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A survivor from what activists say is a gas attack rests inside a mosque in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013. (© Stringer . / Reuters)
A survivor from what activists say is a gas attack rests inside a mosque in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013. (© Stringer . / Reuters)

WHAT READERS THINK

Aug. 27: Who’s ‘too late’ in Syria? Plus other letters to the editor Add to ...

Who’s ‘too late’?

Re U.S. Says Syrian Offer Of UN Access ‘Too Late’ (Aug. 26): It’s somewhat absurd threatening military intervention in Syria over a few hundred alleged chemical weapon deaths when conventional weapons may have killed 100,000. Try banning bullets, shells and bombs.

Rod Matthews, Melbourne, Australia

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Too-short history

My reading of Saturday’s Folio (Crisis In Syria – Aug. 24) ground to a halt when I came to the short history of chemical weapons. The threat of poison gas never materialized during the Second World War? I cannot fathom the logic of excluding mention of Zyklon B as a weapon of mass destruction.

Julie Hughes, Ottawa

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Before the deluge

Re After The Deluge, Flood Politics (Aug. 26): There is a role for government to provide compassionate assistance in the event of disaster, but it should be assistance – not a free pass.

People who purchase property on low-lying land adjacent to waterways are aware of the risk and should shoulder the majority of the cost in the event of flooding. To argue, as some have, that the disaster is the government’s fault for allowing people to build in these locations is a denial of their own agency.

Jonathan Skrimshire, Pincher Creek, Alta.

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Reserve ennui

Ennui on a reserve (How I Came Face To Face With Ennui On A Reserve – Aug. 24)? It’s called the status quo.

Richard Wagamese blames the Indian Act for the lack of motivation and action on most reserves. He’s right, but it’s not just “Ottawa” that’s to blame. The chiefs also have a huge stake in preserving the act because it is the mechanism which allows unaccounted-for billions to flow every year to native communities.

Protestations to the contrary, neither chiefs nor bureaucrats sincerely want anything to change – much to the detriment of both the Canadian taxpayer, who foots the bill, and those who live in squalor on an average northern reserve.

Nancy Marley-Clarke, Calgary

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Mr. Wagamese’s diagnosis of ennui is insightful and interesting but he may have stacked the deck against meaningful engagement by spending just 10 days in the community. For a lot of northern kids, the summer months are shot through with ephemeral visits from southerners who profess to have remedies for their spiritual and educational deficiencies.

This is clearest in the case of the ubiquitous week-long evangelical Bible camps that descend on reserves, but the lesson readily applies to art workshops, too: If you aren’t willing to stick around or come back for a few years in a row, how are we supposed to collaborate with you and trust you? Like everywhere else, building relationships is important in the North – and it is not something that happens instantaneously.

Organizations like Frontier College have tried to combat the short-term interventionist trend by sending literacy councillors to reserves for a month at a time and returning them there year after year – but ennui is not something defeated in 10 days or even 10 summers.

Mark Dance, Ottawa

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The battle against the kind of debilitating ennui will only start to be won if we accept that it is reserves themselves that cause it.

Native children and their parents should be living in our Canadian small-town and urban neighbourhoods. They should be going to public schools with Canadian children of all other races and creeds, not to natives-only schools on reserves.

Only in this multicultural and yes, “assimilating” social environment, will they be stimulated to create, improve and succeed, both in school and in life itself.

Talented people like Mr. Wagamese are living examples of the fact that any aboriginal Canadian can successfully self-identify as an aboriginal, a Canadian and a person of the world, and can succeed without the crutches of reservations, the Indian Act and race-based laws, just like Canadians from any other background.

Peter Best, Sudbury

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MLK’s dream

Re His ‘North Star’ Got The Message (Focus – Aug. 24):

I recently spent a week in Philadelphia, walking the streets, eating in restaurants and visiting cultural high points. People both white and black were everywhere but not once did I see a couple or a group that was racially mixed. In contrast, one has only to spend a single day in Toronto to witness that Martin Luther King’s “dream” is visibly alive here.

Marion Dorosh, Toronto

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Just be children

Re What Did You Do Last Summer? (Focus – Aug. 24):

Like anyone else, children need time off to unwind and just be children for a while. Otherwise, they burn out. Time off allows kids to “blue sky,” which is what makes us imaginative and competitive in the world. If students forget academic material over the summer, I suspect it’s because they haven’t been taught effectively in the first place. I can’t help but wonder whether all-year schooling is just a poor substitute for daycare, arising from the desires of guilt-ridden parents.

David Holmgren, Calgary

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Fettered

I will not defend the rigorous control of media access to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but Li Xuejiang of the People’s Daily should not have unfettered access to ask questions of him (Tour Ends With Tussle Involving Chinese Reporter – Aug. 24).

Mr. Li was on a state-sponsored mission to influence Canadian policy. Perhaps when China gives Canadian media unfettered access to their head of state, Canada could do the same.

David Graham, Kelowna, B.C.

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A ruling party that carefully manages its messages, limits the number of journalists’ questions and refuses to answer questions it doesn’t like. Welcome to Canada, Mr. Li – it must seem like a home away from home.

Glenda Morris, Lindsay, Ont.

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Food for thought

The possible food poisoning from a “Cronut burger” at the Canadian National Exhibition should make us all pause before we open our gobs and insert a mystery meat puck sandwiched between two deep-fried sugar wads (Tests Confirm Cronut Burgers Sickened 150 CNE Patrons – Aug. 24).

The fact that people literally got sick from eating such a sad mess of gastronomy is regrettable – no one wants their family outing ruined by food poisoning, which can be very serious indeed. It might be food for thought for the rest of us: If it sounds like it’ll make you sick, it probably will.

Catherine Brennan, Toronto

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