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Opinion From the comments: ‘Is it ethical to trade with countries that do not share our values?’ Readers debate tensions with Saudi Arabia

Today, a large number of Globe readers are commenting on stories about Saudi Arabia’s move to sever ties with Canada over recent criticism from Chrystia Freeland. Many of the hundreds of comments on Steven Chase’s article, Saudi Arabia withdrawing students from Canadian schools, suspending flights, offer insightful discussion and debate of the issue.

Ensaf Haidar, wife of blogger Raif Badawi, takes part in a rally for his freedom in Montreal, on Jan. 13, 2015. Badwai is in jail in Saudi Arabia for insulting Islam. Badwai's sister, Samar was recently arrested as well.

Globe and Mail Update

Is it ethical to trade with countries that do not share our values? Our realpolitik is that we do it all the time. Should we? That should be debated formally - perhaps not, but this would take strategic action on the part of Canada over the medium term. In no event, however, should our foreign policy be implemented in random “tweets”. Have we not learned anything from our southern neighbour? - Intheflow

In response to Intheflow:

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“Is it ethical to trade with countries that do not share our values?” Every country on the planet has its own unique set of values. In some cases they have values similar to ours, and in some cases they don’t. Having different values doesn’t of itself preclude doing business with another nation. Nevertheless, in some cases the disparity in values might be so large that doing business with that nation simply can’t be countenanced.

Enter Saudi Arabia, a country unique in the world for its social, moral, political and religious repression. It makes run-of-the-mill repressive regimes look enlightened by comparison. Moreover, the Saudis seek to impose their values on other nations via violent means, primarily by using terror groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State as proxies.

In any kind of just world, the only business that Canada would have with Saudi Arabia would be humanitarian - food or medical supplies in emergencies, for example. But it’s not a just world, and Canada made it less just by selling Saudi Arabia billions of dollars worth of high-tech weapons. In no way, shape or form could that kind of business be considered ethical. - Richard Roskell

There are approximately 20,000 Saudis here on scholarships, grants or in trainee programs. This number doesn’t include family members accompanying them. What the now-infamous knee-jerk tweet means (if the Saudis actually implement their response) is that in our zeal to defend and promote “our values,” we have lost a great opportunity to teach them to more than twenty thousand Saudis who are living and learning in Canada right now.

Twitter is just too tempting for certain politicians (I am astounded that Ms. Freeland is among them). Without having thought a complex matter through to the end, she has availed herself of Twitter’s instant gratification and now she’s in the soup. - midas1

In response to midas1:

There is sometimes a price for saying what is right, but not politically correct. I’m on Freeland’s side on this one. - raymond7A7

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What else readers are talking about:

The TTC has inadvertently given out 1.4 million free rides over the past two years, thanks, in part, to faulty technology. Globe readers have much to say about this issue, and about Denise Balkissoon’s confessional column on occasionally riding for free.

A TTC streetcar heading westbound on King St. West is pictured after crossing University Ave. on May 11 , 2017. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The loss of revenue to the TTC is a very real problem and means that service levels are worse than they should be. It is often really difficult to pay on the new streetcars with tokens because the streetcar is so overcrowded. I got a Presto card so I could pay every time, but the time lag between loading the card and seeing the money is ridiculous. It can take two days for the money to show up on the account, and that is after paying at a TTC machine. No wonder so many people take free rides. - Sceptical1

I have been very happy with my presto card (I set it to auto-reload when the balance goes below $20). It’s great for using on all GTA systems. Though sometimes the readers on TTC buses don't work, in which case I have been offered a free ride every single time. Must be my commutery charm. - pattanzola

This problem would go away entirely if the TTC became a no-fare, community-funded system. “Think about the millions that would be lost,” you say, “if no fares were collected at all.” Think about the millions that would be saved if we didn’t need fare collectors and sellers, turnstiles and collection machines as well as transfer printers and dispensers, employee booths and equipment at each station, the Presto system employees, administrators and equipment, cash handlers and bank deposit clerks and accounting staff employed solely for the function of handling the fare sales and collection system. Not to mention millions lost to counterfitters who profit from the sale of tokens and cards. Furthermore, citizens would realize that since they are paying for the system through their taxes, using public transit becomes a very real “use it or lose it” proposition. Still want to use your car? Fine, but you’re paying for the public transit system anyway. It’s a radical change, to be sure, but I suggest we try a no-fare system, focus on the core service and stop the debacle that fares have created. - verjchew

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