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The British North America Act, 1867, known today as the Constitution Act, 1867, is the cornerstone of Canadian Confederation. This image is of a certified copy provided to Canada by Westminster and kept in the Senate Archives. (Credit: Senate of Canada)
The British North America Act, 1867, known today as the Constitution Act, 1867, is the cornerstone of Canadian Confederation. This image is of a certified copy provided to Canada by Westminster and kept in the Senate Archives. (Credit: Senate of Canada)

WHAT READERS THINK

April 10: Our country’s past. Plus other letters to the editor Add to ...

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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Our country’s past

Re Should Canadians Be Ashamed Of Their History? (April 7): Overstatement distorts. The past, like the present, was a messy place of nuance and conflicting ideas determined by social context and a prevailing ideological consensus. Jack Granatstein is correct to remind us of context, but he disappoints on at least two occasions.

First, he asserts that Canada never created concentration camps. What would he call the Japanese internment camps of the Second World War?

He also declares that Canada’s “glory” derives from our lofty promotion of “Western Civilization.” If he means the values of the Enlightenment, he should say so; otherwise he falls into an antiquated trope of civilizational superiority that diminishes his argument.

Noah Richler’s rationale for guilt is even less compelling.

Yes, early outlier voices called for the equality of minorities, but not many. And it’s impractical to suggest that Canadian policymakers should have been familiar with the Valladolid debate of 1550. We can understand context, including cultural shifts, without approving of earlier behaviour or experiencing debilitating guilt.

What we owe to those who suffered in an earlier Canada is deep regret, and the willingness to teach future generations a broad spectrum of truth about our county’s past.

Erna Paris, Toronto

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J.L. Granatstein doesn’t have to feel ashamed of Canadian history. But after learning about the Mohawk Institute residential school and what happened there and places like it, I sure am.

Ken Wilson, Regina

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My mother was a person shaped by her times and she had some ill-founded prejudices.

I loved her no less for her views, and in her own way she led me to understand the basis of a contrary opinion. I was never ashamed of her.

Similarly, I feel no shame for the actions of Canada’s historical leaders. Rather, I feel deep respect for their contributions to building today’s Canada, while simultaneously recognizing some of their views and actions were deeply inappropriate by today’s standards.

What does cause me shame, as a Canadian, is the existence of so many Canadian down-shouters and truth-drowners that a reasonable viewpoint cannot be expressed without the Animal Farm-esque sheep bleating for censure (Jordan Peterson, Lynn Beyak).

Canadian tolerance of the viewpoint of others is slipping away. Ironically, this will likely be a cause of shame to future generations of Canadians.

Brian A. Johnson, Toronto

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There are plenty of opportunities to feel shame over our generation’s actions without reaching into a past we did not create and cannot change. Bring on the shame, I say, for the deplorable conditions today in many First Nations communities.

Helen Johnson, Calgary

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U.S. policy’s genesis

The American attack on the Shayrat air base may have been a shot across the bow of a remorseless dictator, and/or the necessary protest of outraged humanity against the use of poison gas, and/or a warning to North Korea, and/or a violation of the United States Constitution (U.S. Fires Missiles On Syria, April 7).

Whatever choices are made among these possibilities, two things are certain.

First, American foreign policy is now made on the whim of the President. As last week began, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was accepting the continuing role of President Bashar al-Assad in the governing of Syria; by Thursday night, the United States was at war with him.

Second, this abrupt reversal was the result of President Donald Trump’s seeing images of dying children on television. It is a sobering thought that whoever programs Fox News now determines American foreign policy.

John Baird, Toronto

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Housing-deprived

Re Six Standout Numbers In Toronto’s Wild Housing Market (Report on Business, April 7): Given that the ratio of median family income to average house price in Toronto is 11.7 X – that is, $916,567/$78,667, and given the enhanced federal lending restrictions recently put in place to mitigate debt risk, it would appear by default that the average Toronto family is not the buyer contributing to the runaway housing appreciation in Toronto.

Any idea as to which group(s) might be?

Bill Vella, Carrying Place, Ont.

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Re Action Needed To Curb Toronto Housing Prices, Bank CEO Says (April 7): Our system of financing housing insulates lenders (mostly banks) from much of the market risk by transferring it to government through (mostly government-backed) mortgage insurance. Together with negative real interest rates, this only adds oxygen to the conflagration.

The obvious solution is to base mortgage-insurance valuations on historical, not current, market valuations. If mortgage insurance were only available based on valuations averaging the past five years of property valuations, we would cool the hot markets but not those which have languished.

This would transfer more of the most volatile component of lending-risks to the lenders, where they belong. If banks became more exposed to the risks of market bubbles, we would suffer fewer of them.

Arbitrary and capricious transfers of wealth resulting from asset inflation undermine the most fundamental principles of equity and social cohesion, and reduce social and geographic mobility. Our present path will create a permanent underclass of the housing-deprived. Taxing foreigners and gobbling up more greenbelts will not solve the problem.

Keith Bradley, Mississauga

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Saved by a cigarette

Your recent and wonderful articles on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge have resurrected many memories from and for Globe and Mail readers.

My grandfather, Harold Carter, was 17 years old at Vimy. Like many young men those days, he lied about his age to enlist. Unlike many, he lived to be 92.

One day, when I was a teenager, he said to me, “Did I ever tell you how smoking a cigarette saved my life?” Ever the raconteur, he needed little encouragement from this slightly indifferent teen to tell his story.

He was at a place called Vimy, he said, in a muddy trench with his comrades. During a lull in the fighting, he borrowed a cigarette from a buddy.

He was leaning against the mud wall of the trench, elbow propped up on the rim of the trench enjoying his smoke, when an artillery shell hit. Everyone was immediately covered in thick, suffocating mud.

Harold’s left arm was pinned against his side but his other arm – bent at head level while he had been smoking – gave him enough leverage to use that cigarette-holding hand to dig and scrape the mud off his face and head. If he had not been smoking when the shell hit, he would have suffocated, as many as his trench mates did that day.

Janice Hess, Toronto

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