Kids who are given freedom grow up to be 'more stable, confident' adults

April 27, 2018: Maclean’s readers weigh in on Toronto's van attack, free-roaming children and more

(Laura Natividad/Getty Images)

How did good parenting become a crime?

In April, Aaron Hutchins reported on how people teaching their kids to be independent risk censure by neighbours, police and child services officials, as part of a series called “Leave Those Kids Alone”. Meanwhile, Stephen Marche argued that kids should be allowed to play with real tools, to jump from heights and to make up their own minds about what is dangerous. And Kyle Edwards surveyed rules across the country pertaining to supervision of children.

How things have changed! I was an only child, a tiny, six-year-old (size 4 clothing) with a stay-at-home mom. I was walked one block, to the bus stop, by my Lab cross dog (another no-no, a dog not on a leash) to catch a city bus. I spent half an hour on the bus by myself, to get to downtown and then walked three blocks to school. The bus schedule and the school’s ending time did not coincide, so I spent the waiting time wandering the downtown, in the shops, at the library, until it was time to catch the bus home, where I was again met by my dog and we walked home together. I have been in the staffing industry for many years and have seen a definite change in the maturity level of workers 18 plus. By the time helicopter parents feel it is time for their children to get a job, leave home and lead independent lives, these children do not have the tools or the inclination to become contributing members of society. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a mother drive her twenty-plus-year-old child to our offices and actually sit with them while they register for work. We place them at a job and invariably they fall off within two weeks. One child had quit working for us and didn’t tell his mother. She found out when she called us, raving, that her son hadn’t been paid for two weeks’ worth of work. He had left at the same time every day and when she left for work, he came back home and went to bed. There has to be a level of acceptance, by the general public, of parents judging what activities and decisions their children can reasonably be allowed to make, on their own, without parent intervention. It will only result in more stable, confident individuals than I am exposed to every day. — Denise Methot, Brantford, Ont.

READ: More letters from Maclean’s readers

After reading your article about the interference of social services regarding parenting choices, I have to weigh in. I am astounded that our tax dollars are wasted here is also a definite lack of care for our mentally disabled. I have personal experience of this problem. My nephew has severe schizophrenia and there is no place for him in our system. There are no beds in the mental hospitals, no place in a group home because he is difficult to deal with. He has been put out in the street by hospitals repeatedly. He has usually ended up living with his mother. In 2012, he tried to kill her. Last year, he burned her house to the ground. Now he is in the remand centre, but it is entirely possible that they will put him out on the street again. complaints from strangers seeing a child walking down the street alone. I think B.C. must have an extremely large budget for child services. I live in Alberta and have found that it’s hard to make social services pay attention to cases of abuse. I tried to help a teenager one time in Athabasca who lived with a verbally and emotionally abusive parent. Social services response was that they couldn’t be bothered to check it out unless there was proof of physical abuse. They were just too busy with more serious issues. There is also a definite lack of care for our mentally disabled. I have personal experience of this problem. My nephew has severe schizophrenia and there is no place for him in our system. There are no beds in the mental hospitals, no places in group homes, because he is difficult to deal with. He has been put out in the street by hospitals repeatedly. He has usually ended up living with his mother. In 2012, he tried to kill her. Last year, he burned her house to the ground. Now he is in a remand centre, but it is entirely possible that they will put him out on the street again. — Catherine Ross, Stony Plain, Alta.

Your information regarding minimum age in Ontario is incomplete and not quite correct. Though Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act states that a child under the age of 16 may not be left unattended “without making provision for his or her supervision and care that is reasonable in the circumstances,” the “circumstances” include the maturity of the individual child. As a parent of three kids ranging in age from six to 13, this is a common question among my peers. — Melanie Thomson, Toronto

With respect to your excellent article on children and their need for unstructured, even risky play, I would like to correct a factual error. OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) is indeed a U.K. program and a recognized best practice by Cambridge University, but it has been brought to the TDSB by Canadians working at Earth Day Canada under the EarthPLAY banner (which includes programs for play in parks and streets as well). I trained with Michael Follett in 2013 and was able to negotiate a partnership with the TDSB when I joined Earth Day Canada in 2015 as Director of Play Programs. Since piloting OPAL in the original six schools, we have expanded to 16 schools in the TDSB and are poised to take on about 20 more over the next two years. We pay a licence fee to OPAL U.K. for the intellectual property of the program, but we are adapting its contents every day to the more centralized management system of the Ontario education system. We work closely with the Facilities and Sustainability Office of the TDSB. — Brenda SimonDirector of Play Programs, Earth Day Canada, Toronto

Gareth Crew on Facebook: I had an experience the other day where a stranger accosted me for laughing at a ridiculous temper tantrum my 3 year old was having on the sidewalk in front of the library – my wife was inside and my son wanted to go home and get the stroller rather than go inside the building to see her.

This guy took issue with my laughing it off, claimed I was being abusive, refused to believe I had custody and then demanded to be taken to see the mother (our child is biracial and resembles her far more than he does me). I was lucky that my wife was working from home that day and I was able to accede to his demands or he probably would have thrown me to the ground and attempted a citizens arrest.

We’ve become a society of know-it-all busybodies who keep sticking our noses where they absolutely do not belong — back off and let people parent!

Carole Eyles on Facebook: We don’t let kids learn from their mistakes and learn to assess risk in age appropriate ways and then we turn them loose at 16 behind the wheel of a car! Bruises, scrapes, and even broken bones are not life threatening, they are learning experiences. Likewise learning to be responsible for being on time, completing assignments, and keeping your word are life lessons best learned young.

Toronto van attack: The cop who didn’t shoot

< In April, Scott Gilmore wrote that we should remember how a Toronto police officer calmly faced down the driver.

The perspective of your columnist Scott Gilmore on the humane side of a Canadian police officer in the face of uncertainty is a breath of fresh air. In this country where, of late, the word “police’” has become synonymous with brutality stoked by bias and racism, the judgement call made by a thoughtful Canadian law officer challenges the hasty and senseless, uncalled for, shoot-to-kill-for-thrill mindset of the same fraternity on this side of the border. Some may argue that nobody would have missed the alleged perpetrator had he been shot and killed. Yet, despite this abhorrent act which claimed 10 innocent lives, by sparing his Canada has shown that the answer to violence is never more of the same. Decency and humanity must stand above everything, especially the evil. Canada, I salute you! — Abdul-Majeed Azad, Monrovia, Calif.

I send thanks to Scott Gilmore.  I absolutely loved his article the Toronto van attack and the cop who wouldn’t shoot.  Keep up the good work. I love inspirational journalism. It is so needed these days. — Bev Pelletier, Sault St. Marie

Eric Koehler on Facebook: In all fairness I think that due to the van having been located after the attack stopped and the suspect having been located outside the van with his hands visible and holding a cellphone in broad daylight, the arresting officer believed that the active threat warranting deadly force had ceased therefore he chose to effect the arrest instead. I’m sure the details will come out soon enough, however it’s a bit premature and unfair to compare this to several instances in the U.S. Yes some interactions with police are clearly unjustified but it’s important to remember every police interaction is different and so comparing them with this doesn’t give us the full picture.

Paul Beard on Facebook: No one knows exactly what the cop saw Or didn’t see, this is considered a war zone at this point…

This cop is outstanding in his bravery and his actions. He will be commended for this day and what he did.

All the arm chair quarterbacks who who have something to say about this footage, let me say this “no one knows better the consequences of war better than a solider ” this day the officer that you see was a solider for YOUR COUNTRY!

Enough said!

For this ‘hockey wife,’ the Humboldt tragedy hits close to home


In April, writer Jessica Scott-Reid, wife of former Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Reid, has seen her husband off as he boards the team bus—and knows firsthand how off-ice tragedy can shake people whose loved ones play hockey.

 The unimaginable Humboldt tragedy awoke anxieties I’ve had to restrain since April 6, 2004. My sister was killed on a rural Alberta highway under the same circumstances. The driver failed to stop at a stop sign, she was 44 and left behind a 12- and a 17-year-old. The driver lived a short distance from where it happened, shortly after 7 a.m. on a beautiful spring morning, so the fact it happened just didn’t make sense. I questioned the RCMP, feeling that, had he hit a school bus or an RCMP member there would have been a serious investigation. It never goes away. — Jacquie Sinclair, Lacombe, Alta.

For Indigenous people, ‘Indian Horse’ is much more than a movie

Edna Manitowabi, middle, in a still from the film ‘Indian Horse.’ (Elevation Pictures)

In March, Brian D. Johnson wrote that the the big-screen adaptation of Richard Wagamese’s novel is a vital collaboration between Indigenous talent and white filmmakers.

Great piece by Brian D. Johnson. I can hardly wait for Indian Horse to come to our small town.The review brings back memories of 75 years ago. I went to a primary school with Vivian Manitowabi. She might have been a relative of Edna Manitowabi, whose experiences are depicted in the film. I worked during school summer vacations at the Domtar sawmill in Blind River with many First Nations men. Johnson’s piece speaks to the quality of humour among Indigenous people. — Daniel Q. Smith, Arnprior, Ont.

Canada is not a country.

Protestors demonstrate against the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project in Burnaby, B.C. on March 10, 2018. (JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)

In April, Scott Gilmore argued, rather than comprising two solitudes, Canada contains plenty of solitudes, and that our loose federation—which can’t seem to greenlight a pipeline— might not prevail when times really get tough. 

I have lived and worked in many countries, including the U.K. In the latter, the differences between the North East, the Midlands, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and Southern England would really make you believe you are in different countries. Their varying accents almost require you to take a course to understand people. Every country has its variations by location and culture. But we are a country. It’s our politics that allow differences to play a part. Take B.C. at the moment.  It is politics, nothing more and nothing less. — Dennis Gauss, Nanaimo, B.C.

Canadian Armed Forces on TwitterWe’d like to highlight that since 2007 Canada’s military has been conducting 3 Ops every year in the North. Canada benefits from year-round efforts of the #CanadianRangers in that region as well as #CFSAlert in Nunavut. https://t.co/Bwd3W9gY8b

AOPS will deliver ships capable of armed sea-borne surveillance of our waters, including the Arctic. The first ship is scheduled for trials. Canada also has 3 MSOCs that strengthen marine security by providing a clear picture of our maritime approaches. https://t.co/3WRhCllLFx

Chris Bustin on Facebook: How somber. I’m frustrated about the beer case, but come on? We’re not a country? Really?

We just experienced a recent situation that brought our country together to reflect unity. Maybe you didn’t hear about the Humboldt Broncos accident? The RCMP shootings in Moncton? Fort McMurray fires? We know unity.

Now, complacency, guilty! We take Canada for granted. We put a lot of faith in our 1995 government and entrusted them with allowing one province come within 3% of deciding our fate. It went our way, to live another day. So we chill.

Just as we trusted the SCC to make a fair decision today about beer. It’s not the end of the world. But it might be something to pay attention to.

I’ve been to Regina and St. John’s. The people are great in both places. They watch out for their neighbours in the inlets and coves just as much as they do from farm to farm on the prairies. You always ask your neighbour if they want that thing you can only get in the city. A white iceberg is just as blinding in the sun as a field of yellow canola. You gotta get out more.

James Schmidt on Facebook: Canada isn’t even a real country, its a British crown corp. We aren’t even allowed to change our own constitution without permission. We cannot create laws without asking permission. We cannot change our electoral laws without asking permission. Choke on that. Dissolve the crown corp of Canada at once, ditch the crown, and watch all the problems disappear.

Nobody should believe Canadian politicians who promise to fight climate change

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is pictured after delivering a policy announcement in Toronto , on Wednesday May 31 , 2017. (Chris Young/CP)

In April, Paul Wells argued that most most governments routinely blow their emissions reduction targets, so why should Canadians expect theirs to be any different

Recent comments from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna indicating that “she is done” with anyone who has a different opinion than hers when it comes to man-made climate change are troubling. Since when did Canadians not have the right to disagree with our government, thought that was what the Liberals always accused former PM Harper of? The carbon emission targets the Liberals agreed to in the Paris meeting were the same as the Conservatives proposed a number of years earlier!  No country can meet their stated goals without doing irreparable damage to their economies no matter what the United Nations and environmentalists declare. With all of the ridiculous statements (too many to mention) and behaviour, embarrassment and immature performance in India by Trudeau, no wonder the Liberals are down in the polls. Where is the openness and transparency promised during the last election campaign? Doesn’t sound like democracy to me, and it appears to be the Liberal’s way or the highway. Finance Minister Morneau’s budget was solely focused on gender equity and unfortunately short on proposals to balance future budgets and policies to tone down out-of-control spending and deal with realities of Canadians financial futures. This out-of-touch PM and government’s politically correct lefty policies are a way over the top and we can only hope that they will be dismissed in 2019. —Lindsay HepburnKanata, Ont.

The article on climate change does not mention that it is largely the people who cannot meet government targets for climate change. They keep driving, they keep flying, they keep taking holidays in faraway places, they keep buying food and other products from international markets, and so much more. Government is partly to blame—they keep promoting international trade, encouraging others to visit Canada, and so much more. What can we all do? Stay home, live off our own land? Tough goals to meet. — Brian LaPointe, Williams Lake, B.C.

Is Canada prepared for a chemical weapon attack like the one in the U.K.?

Personnel in protective coveralls and breathing equipment work at the Salisbury District Hospital in Salisbury, southern England, on March 10, 2018, after a man and a woman were poisoned in a nerve agent attack. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

In April, resident physician Gaibrie Stephen, medical students Tanishq Suryavanshi and scientist-physician Blair Bigham explored whether Canada would be able to handle a chemical attack like the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter with the Cold War nerve toxin Novichok.

I am unclear as to how any hospital can claim to be ready, since there have been no formal or standardized assessments of hospital readiness (despite the existence of tools to do so since very limited studies years ago, nor have there been enough decontamination exercises to develop some idea of where our deficits are. Further, comments like “patients already in the ER would be moved to other areas of the hospital” are hard to reconcile with the reality of overcrowded emergency departments where patients may wait days for a ward bed. There is no room for the patients already in house, and there has been no formal assessment or training around surge capacity in Canadian hospitals. It is true that new-build hospitals are routinely being equipped with decontamination rooms, which could handle a contaminated event with few patients, but this does not answer the question of where to put the patient once cleaned. — Dr. Daniel Kollek, Director of the Centre for Excellence in Emergency Preparedness, Dundas, Ont.

How Stormy Daniels is closing the credibility gap for women

In April, former MP Laurin Liu argued that Stormy Daniels is among those leading the charge about the worthiness of women as credible narrators

I read with astonishment Laurie Liu’s laudatory piece on Stormy Daniels. She holds her up as a paragon of virtue and a role model. Ms. Daniels had a consensual affair with a married man, accepted hush money and now years later comes out of the woodwork for her 15 minutes of fame. Who is behind her? More astonishing is that the left and the U.S. Democrats were ready to make it’s-not-my-fault-I-lost-the election Hillary Clinton—who called Bill Clinton’s prey, while he was president, liars and bimbos—chief of state! Astonishing and hypocritical. Cherryl Katnich, Maple Ridge, B.C.