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A crowd marches on Dundas Street in Toronto on Monday, July 29, 2013 where Sammy Yatim, 18, was shot nine times and killed by police early Saturday morning. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A crowd marches on Dundas Street in Toronto on Monday, July 29, 2013 where Sammy Yatim, 18, was shot nine times and killed by police early Saturday morning. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

WHAT READERS THINK

July 31: Quick to shoot. Why? – and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Quick to shoot. Why?

Your editorial A Knife, A Gun And Standard Training (July 30) is sadly off the mark, even though you are making an argument – don’t judge until you have all the facts – that normally would be valid.

There are egregious events that are so evident, they cannot be tolerated, even one minute. That police training, as you suggest, might render this shooting legitimate in police eyes is scandalous in itself.

Cops have a tough job, and they need our understanding when mistakes are made. But not for this one.

Sylvain Louchez, St. Catharines, Ont.

.........

Did a young man armed with a small knife, alone inside a streetcar, pose an immediate threat to police? Why was there such urgency to shoot? Nine times? Then to use a stun device?

What police need are skillful tactics to mediate and de-escalate potentially violent situations, instead of brute and deadly force to quickly end an altercation. Police education and training must change so that the killing stops.

Eugene Ewanyshyn, Edmonton

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In April, 1997, a former mental patient brandishing a samurai-type sword threatened passersby and held police at bay in downtown Seattle for 11 hours.

Attempts at bargaining, including food and money failed. Finally, he was knocked down with a high-pressure fire hose and pinned, ending the standoff.

Although some business owners were upset the standoff went on so long, wasn’t a life worth it?

Bob Hogarth, Kingsville, Ont.

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Before we wring our hands over the shooting of the “victim,” we might remember a few truths: A police force is a militia; it is not made up of psychologists, and its first priority is public safety.

Natalie Litwin, Toronto

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While we await the results of the Special Investigations Unit review and Chief Bill Blair’s review, we need to look beyond police actions and determine whether better access to mental-health services could have prevented this tragedy.

Toronto police apprehend over 6,000 “emotionally disturbed persons” per year; while there are relatively few cases of injury or death, the Police Services Board mental-health subcommittee has called for a target of zero deaths.

Police training has improved, but the police remain the only 24-hour mental-health crisis response in the city, aside from hospital emergency departments.

Even the police crisis-intervention teams do not operate 24/7 or provide full coverage across the city. More troubling is the fact that only one in three people with mental-health problems gets any care at all, and that mental-health spending has declined as a proportion of health spending from 12 per cent in 1979 to less than 7 per cent, despite 25 years of reform rhetoric.

Steve Lurie, chair, Toronto Human Services and Justice Co-ordinating Committee

.........

Who am I to judge?

Re ‘This Is Pope As Rock Star’ (July 30): Pope Francis said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”

When will he say, “If someone is a woman and she searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”

Pat Noonan, Windsor, Ont.

.........

#responsibility

Re Twitter Reviews Abuse Procedure After British Activist Inundated With Death, Rape Threats (July 30): Defences such as free speech, or of not being aware of content, are ludicrous. In this high-tech age, Twitter should be held responsible for the content of everything it accepts. A filter could pick up key words identifying such threats and automatically trigger a denial of service.

John Alston, Calgary

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‘Genocide’ challenge

Phil Fontaine, a former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, is embarking on a wrong-headed mission if he wants Canada’s treatment of his people officially declared a genocide. One needs only to read accounts of actual genocides, side by side with letters and other documents from Indian Affairs officials, employees and residential school staff, to see the difference.

While Ottawa’s treatment of First Nations was often scandalously parsimonious, and while many government officials hoped to see Indians totally assimilated into “white” society, Indian Affairs saw its mandate as protecting Indians until that assimilation could occur. Recognizing this, many First Nations leaders have criticized the department’s policies as being too paternalistic.

The results of government policy have obviously harmed and disadvantaged First Nations people, but there was no systematic attempt to kill them or even to create conditions that would ensure death, as can be seen in actual genocides.

Mr. Fontaine and fellow activists clearly hope to use the power of the word “genocide” to arouse public indignation, but including Canada’s treatment of its First Nations people in the list of world genocides would merely dilute the power – and the awful truth – of the word.

Mark DeWolf, Halifax

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Parameters of pot

Re On Pot, Trudeau Puts Himself In The Vanguard (July 30): Legalizing and regulating pot seems sensible. Laws should exist to control the few in society who break serious social norms, not the many who see no wrong in what they are doing.

Alex MacKenzie, Toronto

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One of the things that puzzles me about the argument for legalizing marijuana is the assumption that taxing sales of a regulated product would produce a substantial stream of revenue. That may be the case for alcohol, but I doubt it would hold true for pot.

Making quality beer or wine requires skill and experience; experiments with the homemade variety are often disappointing, as anyone who has tried it can attest.

On the other hand, producing decent pot isn’t a lot more complicated than growing good tomatoes. So why would people pay for heavily taxed government-approved marijuana, if they can get seeds and legally grow the stuff in the back yard for free?

Jonathan Skrimshire, Pincher Creek, Alta.

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A letter writer asks if pot would be sold “with the same health warnings as tobacco.” There is no need for such a warning, as marijuana does not carry nearly the same risks as cigarettes.

No well-done study has shown a convincing link between lung cancer and marijuana (although the jury may still be out for very heavy users). A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found no increase in chronic obstructive lung disease (i.e. emphysema and chronic bronchitis) in pot smokers.

Jeffrey Eppler, MD, Kelowna, B.C.

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Putin’s fishy story

Re Political Opponents Insist Something Smells Fishy With Putin’s Angling Claims (July 30): If you think 21 kilos is big for a pike, you should have seen the one that got away.

Alistair Thomson, Oshawa, Ont.

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