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Prescription pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are pictured in this June 20, 2012 photo.Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press

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A frightening epidemic, a muted response

In 2003, a new and frightening epidemic struck Canada, mostly in Toronto; 44 people died from SARS and the seriousness of the situation led the World Health Organization to issue a travel advisory. The provincial and federal governments reacted powerfully with reviews that led to significant changes in how we, as a society, prevent and mitigate such challenges. Dr. David Naylor led the inquiry at the national level; I was privileged to lead the provincial process.

Fifteen years later, opioid addiction, another new and frightening epidemic, is striking Canada. More than 4,000 people will die in a single year, 100 times that of SARS and more than the number of deaths on our roads.

There are causes aplenty, and much can be done. One wonders, however, why our collective response is, relatively, so muted. Is it because we value those who are dying less? Is this the “caring” society we are becoming?

David Walker, chair, Ontario’s Expert Panel on SARS and Infectious Disease Control (2003-4); Inaugural chair, Public Health Ontario


You report that “stigma prevents people from seeking treatment” for opioid addiction (Opioids Claim More Lives Than Road Crashes, March 29). It’s lack of treatment beds that is preventing people from seeking treatment.

If an addict could get into medically supervised detox (if warranted) and residential treatment the moment they make the decision to start their recovery, more people would make that choice.

Instead, what folks are faced with is the choice of paying $20,000 or more for a bed in a rehabilitation facility (frequently following the detox period) or a six-month or more wait for a bed paid for by OHIP (Ontario’s government-run health insurance plan) somewhere in the province.

Part of the Purdue pharma settlement (which is insufficient as it stands) should fund an extensive network of rehab facilities across the country to help repair the destruction it has wrought.

Bruce Dust, London, Ont.


It’s unfortunate that opioid victims don’t use firearms to shoot themselves up with drugs, maybe then politicians would take an interest and try to do something about it. Then again, maybe we don’t want to involve politicians. We might just end up with yet another feel-good, but totally pointless piece of legislation.

And by now we all know that vulnerable individuals need help, not paperwork.

How about we all do our part to educate our youths that there are good reasons why some illegal drugs are illegal?

Michel Trahan, Maria, Que.

Biting back

Re Restaurateur Bites Back Against Animal-Rights Protesters (March 28): Marni Ugar, who runs a dog-walking business, objects to humans eating meat and feels justified in her continuing harassment of Antler Kitchen & Bar. “The goal is for a restaurant to go fully vegan,” she says. “To reduce the animals they kill, for me, isn’t good enough.” One must ask then, since she is so morally superior, whether her business (A Bark in the Park) only accepts vegan dogs as clients?

Anita Krumins, Toronto

Indigenous knowledge

Re Ottawa Muddies The Environmental Waters (March 29): In deciding matters such as pipeline policy, why should Indigenous knowledge be considered any different from science?

Knowledge is knowledge, and good science takes into account all available knowledge, regardless of the source. Making distinctions drives a wedge between facts learned by Indigenous people over generations, and facts drawn from more recent theories and observations. Canada doesn’t need facts and alternative facts.

Norman Paterson, Collingwood, Ont.


Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s vow to “make it mandatory to consider Indigenous traditional knowledge alongside science” when reviewing the impact of new energy projects should be good news for the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, which has filed a civil claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against the federal and provincial governments.

The claim seeks to declare Justin Trudeau’s tanker ban on the northern coast of British Columbia to be “an unjustified infringement on the plaintiffs’ aboriginal rights and title.”

The Lax Kw’alaams seek to balance energy development with environmental stewardship and a road out of poverty.

Their goals are clearly at odds with those who profess to promote Indigenous traditional knowledge.

Richard Zylka, Calgary


Konrad Yakabuski’s writing is so pleasant and conciliatory, it would be easy to miss the mild dismissiveness inherent in Western culture’s ongoing notions of scientific superiority to Indigenous cultures and their knowledge.

Scientists only “found” the Franklin expedition’s HMS Terror after an Inuit friend told them where he had seen it; biologists only “found” the spawning grounds of an important native fish in the Yukon after a hunter guided them to the place he had known 50 years earlier; and archeologists only “found” a 14,000-year-old archaeological site on traditional Heiltsuk land when the people who lived there told them where to dig.

It would appear that sometimes Indigenous knowledge may actually be out in front of scientific knowledge after all.

Conrad Sichler, Hamilton

It is/isn’t cricket

Thank you for Mr. Kelly’s funny-as-heck piece: Australia’s Current Cricket Commotion Is A Warning To All Of Us (Sports, March 28). However, Cathal Kelly – sounds vaguely Irish that – disses cricket, then goes out wimpily, waffily, mildly, rather like March in Toronto. Cricket has a code of fair play, a spirit and, ahem, laws. Plus, it has introduced into generalized usage colourful expressions such as “sticky wicket” (think: Donald Trump being “outed” by Stormy Daniels), “caught out” (think: much the same thing but this time after a scintillating 60 Minutes episode) and, “It’s just not cricket!”

Life, like business big and small, is often unfair, so not cricket. Mr. Kelly wimps out by writing, at last, “From a Canadian perspective, it makes you wonder … what it would take for us to have the same moment of [gross national self-examination] …”

But we did have that moment in 1972 – when Flin Flon-tough R.E. “Bobby” Clarke slashed the sublime Soviet hockey player Valeri Kharlamov and broke his ankle. But because Mr. Clarke’s savage slash finally turned that stupendous inaugural Summit Series our way, it has passed into the forgotten history zone.

“Just part of the game” – the rough ‘n’ tough Canadian version especially– one would have said then. Now, though, we are probably only months away from yet another of Justin Trudeau’s great apologies in Parliament!

Rob Bredin, head coach, Vikings Cricket of Canada Super Elite Division XI; co-champions, Toronto & District Cricket Association, 2017

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