The problem with prisons
Our May issue featured an in-depth look at Canada’s failing prison system, by Justin Ling.
Kudos to Justin Ling and Maclean’s for the excellent writing and analysis regarding Canada’s prison system (“Houses of hate,” Analysis, May 2021). Now it is up to the federal and provincial governments to begin a full revamp of these costly and largely ineffective programs. Warehousing those in conflict with the law has long been known to be a poor way to spend money on rehabilitation. New approaches must be found. —Rod McLeod, Regina
Great places to live
In the May issue of Maclean’s, Claire Brownell crunched the numbers to determine the best communities to live in Canada in the new age of working from home.
Please stop publishing this type of article (“Best communities in Canada,” Living, May 2021). The number of people coming here from the cities is ridiculous, and they are changing the very fabric of our area. Real estate prices have gone wild, limiting the purchase of a home to rich people and rich landlords who buy multiple places, pushing the local residents (and young workers trying to buy their first house) out of the market. The winners will be the banks and the government, as usual. —Tom Thomson, Belleville, Ont.
When you suggested people move to Halifax for the excellent health care, I laughed. Did you know that almost 65,000 folks are on the government’s wait-list for a family doctor? That doesn’t include the thousands who have just given up on ever having a family doctor. Also, with so many people from other parts of Canada moving to Nova Scotia, people who are used to real estate bidding wars and ridiculous prices, housing prices in Halifax are now beyond most locals’ dreams of home ownership. —Kathleen Richardson-Prager, Dartmouth, N.S.
Into the woods
Terry Glavin took a look at the logging of B.C.’s ancient forests and the new generation of eco-activists fighting back, in the May issue
I noticed that in the online version of the article about B.C.’s new eco-activists, the photo of Shawna Knight shows an acoustic guitar in a corner of the van in which she is sitting, whereas in the print version of the article, the guitar has been cropped out (“Falling fast,” Environment, May 2021). In any case, many acoustic guitars are made from old-growth wood, including Sitka spruce and cedar, some of which is harvested in the very region where she’s protesting. I think it’s fair to say that many, including Knight apparently, would love to see old-growth forests remain untouched, but we still want to enjoy the fine products that come from the harvest. —Mike Friesen, Richmond, B.C.
The article on the anti-logging blockades on Vancouver Island is painfully skewed and does a disservice to Indigenous people. Most of the successful conservation of our ancient forests over the past four decades in Canada, especially on the West Coast, has involved crucial leadership from First Nations and Indigenous activists who often spend hundreds of hours in meetings and negotiations for years after the non-Indigenous activists or tourists have gone back to their comfortable lives. I’m now in my fourth decade as an Indigenous ecologist who has tracked First Nations’ leadership in most successful forest-protection blockades, and I can confirm this historical fact over and over. —Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram, Salt Spring Island, B.C.
A tribute for Dorritt Paul was included in the March issue of the magazine, as part of the They Were Loved project, which commemorates those lost to COVID-19.
I would like to thank Maclean’s for commemorating my amazing 102-year-old grandmother, Dorritt Paul (“They Were Loved,” Coronavirus, March 2021). I would also like to acknowledge my family’s appreciation for the work of writer Angelica Zagorski, who accomplished the seemingly impossible task of capturing the essence of a complete stranger. I have been dreading the arrival of May, which will mark the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death. She slipped into a coma on Mother’s Day after two months of separation from family and friends because of the ineffective long-term care lockdown imposed by the province of Ontario. She died alone without seeing our faces or hearing our voices in her final moments. So many Canadians are facing painful anniversaries, made worse by the bleak trajectory of COVID’s third wave. This obituary initiative has been a bright moment in a dark year. Vaccines have introduced a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and I am hopeful that more lives will be saved. However, it is impossible not to feel that vaccines have shifted attention away from those who died. I imagine Doug Ford’s government desperately hopes vaccination will also cause amnesia, making people forget the actions and decisions that sacrificed so many lives. Fortunately, there are thousands of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have years of voting power in their future; those who witnessed the excruciating suffering of their parents, grandparents and long-time friends will never forget. —Tara Barrows, Toronto
A year of COVID-19
The April issue of Maclean’s was dedicated to one single story: the first year of the pandemic, by Stephen Maher.
The hardest part of reading your COVID issue was learning more about the very sad way our seniors in long-term care were mistreated (“Year One,” Cover, April 2021). If ever a case was made to stop for-profit LTC, it was made by the Toronto Star story reporting that over the first three-quarters of 2020, Extendicare, Sienna and Chartwell received $138.5 million in provincial pandemic pay for front-line workers, the federal Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and other pandemic funding. Over the same period of time, these three companies’ shareholders were paid more than $170 million—profits made off the suffering of these loved ones. Surely, former premier of Ontario Mike Harris, chair of Chartwell’s board, knew or should have known what was happening. —Douglas Hare, London, Ont.
Of all the photographs that accompanied the “Year One” issue, there is one that is undoubtedly the most poignant: the double-page photo of Dr. Simon Demers-Marcil, on his knees with his head in his hands, as he calls a family to tell them a loved one has died. Not for a million dollars would I want his job. The anguish that emanates from him is beyond words. Thank you to Dr. Demers-Marcil and all the health-care workers dealing with COVID-19. —Sandra Gittens, Truro, N.S.
Canada’s mishandling of the pandemic is bad enough. But the real villains are those lobbying for the owners and shareholders of private long-term care homes. I have a question for them: is this who you wanted to be when you grew up? You’ll be old someday and might end up in an LTC home. If you’re really successful as a lobbyist, there will be no one around to change your diaper. —Judy Pettersen, Flin Flon, Man.
The May issue of the magazine featured a story by Michael Fraiman setting the scene at the trial of Michael Kovrig, where foreign diplomats took a silent stand.
There is one figure in that photo of international diplomats standing outside a Chinese courthouse in support of the illegally detained “two Michaels” who, to my mind, is conspicuously unwelcome (“When the world has Canada’s back,” Diplomacy, May 2021). That is the United States embassy’s acting deputy chief of mission, William Klein. Any critical review of the series of events that led to the arrest of those two innocent Canadians leads one to conclude it is the result of political posturing by the Trump administration during that country’s contentious trade talks with China in 2018. Though the U.S. had previous opportunities to arrest the Huawei executive at the heart of this affair, they chose that particular moment, while she was on Canadian soil, to request her extradition. In fact, Trump made comments at the time that alluded directly to this connection. The U.S. thereby embroiled Canada in a dispute in which our country had no part. I, for one, hold the U.S., as much as China, responsible for robbing the freedom of those two respectable Canadian citizens. A freedom that, I would add, the current U.S. president has in his power to restore, by simply rescinding the aforementioned extradition request. But I doubt Joe Biden has the wherewithal or courage to do so, any more than his predecessor would have had. —Charles Leduc, Vancouver
In May, Shannon Gormley wrote a column about the folly of China’s claim that Canada violated its sovereignty in slapping sanctions on a small number of Chinese officials.
I have some serious reservations about Shannon Gormley’s totally negative column on China (“A word to the unwise,” China, May 2021). First, China is right: what we define as “genocide” was carried out in Canada—100 per cent of Canada’s land area was stolen from the Indigenous owners, who were then confined to ghettos called “reserves” and their children were forced into institutional schools and to learn English and French. We have never really acknowledged this genocide, or taught it to our children. And all Anglo-Saxon states, with the U.S. being the most destructive, have been created the same way, with land theft and genocide. But, boy, do we excoriate China, which has done this on a much milder basis. Second, we, along with all the Anglo-Saxon countries, constantly comment on and interfere in China’s politics, but that is okay, for we are “pure.” Third, the Five Eyes spying cabal constantly spies on China and many other countries, and uses U.S. technology to do this—but no complaints from us. Okay if we do it; evil if China does it. Our hypocritical, self-righteous attitude has become distasteful in the extreme. It basically amounts to: China and Russia are “evil,” we are pure, good, superior and virtuous. So we can do and say anything. Others can’t. And Gormley’s one-sided diatribe is more evidence of this bombastic posturing. —Hendrik S. Weiler, Port Perry, Ont.
We are what we eat
In May, Jason Markusoff delved into the decade-long saga of fluoride in Calgary’s water.
Fluoridation has been a bone—or should I say tooth—of contention for many years. The Calgary project to stop fluoridation showed a 65 per cent rise in cavities after a couple of years. I’m wondering how much effect the food and drink we feed our children has on this rise in cavities. Many children get fruit juice and food products full of sugar, fructose, and ingredients with many other names to hide the word sugar. Many of our health issues are the product of our food and drink intake. —Heather Sinnett, Mississauga, Ont.
Fitting the mould
The May issue of the magazine featured a photo essay looking at the wondrous landscapes formed by bacterial cultures taken from the palettes of the Group of Seven.
Artist Jon Sasaki wonders if the germinated microbiomes of the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson may mirror, in some way, the qualities of those painters (“Germs of inspiration,” Art, May 2021). In Sasaki’s high-resolution photos of bacterial cultures taken from each artist’s studio tools, Thomson’s petri dish is visually singular. His bacterial image shows a significant expanse of blue, a lake-like blue, and the circle in its upper-right corner resembles a tree trunk. Thomson, who died on Canoe Lake, was a noted fisherman and woodsman. Hmm… —Mel Simoneau, Gatineau, Que.
I was interested in your photo spread of microorganisms isolated from the belongings of Canada’s painters, but I was very disappointed in the way these pictures were almost all cavalierly identified as bacteria. As a long-time student of microorganisms, it is apparent to me that most of the organisms isolated are in fact fungi (moulds) and not bacteria at all. This is particularly true of the organisms isolated from Arthur Lismer’s effects, almost all of which are actually fungi, and more particularly members of the genera Penicillium and Aspergillus. —Bryce Kendrick, Sidney, B.C.