Letters: More Chris Hadfield, less Rob Ford, please

Maclean's readers have lots to say about the top newsmakers of 2013

Photo by Christopher Wahl

More Hadfield, less Ford, please

Chris Hadfield definitely deserved to be one of your year’s top newsmakers (“Our man in space,” Newsmakers, Dec. 16). No doubt untold numbers of children who have followed his flight will be turned on to studying science and physics in school, and perhaps be inspired to follow Chris’s lead into space exploration. He has demonstrated to children and adults alike that a scientist and astronaut can be not only very intelligent, but also have a sense of humour, be an extrovert, a musician and a humble human being.

Jeanene K. Donovan, Mississauga, Ont.

I find it a bit ironic that the most predominant face on your Dec. 16 Newsmakers cover is that of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Almost as an afterthought on the right, there is Chris Hadfield. It speaks volumes about the media, but not much about us readers.

Robert Nesbitt, Hamilton

Interesting that Maclean’s paid no attention to the death of a great Canadian (The End, Dec. 16): H. Clifford Chadderton, former reporter, wounded soldier, the long-serving CEO of the War Amps and champion of the handicapped.

Mac Savage, Surrey, B.C.

Give Khadr’s millions to the vets

Omar Khadr is suing the Canadian government for between $20 million and $60 million (“The $60-million man?” National, Dec. 16), supposedly because someone violated his constitutional rights as a Canadian—rights that he willingly abandoned when he and his family rejected Canada, moved to Afghanistan and took up arms against our soldiers and our allies. What an insult to our brave military personnel who willingly went to Afghanistan to rid the world of people like this. They came back dead, physically or mentally disabled, and now have to somehow make a life back here in the face of continuing government cutbacks in services to disabled veterans. Meanwhile, their enemy is now suing us for the terrible treatment he somehow thinks we have inflicted on him. What a mockery of justice and decency if this is allowed to proceed. If anyone deserves $20 million or $60 million, it is our vets.

J. Trevor Leathem, Oakville, Ont.

Too small for comfort

Airplane seats are too small already and the spaces between them too short for comfort (“Fly the cramped skies,” Business, Dec. 16). Because there is no elbow room at all, the only way you can eat comfortably is if you use a straw. During the last several flights I’ve taken, I’ve experienced a lot of knee pain, because the seat in front was pressing on my knees constantly. I am of average height and don’t have extra-long legs and I am very uncomfortable already, and they want to make the seats smaller and put them closer? Those experiences have made me choose not to ever fly Air Canada again and now I am considering whether it’s worth flying at all.

Teodora Vladinski, Richmond, B.C.

No (far) right way

The article “Rise of the far right” (International, Dec. 16) is very informative and worrying. I am concerned about the loss of European cultures and, eventually, ours in North America, as well as the loss of freedoms and democracies under religious rule. I also fear the rise of the far right as the only solution to preserving cultures, freedoms and democracies.

Brian Mellor, Picton, Ont.

The people who really count

You bill your “Power List” (Dec. 2) as “the 50 people who really run the country.” More than 40 of those listed are politicians, public servants and business leaders. It is painful to see that the educator, the scientist, the environmentalist, the visionary and the humanitarian rarely have influence, let alone power, in the Canada that has come to be. Shame.

Susan Samila, Perth, Ont.

In the “By the numbers” section of the 50 most important people, there are two telling and sad statistics. The list includes 34 people from politics, business and regulatory agencies, and only four from health and education. Unless this ratio is drastically modified, the country is going to get sicker and dumber.

Henno Lattik, Montreal

The sub-headline on the cover of your “Power Issue” read, “From politics and business to sports and the arts, the people who really matter.” I know what you were trying to say, but the people who really matter in this country are its citizens, not the people of influence who are featured in this issue.

Louis Barbeau, Victoria

Pro-environment, anti-human?

If environmentalism has failed in its efforts to have climate change tackled more aggressively, perhaps David Suzuki and his cohort (“The nature of David,” National, Nov. 25) should consider that the environmental establishment spends an inordinate amount of time and energy opposing such things as aquaculture, the responsible use of pesticides and the use of genetically modified crops to help feed people. They find evil in all things corporate, which is a turnoff for the large number of people who work in corporate jobs, many with a mandate to ensure that their company behaves in an environmentally responsible manner. This focus on the (big bad) producers rather than the users ignores the reality that, where there is a demand, the supply will follow. In general, they seem more intent on fixing the blame for climate change rather than fixing the problem. All of their good intentions and considerable energy and resources could be put to much better use by searching out practical ways to reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Robert Jeppesen, Stratford, Ont.

David Suzuki has dedicated his life to making the world a better place. His moral compass has been pointed in the right direction and he has worked tirelessly to create a broader awareness about humankind’s relationship with nature. Yet in the media, bullying seems to get as much or more coverage than environmental issues. Your description of Ezra Levant’s treatment of David Suzuki is certainly another example. Who is a better role model for our children: David Suzuki or Ezra Levant? The answer is obvious. Despite the lack of progress on climate change, Suzuki has made a difference in my life and the lives of millions. I will always regard him as a role model and a leader. Thanks, David: You’ve inspired me to help make the world a better place.

Glenn Wright, Vanscoy, Sask.

David Suzuki laments that his message for four decades isn’t getting through. That’s because they don’t go far enough. Showing starving polar bears and denuded forests won’t do it. The dominant message should be that planet Earth is finite, and endless increasing growth is impossible, ending in human extinction. The planet is the host and the human species is one of many parasites that are a plague. Already nature is getting revenge by bankrupting and wiping out humans with more and bigger environmental catastrophes.

Robert Cichocki, Kelowna, B.C.

While we can all applaud the consciousness-raising that environmentalism has achieved, it sometimes presents these days as self-righteous, anti-development and occasionally even anti-human. Is the economy becoming imperilled by constant opposition from environmental groups to almost all plans for major development projects? Poverty is the greatest enemy of the environment. A wealthy economy generates the money needed for important social needs such as health care, education and social services. It is this crucial balance between environment and economy that may be the source of environmentalism’s fall from grace.

Wayne Joseph Kelly, Courtenay, B.C.

The obligation to talk

In his review of John DeMont’s book, A Good Day’s Work: In Pursuit of a Disappearing Canada, Brian Bethune reports that DeMont, a Halifax writer and journalist, was unable to interview a Canadian lighthouse keeper for his book on dwindling professions (Books, Nov. 25). The Canadian Coast Guard allegedly forbade its remaining lighthouse keepers from talking to DeMont, on the grounds that it wanted to dodge the unpopular topic of automation. If true, this is an appalling state of affairs. Successive governments in recent decades developed sophisticated systems of trained spokespeople and approved talking points, so that public servants could choose the right words and avoid risk. Under Stephen Harper, however, it’s no longer about media management; it’s about muzzling the public service altogether. That the work of journalists and authors is made a little more difficult is one unfortunate consequence of this paranoid policy. It also chokes off government workers’ rights to free speech. But the real cost is borne by the public. As taxpayers, we pay the salaries of these lighthouse keepers, as well as of their bosses at the Coast Guard. If we have questions about their work, their job is to answer them. Communicating with us is not their prerogative; it’s their obligation.

Nicole Baer, Ottawa

Hungarians’ contributions

In her article on Canada’s granting of political asylum to Hungarian writer Ákos Kertész (“A far-right turn,” International, Nov. 25) Anna Porter did not cite his full statement, which he made in February 2012: “The Hungarian is genetically subservient?.?.?.?he can neither learn, nor work, nor does he want to. The only thing he is capable of is envy, and if there is any way (to do so), he is ready to kill the one who amounted to something by way of work, study and innovations.” These statements are deeply offensive and bizarre, and the achievements of Canadian-Hungarians prove Kertész wrong: The nearly 40,000 Hungarian refugees accepted by Canada in 1956-57, and their descendants, became one of the most successful waves of immigrants to this country, providing numerous scientists, engineers, doctors, artists, businesspeople and other productive citizens and nation-builders. Although we condemn the physical attacks on Kertész, we also condemn any racial or ethnic discrimination against any group or people. Therefore, we remain perplexed of the decision by Canada to grant asylum to Kertész.

Daniel Feszty and the board of directors of the National Alliance of Hungarians in Canada, Ottawa