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In an undated handout photo, a self-shot photo of Air Force photographer Stacy Pearsall in Iraq. (STACY L PEARSALL/NYT)
In an undated handout photo, a self-shot photo of Air Force photographer Stacy Pearsall in Iraq. (STACY L PEARSALL/NYT)

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Jan. 28: Women worthy of the front lines, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Off target

In a whole range of pursuits, as exemplified in the Olympics, many women have proven themselves more than capable of the physical strength and endurance required to be effective in front-line combat. That significantly fewer women than men will be capable of this, or willing to sign up for it, is undoubtedly true. Yet Margaret Wente flatly condemns the decision by the U.S. military to open up front-line combat positions to qualified women as an example of political correctness trumping good policy (Women In Combat: Let’s Get Real – Focus, Jan. 26).

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Given her knee-jerk opposition to all forms of progressive activism – environmental, feminist, economic, political – however, I’m much more inclined to accept Department of Defence assertions that standards have not been lowered to accommodate this change, and that those women who make the grade will add to the effectiveness of combat operations and morale.

Mike Hutton, Ottawa

Enforcing a myth

Re Should Colton Orr Be Allowed To Play? – editorial, Jan. 26: Hockey fighters are aware of the risks, consent to the possibility of getting hurt and are rewarded handsomely for their pugilism. But because they can doesn’t mean they should.

Fighting ought to be banned because it has no proper place in hockey. Fighting in hockey is an invented (it hasn’t always been this way) anachronistic myth popularized by people who wish to drag hockey back to the 1970s and the era of the Philadelphia Flyers’ Broad Street Bullies. It is further perpetuated by those who wish to commercialize the bloodshed rather than the beauty of the game.

Ironically, boxing and mixed martial arts have more safeguards to protect their athletes’ brains from injury sustained from fighting than hockey, which allows a player like Mr. Orr to have had 252 fights so far in his career including a shocking 36 in a single season.

Jon Heshka, Associate Professor, Thompson Rivers University

Hair mettle

I noticed that The Globe and Mail took great care to describe important qualities such as Sandra Pupatello’s “stilettos” and “big hair” and Kathleen Wynne’s “openly gay” sexual orientation (The Sprint For The Top – Jan. 26), but didn’t even think to tell us what Gerard Kennedy’s “signature” shoes are, or that he is openly heterosexual, or that he is (or isn’t) “down-to-earth.”

With such limited numbers of women in positions of power, and this kind of indefatigable media coverage of the bodies, faces, sexuality, lifestyle choices, likeability and femininity (or lack thereof) of the ones who are, is it any surprise that the average North American woman lacks the drive to power?

Shannon Beddoe, Toronto

Tough choices

I read with interest the “rebuttal” by the president of the Toronto firefighters union (Seconds Do Count – letters, Jan. 23) to Margaret Wente’s column (How Firefighters Fan The Flames Of Fear – Jan. 17): No one disputes that the task performed by firefighters is important and, in some cases, critical. The real issue is: How much of that service can we, as municipal taxpayers afford?

Everyone would like a fire station in every neighbourhood (and in very much a related sense, a police officer on every corner). The very real problem is, however, that given the rapidly escalating cost of these services – driven primarily by wage and benefit increases – this is not affordable unless we, as taxpayers, are prepared to pay higher taxes to subsidize these wage costs, or accept a lower level of municipal service in other areas.

It is basically a “guns or butter” question that taxpayers – and municipal politicians reflecting the views of those taxpayers – have to answer. In terms of the point directly raised by Ms. Wente, let’s not kid ourselves about the position of the firefighters’ union. Its task is to promote the self-interest of its members. Where the public interest and their vested interest happen to complement each other, that’s great. But it is foolhardy to assume that is, by definition, always the case.

R. J. Menagh, Cornwall, Ont.

Winter memories

Walking our dog, MacKenzie, one morning during this recent cold snap (-16 C) in Port Dover, Ont., I was reminded of delivering The Globe and Mail many years ago as a grade school student in North Bay, Ont. (1952-55) with my Globe bike. It took me two years to pay for that bike, deducted from my paper income.

I picked up my papers from the CNR train downtown and delivered them before I went to school. The route covered about a 20-block area in downtown North Bay, with apartment and residential areas. My teachers were understanding during a winter storm, since some were also customers. I got hooked on The Globe and still read it today.

Robert McEwen, Port Dover, Ont.

Refugee-law maze

According to Jeffrey Simpson, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has designed a refugee-determination system that, if allowed to operate as intended, could serve Canadians well; it’s the pesky refugee lawyers who are the potential villains. The inference is that lawyers who make full legal arguments and submissions on behalf of clients will only have the effect of “elongating procedures” (Has Kenney Found The Right Balance ? – Jan. 23).

In fact, Mr. Kenney’s new refugee-determination system segregates claimants from designated countries and channels them at breakneck speed through the determination process. So Mr. Simpson has little to worry about: The new process will operate at such an accelerated rate that most refugee claimants will have insufficient time to find a lawyer, let alone instruct one. I fear that most claimants from designated countries will have to guide themselves through the maze of refugee law that even Mr. Simpson concedes is unimaginably complicated.

Donald Galloway, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers; professor of law, University of Victoria

Ex.ter.min.ate!

While it is a clever thought to build snowmen to reduce flooding – compacted snow melts less quickly – the campaign should be tailored to British experience and idiosyncrasy (Raise An Army Of Snowmen, Britons Advised – Jan. 25). I recommend they go for an army of snow Daleks instead. Doctor Who – enlisting Mr. Sun – could then slowly exterminate them all.

I’d watch that BBC episode.

Daryl O’Dowd, forensic meteorologist, Calgary

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