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Arms and morality

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Re Dion Takes Responsibility For Pushing Through Saudi Arms Deal (April 19): Stéphane Dion's response to The Globe's editorial board is astounding. Either he is blind to the underlying moral issue, or he chose to turn a blind eye in favour of a weak rationalization to justify his decision.

Mr. Dion seems to suggest that 30 pieces of silver is more important than Canadian values. Did the board ask Mr. Dion to name one non-democratic country that does not violate human rights?

To suggest that the decision to sell arms to non-democratic nations is an election issue is preposterous. Defending human rights is not an election issue, it's an ongoing moral imperative.

If Mr. Dion had attached a condition to the Saudi deal that required that the combat vehicles be used only to help the United Nations implement a reconstruction plan in war-torn Syria (e.g. like the Marshall Plan in Europe after the Second World War), maybe one could rationalize the sale. This would be consistent with the Liberal policy of promoting international peace and security. Without peacekeeping strings, this deal is wrong and goes against the promises made in the Liberal election platform.

Ian Stewart, Toronto

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Sins of the church

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Re Ottawa Called Out On Settlement Shortfall (April 19): As a practising Catholic, it is deeply disturbing that the Canadian church's leadership is so lacking on this issue. Parishes are in the midst of the annual ShareLife drive in support of Catholic charities. How about designating a substantial portion of this revenue to ensuring the $25-million is paid for healing and reconciliation programs for residential school survivors? This is the very least that justice demands.

We are seeing the product of years of neglect of our indigenous sisters and brothers with the suicide crisis at Attawapiskat, boil-water alerts on reservations, chronic poverty and unemployment, the findings and recommendations of the Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is our collective shame and scandal as Canadians and Catholic Christians.

In parishes across the diocese, a letter by Cardinal Thomas Collins was read recently opposing the government's right to die legislation. How about some clear moral leadership on this issue of historical injustice on the part of the church to live up to its own obligation to correct its sins?

Gregory Gillis, Toronto

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Did the church try selling some of its underutilized assets to raise the money? Apparently not.

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While I know that the church is structured so that legal responsibility for damages lies with the diocese or order and not with the church as a whole, this sort of legal dodge is on a par with secret offshore bank accounts and is not the action of an organization which claims to provide moral leadership.

Alan McCullough, Ottawa

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After pot's legal

Re Caution In Pot Adoption Urged At Summit (April 18): Our published research, carried out in four Canadian provinces with adult, socially integrated, regular marijuana users, indicates that informal social controls are already widespread among users.

We found that users were careful to smoke marijuana at times and places that did not interfere with other important activities, such as work and school.

Much like most cigarette smokers, they also did not use in situations that might offend others. In other words, social norms about appropriate use, along with an awareness of health and safety issues, are already in place.

This is not surprising, since marijuana has been increasingly a part of recreational activities for five decades. While trends in the post-prohibition era will need to be monitored carefully, it is doubtful that large-scale advertising campaigns will be needed to instruct users in responsible use. They already know.

Patricia G. Erickson, professor of sociology and criminology, University of Toronto

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Fogarty's Cove

Re The Ballad Of Fogarty's Cove (Arts, April 16): Thank you for the thoughtful look at the dilemma faced by Canso, Nova Scotia – the choice between quarry jobs and an iconic landscape. An interesting question is posed in the article: What would Stan Rogers have thought about this choice?

I suggest looking no further for an answer than another song on his Fogarty's Cove album. The Rawdon Hills is a song about the hopes and dreams of a short-lived and long-ago gold rush in Central Nova Scotia. Rogers sings: "The grandsons of the mining men scratch the fields among the trees; When the gold played out, they were all turned out with granite dusted knees."

His song is sweet and wistful but his liner notes offer a blunt warning of mines that were "yet another corporate rip-off."

Dan Conlin, Halifax

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Choices in death

Re Harmed By Death (April 19): Already, people are being labelled as members of the "religious right" for objecting to the assisted-death bill, a label with several disturbing assumptions: It seems to be okay to make a choice, as long as it is not a faith-based decision; if you decide to die a natural death, you must defend it.

I'm in a position now to raise such a defence, but when I am frail and in hospital, I want a doctor who doesn't make the default assumption that it would be better for everyone that I die a so-called dignified death.

Linda Bondoc, Calgary

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RRS … Boaty?

Re McBoatface Could Sink Or Swim Brexit Vote (April 10): Your article about the National Environment Research Council (NERC) of Great Britain and its poll asking for the public's help in naming a new polar research vessel, took me back 50 (!) years.

In 1966, I worked as a (very) lowly secretary for NERC in its London office. It was a … different time, a time when the British Civil Service was hugely hierarchical, rule-driven and very, very serious. My supervisor wore morning dress – striped trousers and a formal black jacket. We minions were instructed to wear "suitable dress": no mini-skirts.

We had to know, and use correctly, appropriate titles: Your Grace, The Honourable, who deserved an "Esq." after their name. I clearly remember having an envelope returned to me because I had spelled the city of Bath as "Bath" instead of "BATH," because didn't I know that Bath/BATH was a cathedral city and needed all caps? Serious stuff!

For this young Canadian, it was an education. I am delighted to see that NERC will have to cope with a different kind of title: RRS Boaty McBoatface?

I hope the ensuing 50 years have lent humour and flexibility to this formerly very serious organization – and that the vessel's name remains as the public has voted. Let the people speak!

Diane Munier, Ottawa

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My suggested name for the new polar research vessel in the contest being conducted by the Natural Environment Research Council? NaNERC of the North.

John Silverstein, Toronto

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