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David Clayton-Thomas: ‘The story of Ashley Smith, the teenager who strangled herself in her prison cell as guards watched, has prompted me to speak out. But for fortune, that could have been me.’ (AARON HARRIS/CP)
David Clayton-Thomas: ‘The story of Ashley Smith, the teenager who strangled herself in her prison cell as guards watched, has prompted me to speak out. But for fortune, that could have been me.’ (AARON HARRIS/CP)

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Jan. 24: To die as Ashley Smith did, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

All the Ashleys

My son died in our home, alone. Like Ashley Smith, alone. Like Jack Windeler, alone. Like two other young men connected to us through close friends. Our family sought help for years. Never lucky, like David Clayton-Thomas (Ashley Smith Could Have Been Me – Jan. 23).

The urgent need for residential treatment facilities for our youth is critical. These young people all needed compassionate, structured help to regain their place in society. Once they are undone, only a community of dedicated adults and an educational program to correct the systemic derailment will save them. Not to mention exercise and nutrition. Solitary confinement means no exercise. A cage. Different circumstances, same cage.

The street kids, our first nations, our youth derailed by isolation, our prison population. How long do we need to talk? A young child can make these connections.

Elizabeth Locicero, Toronto

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We cannot thank David Clayton-Thomas enough for his courage and insight. Too many of us stand at the door of the criminal justice system observing it from the outside, unable or unwilling to open the door, step inside and engage.

It is time for a nationwide public forum on criminal justice. We might then better understand that we are all responsible for Ashley Smith, that there are too many in our jails who suffer from mental illness and, indeed, that we have a criminal justice system that should be supported, and not undermined by a lack of compassion and vision.

William M. Trudell, chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

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Pol-speak app

Amazing! There’s an app for everything. My BS 3000 converter app translates what politicians say in opposition into what they really mean, were they to be in government (Ottawa Facing A Struggle To Replace Kevin Page – Jan. 23).

For example, Conservatives, in 2005, in opposition: We need a Parliamentary Budget Officer to instill transparency and accountability into government.

BS 3000 translation: We need a Parliamentary Budget Officer to do token investigations and issue softball reports, reinforcing the messages that the PMO will provide, demonstrating the same blind obedience as all our parliamentarians.

Michael Farrell, Oakville, Ont.

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Lessons to take

As a resident of Quebec for 39 of my 59 years, and a second-generation Scottish-origin Canadian, I am somewhat bemused by PQ Premier Pauline Marois’s “inspirational” visit to Scotland (Marois Looks To Scotland For Separatist Inspiration – Jan. 23). Ms. Marois is quoted as saying “I don’t pretend to want to give anyone any lessons” – as well she shouldn’t, since the PQ has lost both of its referendums.

Ms. Marois would do well to take some lessons during her stay in Scotland, as the rules for the Scottish referendum were negotiated between the Scottish and British governments, and the question is both simple and clear: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

Brad Wood, Beaconsfield, Que.

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Shiver of fear

I agree that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney should be commended for his attempt to make the refugee determination process better (Has Kenney Found The Right Balance? – Jan. 23). I generally support the changes, with one significant difference of opinion: the designated safe country list (DSC).

Even within the EU, there are countries in which certain faith and ethnic groups are at grave risk. Hungary is one. Though it is on the DSC list, the manner in which Hungarian authorities deal with their Roma population and, to a lesser extent, Hungarian Jews puts them at potentially serious jeopardy.

The opposition Jobbik Party is blatantly anti-Roma and anti-Semitic. Its political and paramilitary wings have gone to great lengths to vilify the Roma. This same party last year demanded that a list of Hungarian Jews be created for future use. Though this was not done, the very fact that a political party can think this way should send a cold shiver of fear into our hearts. Mr. Kenney needs to rethink Hungary’s DSC status.

Bernie Farber, Thornhill, Ont.

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Cardinals’ greatest?

Your obituary on Stan Musial (With A Gentleman’s Grace, He Was The Slugging Spirit Of St. Louis – Jan. 22) quotes William DeWitt Jr., chairman of the Cardinals, saying “Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history.” Not even close.

Rogers Hornsby is entitled to that designation. With the Cardinals, he batted over .400 three times; lifetime .358, second to Ty Cobb at .367. Like Cobb, he was arrogant and a curmudgeon. He was hated by the baseball establishment, team mates and, more importantly, the media. Can you believe that a player with a record like that would be traded in 1927 after batting .361 and winning the 1926 World Series as a manager?

Gary Waller, Toronto

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Stop the slide

Barack Obama is attempting to transform the American dream from one of opportunity to work to fulfill the individual’s dream to one of offering state-funded entitlements while amassing trillions of dollars in debt (Oppose Vs. Obstruct – letters, Jan. 23). It is right for the democratic opposition to obstruct such a downward slide of the American culture of liberty and freedom. This invigorates, not “defeats” democracy.

Jiti Khanna, Vancouver

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Define ‘hacking’

You ask When Did It Become Wrong To Punish Hackers? (editorial, Jan. 23). That really depends on how you define “hacking.” IT professionals were once technically proficient masters who managed computer systems at a level beyond that of mere users. Conversely, hackers were those who used technical proficiency to subvert systems. Now, most IT systems are primarily morasses of rules and security protocols founded in bureaucracy, with IT staff the attendant bureaucrats.

Some hackers now use technical proficiency to subvert bureaucracy, as journalists once did with the pen. Dawson College student Ahmed Al-Khabaz appears to have far more in common with an overzealous journalism major, than with the hackers of old.

Brian J. Lowry, Fredericton

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Doing his job

A soldier’s main task is to kill the enemy (Harry’s Words – letters, Jan. 23). Captain Harry Wales was just doing his job.

Peter Edwards, Toronto

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What did the media expect Harry, a gunner and pilot, to say? “Hey, I’m a prince, I can’t fight. I went along for the ride in a helicopter, which I most certainly did not pilot. I just brought the sandwiches and cold drinks for the other chaps.”

Shelagh Hemingway, Ottawa

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