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Oct. 12: Letters to the editor Add to ...

Was Obama worthy?

Making a promise is an act. Saying "I do" in a wedding binds you, changes your status. In that sense, Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is for his actions ( He Rejected Missile Defence And Urges Disarmament, But Does Obama Really Deserve The Nobel Peace Prize? - Oct. 10). But Mr. Obama does not control others' actions. Whether any leader's actions are fulfilled cannot be determined just by him, but by the people.

Mr. Obama has made the promises that we wanted the world's most powerful man to make. It is up to us to decide whether they will be fulfilled. I thank the Nobel committee for recognizing Mr. Obama, whose pledge commits us to a higher course of action.

Metta Spencer, Toronto

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Sideshow Bob of The Simpsons once asked, "Do they award a Nobel Prize for Attempted Chemistry?"

The question may no longer be rhetorical.

Stephen Moore, Regina

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Given the importance attached by the Nobel committee to the words so eloquently used by Mr. Obama to spread his message of hope and peace in speeches (such as those given in Berlin, Cairo, Prague and the United Nations), awarding him the prize for literature would have been more appropriate. The Peace Prize requires at least a minimal demonstration of the international political competence required to realize such aspirations in the long term by means of concrete multinational agreements.

A. Lawrence Healey, Lachine, Que.

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Margaret Wente is correct to say there is scant evidence that Mr. Obama's efforts to date have resulted in much progress, citing existing conflicts that continue to drag on with no end in sight and situations that march toward potential violence. However, she does not propose a more worthy candidate. Perhaps this year the committee should have decided not to issue the Peace Prize at all, and thereby send a more appropriate message to the world.

Mark Roberts, Calgary

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That the Peace Prize has been prematurely awarded to Mr. Obama has not, as some have suggested, served to render the award irrelevant. That was done in 1973, when it was awarded to Henry Kissinger.

Peter Gorman, Toronto

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Considering Mr. Obama had officially been in office for less than two weeks when nominations for the Peace Prize closed, perhaps the Nobel should be considered more like the Academy Awards. Just because you win doesn't mean you deserve it. It just means they like you.

Sandra MacPherson, Vancouver

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I can't help but think the following, tongue firmly placed in cheek: Imagine, the audacity of the selection committee, thinking that hope and peace are connected!

Su Urbanczyk, Victoria, B.C.

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See no evil, hear no evil

Shame on the Globe and Mail for quoting from Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page's report on stimulus spending by Stephen Harper's government ( Ottawa's Reporting On Stimulus Spending Gets Poor Grade From Watchdog - Oct. 10). I have no right to know this stuff. As John Ibbitson wrote the previous Saturday, Mr. Page has "deliberately violated his legislative mandate … He has repeatedly embarrassed growth and deficit predictions by Jim Flaherty. He has exposed the true cost of the war in Afghanistan." I don't need to know that stimulus spending information from the feds is "uneven," "inconsistent" and "missing." If Mr. Harper says that 90 per cent of the stimulus package is "committed," then that's good enough for me. Barack Obama received a Nobel for as much.

Doug Paul, Toronto

Female firsts

Reporters Katherine O'Neill and Dawn Walton should get back in touch with Barry Cooper to let him know that Danielle Smith would not be Canada's first woman premier (Putting the Bloom on the Wildrose - Focus and Books, Oct. 10).

Rita Johnston took over as premier of British Columbia in 1991 when she won the Social Credit leadership and replaced the departing Bill Vander Zalm. Ms. Johnston was promptly defeated later that year, but was undeniably the first woman premier in Canadian history.

Catherine Callbeck of Prince Edward Island was the first woman in Canada elected premier. She had become Liberal leader, and thus premier, in January, 1993 following the retirement of Joe Ghiz. She then won her own mandate in March, 1993.

Jacques Poitras, Fredericton, N.B.

Butting heads

It is a nominal viceregal function to provide constitutional advice to the prime minister, not vice-versa ( A Hot Debate About Head Of State - Oct. 10 ). One should bear in mind that Stephen Harper holds some sketchy views about his own office. Remember his scolding of the Stéphane Dion-led coalitionists, telling them that it is Canadians, not coalitions, that elect the prime minister?

Mr. Harper's belief that his power comes directly from the people, like a president, is far more prejudicial to our democracy than Ms. Jean's benighted view of her all-but-honorific title. The late Senator Eugene Forsey is spinning in his grave.

Howard M. Greenfield, Montreal

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Michaëlle? Open your textbook please to the pages dealing the Constitution of Canada, and read the parts that say "The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to … be vested in the Queen," and "There shall be One Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen, an Upper House styled the Senate, and the House of Commons."

Now read the part about the role of the Governor-General, who carries out her duties "… on behalf and in the Name of the Queen."

Done? Now go to the blackboard and write 500 times, "I am not the Head of State of Canada. I am merely her representative in Canada."

J. David Gorrell, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

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Section 9 of the Constitution Act, 1867, designates the Queen as head of state by giving her "Authority of and over Canada." The Governor- General is the de facto head of state in the Queen's absence. When she referred to herself as "head of state" in Paris, she was not even the de facto head of state. Section 10 makes "the Chief Executive Officer or Administrator" (usually the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) the head of state in her absence. That is precisely why Ms. Jean rushed back from Prague last December to address the constitutional kerfuffle. Outside of Canada, she is not the constitutional head of anything.

Nelson Wiseman, Toronto

Adoption legacies

Robert Leckey argues that a Quebec proposal to preserve the legal bond between child and birth parents risks undermining the whole idea of adoption ( Adoptive Parents Aren't Second Best - Oct. 9). Mr. Leckey's concern is the new law will create a parental class system where adopting parents are somehow not equal to birth parents - are not "true parents" - despite the law allowing them to assume all parental rights.

This misses the point entirely. It is the adopted who are not equal to their blood-born peers - not "true offspring." Living as children of genetic strangers while knowing they are substitutes for blood children, the adopted are second-class citizens in the adoption relationship.

If this new law undermines Mr. Leckey's idea of adoption, then adopted people will be finally granted authenticity, something denied many generations of adoptees.

Barbara Sumner Burstyn, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

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Sixteen years ago, I wrote an essay on the back page of this newspaper applauding the nurture of my adoptive parents and explaining why I didn't want to search for my natural parents. Thanks to that essay and the dates I mentioned, my natural mother found me. The experience has been an emotional rollercoaster for me, but it has shown me that Robert Leckey is absolutely right. The link between a child and their birth parent is almost artificial, based on purely physical genetic similarities. If Quebec's idea of simple adoption is recognized in law, it would prevent the "new identity" (in Mr. Leckey's words) and the adoptive bond from forming. Technology confuses our identities enough. Having two sets of legally recognized parents would, quite seriously, drive some of us crazy.

Jenefer Curtis, Ottawa

Grammar police

The selection of photos from Sharon Eliza Nicholls' fascinating new illustrated book I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar (Focus and Books, Oct. 10) reminds me of the words said to have been uttered by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund The First. After a cardinal tried to correct a mistake in his Latin in his speech at the Council of Constance in 1414, the Emperor replied " Ego sum rex Romanus et super grammaticam," or "I am king of the Romans and above grammar."

But I'm sure Ms. Nicholls would have had a staunch ally in Winston Churchill, the 1953 Nobel Laureate in Literature, who is reputed to have written, on the margin of a report submitted to him by a hapless civil servant, a very Churchillian response to a grammatical error: "This is something up with which I will not put." One can almost hear the great orator's throaty growl in defence of the English language.

John Raybould, West Kelowna, B.C.

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