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NDP MP Sana Hassainia walks out of the House of Commons with her baby Skander-Jack as she makes her way to meet with reporters on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. Today’s topics: torture and human rights; Canada and China; petro wealth; babies in the House ... and more (FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS/FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
NDP MP Sana Hassainia walks out of the House of Commons with her baby Skander-Jack as she makes her way to meet with reporters on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. Today’s topics: torture and human rights; Canada and China; petro wealth; babies in the House ... and more (FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS/FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

What readers think

Feb. 11: Letters to the editor Add to ...

Torture, rights

How bizarre that Prime Minister Stephen Harper should choose to raise the issue of human rights in China only a few days after his Public Safety Minister approved, under “exceptional circumstances,” the use of information extracted through torture by foreign intelligence agencies. Good news for Iran, among others.

Laurence Gough, Vancouver

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Canada does not condone torture (Moral Compass? – letters, Feb. 9). We most certainly do not engage in it. This is a fundamentally abhorrent practice, diametrically opposed to Canada’s reputation as a protector of human rights. What we also do not condone is dithering in the face of threats to the lives of Canadians.

Let’s be clear as to what we are talking about. This sort of intelligence would not be used in court and it would not be held against the individual by Canadian authorities. It would be used in an operational context in order to protect Canadian life and property.

Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety

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Cheer up

With Alberta Premier Alison Redford hugging her Finance Minister in one picture on Friday and Toronto Transit Commission Chair Karen Stintz hugging a supporter in another, I’m surprised Stephen Harper wasn’t hugging Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang in that picture (‘Shelving Differences’ The Path To Deals – Feb. 10). Presumably, leaders of countries are more reserved – although it might help international relations if more hugging were seen on your pages. Perhaps we should start a movement.

Peter D. Hambly, Hanover, Ont.

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In troubled times, politicians once took to the airwaves to help ease the people’s pain. New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia read the comics on the radio during a newspaper delivery strike in 1945. When an outbreak of polio in Minneapolis caused the curtailment of newspaper deliveries in 1946, Mayor Hubert Humphrey did the same.

During these days of transit woe, it would be consoling to have Mayor Rob Ford reading to us. He could begin with the wit and wisdom of Stephen Harper’s cat as found in The Globe’s Backbench.

Bill Kummer, Newmarket Ont.

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Leap backward

Stephen Harper has signed a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China that will give Canadian corporations investing in China the right to sue the Chinese government if there is an attempt to improve existing human rights, labour or environmental standards (A Leap Forward By Canada – editorial, Feb. 9). The Canada-China FIPA will, in fact, provide yet another barrier to badly needed reforms in China.

The same deal will give Chinese investors in the Alberta tar sands the right to sue the Canadian government if any new standards are introduced to reduce the current level of environmental damage to water, air and local communities of that industry. It will also give Chinese investors the right to stake a claim to the water they use in these operations.

This investment deal threatens human rights and environmental stewardship in Canada and China and makes it clear that Mr. Harper will put both on the backburner in his role as chief salesman for big business.

Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians

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Rather than a leap forward, it seems more likely that we are trading our birthright for the proverbial mess of pottage, or should that be pandas?

Helen Godfrey, Toronto

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$15-billion? Pathetic

Canada has saved far less from its resource wealth than other resource-rich countries (Alberta’s Resource Miracle Goes Down The Drain – Feb. 10). Alberta’s Heritage Fund, at $15-billion, is 30th in current rankings of sovereign wealth funds. Australia has a Future Fund valued at $73-billion, Alaska has a Permanent Fund valued at $40-billion.

Most noteworthy is Norway’s fund, estimated to be $560-billion, the third-largest sovereign wealth fund in the world (after the UAE and China’s). It is worth comparing with Norway since Canada (the world’s No. 6 producer) produces 40 per cent more oil and has about 25 times the amount of oil reserves.

Norway’s fund is called its “Government Pension Fund,” something Canadians should ponder as our pension entitlements come increasingly under threat. In a recent report, Statistics Canada estimated our natural resource wealth at $1.16-trillion (of which $734-billion in is energy resources, $253-billion is in minerals and $171-billion is in timber).

It seems almost pathetic that we have only managed to save $15-billion of this for the future.

Roy Culpeper, Ottawa

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VDay rebellion

Yes, there is nothing more depressing than shopping the pink and red aisles of Dollarama when you don’t have a special anyone to buy a gift for on the dreaded VDay (I Love Being Single Every Day – Except Valentine’s – Feb. 8). It’s even more depressing to see singles writing in to the paper about it and worse, the advice: Do something special for yourself alone. That’s the last way a single wants to spend Valentine’s Day – alone and depressed.

As for the idea that rebelling against VDay makes you more depressed by doing something like going to an anti-VDay party, I think it’s a healthy psychological action to combat a half-baked Hallmark holiday. Who knows, you might meet someone there.

Alexandra Gelfenbein, Toronto

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Right but wrong

Much as I agree with Mayor Rob Ford that Toronto’s transit future lies in subway travel, the hero of the hour in this dispute is Toronto Transit Commission chair Karen Stintz – and not because she put the brakes on subway building. In a democracy, council is the final authority, not the mayor. To that extent, I agree with your editorial (Underground Notes – Feb. 10). Painful as I find her position, I applaud her for standing up for process.

As someone who has lived in London, Tokyo and Toronto, however, I can’t accept that Mr. Ford is “disproportionately disdainful” of streetcars. There is a difference between moving people and moving them quickly. That’s the difference between transit and rapid transit. The greater the distance, the more important “rapid” becomes.

The right person and the wrong solution carried the day.

Kim Pelletier, Montreal

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Baby love

From the expression on three-month-old Skander-Jack’s face, it’s clear he’d prefer going home to being in the House (Babies Welcome In The House After All – Feb. 9).

Kathleen Barnes, Victoria

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Apropos the named-for-Jack baby scandal on The Hill, it is clear babies and politicians have one major thing in common. Both babble – but only one is adorable while doing it.

Geoff Rytell, Toronto

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