not on facts but on personal bias (“Uncaring Canada,” Immigration, June 2019). Coincidentally, I recently saw a program on TV about what it means to be Canadian, and literally laughed out loud at how hard it is to define a Canadian because we are so diverse, culturally, in all categories. So to read, on the heels of watching that program, that we are prejudiced against certain “visibly different people” breaks my heart. Thank you to Maclean’s, and particularly to Andray Domise, for bringing that unsubstantiated-by-facts poll to our collective attention. We Canadians need to take a good look at ourselves! We all are not as nice and welcoming as the rest of the world thinks we are.
—Linda Kermode, Parksville, B.C.

SNC-Lavalin bias?

In April, the Maclean’s cover story featured interviews with both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, former Liberal cabinet ministers who were turfed from their party in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

As decades-long Maclean’s subscribers, we feel compelled to write about our objection to the cover and content of your May 2019 edition regarding the SNC-Lavalin affair. When did Maclean’s become the mouthpiece for the Opposition parties? The cover associating Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould with “Truth and Justice” seems particularly biased. Several questions remain unasked and unanswered. Just what was Philpott privy to concerning the SNC-Lavalin case? What was her involvement in the issue? Who initially leaked the defaming story from Wilson-Raybould’s department? What right did Wilson-Raybould have to record a telephone conversation covertly? What was the basis for Wilson-Raybould’s seemingly quick decision to proceed with charges against SNC-Lavalin rather than with a deferred prosecution agreement, which is a stringent option and is in no way a “get out of jail free” card? And by the way, there are major national issues that require attention and coverage, far beyond what the Prime Minister wore in India!
—Carolyn Parks Mintz, James Mintz, Chase, B.C.

On the surface, the former attorney general/justice minister’s principled decision to respect the independence of the justice system seems worthy of universal support. However, this assumes that the decision of the chief prosecutor would provide a fair and appropriate application of justice—which is also the responsibility of the justice minister and why the minister may legally intervene in a potential prosecution. When examining the facts of the SNC-Lavalin case, one must question what justice would come from criminally prosecuting the corporation versus negotiating a deferred prosecution agreement. In the U.S. and Britain, deferred prosecution agreements are common and normally include the following: an admission of wrongdoing; disgorgement of all profits from ill-gotten contracts; payment of a significant penalty; implementation of a best practices compliance program; and a court-appointed monitor to sit on the appropriate committee of the board of directors to ensure that the program is robust and being enforced. The guilty parties of SNC-Lavalin are long gone. Both the board of directors and the senior management team have been replaced, and the stock has taken a beating. So how is justice served by punishing the innocent, remaining employees should a guilty verdict lead to a long-term ban on federal government contracts and possible similar sanctions abroad? Our justice system failed us when some members of SNC-Lavalin’s senior management team saw their prosecutions thrown out by the court due to excessive delays. If the former attorney general gets her wish, it will fail us again!
—Mark Roberts, Gananoque, Ont.

D-Day reunion

In May, former Maclean’s editor-in-chief Anthony Wilson-Smith—now the CEO of Historica Canada—wrote about the making of a new Heritage Minute on the D-Day landings in Normandy.

I look forward to viewing this Heritage Minute, as my father-in-law, trooper Alvin Reeves, was one of the 359 killed during the D-Day landing. He and two brothers left the family farm to join up. He married in Toronto, but was shipped overseas before his daughter, my wife, Anne, was born. He was killed when his Duplex-Drive [floating] tank was hit by enemy fire and sank. It is especially moving this year, not just because it’s the 75th anniversary, but because Anne recently succumbed to cancer. However, we are arranging for her ashes to be added to her father’s grave, hopefully before June 6, so they can be together at last.
—Brian Ablett, Spencerville, Ont.

Kiddie time

In April, Sarah Treleaven wrote about the years-long process, and often struggle, families endure as parents earn the trust of their adoptive children.

The set-up of a perceived conflict or inequality between biological and adoptive parents in your story is misleading. The 50 weeks of paid leave you refer to include 15 weeks of “maternity” leave that is available only to a baby’s biological mother. This medical leave gives the new mother a chance to recover from the physical strains of pregnancy, childbirth and the early postpartum phase. The additional 35 weeks of leave, called “parental leave,” are available to either parent, or a combination of both, whether they are biological or adopted. It is also worth noting that, as of March 17, 2019, new parents have the option of extending the parental portion of the leave to a maximum of 75 weeks (18 months) when they agree to a reduced benefit payment amount.
—Barbara White, Unionville, Ont.

Countering Kenney’s claim

In May, contributing editor Jen Gerson wrote about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s quest to carve out his own legend in Alberta, a province with a long history of legendary politicians.

We are writing to provide some facts around your story about HSBC in Alberta (“A pipeline of political talent,” Alberta, June 2019). To be perfectly clear, HSBC has not boycotted and is not now boycotting anyone. HSBC is a long-time supporter of the province of Alberta and the energy sector. That has not changed. HSBC has 330 employees—the majority of whom were born and raised in Alberta—in 17 locations across the province, living, working and contributing to the economy and the community. We’ve authorized $14.4 billion of debt financing to 1,462 businesses of all types and sizes, a significant proportion of which are in the energy sector. Through every downturn, we have shown our commitment to helping our customers weather the storm—and we are still here, continuing to do that. We are a leading bank for oil-field service companies in the province, proudly partnering with entrepreneurs and family-owned and operated businesses in Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and many other Alberta communities. We have also invested consistently in many community programs through the decades, both financially and through volunteering. And last year we paid $8.9 million in corporate income taxes—straight into the province’s coffers. Getting exactly the right balance of what people and economies need today and what must be done for tomorrow is not easy, as we make clear in our energy policy. We have been here for 30 years, and we continue to see Alberta as a vital part of our business.
—Jason Henderson, Executive Vice President & Managing Director, Head Global Banking and Markets, and Linda Seymour, Executive Vice President, Head of Commercial Banking, HSBC Bank Canada

Good Point

In May, contributing editor Peter Shawn Taylor checked in on the first wave of Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada in 2015—and tracked their integration into Canadian life, as well as the challenges they’ve faced along the way.

Peter Shawn Taylor’s article about Syrian refugees nails half of a core challenge: official language education with enough seats and flexibility to accommodate work hours (“Plenty Canadian,” Refugees, June 2019). The other half of the challenge, though, comes down to family needs. I was at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada at the height of the crisis, and even then we knew that child care was the choke point—for work, for language education, for everything. The government’s partners just couldn’t facilitate enough child care. That might be the best way to help refugees find their footing.
—Jonathon Olfert, Edmonton

These letters appear in print in the July 2019 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.


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