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York University: Should religious belief justify gender segregation in university classrooms? (FERNANCO MORALES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
York University: Should religious belief justify gender segregation in university classrooms? (FERNANCO MORALES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

WHAT READERS THINK

Jan. 13: Protect all freedoms, not just those in the mainstream – and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Protect all freedoms

Re York Defends Response To Religious Request (Jan. 10): The outcry over a student’s request for religious accommodation is overstated; as long as freedom of religion remains enshrined in our Charter, religious extremists will have a constitutional leg to stand on in making sexist, homophobic etc. requests for accommodation.

Protecting freedoms isn’t just limited to the ones supported in mainstream society.

Sam Perlmutter, Richmond Hill, Ont.

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A York University student asks not to participate in a situation where he must interact with female peers. You report that the request “highlights a tension that arises when asserting one person’s rights collides with those of another and the two must be made to co-exist.” Why is this even open for discussion?

Our fundamental concept of gender equality, at least in the public domain, must overrule personal beliefs. With this student’s attitude toward women, he should be unemployable here.

J.T. Reid, Oakville, Ont.

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Cowed bureaucrats?

Re Renewal For Our Cowed, Bloated Bureaucracy (Jan. 7): Lawrence Martin identifies a few heroically independent individuals in the senior civil service, others he calls “lily hearted.” But if everyone who isn’t heroic in the civil service is to be criticized, there will be no end to criticism anywhere.

Realistically, the decline of independence in the civil service lies in shifting institutional forces that no amount of heroism can reverse.

Recent governments have preferred to promote political agendas rather than address the crumbling tradition whereby the government of the day could expect protected civil servants to develop and criticize programs governments were elected to implement.

Beyond scapegoating and simplistic calls to cut the fat, until we address this issue we will see more programs subject to less independent analysis, an outcome that ought to concern elected officials and citizens alike.

John Duncan, Toronto

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What Sylvie Therrien did is not whistle-blowing. There are no so-called “quotas” for Employment Insurance fraud, and Service Canada employees are not subject to consequences for failing to meet any such “quotas.”

Ms. Therrien was employed as an Employment Insurance Integrity Officer. As all responsible organizations do, Service Canada sets objectives to help determine how employees and resources should be allocated. Contrary to Ms. Therrien’s assertions, the process of setting objectives for EI integrity has been in place for decades and has not changed.

If any government employee feels compelled to disclose serious wrongdoing in the workplace, they can do so under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, which gives federal public sector and other employees a safe, confidential disclosure process and protects them from retaliation. She instead went directly to the media.

The EI program’s sound management practices cannot be described as wrongdoing. Over the past fiscal year, the department’s integrity services have helped save $634-million in incorrect or fraudulent payments of EI ($438-million), Canada Pension Plan ($74-million) and Old Age Security ($122-million) benefits.

James Gilbert, assistant deputy minister, Public Affairs and Stakeholder Relations, Employment and Social Development Canada

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Just one taxpayer

Re City To Ask For Help With Ice Storm Costs (Jan. 10): “We need some provincial and federal help. We cannot put this on the backs of the taxpayers,” says Toronto’s mayor-in-name-only Rob Ford. And the provincial and federal governments would get that money where?

If Mr. Ford had spent money cutting trees and not taxes, maybe he wouldn’t have the problem he does. And that’s just the tip of the ice storm. Ditto other critical infrastructure. Roads, bridges, sewers, transit.

Pay me now or pay me later becomes Ford Nation savings today and the rest of the nation pays tomorrow? Just for the record, this taxpayer doesn’t want the bills on my back, either.

David Wills, Kingston

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End the stigma of addiction

Re A Life Consumed, A Death Unexplained (Facts & Arguments, Jan. 8): I had an older brother, Hymie (which means life in Hebrew), whom I loved more than anyone, who fell under the spell of narcotics. He and his lover overdosed 42 years ago on a snowy Laurentian weekend.

He lived a heroic life by co-founding and serving as a physician in Clinique Populaire de St. Henri, which offered free medical services to low-income residents. Unfortunately, heroes do not accept help, however sincere, from kid brothers. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him.

What more could I, family and friends have done to prevent this heart-wrenching tragedy?

The answer is nothing. Addiction is a titanic struggle conducted in the innermost recesses of the psyche. What would help is to treat it as a mental-health issue instead of as a character flaw.

When my hand was injured, I didn’t reflect on my moral failings but went to a doctor, got help and my infection cleared up. Had I felt guilty, I’d have delayed and lost the arm, perhaps my life. Addicts should have the same immediate option to seek treatment.

It is tempting when tragedy strikes to scapegoat someone, often the victim, as a way of dealing with the grief and fear.

Accepting addiction as a mental health issue would make it easier for addicts to seek help. Admitting one cannot deal with a problem on his own can be as heroic a feat as helping others deal with theirs. We must end this stigma around mental health issues.

Moses Shuldiner, Toronto

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Kids and divorce

Re Divorce Is Rarely A Good Thing – Especially For Children (Life & Arts, Jan. 10): Having experienced this difficult part of life’s journey, I felt myself repeatedly saying “yes” while reading this article; anyone considering the dissolving of a relationship that includes children would do well to read it.

Yes, “divorce sucks for children.” But I appreciate the balance that Leah McLaren has given when she says “there is no law that says you must always put your kids’ needs ahead of your own … sometimes change is a matter of sheer emotional survival and offers the only logical way out of an impossible situation. Hopefully your kids will understand this some day.”

Rev. Paul Rodey, Leamington, Ont.

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Try this, Mr. Christie

Re How A Traffic Jam Threatens To Block Christie’s Road To The White House (Jan. 10): If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants help dealing with his “Bridgegate” crisis, all he needs to do is look northward and consider how another politician of similarly ample girth would handle it.

Probably something like this: “I can’t do anything else but apologize. I’m really, really, really sorry. It will never happen again. What more can I say? I made mistakes. But the past is the past and we must move forward.”

It may sound simple but it seems to work.

Nelson Smith, Toronto

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