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Jan. 8: Letters to the editor Add to ...

No hysteria, just pride

"Isn't that a tad hysterical?" letter writer Byron Williston asked ( Pride And Hysteria - Jan. 7), referring to the "shocking blow to national pride" in the wake of Canada's loss at the world junior hockey championship. In this house, where our hockey-mad son watched the game with his dad, where our son's phone would beep with "junior wave" text messages sent all the way from Langley, B.C., where every goal was dissected and every call by the referees questioned, where we were tempted at one point to stop watching because it was too suspenseful, where the end result was so disappointing for the players who'd worked so hard, and where, the next morning, we all read the fine article by Roy MacGregor ( The Winning Streak Is Over - Jan. 6), nodding along at the breakfast table, the answer to Mr. Williston's question is clearly No.

It may have been just a game to him, but, for many Canadians, it was a chance to connect with a broader community, to seek happiness, to hope and to dream.

Catherine Clute, Chester, N.S.

In the matter of prorogation

Your editorial Tactical Diminishment (Jan. 7) moved me to "recalibrate" Mackenzie King's dictum thus: Our current Prime Minister is committed to "democracy if necessary, but not necessarily democracy."

Don Cochrane, Burnaby, B.C.


It's clear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has no respect for either the parliamentary system or the electorate. Democracy requires constant attention; when Parliament isn't sitting, it's fairly hard to give the country a chance to function as it should.

We pay for the privilege of having a parliament and we should get our money's worth and, more important, our effort's worth.

I'm a retired teacher. When I first started in the Department of Biology at Concordia University, I wasn't as well organized as my more mature colleagues. On one occasion, my lecture finished about 10 minutes before the end of class. Since it seemed to be a logical stopping place, I "prorogued" the class.

One student said: "Sir, I paid for 2 1/4 hours of lecture and I expect 2 1/4 hours of your time. It's not easy to come here after work, nor is it an easy thing to study for the course. I expect my money's worth."

Why is it our Prime Minister can't do the same?

Jack A. Kornblatt, Montreal


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown faces dissent in his own party, lukewarm support from key cabinet ministers, ominous opinion polls and a spring election ( When MPs Attack - Jan 7). Yet, he still finds time to appear in the House of Commons.

Stephen Harper faces no internal dissent (it isn't allowed), has subservient ministers, leads in opinion polls and doesn't have to call an election. But the need to "recalibrate" apparently leaves him no time for parliamentary duties.


Michael Warden, Toronto

Why we must fund NGOs

Margaret Wente needs a reality check ( Why Do We Fund NGOs Anyway? - Jan. 7) First, she says Immigration Minister Jason Kenney got it right when he described the ecumenically-based human-rights organization Kairos as a leader of a boycott campaign against Israel. But both she and Mr. Kenney are wrong. Kairos does not advocate for the boycott of Israel and, in fact, has rejected it on the record.

Second, Ms. Wente deplores the politics of NGOs that advocate for social change and says she doesn't understand why NGOs deserve government funding. But anyone who believes that we'll end global poverty, achieve universal access for girls to school or ensure access to essential medicines and basic health care without social change isn't living on the same planet as the rest of us.

All NGOs (right, left and centre) include advocacy in their efforts for social change and poverty eradication. Sadly, if alignment with the politics of the government of the day is the standard for getting funding, we can all say goodbye to effective and accountable aid practice.

Gerry Barr, president and CEO, Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Ottawa


In her critique of government funding of NGOs, Margaret Wente forgets that part of the reason they've flourished is due to government retrenchment. This particularly applies to overseas development assistance, where our public aid agency (the Canadian International Development Agency) is no longer equipped to actually implement development projects.

Without NGOs to perform these tasks, there would be no Canadian development assistance, unless Canada decided to provide its aid directly to recipient governments.

Julian Lee, COO, Unisféra, Montreal

You talkin' about our uranium?

Neil Reynolds's review of Paul McKay's self-published book Atomic Accomplice: How Canada Deals in Deadly Deceit ( Canada's Dirty Nuclear Secret - Report on Business, Jan. 1) does not accurately represent the nuclear industry in Canada and, more specifically, the uranium mining industry.

Canada is one of the world's largest producers of natural uranium, providing about 20 per cent of total world production from its Saskatchewan mines. Canadian uranium is used exclusively for the generation of electricity at nuclear power plants, with end use strictly enforced by international non-proliferation agreements and export restrictions.

Mr. McKay's book and, by inference, Mr. Reynolds's column manage to ignore all of the national and international protocols and safeguards that prevent diversion of civilian nuclear fuel into nuclear weapons programs. There have been no instances of the misuse of civilian uranium supply for nuclear weapons purposes.

Denise Carpenter, president and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association, Ottawa

Those daring young women

Tom Hawthorn's article about the early days of British Columbia's "lady puck-chasers" was absolutely fascinating history ( Ladies' Night In Canada - Jan. 7). Of course, women had been playing hockey across the country during the 1920s, and even before. At Toronto's Bishop Strachan School, where hockey has a long tradition, there's a wonderful photograph of the girls playing the great Canadian game in 1916.

J.D.M. Stewart and Sue Dutton, Toronto

A baffling drug-funding gap

Your article on inequities across Canada in accessing cancer drugs ( The 'Postal-Code Lottery' For Cancer Drugs - Jan. 5) addresses the role of the Joint Oncology Drug Review, a one-year "interim" process launched in 2007. Almost three years later, the review has yet to deliver the transparent, consistent and fair drug-funding decisions Canadians deserve.

In fact, serious inequities extend beyond access to cancer drugs. Gaps in prescription drug coverage are placing millions of Canadians at risk of financial hardship. Without the support of public plans across the country, the cost burden is shifted to individual or employer-funded benefit plans or directly to individuals without coverage. This creates a situation that's not sustainable and shouldn't be acceptable in a country that prides itself on accessible health care for all.

Canadians with poor access to necessary drugs are pushing up overall health-care costs through emergency room visits and other costly interventions. We need integrated drug-plan partnerships between governments, insurers, employers and their employees, and patients.

Marilee Mark, chair, Canadian Council on Integrated Healthcare

Quibbling over prose

In Donna Bailey Nurse's review of Egg on Mao: The Story of an Ordinary Man Who Defaced an Icon and Unmasked a Dictatorship ( This Protest Was No Yolk - Books, Jan. 2), she describes author Denise Chong's dialogue as awkward and flat. I disagree. The lack of freedom to choose in China leaps from every page, in the stories of Lu Decheng's childhood, his marriage and his life as a dissident.

I spent five years in China as a reporter and was in Tiananmen Square when Mr. Lu and his colleagues threw the paint-filled eggs on the portrait of Chairman Mao. As witness to the massacre in Tiananmen and to stories of many ordinary Chinese citizens, I feel Ms. Chong captured the human story of a repressive China then and now. She took great risks in returning to China to capture the real story behind the story, the one about truth and decency.

The saga of Mr. Lu, an ordinary bus mechanic transformed into a prisoner of conscience, is a powerful human-rights story. It's important we listen.

Senator Jim Munson, Ottawa

A flea in your ear

According to your article on Icelanders moving to Gimli, Man. ( History Repeats Itself For 'Vestur Islendingurs' - Jan. 7), Steinthor Jonasson and a handful of others "are the only ones to flea their country's contracting economy." That's all Iceland's economy needs - something else to take a bite out of it!

Charles Crockford, Waterloo, Ont.


I hope when the Icelanders get to Manitoba, they'll find them up to scratch.

Alastair McDonald, London, Ont.

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