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Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is on a hunger strike, asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (FRED CHARTRAND)
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is on a hunger strike, asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (FRED CHARTRAND)

What readers think

Dec. 28: A chief’s hunger strike, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Meet, don’t meet

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Christmas message of Canada as a place of “bright hope” rings hollow in light of his refusal to meet with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to discuss improving the plight of her community and aboriginal communities across Canada (As Protests Swell, Spence Stands Firm On Hunger Strike – Dec. 27).

 If he lets Chief Spence die as a result of her hunger strike, he will provoke a reaction that will shake this land. Mr. Harper needs to show true leadership and act on behalf of a Canada that treats all of its communities with respect, and demonstrates recognition of their inherent rights.

That is the least he can do.

Don Kossick, Saskatoon

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With all due respect to former Ontario lieutenant-governor James Bartleman (Spence And Harper – letters, Dec. 27), the last thing the Prime Minister should do is meet with Chief Theresa Spence. Rather than engaging in this cheap publicity stunt, Ms. Spence needs to end her hunger strike, show some leadership and work to fix the problems of Attawapiskat, which has received more than $90-million in taxpayers’ money since 2006.

Curt Shalapata, Oshawa, Ont.

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History’s details

In her report on the former Canadian Museum of Civilization (‘The Devil Is In The Details’ – Life & Arts, Dec. 17), Kate Taylor writes: “The iconic exhibits of first nations material … much more than the history collection, represent the institution’s real bench strength.” The first nations exhibits, we are told, will not be touched.

One fears the potential of the new approach to produce a mythologized account of Canada as an officially bilingual bastion of British parliamentary democracy, planted at the northern end of the Western Hemisphere and nurtured by white men of grit with the determination to quell the natives and subdue the wilderness. This is counter to an alternate reading of Canada as a post-colonial settler state, premised on the dispossession of its indigenous peoples, and the non-sustainable exploitation of resources.

As a native Canadian whose family, over many generations, has lived the effects of the Great Man approach to the Canadian narrative, and the official and public attitude to native peoples that such thinking engenders, I cannot abide by the former interpretation and, barring implementation of something more inclined toward the latter, I am concerned about the fate of the museum’s first nations collections and research program.

John Moses, Delaware band, Six Nations of the Grand River, Ottawa

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As the director of a small historical B.C. museum, I can attest to the challenges of representing history. But I disagree that the choice of what to exhibit is between political and military events, or social and multicultural history. These themes are intertwined, certainly at the national level but also in the hinterland. It’s a question of scale.

We are planning a new community museum in the southern Okanagan and the same decisions need to be made here: What stories of our area are important to represent? A museum is an educational resource that, like a history textbook, is necessarily selective about what stories it chooses to tell based on its mandate and size.

I believe the newly branded national museum can tell stories in a pan-Canadian way. The museum can and should create a balanced view of our country’s past, including the history of aboriginal peoples.

Our perspective does alter over time, so, naturally, the museum will be transformed in the future in order to keep pace with our changing society. It is to be hoped that the Canadian Museum of History will live up to its new name and truly represent what is important to the country as a whole.

Ken Favrholdt, executive director/curator, Osoyoos and District Museum and Archives

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Safety, not paranoia

I have two daughters in grade school; one is the age of the victims at Sandy Hook. When I first read of that tragedy, I can assure you my sense of grief and outrage was coloured and amplified by the feelings I have for my girls. I want them to be safe. Every parent wants that.

However, I don’t want them to grow up in fear and with a fortress mentality (McGuinty’s Locked-Door Policy Acquiesces To Unfounded Fears – Dec. 27). My daughters already practise “lockdown” drills at their school. They don’t fully appreciate the awful reason for this, but I do.

I don’t want my provincial government making a decision without any public consultation that will add very little to children’s security – but will most certainly create an atmosphere of increased mistrust and paranoia.

Charles Pick, Kingston

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Whose mistakes?

Your report that “the rules governing mortgage insurance were relaxed” (Canada’s $800,000,000,000 Housing Problem – Report on Business, Dec. 27). It was Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and the Conservatives who did the “relaxing” in the first place. The real story here is that the Conservatives loosened mortgage rules – and have been spending the years since rectifying their mistakes.

Kate Lawson, Kitchener, Ont.

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What to cut

Efficiency is about doing well what you are supposed to be doing. If universities stopped obsessing about job training and went back to providing education, the areas to cut would be obvious (Survival Of The Fittest – Dec. 26). The underfunded college system would finally get enough money to address its waiting lists for all the technical programs from which graduates are most needed for the existing jobs in Canada’s economy.

Peter Denton, Winnipeg

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Time’s march

At first, I thought that Prof. Peter Singer’s article about treating aging as a preventable condition was a spoof (Should We Live To 1,000? – Dec. 27). Isn’t it good news that 90 per cent of people in developing countries will die of old age? A life span of 80 or 85 years, relatively free of hunger, misery or trauma is something that our ancestors would have envied.

We should focus on making the most of our considerable years – or better yet, on addressing the many real problems that lower that quality of life for others.

Margaret Werniuk, Toronto

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Beards of the season

Somewhere in my early 20s, I quit shaving. Why bother? Who cares? I’ll miss the bus. Etc. (Social Studies – Dec. 23).

Then, somewhere in my 50s, I decided to shave off my beard as a prank. Guess what? I discovered a double chin. Haven’t had a clean shave since.

Sebastian Grunstra, Ottawa

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