The education system is a 'terribly expensive baby-sitting service'

Letters to the editor, July 29, 2021: Readers weigh in on the impacts of disrupted education, a conversation with Rosalie Abella, the housing market and more

Delayed care

Maclean’s has been publishing touching tributes for the thousands of Canadians who have died of COVID-19.

Your tributes put a face to some of the more than 25,000 Canadians who have died of COVID-19 (“They Were Loved,” Coronavirus, July 2021). My concern is with all the people who didn’t receive proper care because of the pandemic. My brother, diagnosed with dementia, was kept in a Nova Scotia hospital and did not get to a long-term care home until nine months later. My sister, who was suffering from kidney disease, was kept on a stretcher in a hospital in N.L. for six days and eventually succumbed to kidney failure. My disabled brother was misdiagnosed with an eye infection and was nearly blind when my sister got him to a specialist. No one in health care or government will ever be held accountable for such people. If COVID-19 has taught us one thing in Canada, it is “survival of the fittest.” —Anna Penney, St. John’s, N.L.

Tory disarray

In July, Marie-Danielle Smith delved into the myriad problems facing Erin O’Toole’s Conservative Party.

Kudos to Marie-Danielle Smith for her piece on the federal Conservative Party (“The shaky blue tent,” Politics, July 2021). The summary reminded me of a political editorial cartoon from 1967 when the party went into disarray over challenging then-leader John Diefenbaker. The cartoon showed a wagon train circling in defence, guns blazing. The caption read: “When the wagon train of the Conservative Party is under attack, they circle and fire inwards.” With all the innuendos and disagreements that Smith refers to, it seems this is happening again. What the party needs to do is get off the bandwagon of getting rid of the Trudeau Liberals and instead work at developing some good policies and programs. Just beating up on the governing party is not going to do it. —Rod McLeod, Regina

Returning artifacts

Jaela Bernstein covered the movement to return artifacts to their rightful communities.

The timing of “When it’s time to give back” (Culture, July 2021) was in sync with my own time to give back. A few weeks ago, I visited the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, where there are wonderful Indigenous cultural artifacts on display. When I got to the cedar baskets, I suddenly thought, “I have to give mine back.” I knew at that moment they didn’t belong in the museum, but to the people who made them. My great-grandparents came to B.C. from Scotland in 1900 and had a farm. They sometimes traded produce for baskets, and several were passed to the next generation. Among my generation, there are nine baskets to return; fortunately, my brother knows where they came from as our grandmother told him. A repatriation ceremony is being planned and it feels so great, as a family, to send the baskets home. When so much has been taken from First Peoples in Canada, it is only right to give a little back. —Laura Jones, New Westminster, B.C.

Pricey houses

Jason Markusoff’s June cover story explored the factors and implications of an extra-hot housing market.

A suggestion to help curb the outrageous bidding on market homes for primary residences (“Nowhere to buy,” Real Estate, June 2021) would be to tax the amount that exceeds the “assessed value” at 100 percent capital gains. The amount up to the assessed value would still be tax-free and make the listed price meaningless…which it currently is. This might force governments to calculate a more realistic assessed value, which in turn would provide a fair point-of-sale for a listed property. —G. Deering, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Judging a judge

Paul Wells spoke to retiring Supreme Court judge Rosalie Abella in a rare, in-depth conversation.

I read the article about retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Rosalie Silberman Abella with interest (“Rosie Abella said she’d answer questions when she turned 75,” Supreme Court, July 2021). There is much to like about her as a Canadian, as a woman and, especially, as a human being. However, it is clear that Madam Abella needed much more time in the cut and thrust of the court system as a working lawyer before her appointment as a judge at just 29 years of age. Her understanding of the fact that parliamentary supremacy in Canada is a constitutional principle is underdeveloped, to say the least. The courts are the mechanism that upholds the rule of law established by Parliament and not, as she stated, “the people in the democratic universe who have the right to make those decisions that a legislator may not be comfortable making.” What is most disconcerting are her final thoughts about past Supreme Court decisions that likely stretched the intent of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms beyond what its framers envisioned. “We have time on our side,” she told journalist Paul Wells. “And history. Time will tell us whether it turned out to be the right decision or not for the public. And if it wasn’t, another court will change it. Or the government will change it.” Little solace for those whose livelihoods were jettisoned by delusory activism rather than clear-headed common law. —John Challinor II, Milton, Ont.

Vax supply

In a June column, Scott Gilmore delved into partisanship’s role in Canada’s messy pandemic response. 

I am disappointed in Scott Gilmore’s choices in the June issue (“The partisan polemic,” Politics, June 2021). In an article that was supposed to be non-partisan, Gilmore decided to repeat Erin O’Toole’s nonsensical claim that the federal government has not procured as many doses of COVID-19 vaccines as it ought to have. A non-partisan article would have acknowledged that the WHO is correct in pointing out that Canada has a disproportionate share of the global vaccine supply. In a world where vaccination rates are limited by the number of available vaccine doses, every vaccine dose we get today is one that a poorer country will not get until later. This is not merely a moral failing on the part of Canada. The rise of variants of concern, which vaccines may provide less protection against, is directly connected to how many people get infected with COVID-19. The vaccine dose I will receive next week would have provided more protection for my family in the arm of a high-risk individual in a global hot spot. —Christine Rogalsky, Waterloo, Ont.

Are the kids all right?

In July, Sarmishta Subramanian explored how a year of lost education could impact children long into the future.

It takes perseverance to eke out a premise in Sarmishta Subramanian’s overly long piece (“The lost year,” Education, July 2021). In simple terms, I guess it is that our kids are going to suffer horribly all of their lives because they’re missing a few months of school. An “education catastrophe”? What utter nonsense! The 13-plus years kids spend in our education system are a huge waste of time amid what should be the best part of their lives. Sadly, all it does is turn children into cabbages. The only thing that needs to be taught in school is some basic arithmetic, as well as life and language skills. Those things can be covered in six months. No one seems to want to change the system because parents rely on this terribly expensive baby-sitting service. Subramanian’s premise that people will lose earning power all their lives after missing some school is unsubstantiated. The wealth one accumulates has very little to do with when you start earning—ask any doctor. But it has everything to do with how skilfully you manage the money you do earn. And, sadly, those skills are also not taught during those 13-plus years. —C.J. Jennissen, Sherwood Park, Alta.

Where to live

Seriously, how did Bruce Jamieson’s letter make it to print (“Best communities,” Letters, July 2021)? As if one could simply discount the cost of housing when determining a top-50 list of best places to live in Canada. His arrogance shines in the last two sentences: “How uninformed. The locals laughed.” I suspect all the panel’s judges have been to Vancouver enough times (it takes only one visit, provided it isn’t raining) to have a firm handle on the city’s aesthetics. They would hardly be uninformed. The laughing locals are of his ilk, unaffected by the impenetrability of the housing market because it doesn’t affect them.—David Moffat, Ottawa

In response to the letter lauding Greater Vancouver, the fact that it rains almost every day for nine months of the year, never gets hot in summer and even a shack 95 km from the city costs over a million dollars may have been factors that kept it off the list. Just sayin’. —Maureen Stetina, Vancouver

Health-care racism

Pam Palmeter’s column in the July issue of Maclean’s reflected on the racism Indigenous people face in the health care system.

Joyce Echaquan’s treatment and death at a Quebec hospital was a tragic and preventable event (“What Joyce Echaquan knew,” Health Care, July 2021). But Pamela Palmater’s column was not helpful. I understand the anguish (I’m an old white male, so perhaps not), but a problem this long-standing and entrenched cannot be resolved by the perpetrators acting alone, as she suggests when she writes: “That’s on them, not us.” There is no magic solution, but angry words railing at Them won’t work. Surely Palmater can advocate for solutions that require input from both Them and Us. —Bill LeGrow, Coquitlam, B.C.

Pandemic failure

Christina Frangou explained the science behind COVID-19 mutations in July.

After 18 months of a global pandemic (“The race against the mutations,” Science, July 2021), it is easy to judge the mistakes and successes of our political leaders. However, one glaring fact has continued to haunt me from day one: our leaders didn’t close our borders and stop the transmission of the virus. They did make some tough decisions with mandatory masks, public spacing, closure of some businesses, etc., but that didn’t stop the second and third waves. Canadians and others continued to travel the globe, bringing the virus home to loved ones and neighbours. Worse, they continued to travel in Canada, spreading the virus everywhere, even the far North. When reports began surfacing of more dangerous variants in the United Kingdom, South America and other places, our leaders didn’t ban travel there either. Travellers brought the variants here, and the rest is history. A complete lockdown and travel ban would have allowed Canadians to have some normalcy in life over the past year and a half. Instead, we lost loved ones, our economy lost billions and our leaders spent billions that will never be recovered. —Tony Rapino, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Climate cataclysm

Brian Bethune explored a book all about why purchasing less stuff could help fix climate change. 

Almost everywhere it is the same (“More is too much,” Climate Change, June 2021). Political leaders agree to or promote the destruction of our life supports for short-term gain for government and corporate coffers in the name of jobs and standards of living now. Instead they should be standing up to corporations and providing employment in mitigating and adaptive strategies by regulation and more progressive taxation. If we do not start this soon, our civilization will collapse, as has repeatedly happened on more local scales throughout history. But this time, climate change and ecosystem collapse will be so widespread that most of us may starve, broil or drown, while some in a few areas will freeze to death. Politicians are too scared and lazy to do anything other than make promises they cannot keep, because they value their jobs more than other people’s grandchildren. —Glynne Evans, Saanich, B.C.

Why don’t you have a major section on the environment? I had to find it as a subheading in the society section. What the heck? Get with the times and start reporting more on environmental issues in Canada. Be more relevant to Canadians. —Chantal LeBlanc, Ottawa