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People wait in line for hours at a COVID-19 assessment centre at Mount Sinai Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Sept. 24, 2020.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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Test the system

Re Private Clinics Allow People To Bypass Virus Testing Line For A Fee (Oct. 5): The first provincial or federal politician who puts an immediate stop to this affront to our universal health care gets my vote.

Donald Rollins Vernon, B.C.

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Why doesn’t government contract with private testing facilities for their entire capacity and incorporate that into the public infrastructure? The result would be an immediate increase in testing capacity, without claims of queue-jumping.

Of course, there would be a cost. However, given the (understandable) manner in which government is spending to cope with the pandemic, I suspect the amount to implement this proposal would be relatively minor.

Rennie Heel Victoria

Nordic retreat

Re New Measures Across Europe Look To Slow Second Wave Of Virus (Oct. 6): Interesting that when charting the second wave of COVID-19 infections in Europe, bad boy Sweden does not rank in the top 15 countries. (They are 20th in terms of new infections over the past 14 days.)

Although Sweden has experienced, relative to their neighbours, a muted second wave over the past month, the death rate has stayed extremely low. It makes one wonder if Sweden actually got it right.

Dave Barker Oshawa, Ont.

Build back better

Re Ending Pandemic Alerts Was Mistake: Official (Oct. 6): The global pandemic is a continuing, unmitigated disaster. We’ve all been looking for somebody to blame, so I have picked two somebodies: “Jim and Sally” – that is, Jim Harris and Sally Thornton, whose decision to effectively mothball the Global Public Health Intelligence Network in May, 2019, should go down as one of the most imprudent in Canada’s history.

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To suggest that their actions (or lack thereof) were a major cause of the pandemic would be no exaggeration, for the reasons described by reporter Grant Robertson. Canadians deserve better.

We built GPHIN – it ought to be a program in which we take great pride. Instead, we allowed it to be reduced to an ineffective bureaucracy.

We should rebuild GPHIN the way scientists intended it to operate. There is much work to be done – let’s start by reassigning the rest of the Jims and Sallys.

Sandy Mackay Toronto

Rock the vote

Re New Green Leader Paul’s Political Future Remains Uncertain (Oct. 6): Columnist John Ibbitson writes that Annamie Paul will not win a seat in Toronto Centre because it’s a Liberal lock, adding that politics is unfair. Under a proportional voting system, the Green Party would earn many more seats across the country, but "this is not to endorse voting reform.” Why not?

Why is an unfair voting system better than a fair one? I live in Toronto Centre and intend to vote for Ms. Paul. Although Mr. Ibbitson would doubtless think I wasted my vote, I look forward to the day when every vote counts – when we have a new system of voting that is fair.

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Geoff Rytell Toronto


Annamie Paul’s election as new Green Party Leader was interesting in several ways: One of them was the single transferable vote (STV) system.

This system is not so different from leadership elections as traditionally run by Canadian political parties, except that successive rounds of voting are captured on a single ballot before counting begins. With proportional representation not going forward in our country, maybe we should look to apply STV at the level of individual ridings.

There would be no need for complicated multimember systems, opaque party manipulations, coalition governments nor access to Parliament for political extremists. There would be no breakdown in the local accountability of elected officials nor the sour taste of strategic voting.

STV would be a system that fairly elects the best-supported candidate in each riding. Why wouldn’t we do this?

John Bratty Vancouver

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Justice served?

Re Court Stresses Protecting Indigenous Women (Oct. 2): While it is obviously true that an incarcerated person is incapable of assaulting their spouse while in prison and that abused individuals need to be protected, I remain perplexed by the justice system’s persistent belief in the myth of deterrence. (Especially given that an intoxicated and enraged person is likely not thinking of length of prison sentence while committing a crime.)

A thorough review article from Public Safety Canada concludes that longer and harsher prison sentences measurably increase crime. Conversely, other research shows that prisoners with better mental health during and after incarceration commit less crime.

Why is society still so attached to the (probably colonial) idea that punishing people harshly makes them better citizens? The question should be: Will prison make this person healthier or not?

Conrad Sichler Hamilton

Do better

Re Racism In The Medical System Goes Far Beyond A Few Bad Apples (Oct. 6): In a country where one of its primary objectives, as laid out in the Canada Health Act, is to “protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada,” one woman was denied that right and lost her life.

The video that captured Joyce Echaquan’s last moments was unbearable for me to watch.

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To acknowledge that systemic racism exists in Canada (which some people won’t even go so far as to admit) doesn’t feel enough. I find it’s a disease that has ravaged society longer than COVID-19 ever will and will continue to do so if we don’t act now.

Ms. Echaquan’s death should be a wake-up call for Canadians. Racism shouldn’t only be an issue when caught on camera. Visible minorities have suffered long enough as a result of a system built against us. Such incidents will likely only be repeated unless we see evident change in our country.

Ikram Hirey Ottawa

The white stuff

Re Driving Me Nuts (First Person, Oct. 2): Humans aren’t the only ones who deal with annoying black walnut stains in the fall. Squirrels themselves also become stained from foraging. But usually, black-and-grey fur camouflages the dirty brown stains of the walnut meat.

Lately, I have had ample time to observe backyard squirrel activity, including visits from one of the “rare white variety” writer Gina Clark mentions, a pure white morph with black eyes and pink ears. This white squirrel raids our bird feeder daily, showing up early for breakfast and returning at dinner time.

Where he goes during the day is a mystery. But there is a clue. Recently, he has shown up looking like a toddler who has just devoured a plate of chocolate cupcakes, his mouth, front legs and entire underbelly stained a telltale dark brown!

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Mary Lehane Bayfield, Ont.



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