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Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2009. Canada is the Commonwealth’s second-largest contributor, providing about $20-million annually. (SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2009. Canada is the Commonwealth’s second-largest contributor, providing about $20-million annually. (SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Oct. 12 – This week’s Talking Point – boycotting the Commonwealth summit – and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Re Non Sequitur (Oct. 8): Until I read your editorial, I hadn’t realized that there must be concentrations of Tamil Canadians in certain key electoral ridings, presumably in the Toronto area.

Perhaps, in his precision of calculation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has overlooked voters across Canada who see value in Canada’s historic role in the Commonwealth.

During Canada’s current collapse of international diplomacy of many kinds – Mideast, environmental, Brazil, maybe U.S., and now the Commonwealth – one hopes that our friends abroad will view Mr. Harper as one of those periodic anomalies of Canadian politics – until 2015 anyhow.

Anthony Leaning, Ottawa

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Setting a foreign-policy example of Sri Lanka to bring awareness to that horrible situation, where others have turned a blind eye, is something to embrace, whatever the agenda. Rise above politics. There are people suffering.

Elliott Hurst, Toronto, Ont.

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The Harper government launches yet another voter-seduction campaign: This time, Stephen Harper is wooing Canada’s Tamil community by shunning the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka.

In 2010, his government detained more than 490 Sri Lankan Tamils – men, women and children – who tried to enter Canada as refugees. Many were kept in B.C. jails for months, awaiting the resolution of their claims. Vic Toews, then Public Safety minister, told reporters the government wanted to make sure “our refugee system is not hijacked by criminals or terrorists.”

The government has since enacted legislation that, to put it mildly, severely limits Canada’s humanitarian tradition on refugee acceptance. The Prime Minister will have a lot of work to do before he comes calling on the Tamil community for votes.

Esther Shannon, Vancouver

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Time for the Canadian government to get real about human-rights abuses at home.

Michelle Menhennet, Niagara Falls, Ont.

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The Canadian government under Stephen Harper has transformed Canadian foreign relations into a train wreck – not attending a Commonwealth meeting, threatening to stop Commonwealth funding, industrial espionage under its watch against Brazil.

Mr. Harper has tried to increase trade with China, a leading abuser of civil rights, but won’t go to Sri Lanka.

Yes, there are serious problems, but refusing to meet and talk will not solve any problem. We are fast becoming the laughing stock of the world.

David Bell, Toronto

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Boycott the conference but do not withdraw funding from the Commonwealth. We need the English-speaking counterweight to the United States.

Brent Galster, Vancouver

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Taking Canada out of her traditional role of peacekeeping and polite criticism of other nations is not respecting human rights.

It is following the gun-boat diplomacy of the Americans and will only diminish our influence in the world.

Paul Amos, Toronto

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s strong stand on human rights in Sri Lanka is most welcome. It does, however, raise questions about his commitment to human rights elsewhere. Recently, he spent several days in Malaysia, a country with an appalling human-rights record: unlawful killings by security forces; torture; deaths in custody; exploitation of migrants; abuse of refugees; hundreds of arrests of peaceful protesters, including journalists and opposition critics; the death penalty.

Canada has spoken out about Malaysia’s poor human-rights record in the past, including at the UN. Malaysia, like Sri Lanka, is a Commonwealth country. There must be a level playing field in reacting to human-rights violations, wherever they occur. I hope Mr. Harper can assure Canadians that he used the same lens for Malaysia as he did for Sri Lanka.

Margaret John, Amnesty International Canada, co-ordinator for Singapore and Malaysia.........

Stephen Harper is making unpre-cedented decisions regarding the Commonwealth at a time when no debate at home is possible. With our Parliament silenced, we have no way to tell the world that millions of us do not support this crass folly.

Despite the Conservatives’ fawning adoration of the monarchy, I am sure that the Queen is not amused.

Jim Reynolds, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

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ON REFLECTION MORE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Inspired by Malala

Re Surprise, Some Dismay, After Chemical Weapons Watchdog Wins Nobel Peace Prize (online, Oct. 11): Despite not winning the Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, at the tender age of 16, has already demonstrated what many human-rights crusaders can only dream of.

The Taliban tried to silence her voice on the need to provide girls with education, but she stood her ground. Malala’s words ring out: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”

Waris Shere, Winnipeg

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Courage for the world

Malala’s courage in the face of daily danger is a haunting reminder of what sets heroes apart from ordinary people.

When the Taliban shot her, they unlocked the dreams of countless people who want the fulfilment that comes from an education. Men who rely on terror to control, lack confidence in their beliefs and live in fear of self-empowered women.

Malala Yousafzai would have been the right choice for the Peace Prize because the award would have increased the momentum of her cause and benefited millions.

Lloyd Atkins, Vernon, B.C.

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A shared joy

Re Alice Munro Nobel Laureate (Oct. 11): Tears came to my eyes when I read about Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize for literature.

Her short story Amundsen is astonishing for its powerful understanding of the depth and complexity of love and loss. That an author could possess such insight and such ability to set the scene so grippingly, sympathetically, yet somehow detachedly, seemed an incomprehensible gift. I’d never read such an incredible short story and I read it over and over.

Her award gives us such joy, because it is so richly deserved.

J.B. O’Reilly, Ottawa

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Calorie countdown

Re Government Plans Calorie-count Bill (Oct. 10): Posting sodium and calorie information on menus will likely lead to healthier reformulations of everything from appetizers to desserts – if, that is, chains want to retain customers that are finally able to make nutritionally informed choices.

Two large, well-designed studies on the impact of the 2008 New York calorie-labelling law have revealed impressive reductions in calories purchased per transaction.

Bill Jeffery, national co-ordinator, Centre for Science in the Public Interest, Ottawa

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