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Trial judges will have to consider if fairness would be compromised if a witness were to testify wearing a niqab. (REUTERS)
Trial judges will have to consider if fairness would be compromised if a witness were to testify wearing a niqab. (REUTERS)

What readers think

Dec. 22: Dressed for court, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Dressed for court

For witnesses to be credible, they have to be able to express themselves authentically. They must be who they really are. Someone whose face is always covered in public may not provide the same facial responses when removing the niqab as someone who does not wear it in the first place (A Flawed Attempt At Balance – editorial, Dec. 21). It is also possible that being obliged to remove it will elicit facial cues more responsive to the discomfort of being bare-faced in public than to the issue being tried before the court.

When assessing whether to allow a witness to testify with the niqab, we must be careful not to put the niqab itself on trial. That is a matter for the court of public opinion.

Howard M. Greenfield, Montreal

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Muslims and civil rights advocates have been vigilant in recent years in protesting any prejudices against Muslims, such as suspicion of terrorism or racial profiling. However, in recent weeks Muslims have twice gone to the Supreme Court to demand privileges based upon their religion: that a patient be kept “alive” indefinitely on life support because their religion demands it, and now to wear a mask in court because the person is religiously devout.

I used to think I knew what discrimination is/was, but now I am massively uncertain.

Ian Guthrie, Ottawa

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Allowing the niqab will encourage courts to focus on what is said, not on the accompanying facial expressions. We manage perfectly well when listening to someone on the radio or phone.

Michael Wills, Toronto

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Medicare’s challenge

I am one of two surviving members of a small committee in Saskatchewan which, from 1959 until 1962, advised cabinet on medicare and drafted the initial and revised versions of the Medical Care Act (The Anniversary That Wasn’t: Medicare At 50 – Dec. 19). Jeffrey Simpson makes an important contribution to the history of the final stages of the processes in his tribute to Woodrow Lloyd, who played a crucial and courageous role in the last chapters of the dispute between the government and the doctors, and its settlement.

I smiled when Mr. Simpson referred to Tommy Douglas as not only the father of medicare but a fiscally prudent premier. He was fiscally prudent, but in policy and operational terms it was Clarence Fines who was responsible for the excellent financial record. They made an excellent team: Douglas, the great humanitarian policy leader; Fines, the fiscal and administration core of the government.

The challenge is to extend the vision to areas such as pharmacare, and to community clinics as core institutions in building healthy communities that take into account the social indicators of health beyond the purely medical.

Meyer Brownstone, Toronto

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Wrong rescue

Thousands of animals are in cages in shelters, many on the equivalent of death row. Darwin the monkey was well loved and cared for, yet a government service, supposedly concerned with his welfare, wants to remove him from his home (Owner Of Darwin The IKEA Monkey Says She’s Not Interested In Sanctuary Visits – Dec. 21). The resources expended on “rescuing” this animal from a good home could be put to better use finding homes for animals in shelters.

Ken Johnston, Victoria

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Sex for sale

The Globe’s editorial on the Oppal inquiry (The Law Ought To Preserve Life – Dec. 20) points out that “marginalization undermines equality before the law, including the right to the law’s protection.” How true! Had these women been from Vancouver’s west side, there would have been a greater public outcry. Not just the police failed these women, we all did. Human life is of great value, no matter the postal code.

Canadian laws around prostitution are ambiguous and serve no one well. Parliament needs to craft laws that would truly protect vulnerable, marginalized women. I hope Ottawa will consider the success of countries that have built laws around the Nordic model that began in Sweden: Because of its great track record, Norway and Iceland have followed suit; France, Ireland and Israel are giving it serious consideration.

What is the Nordic model? In short, it’s a preventative model that emphasizes that prostitution is violence against women, an affront to gender equality, and targets economically, racially or ethnically marginalized women. This model of law targets men’s demand for sexual services. Those who purchase or attempt to purchase a sexual service are prosecuted, while those exploited for prostitution are not criminalized or penalized, but rather offered exit services.

Glendyne Gerrard, director, Defend Dignity; Regina

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What guns do

So, the NRA is going to offer their usual “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” kinds of arguments: It’s the “deranged shooter” (NRA Unlikely To Make Concessions In Wake Of Sandy Hook – Dec. 21).

The evening before the Newtown massacre, Michigan legislators overwhelmingly passed a bill allowing the carrying of concealed weapons in schools, daycare centres and churches. If they agree the deranged should be prohibited from owning guns, presumably this includes the sociopaths who dreamed up this legislation, those who voted for it, and the supporters of the NRA gun lobby advocating for this whose power “lies with their core members and their base.”

Robert Assaly, Montreal

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Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Corollary: People with guns kill more people than people without guns.

Paul Kavanagh, Ottawa

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My sister and I grew up in a family with guns. We have a photo of our dad as a constable in the Hamilton police force, holding a shotgun at a roadblock, looking for the notorious Edwin Alonzo Boyd. We recall many occasions when dad, by then a detective, strapped on his revolver and put on his suit jacket as he headed out on a case. He ended his career as a police chief and Ontario Police Commission adviser.

He spent his life, from an 18-year-old in the Second World War until he retired, with and around guns. Upon retirement, he handed in his revolver. His response to a friend who questioned his decision, since he was entitled to keep it, was: “Why would I want a handgun? They are meant to kill people.”

Well said.

Gord Osmond, Paris, Ont.

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Several years ago, in our native Saskatchewan, the local CBC station ran a contest. You were to describe the differences between Canada and U.S. The winner was: In the United States, “gun control” means using two hands.

Barbara Shea, Ottawa

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