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Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the United Nations headquarters on Sept. 25, 2013. (ERIC THAYER/REUTERS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the United Nations headquarters on Sept. 25, 2013. (ERIC THAYER/REUTERS)

WHAT READERS THINK

Sept. 27: Maternal health and the arms treaty, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Moms, kids, guns

Re Ottawa Refuses To Sign Arms Treaty As Harper Deals With UN At Arm’s Length (Sept. 26): Stephen Harper is to be commended for pushing his maternal health agenda at the United Nations to better the health of mothers and children.

However, as an explanation for Canada’s not signing the arms treaty, we are told by a spokesman for the Conservatives that it is important not to “discourage the transfer of firearms for recreational uses such as sport shooting and hunting.” It’s good to see we have our priorities straight.

The American NRA is very, very happy, and fully supports the Harper government for not signing the arms treaty. We can see how wonderfully the NRA’s presence in the U.S. benefits Americans – especially mothers and children.

Marcella Draak, Guelph, Ont.

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Pursuit of happiness

Re Meet Astrophysicist Sara Seager, A Canadian ‘Genius’ (Sept. 26): Sara Seager may be a genius, but she’s weak on history. It’s the Declaration of Independence that says that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable rights, not the U.S. Constitution. (And “pursuit of happiness” was a late addition, the original was John Locke’s “life, liberty and property.”)

The U.S. Constitution’s preamble says, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility … do ordain and establish this Constitution.” No pursuit of happiness there.

Not so different from “peace, order and good government,” which, by the way, does not appear in the Canadian Constitution of 1982: It’s a carryover from the British North America Act.

Jeremiah Allen, Hillcrest Mines, Alta.

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‘Too good for us’

Margaret Wente ends her column The Confessions of Michael Ignatieff (Sept. 26) with: “He presents himself today as modest, self-effacing, humble. Yet he leaves the impression that he failed in politics in part because he was too good for us.”

Perhaps he was. At the time, a neighbour told me she could never vote for anyone who reads Shakespeare in the evening with his wife. So Yann Martel had his work cut out for him, sending books to Stephen Harper.

Cassandra King, Clementsport, N.S.

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Gilmour furor

Re David Gilmour Responds After Remarks On Female Writers Spark Outrage (online, Sept. 25): Regardless of whether David Gilmour actually thinks that women writers aren’t included among “the best” writers, or whether he simply chooses not to teach their work because he can’t relate to it, his comments suggest a narrowness of vision that is disappointing in a teacher and award-winning writer.

I am thankful to have been taught by men and women who instead chose to challenge their students to stretch their imaginations through stories by and about people of all kinds.

Gwen Potter-King, Toronto

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David Gilmour is teaching an elective university course on a subject in the area of his expertise. That his expertise should be “guys. Serious heterosexual guys,” and that he should be unapologetic about this, causes upset, but I see no reason for this. He is teaching a course about love and urban rot, and lays no claims to present the best of literature. Taught well, this material will make students feel “less alone,” make them think, and make them write better.

Krista Abramovic, Toronto

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$381,737. 46

Re The Mystery Of The CRA’s $381,737.46 Cheque To A Mob Boss (Sept. 26): If this is being tough on crime, I’d hate to see the Harper government’s other tough initiatives.

The Charbonneau commission should expand the scope of its corruption investigations.

Carl Hager, Quyon, Que.

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Rights of passage

Re Last Rights (letters, Sept. 26): Nancy Wilson is right: Life is a gift. But this phrase can become a mindless platitude that buries the truth. My father died a horrible death from cancer. His last days were hell on earth. His pain, savage. What he endured was no gift. Had I been less law-abiding and more morally courageous, I’d have helped him have the quicker death he wanted so much.

We must allow assisted suicide. Criminalizing it is one of the great moral injustices of our time.

Robert Girvan, Toronto

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While I support the right of people to choose assisted suicide in certain circumstances, I have concerns about the way the argument is being framed. The use of the phrase “dying with dignity” to connote assisted suicide, and the word “courageous” to describe someone who does it, implies that dying an unassisted death is somehow undignified and cowardly, particularly if it involves suffering, loss of control over bodily functions or wasting away.

This is a grave affront to those who choose to let nature take its course, many of whom suffer with great courage and dignity and can be valuable role models up to their last breath.

In making the case for doctor-assisted suicide, let’s not appropriate to one side words that can and should apply equally to both. Death of any kind is undignified only if we label it as such.

David Richardson, Victoria

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Courting the middle

Re Politically, The Middle Class Is The Holy Grail (Sept. 25): Jeffrey Simpson identifies the middle class as the electoral “holy grail” and speculates about what parties should be doing to win its support. Here’s a suggestion: Come up with an effective remedy for the sick culture in which a CEO can preside over a company as it’s run into the ground, putting 4,500 people out of work, and potentially be rewarded with a $55-million golden handshake.

A society in which this is acceptable needs a serious values reset, and the party that can come up with realistic policies to undertake that process will win the support of the middle class.

James A. Duthie, Nanaimo, B.C.

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Define ‘reasonably fair’

In your editorial on Egypt (Let There Be An Opposition – Sept. 25), expressions such as “the Minister of Social Solidarity,” “the Court of Urgent Matters,” and the “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” made me feel I was reading a fairy tale. After your closing words, “as a result of reasonably fair elections,” I was convinced I was. What does “reasonably fair” look like in the real world?

Pierre Nadon, Niagara On The Lake, Ont.

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Class dismissed

Re Schools Looking Outside To Inspire Students (Sept. 24): We, too, had an outdoor classroom when I went to school. We called it recess.

Roy A. Derrick, Vernon, B.C.

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