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Queen Elizabeth looks up during a fly-past Buckingham Palace in London June 5, 2012. Today’s topics: plastic priorities; Louise Arbour and drone strikes; Catholic and separate; doing the math in Wisconsin; crown versus hat … and more (TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)
Queen Elizabeth looks up during a fly-past Buckingham Palace in London June 5, 2012. Today’s topics: plastic priorities; Louise Arbour and drone strikes; Catholic and separate; doing the math in Wisconsin; crown versus hat … and more (TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)

June 8: Plastic priorities and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Plastic priorities

As an environmentally responsible retailer, I applaud Toronto City Council’s ban on plastic bags (Council Votes To Ban Plastic Bags – June 7). They are nasty and end up in our landfills and oceans. However, to switch to paper will cost me at least 25 cents per bag (and 45 cents each for the larger ones). I can’t afford that and I don’t expect my customers will want to pay for them either.

We have a better alternative. Biodegradable bags cost pennies and break down in the landfill (or backyard composters, for that matter) within months. I see no reason to ban these bags. I plan to use them. The authorities can come and arrest me.

C.R. Ihasz, Toronto

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I love this on so many levels: because it’s the right and responsible thing to do for the environment; because it was a beautifully executed move by city council; because I want to live in a Toronto that takes a national lead on an initiative like this – and because Mayor Rob Ford is yet again faced with the actual desires of the city he is supposed to lead. We’re better people than he gives us credit for.

Alison Chapman, Toronto

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Louise Arbour, drones and who was killed

As much as I would like to reflect on the question of proportionality, it’s hard to do so when reliable facts are not transparently on the table (Droning On In Pakistan – editorial, June 7). But if The New York Times report is accurate (Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves A Test Of Obama’s Principles And Will – May 29) that President Barack Obama and his administration “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,” I’m not surprised by the administration’s claims that civilian casualties are low.

What I do find surprising is that anybody would seriously consider that proximity is a sufficient criterion to determine someone’s combatant status. On that basis alone, there is every reason to be concerned that the proportionality requirements of the laws of war are not necessarily being met in targeted killing operations of this nature. This has nothing to do with the nature of the threat posed by al-Qaeda or the right of any nation to defend itself from attack – but it does have everything to do with the requirements of international law that legitimate military operations not carry a disproportionate impact on civilians.

Louise Arbour, CEO, International Crisis Group

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Louise Arbour complains that the use of drones “alienates” people in Pakistan. I think it is more important that Pakistan has alienated the entire free world by giving refuge to the Stone Age thugs who are attempting to terrorize us.

Lee Eustace, Toronto

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You say U.S. drone attacks “have made the world a safer place.” Safer for whom? For how long? When, not if, other powers command this rapidly evolving technology, expect attacks on “terrorists” harboured by rich countries as well. A minimal first step toward containing the threat should be support for Louise Arbour’s proposal to clarify the rules regarding drone use.

Frank Mitchell, Victoria

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Catholic, separate

Catholics schools everywhere are wrestling with this issue because parents of gay youth are rightly insisting their children be treated as full-fledged members of the church (Catholic Teachers Right To Back GSAs – editorial, June 7).

I do wonder if the label gay straight alliance is seen as important because of its political message directed at the church (and the quietly implied threat to pull funding), rather than as a label critical in the fight to end bullying. Why not call the proposed associations Anti-Bullying Alliances? An ABA is more inclusive since bullying is not solely focused on sexual preference. By sidestepping the controversy over a name we can get down to the real work of ending bullying.

Peter Smith, Winnipeg

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As a former education minister in Alberta, I find the controversy in Ontario interesting because of a salient point that is not being made.

It is important to remember that separate school education is a civil institution. Separate schools are not owned by the Catholic Church, or accountable to it. Separate school trustees have no legal, fiduciary or political responsibility to the Archbishop of Toronto or any other cleric or church institution.

Separate schools are “Catholic” simply as a description of the electorate that chooses the trustees. Within the separate school system, teachers, principals and administrators are legally accountable to the trustees who are legally accountable to the education minister in the first instance, then to their civil electorate. As a civil institution, separate schools are completely bound by civil law. The Catholic Church might be able to follow its doctrine more closely if it owned and operated parochial schools, but it does not.

The current controversy has raised questions about the future of separate school education in Ontario. The same questions are being raised in Saskatchewan and Alberta. A public conversation on that topic is long overdue. There are good arguments to be made that separate school education is an anachronism, counterproductive of our aspirations as a civil society.

David King, Victoria

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Not that math

Re Wisconsin Shows It’s About Math, Not Politics (June 7): Margaret Wente is wrongly focused on the state’s budget math rather than the campaign math. With the help of 14 billionaires, 13 of whom do not even live in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker raised eight times more money than his opponents. The real math lesson: a $30-million campaign can easily beat a $4-million campaign.

Larry Gordon, Toronto

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BBC back tackle

The BBC chose to produce a documentary presenting some soccer fans’ behaviour as proof of “rampant anti-Semitism” in Poland (BBC Denounced For Soccer Racism Claims – June 7). Unfortunately, soccer seems to draw a minority of “yobs” who delight in exactly the kind of behaviour that is most repugnant to society – and Britain is famous for producing the champion representatives of the genre.

The BBC, of all world institutions, should know better than to portray soccer fans as representatives of a nation.

Andrzej Derkowski, Oakville, Ont.

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Crown versus hat

The front-page photo of the Queen and her family lifting their heads to watch the fly-past of Royal Air Force jets (A Humbling Experience – June 6) brought memories of the Coronation Day fly-past in 1953. In that one, I was flying a Canadian Sabre. It was meant to be the same route as this time: straight toward the palace balcony where the new Queen was standing waving to the huge crowd.

A day or two before the fly-past, the route was abruptly changed. We would fly to pass in front of the palace from her right to her left. No reason was given, but we speculated that someone had imagined the Queen tilting her head the same way and the heavy crown falling off. Unthinkable!

Better this time with her wearing a hat.

Peter Cranston, Victoria

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