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Canada's Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks to media in the House of Commons foyer on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Dec. 12, 2019.

BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

On dying, on balance

Re Searching For Balance On The Right To Die (Editorial, Dec. 17): A “reasonably foreseeable” death may arise some time in the future, but when the individual has lost capacity for judgment. The legitimacy of advance directives in end-of-life decisions has been well established in Canada and should include the option of assisted death, should the individual choose this.

Guido Van Rosendaal MD, Calgary

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As a psychiatrist, a researcher on medical assistance in dying and an assessor for MAID requests, I find some assumptions in The Globe’s editorial concerning.

It assumes that if the federal government drafts legislation consistent with the Quebec ruling (and consistent with the original Carter v. Canada decision), adults in Canada suffering intolerably from a medical condition can receive an assisted death “no questions asked.” Furthermore, it assumes the ruling would allow “a quick out” for individuals recently injured in an accident, for example, or a person with depression who believes there is no hope of recovery.

Assisted death is never a “no questions asked” scenario. Rigorous assessments are already required, and the current legislation already includes numerous safeguards. The new legislation will almost certainly further include additional safeguards for vulnerable populations.

Justine Dembo MD, Toronto


In Justice Minister David Lametti’s mandate letter, part of his to-do list includes amending the law on medical assistance in dying to remove the “reasonably foreseeable death" requirement across Canada.

Last September, Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin ruled that although this requirement is not arbitrary, it is overbroad and its effects are out of proportion to its goal. Justice Baudouin notes that it constitutes a state-imposed duty to live – “une véritable obligation de vivre, imposée par l’État." Acceptance of such a duty is still widespread, as seen in defenders of the requirement who believe severe restrictions are necessary to protect people who might request death in a “moment of weakness.”

Even though we did not ask to enter life, it seems that once we are in it, we are supposed to be stalwart even beyond what is reasonable. It’s as if a restaurant serves us a terrible meal and refuses to let us leave until we have eaten 99 per cent.

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Requesting death can be done in a moment of something other than weakness. It can be done in a moment of of realism, maturity and self-affirmation. Let us applaud and respect such moments of strength.

Ruth von Fuchs President, Right to Die Society of Canada; Toronto

On LNG

Re Getting Credit For Canada’s Natural Gas (Editorial, Dec. 13): The Globe’s editorial prescribes that Canada stop developing liquefied natural gas projects, therefore forgoing the roughly 20-times greater emissions saved from shipping that LNG to Asia, all to satisfy arbitrary Paris Agreement emissions accounting. This seems parochial and naive.

Earth’s atmosphere is not discretized like emissions accounting across countries. Government policy ought to balance economic and climate stability. But the editorial endorses a strategy inimical to both: Instead, Canada wistfully watches prodigious economic benefit redirected to supply regions with strikingly higher combined value-chain emissions. LNG Canada will be the lowest emitting major Asian source (and one of the cheapest, at least marginally) and humanity is hard-pressed to reduce global emissions without addressing Asian coal use. Yet the editorial seems to suggest trading a touchdown for what I find to be an arbitrary statistic that comes with a 25-yard penalty.

It would behoove both government and media to properly consider the unintended consequences of scaling back on LNG in Canada.

Peter Findlay Author, Canadian LNG Competitiveness (December, 2019), Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and Criterium Group; Calgary

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On SMRs

Re Small Modular Reactors Offer Transformative Change For Nuclear Sector (Dec. 13): The Canadian Nuclear Association believes small modular nuclear reactors would be “a giant leap forward” for the fight against climate change. In my view, SMRs are pie in the sky, and no one’s written the recipe or rolled the dough.

The CNA’s own SMR road map shows that they hope, with enough federal funds, to have a demonstration version some time in the 2030s – likely too little too late for a climate solution. And SMRs can have the same radioactive waste, cost and security problems of their big cousins.

Instead of betting on what seems to be a vague technological advancement, Ontario should make a deal to buy the abundant, available and inexpensive water power that Quebec would love to sell us.

Jack Gibbons Chair, Ontario Clean Air Alliance; Toronto


Contributor John Gorman submerges the most important attribute of small modular nuclear reactors for the rest of us: Some SMRs can recycle and consume radiotoxic used nuclear fuel.

Since current commercial reactors, including CANDUs, utilize less than 1 per cent of mined uranium, these SMRs would extend the energy yield from this existing stock over a hundredfold. By now, such uranium has accumulated over 60 years – recycling SMRs would provide several thousand years of non-carbon energy at current power levels. As a bonus, the heavy atoms in used fuel are consumed in these SMRs, thus its million-year toxicity would be eliminated – gone – with no need for a long-term repository.

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These could be two major transformations for all of us.

Peter Ottensmeyer PhD FRSC Professor Emeritus; University of Toronto


Contributor John Gorman’s column extolling the virtues of small modular nuclear reactors does not note one fact: Electricity generated by small reactors can be more costly than electricity from larger reactors owing to economies of scale. That is why nuclear reactors have grown in size over the past several decades.

To offset this economic reality, SMR vendors in the United States are seeking exemptions from numerous safety standards, including the reduction of security and the elimination of emergency evacuation zones and reliable backup safety systems. If the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves these exemptions, the result may be the deployment of reactors more dangerous to public health and the environment than the current U.S. fleet.

If SMRs were truly safer and cheaper than conventional-sized reactors, vendors would not request these regulatory rollbacks.

Edwin Lyman Acting director, Union of Concerned Scientists Nuclear Safety Project; Washington

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On loan

Re My Daughter Gave Away Family Heirlooms. How Do I Forgive Her? (Dec. 17): Advice columnist David Eddie’s comments about the loss of his green jacket reminded me of one of my husband’s shirts.

Where’s my shirt? Daughter: “I lent it to my friend.”

So where is it? Daughter: “I lent it to my brother and he lent it to his girlfriend.”

The much-travelled shirt eventually returned, surprisingly clean and pressed!

Anna Leggatt Toronto


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