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Hockey trauma

Of course it's "premature" to draw any conclusions linking repeated concussions with degenerative brain disease (Hockey Enforcer Derek Boogaard Had Brain Disease From Head Hits – online, Dec. 5), just like tobacco executives insisted for decades it was "premature" to draw links between smoking and cancer. Even as the consequences of repetitive brain injury are being clearly revealed, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman remains doubtful while the stark evidence stares him full in the face.

Paul Thiessen, MD, Vancouver


Medicare is finally stuck in a user-fee parking lot (Parking Fee Is Just Another Cost Of Sickness – Dec. 6), with the fee rising in concert with longer wait times in hospitals. Hockey, another Canadian cultural icon, also charges for parking, but its wait period is game over in 2½ hours.

Dan Lichtman, Markham, Ont.

Political trauma

Thank you for your article Provinces, Territories In The Dark About Bill's Final Costs (Dec. 6) on the federal government's omnibus crime legislation. I understand it now: We Canadians have decided to build bigger prisons we can't afford and create criminals to fill them.

Bob Hargreaves, Parksville, B.C.

A raw deal for profs

Margaret Wente must have been wronged by a university professor in a past life. Her latest column mocking profs' cushy existence and their pensions suggests that students are the only victims of a perverse system (A Raw Deal For Students – Dec. 6).

As a 40-year-old prof who's spent the past 12 years working days, nights and weekends, I'm watching my pension contributions skyrocket as colleagues retire and there are no replacement hires; the work doesn't disappear but there are far fewer of us to take it on. My own department has shrunk by more than half.

By the time I retire, there'll be no university pension for me to collect – nor can I opt out of my contributions and manage my own retirement. So much for a golden handshake.

Jennifer Andrews, Department of English, University of New Brunswick


With a few exceptions, university pension plans are governed by university administrations. The decision to impose contribution holidays rests with the administrators, not the plan members. Margaret Wente suggests that all university plans are unsustainable, and rhymes off a butcher's bill of grim deficits. But she fails to mention the many university plans that are posting a surplus.

Ms. Wente is dead wrong when she says the rising cost of tuition is due to unfunded pension liabilities. Tuition has gone up because governments are no longer funding higher education adequately, and students have been asked to pick up the slack. Per-student government funding in Ontario is 25 per cent less than it was in 1990. Over the same period, enrolment has increased by nearly 60 per cent. It doesn't take a math major to figure out why students are paying more.

Constance Adamson, president, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

The price of alcohol

Re Ontario Undermining Its Own Restraint Efforts, Auditor-General's Report Reveals (Dec. 6): When it comes to retail prices for alcohol, the amount the consumer pays at the till is not the only price to consider. There's extensive evidence that higher retail prices on alcoholic beverages reduce the rates of alcohol-related crashes, trauma and chronic disease. In Ontario, alcohol abuse accounts for more than $5-billion in direct and indirect costs to society, a public health burden surpassed only by tobacco use.

The importance of taking these costs into consideration when setting retail prices has long been acknowledged. On the same day the Auditor-General released his report, for example, attendees at a Cancer Quality Council of Ontario event in Toronto discussed a systemic approach to prevent chronic disease, including recommendations for socially responsible pricing of alcohol.

Norman Giesbrecht, senior scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto

Protecting museums

Your editorial A Core Requirement (Dec. 5) is right on target by arguing that federal funding, linked to provincial, municipal and private funding, is core to a national cultural policy. Edmonton's Royal Alberta Museum, together with institutions in Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax, have been recent beneficiaries of this type of federal support.

But keep in mind that most of the visitors to the national museums in Ottawa are not from the national capital. At the Museum of Civilization. for example, nearly 80 per cent of the visitors come from other cities in Canada, or from other countries.

Our national museums are essential to sharing knowledge and civic identity, just like the Smithsonian in Washington (16 distinct museums and galleries), the British nationals in London (19 museums), or Berlin's fabulous Museum Island (five museums). And in Paris, Tokyo, Jerusalem, Beijing – in fact, any capital city worthy of that title.

Victor Rabinovitch, president emeritus, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa

Protecting women?

Polygamy refers to the practice of having more than one spouse at the same time, regardless of gender. Lysiane Gagnon (Degrading To Women – Dec. 5) was likely referring to polygyny: one man, multiple wives.

In any case, we can't assume everyone fits the profile of those Mormons in Bountiful, B.C., or the Muslim bogeymen Ms. Gagnon fears will take over our country. So if an adult woman were to freely enter into a polygynous relationship, deeming it safe and in her best interests, would it not be inappropriate and patronizing for a "democratic" state to intervene in the name of her "protection"?

Sana Ayesha Ghani, Edmonton

The real skivvy

Thanks for your wonderful article Briefs Encounters (Life, Dec. 6), on engineer-philanthropist Brent King and his work in getting underpants to the homeless. This kind of good news story is exactly what we need at this time of year, and it's a great change from all those articles telling us to exercise, eat better and make the most of our bodies. It's better to be good than to look good.

Jeannine O'Reilly, Newmarket, Ont.

Killer chairs

The trouble with letter writer Alex Heydon's interpretation of Why Our Chairs Are Killing Us (Dec. 5) and a chair's intentions (Mens Rea – Dec. 6) is that he can't tell the difference between a chair and a Chair. For 30 years, I held the Chair of Classics at Carleton. The department's members may indeed have felt that the Chair – me – was killing them by my administration; but whether, as classicists, they thought I had a mens rea, that must surely remain doubtful.

A. Trevor Hodge, Distinguished Professor of Research, Carleton University

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