Your editorial endorsing the updated guide for immigrant newcomers states that “multiculturalism presumes there is no dominant culture” – and then uses that definition as a foil against the need to justify Canada’s strong stance against practices such as honour killings and spousal abuse (When Something Is Barbaric, Call It Barbaric – April 3).
Few can disagree with the desire to stem the spread of such practices here, however, you directly attribute those practices to foreign “culture and tradition,” not to any other cause, be it abuse of power, extreme poverty, or a host of systemic problems. In countries where such gender-based cruelties are rampant, women – and men – are also often fighting to end them, and for the same reasons that previous generations of Canadians sought to curb practices like spousal abuse.
Rather than being monolithic, “culture” abroad, just as in Canada, is a stew of constantly negotiated norms, laws and opinions. For Canadians to make such reductionist assumptions is demeaning to those who struggle against these unwanted practices, both at home and abroad. That makes us, not them, barbaric in our outlook.
Adam Green, Ottawa
What did I miss?
Lysiane Gagnon says young Justin’s policies are “relatively sound” (The Liberal Brand Is Back (For Now) – April 3). What did I miss? When is hope a policy ?
Dev Randhawa, Kelowna, B.C.
The Kim regime
I’d long suspected that North Korea was playing out a dangerous game inspired by Leonard Wibberley’s Cold War novel The Mouse That Roared, in which the tiny, near-bankrupt Duchy of Grand Fenwick declares war on the U.S. in anticipation of a quick defeat and Marshall Plan-scale postwar generosity (Pyongyang’s Cult Of Orchestrated Paranoia – April 3).
Ian Buruma’s cogent history of the tiny peninsula’s turbulent past makes far more sense, and doesn’t involve the dubious requirement that the Kim regime are avid readers of Western satire.
Michael Lennick, Toronto
Shocked and/or appalled
It’s your editorial The Dark Side Of The Sunshine List (April 2) that is a salacious exercise in “envy, disgruntlement and titillation.” I am on the list for one reason: I work full time, I work at night school, I work in July and August. Is this a crime?
Private-sector employees have been had by bosses who have sent Canadian jobs to Third World sweatshops, shortchanging the average Joe of a decent living. Does the need to “address this disparity” mean that what counts here is the lowest common denominator, where everybody will make minimum wage and live in equal misery, while CEOs earn and accumulate more money than Marie Antoinette?
Now, that is what common folks call “disparity”!
Michel Bencini, Toronto
I submit that you are insufficiently shocked and appalled by the dynamics of the Sunshine List. Yes, the rampant rise in inductees and faster-than-inflation salary growth is of concern, but there are other troubling factors.
The first is an unintended consequence. Taxpayers assume the list’s purpose was to make government transparent and accountable. But what about government employees who use the list to see what co-workers are paid, then demand an increase because “Bob in Human Resources” is making $25,000 more than they are? I don’t think anyone considered that the list itself would contribute to growth in the Sunshine Club or salary inflation. Hence, unintended.
A government employee is paid based on how much education and experience is required to do the job, the amount of responsibility and decision-making and, most importantly in this context, the number of people supervised. Once you are paid based on how many people you supervise, there is a systemic incentive in favour of empire-building.
Unless we start rewarding innovation, service and cost-saving rather than the number of subordinates, we are doomed to watch as the Sunshine membership list continues to defy gravity and private-sector economics.
Stephen Good, Waterloo, Ont.
The last page
The closing of Nicholas Hoare’s last bookstore brought out so many loyal customers because he did more than sell books: He found them (Out Of Print – April 2). Books unmentioned in the press magically appeared in his stores, and invariably turned out to be good reads. Typically, you left carrying not only the book you came in for, but at least one other, on something you’d never thought of reading about.
Who knew, for example, that snails could be so interesting (The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey)? That modern Scandinavian architecture could make such amazing use of light (Nordic Light, by Henry Plummer)? That there was such a great place to buy licorice in Amsterdam? (Quiet Amsterdam, by Siobhan Wall).
His bookstores will be hugely missed.
Anne Thackray, Toronto
Margaret Wente warns that we are risking a genetic catastrophe because of a supposed surge in late childbearing (Old-Age Parenting Is A Bad Idea – Focus, March 30). There is, however, little new about the present rates of older women giving birth. The average age of British mothers is about the same now as it was before and after the Second World War. The percentage of American women 45-plus giving birth was slightly higher in 1945 than 2009. Fertility rates among Canadian women between 40 and 45 peaked, not in the 21st century, but in the 1920s.
The real historic shift came in the 1970s, when the number of older parents declined sharply due, most notably, to the widespread availability of reliable birth control.
Now, as career paths are changing, older parenting is making a comeback. There are, of course, differences. More women are having their first child later, and a very small percentage of women are benefiting from reproductive technology. Some studies suggest greater risks when women give birth later; others demonstrate better long-term outcomes for the children of older parents.
Older women always got pregnant – the difference now is that they have more choice in the matter.
Tori Smith, Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto
Going, uh, forward
Re Funding Ideas Spark Debate (April 3): Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says “it is necessary for us to build transit going forward.” I couldn’t agree more. Transit that goes forward is so much preferable, most of the time, to transit that goes backward. Or perhaps she meant “in the future.” If so, she got that right, too. Building in the past is so much more difficult and probably very expensive.
Patrick Tighe, Petawawa, Ont.