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Letters to the Editor Aug. 17: A holiday won’t solve Indigenous people’s struggles. Plus other letters to the editor

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs: The government plants to introduce a statuatory holiday to mark the suffering Indigenous people experienced in residential schools.

Chris Wattie/Reuters

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A holiday won’t solve it

Re A Day Off For A Dark Past? (editorial, Aug. 16): In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended fundamental changes to resolve historical wrongs and close the socio-economic gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada. It was ignored.

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There was no reduction in the substantial gap in the statistics for income, education, housing and labour force activity between First Nations and non-aboriginal communities between 1981 and 2011, despite changes in the law. Governments of both parties sat back and left it to the courts to deal with these difficult issues. This has not worked.

A day each year to reflect on one aspect of the colonial history of Canada will not address these issues. What is required is real political will to make the necessary fundamental changes. A detailed response from the federal government to the recommendations of the commission would be a good place to display this political will.

Jim Reynolds, author, Aboriginal Peoples and the Law, Vancouver


I support a day to honour Indigenous peoples, their resilience and contributions to Canada, and more importantly, to their bright future. A holiday to focus on past injustices would be yet-another sorry chapter in Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations. While there is much to regret in past failed policies, to set aside a day whose prime purpose is to make Indigenous persons feel like victims and non-Indigenous persons feel guilty would not be a step forward. Far from advancing reconciliation, it would more likely engender resentment on the one hand and backlash on the other.

Acadians just celebrated their national holiday. The focus is not on past injustice, but on celebration of their survival and continued vibrancy. Canadians of other backgrounds can join in celebrating the fact that attempts to obliterate Acadians from our national fabric failed. This is a good model.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations (where the holiday proposal first appeared) all deserve careful consideration. But to treat the Calls to Action as sacred writ, demanding blind implementation without consideration, would be a poor foundation for public policy.

Jack Hillson, Saskatoon

Ontario priorities

Re Ontario Passes Bill To Cut Size Of Toronto City Council (Aug. 15): Ontario Premier Doug Ford has had his revenge on a city council which refused to play ball with him when he was a lowly councillor. How long do we have to wait for legislation requiring a mandatory Ferris wheel to be built at the waterfront?

Jim Reynolds, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.


We have some serious problems here in Ontario. Our schools’ physical plants are falling apart, our health care needs major surgery, and there are shootings in the streets of what was “Toronto the Good.” But alas, let’s focus on what’s really important: A buck a beer and deciding whether it’s okay to talk in the sex ed curriculum about people being gay.

The reality is that both Doug Ford and Donald Trump appear incapable of focusing anything but the ridiculous minutiae of life. Perhaps we should be thankful for that. Tackling real problems would mean disaster. Such issues are better left to the quiet, reasonable, very capable business people who really operate a country.

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Sadly, nowadays the daily news roundup should be headlined: You Can’t Fix Stupid.

Heather Hunter, Southampton, Ont.

So why seek a covenant?

Re Trinity Western Drops Mandatory Sexual Covenant For Students (Aug. 15): Trinity Western’s president writes that even though there is no longer a requirement for students to sign a “covenant” that forbids sex outside heterosexual marriage, the university “will remain a Biblically-based, mission focused, academically excellent university, fully committed to our foundational evangelical Christian principles.”

If this is the case, why the need for a covenant in the first place?

Brian Caines, Ottawa

Shrinking monuments

Re Grappling With The Legacy Of Sir John A. (Aug. 11): The value of monuments is that they insert a (necessarily partial) vision of the past into contemporary life. Yet too often, our monuments are inhuman in scale and authoritarian in tone, aiming for a daunting grandeur that overawes the viewer. This is true even of Victoria’s statue of Sir John A. Macdonald.

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The real Sir John was a flawed, affable charmer, who engaged entertainingly with large crowds at summer picnics and who – notwithstanding his cruel policies toward First Nations in the West – was far more likely to cajole and persuade than bully or overawe.

A life-sized statue of Sir John A., rakishly half-seated with his elbow on his knee, as in the famous photograph of the Charlottetown Conference, would send a much less forbidding signal. And perhaps if our monuments in general were not so “monumental,” they would better capture the humanity of their subjects, and invite the viewer into a dialogue with the past rather than submission before the all-powerful Great Man or the state they represent.

Gregory Millard, Port Moody, B.C.

Teachers’ math (in)abilities

Re Teachers’ Math Training A Variable Equation (Aug. 14): How is it possible that one can graduate from high school and obtain admission to university and teacher training programs without the ability to ace relatively basic numeracy problems?

The slight improvement after a year in the teacher education program is hardly inspirational. Unless this problem is taken seriously by educators, the skill levels of future generations of teachers and students will worsen.

James Beath, Peterborough, Ont.

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In the test sample-questions provided, Question #2 on chocolate pieces would make an excellent teaching example of what a badly constructed math-test question would look like. The “chocolate” colour depicted is not brown. Therefore, where is the legend that explains whether the red colour used instead represents the part of the chocolate remaining or not remaining?

Why divide the left “bar” into bits if the point is to depict one “chunk” and a fraction of a “chunk”?

If “none of the above” had been a choice, it would have attracted a significant number of answers.

I can’t imagine that this question would discriminate between those who are good at math and those who are confused (me included). A teacher has to continually seek to remove possible misunderstanding with questions since students have their own interpretations of what they are reading. I hold an MEd in Measurement and Evaluation from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), as well as being a retired high school math department head, and have marked for both Ontario and international math contests. Besides, my wife (first in our class in geophysics at the University of Toronto), who is also a retired math teacher, agrees with me.

B.G. Dancy, Mississauga

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