In March, Madeline Li, a cancer psychiatrist who works in end-of-life care, told her story of building expertise in medical assistance in dying—and then confronting the issue when her own mother requested MAiD.
Having watched the suffering of my mother following repeated strokes that led to locked-in syndrome, and that of my younger sister as she died agonizingly from breast cancer, I know there is some suffering that only death can end. There is nothing to be gained by prolonged torment. Medical assistance in dying is about the right to choose not to continue suffering. Those who are suffering know what they need; our task is to listen to them, and to do so with love.
—Sheila Noyes, Thunder Bay, Ont.
Bigger vs. better
In April, Editor-at-Large Sarmishta Subramanian wrote that economic woes to come may not be solely a coronavirus-triggered meltdown. As devastating as the coming recession—or depression—is likely to be, the health crisis is exacerbating problems in a system that was already under strain.
I would like to congratulate Sarmishta Subramanian on her outstanding article about the pursuit of economic expansion. It was clear, informative and, for me, hopeful. Being 80, I will not be around to see any dramatic changes in attitude, but COVID-19 is certainly doing what mankind wouldn’t do. It’s like a bucket of cold water when you are sleeping in on a Sunday morning. It may wake us up. I was delighted to read that author Patricia MacCormack has proposed that the best way to correct the havoc created by population and economic growth was for humans to stop reproducing. My maxim for years has been, if no one had any children, the planet would be human-free in less than 100 years and it could start healing itself. That won’t happen, but one child per family would be just as good. News flash: Ford has just unveiled its 1,400-HP Mustang Cobra Jet electric drag racer prototype. Just what we need.
—Ken Bryden, Vancouver
Openness over suspicion
In April, Senior Writer Paul Wells wrote that openness and trust were fraying before COVID-19—and the damage done to this world view is certain to last.
I would like to thank Paul Wells for his thoughtful piece about how the coronavirus pandemic is fraying trust. Here in Nova Scotia, we have also witnessed a disconcerting scenario where a deranged individual disguised as a member of one of our most trusted institutions, the RCMP, committed the worst mass killing in Canadian history. One can imagine the potential for mistrust that could generate. Amid that, just yesterday afternoon a CN employee paid a courtesy visit to our home to mention that the rail tracks that run through our local roadway need maintenance and that the road would be closed for several hours. After the brief visit, my wife said isn’t it ironic that we had no qualms about chatting with an official stranger given these times.
—John Godley, Enfield, N.S.
Fleeing Trump country
In April, Contributing Editor Stephen Maher wrote about his 2,400-km escape from Florida. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, the beaches were open, people filled bars, and many just couldn’t seem to grasp ‘why everyone is panicking.’
While I believe that Stephen Maher’s depiction of Florida residents both politically and demographically is spot-on, it makes me wonder why it took a global pandemic to make him understand the state. Florida has been like this for most of my 62 years. Do I understand why snowbirds exist? Yes, of course—my husband and I are among them. But why has Maher awoken to these facts only with the arrival of a pandemic. What I am getting at is this: If you find the need to be a snowbird, choose a community that shares your values and not one that only cares if you’re there because of your monetary investment.
—Gregg Tosello, Montreal
I was appalled by Maher’s article on driving back to Canada from crowded Gulf Coast beaches. Rather than wasting three pages on his America-bashing, he could have done it in two paragraphs. If Maher dislikes the U.S. way of life so much, why does he go there? I would suggest he stay home next winter and spend his time fixing the problems we have in Canada. He states that Canadians are divided, but our divisions are comparatively “trifling.” Obviously Maher has no clue what goes on in Western Canada, as seems to be the norm for easterners. Did he ever wonder why the Liberals didn’t elect a single member in Alberta or Saskatchewan, or why Wexit has become a registered political party in Western Canada? While I don’t believe Wexit will gain much traction, it does show that there are serious divisional problems in this country. Let’s work on getting these problems fixed before we go about bad-mouthing other countries with a self-righteous attitude.
—Wayne Stockton, Regina
Just a note to say thank you for “Escape from Florida.” I’ve shared it with my extended family to read. Maher was able to articulate in very clear, real terms how I and many Canadians feel. This is not about feeling smug or hating the U.S. It is about understanding how we as Canadians feel and behave as a society and appreciating how fortunate we are. Thank you for that. Keep up the great work!
—Chris Burke, Mississauga, Ont.
In April, a team of Maclean’s writers—Aaron Hutchins, Marie-Danielle Smith, Jason Markusoff, Nick Taylor-Vaisey and Christina Gonzales—wrote the print magazine’s nine-part cover story about a nation under lockdown.
Now that we’re all battening down the hatches as COVID-19 courses toward uncharted waters and billions upon billions are spent with untold billions more promised by the time this reaches readers, would it not be comforting to have the Northern Gateway, Energy East and Trans Mountain pipelines in place? Even rock-bottom oil prices would still fetch billions from thirsty Asian markets to restock our coffers. Let’s be realistic about oil, which is used in thousands of products beyond gasoline, diesel and jet fuel—hello, asphalt! Gravel roads, anyone? Even wind turbines and solar panels cannot be manufactured, transported or constructed without petrochemicals. On a peripheral, but quite intertwined, matter, let’s take a quick look at “hereditary” chiefs wielding absolute power. Those characters were long ago consigned to the dust heap of history in all modern developed nations. Even our beloved hereditary chief Lizzie II or her representative in Canada can only advise the prime minister of the day. The latter and the elected members of Parliament make all of our laws. As for our friends in the nearby Excited States, they got rid of their hereditary chief, Georgie-Porgie III, in the Revolution of 1775 to 1783. Just sayin’.
—Rani-Villem Palo, Camrose, Alta.
In April, Editor-at-Large Scott Gilmore wrote that for too many Canadians out in the world in normal times, Ottawa’s duty of care includes concierge travel-agency services. But these are not normal times.
I agree with Scott Gilmore. It has bothered me for many years that people who have a Canadian passport but live in another country think they are entitled to a taxi ride to Canada when difficulties arise. When things fall apart, they believe we have a duty to bring them back. I disagree. The qualifier should be residency. Any citizen who is a resident of Canada should be accommodated. I believe this should also include permanent residents who are on their way to becoming citizens and live in Canada. If people are Canadian citizens residing in another country—excluding those who are working abroad for our government—they should not be entitled to a ride home. No one should be allowed to call upon their citizenship as a matter of convenience.
—Rob Williams, Parksville, B.C.
In February, Editor-at-Large Jason Kirby wrote about Tim Hortons, the Brazilian coffee chain that lost its grip on Canadian coffee drinkers but wants to be Canadian again.
With all of the worrisome news rolling about, I’m embarrassed to find myself wanting to respond to this article about Tims. But as a proud Canadian, supportive of any and all things Canuck, I shall not be hauling my buns down to a place I used to love, just because they finally made their cup lid functional or plan to slap a maple leaf onto posters and products. Nope. I avoid Tims now because of a chicken sandwich. I ordered a Tims chicken sandwich about a year ago and I ate it because it was paid for and I was hungry. What went down was a tasteless, processed, rubbery assortment of elongated meat-like strips accompanied by a lettuce-like material and some sauce. The bread was identifiable. With this came a cup of watery brew that at one time would definitely have been coffee. I took this as a sign that the once-iconic hangout for friends, families, seniors and travellers of all stripes was now scoring with shareholders by delivering dreck. It didn’t take long for folks to notice. These days, I drive by Tims, knowing there are better options—one of which is McDonald’s. They have great coffee. So, folks, your plummeting profits have nothing to do with “Canada” and everything to do with quality.
—Lynn Johnston, Vancouver
Of fur and animals
In April, Assistant Editor Nadine Yousif wrote about how windling demand and the failure of a key fur auction have pushed northern trappers to the brink.
I wanted to write to advocate for the animals referenced in the article on the trapping industry. I respect the people who make their living as trappers and recognize that they have few other options for making money. I understand that this is a strong tradition and it would be a cultural loss. However, as a veterinarian, I feel that I must speak out for the animals. I am disappointed that the article made no mention of the suffering that is inherent in this practice. Trapping involves the capture of wild animals with neck snares, which strangle the animals as they struggle to escape, or leghold traps that snap shut on a leg and hold the animal in place until they starve, freeze to death or are dispatched by the trapper. These animals die in significant physical and psychological distress. The practice of harvesting animals for fashion should no longer be acceptable in today’s world. Instead, we should be looking for ways for people to make a living from the wilderness and use their survival skills that do not involve the pain and suffering of animals.
—Janet Jones, Jasper, Alta.
Hearts and minds
In March, Rosemary Counter wrote that even though nine in 10 Canadians say they support organ donation, fewer than one in ﬁve has registered. A Scarborough, Ont. group is trying to make a difference—and it’s working.
There are more than 4,000 Canadians on waiting lists for transplants (“Have a heart?” Ontario, April 2020). Many will die while waiting. Many are children. In light of the shortage of organs for transplantation in Canada, it is now time for all jurisdictions, following Nova Scotia’s lead, to implement or at least consider a presumed consent or “opt-out” donation program, to increase the country’s annual organ yield. Under a presumed consent program, the organs of any dead citizen would automatically be considered donation-worthy, unless the deceased had registered their objection while alive. The reality is that most people do not really understand what presumed consent is. Some, I sense, construe it as government essentially telling people what to do, which a large part of the population resents. That said, I think it is again time for policy-makers and citizens not only in Ontario but right across Canada to discuss and reference it as part of the solution to the transplantation crisis. A good start would be to use the term “default to donation,” coined by New York University bioethics professor Art Caplan, to try to get away from the misunderstanding of presuming anything about anyone’s consent. Another tool in the tool box.
—Emile Therien, Ottawa