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Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland says she stands by the criticism of Saudi Arabia's human-rights record.

Edgard Garrido/Reuters

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Canada and the Saudis

Re Saudi Arabia To Withdraw Students From Canada (Aug. 7): Does our government understand that 15,000 Saudi students carry a far more potent message about civil liberties back to their home than any diplomatic posturing?

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Hal C. Hartmann, West Vancouver

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What a shame the Saudi government didn’t cancel existing trade agreements with Canada, a major component of which is billions of dollars worth of armoured vehicles. There were credible reports the Saudis were using these vehicles against Shia militants. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland promised an investigation but strangely, no report has been forthcoming.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights,” says Ms. Freeland. What about the human rights of Yemenis being bombed by the Saudis in a proxy war with Iran? Are Canadian combat vehicles being used there? We’re good at showing our moral superiority on individual human rights cases like the Badawis. Words are easy but when it comes to taking a stand for our values, our government is missing in action.

Margaret Vandenbroucke, Toronto

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Criticism of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of human rights activists and dissenters is not the same as interference. The Saudis’ actions force Canada to make a clear moral decision. If Canada and other nations want a share of Saudi Arabia’s large military budget, criticism on human rights is off limits.

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Canada has a second chance to say thanks, but no thanks and rescind billions in military contracts with this human rights-abusing nation. No nation can tell Canada what it can and can’t say.

Ali Manji, Thornhill, Ont.

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Trans Mountain, NAFTA, China and now Saudi Arabia. To negotiate effectively is to know your adversary – his objectives, personality and strategy, and stick to major points without puffing up largely minor issues, thereby distracting from major objectives. This is the least one should expect from lavishly compensated “leaders” and “negotiators,” bargaining away billions in taxpayers’ money and thousands of jobs. It is high time for Trudeau & Co. to return to yoga, art and swimming instruction and find capable negotiators.

Andrzej Hubert Willmann, Toronto

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With all the many unpleasant things in our world, what made Chrystia Freeland decide to express her opinions on Saudi Arabia? What made her think the Saudis care what she thinks? What made her think, as our Foreign Affairs Minister, that we want our government to pick such a “no win” project? I am intemperate sometimes, but I’ve learned to think about what will happen if I decide to share my “truths” with others. I’ve learned to keep many to myself. And really pay attention to things I can change.

David Cramer, Toronto

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I guess the Saudis didn’t get the Sunny Ways memo.

Ron Freedman, Toronto

Policy-lurch whiplash

“Policy lurch” is expensive and has disastrous effects on Canadians. This was well documented on Saturday: the Report on Business cover story Green Shift To Green Slump, and commentaries by Elizabeth Renzetti (Who Really Rides The Gravy Train? No One On Basic Income) and Margaret Wente (The Conservative Case For A Guaranteed Income).

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Under our first-past-the-post voting system, a newly elected government does a 180 on policy – often throwing out the baby with the bath water. Do Conservatives and Liberals want more jobs and clean energy? Yes. Do they want to eliminate poverty? Yes. The question is: How?

Policy lurch is the bitter fruit of a disproportional voting system that grants absolute power to a party that has the support of only a minority of voters. A legislature elected using proportional representation would still have given Doug Ford the Ontario premier’s job, but with only 40 per cent of the seats (to match his party’s share of the vote) – not 61 per cent. To pass legislation, he would need MPP support from one or more of the other parties. He would need to create solutions to meet the needs of not just his base, but a true majority of Ontarians.

Through the process of seeking common ground, he would become accountable to a majority of Ontarians.

John Rudan, Kingston

A greater harm

I agree with Michael Higgins’s negative assessment of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, published 50 years ago (Fifty Years Ago, An Unholy Mess Shook The Catholic Church – July 23). But I don’t share his main concern regarding its negative consequences, namely a loss of papal authority.

I am more concerned with human suffering that might have been mitigated had the church taken a more constructive stance. World population has doubled since 1968. In Africa and in the Philippines, population has tripled. In Honduras, the source of many of the migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., population has nearly quadrupled. Had the church supported voluntary family planning programs, such runaway population growth might have been moderated. But the absolute ban on virtually all effective methods of fertility control led instead to steadfast opposition.

When HIV/AIDS began to ravage sub-Saharan Africa, the church again took a hard line, forbidding condoms regardless of circumstances. More widespread use of condoms might have prevented many of the estimated 15 million African deaths since the start of the epidemic. The harm caused by Humanae Vitae goes far beyond a loss of papal authority.

Thomas K. Burch, member, Pontifical Commission on Population, the Family and Birth, 1964-66; Victoria

Urban-rural shocks

Re Seeing The Field For The Sunflowers: Farmers Need To Understand Urbanites, Too (Aug. 6): Trampling through a farmer’s sunflower field to get that perfect selfie is blatant trespassing on private property. I have a suggestion for farmers: Why not go into these “visitors’” backyards to take your own selfies? I’m betting they won’t like it.

Carmel Boosamra, Ottawa

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Shannon Vanraes’s observations on the gap between urban and rural dwellers brought to mind memories from when I produced a farm magazine. For one issue, I prepared a feature on farmers who offered overnight visits for city folk to discover, among other things, the source of their food.

The farmers all had stories about many city people’s ignorance about the business of farming. Children staying at cattle and hog farms, for example, were shocked to learn that meat in supermarkets once was part of a living animal. They assumed animals produced chops and steaks like chickens lay eggs or cows give milk. Speaking of cows: One farmer recalled a relaxing evening with a Toronto-area family. When he bid his guests goodnight, they noted it was barely 9 p.m. – why was he retiring so early? He explained he had to get up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows. To which they replied, with shock and wonder: “But tomorrow’s Sunday!”

John Lawrence Reynolds, Burlington, Ont.

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