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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff Katie Telford and principal secretary Gerald Butts last summer. The Liberals have used their majority on the Commons justice committee to block opposition efforts to have the PM's two most senior staff members named as witnesses.

CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

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Scandal vs. tragedy?

The Jody Wilson-Raybould affair is not a scandal, but it has elements of tragedy. When a government gives heavy responsibility to someone new, with a background different from the old guard, the sailing will not always be smooth. Her recruitment to cabinet was a triumph, and she achieved much.

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But with an equivocal problem like the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, a company that is ethically flawed but economically important, there is no perfect solution, and being a “team player” suddenly becomes necessary. It appears she was not enough of a “team player.”

Canada has two existential challenges: reconciliation with First Nations, and dealing with climate change. The Harper government’s gestures toward Indigenous reconciliation were largely symbolic; its key action on climate change was to withdraw us from the Kyoto Protocol.

Justin Trudeau has met both issues head-on, and has found he is opening one can of worms after another. The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women left no one satisfied. Enriching the cabinet with new voices has made the structure shaky. The carbon tax has met with puzzling opposition. The road is muddy and it’s hard not to get stuck.

I hope attempts to depict the Wilson-Raybould episode as a scandal will soon run out of steam. That approach is teaching this government that it shouldn’t bring new people into cabinet, or try new things. But we have to try new things, and the Prime Minister’s solutions seem to be the best we have at the moment.

Harry Duckworth, Winnipeg

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If the most senior people in the PMO did not intend to put pressure on the then-attorney-general, why did they meet so frequently with SNC lobbyists? Why didn’t they simply advise the firm that any social or economic facts SNC felt should drive an intervention by the A-G on a deferred prosecution decision should be communicated in writing to the A-G for her to consider in the exercise of her independent discretion?

If the government’s concern was the potential impact of its own 2016 Ineligibility and Suspension Policy (the 10-year ban), why couldn’t it await the results of an open and public criminal proceeding and then, if it felt in light of the facts on the public record that the policy was too harsh, make open, public amendments to it to provide relief, in whole or in part, with or without specific terms and conditions?

In allegedly seeking to protect SNC by pressing the A-G behind closed doors (can it be doubted that being subjected to vigorous interventions by people who can control your career inappropriately challenges the A-G’s independence?) the PMO, and perhaps others, ignored the basic equation: respect for the rule of law + transparency = democracy.

Doug Ewart, Ontario Crown Law Officer (1976-2011), Toronto

The 1950s in 2019 Ontario

Re Ford Defends Cutting Mandatory Student-Union Fees (Feb. 12): Welcome to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s paranoia, where Marxists and crazy students lurk at every turn operating, God forbid, daycares, food banks, sexual health and safety centres, work-clothing exchanges, restaurants, welcome weeks, and MORE ... Oh, the McCarthyesque horrors.

Marc Spooner, Professor, University of Regina

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As an educator at a Toronto-based university, I am appalled at the simplistic, overtly political rationale offered by Doug Ford for his government’s decision to make student ancillary fees optional. In his fervour to attack nests of supposed “Marxist crazies,” it appears that we have been transported back to the 1950s of the Red Scares.

Those hurt the worst by this will be our students. Ancillary fees are a constructive and democratic way to help support a wide range of student activities – field trips, costs of production materials, student publications, guest lecturers and many other things that contribute to the richness and diversity of postsecondary student life. If the fees are made optional, the 10 per cent cut to tuition (which, to be clear, reduces university budgets) will be easily superseded by new higher costs to students, while at the same time degrading the quality of their university experience.

Vid Ingelevics, Toronto

Their broken world

Re At The ROM, A Haunting Past Hides In Plain Sight (Feb. 9): Last Saturday, Kate Taylor discussed an important exhibit by Japanese Canadian artists at the Royal Ontario Museum, Being Japanese: Reflections on a Broken World. The world for Canadians “of the Japanese race” stayed broken and threatening beyond Sept. 2, 1945, and the end of the Second World War. In mid-December, 1945, prime minister Mackenzie King authorized the deportation, to Japan, of “certain Japanese”: more than 10,000 who had, ostensibly, “applied” – under profound duress and threats of further displacement – to be “repatriated” to Japan. Three-quarters were citizens of Canada; half were born here. As well, the orders-in-council provided for removal of “British and Canadian status” from anyone who “left Canada to take up residence in Japan,” as The Globe and Mail reported. And a commission would investigate the “loyalty” of those wishing to remain, to determine “those who are not fit persons” to remain – who could then be deported.

The immediate and furious public response showed the essential role, then and now, of civil society groups which, along with many parliamentarians, demanded a Canadian bill of rights and a cessation of expulsion plans. The Washington Post warned that American treatment of Japanese Americans was harsh enough, but said this was worse: Three-quarters of the people facing deportation “are Canadian citizens.” For them, “deportation will mean exile – an abhorrent form of punishment,” a treatment that “cheapens Canadian citizenship.”

By May, 1947, The Globe was arguing for a “charter of liberties adapted to modern times” that could serve as a model for the UN. But by then, almost 4,000 Canadians of Japanese ancestry had been deported.

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Shea Hoffmitz, Hamilton

Greek Gods’ plight

Re Sculptor’s Daughter Fights To Preserve Father’s Work (Feb. 11): I recently saw sculptor E.B. Cox’s Greek Gods imprisoned in Exhibition Place. And yes, Hercules was badly damaged. These sculptures were designed for everyone to enjoy, particularly children. E.B. envisioned them being climbed on by children of all ages. I remember seeing the gigantic pieces of stone, positioned in his driveway, with the sculptor himself high up on a ladder as he drilled and hammered out his vision of a Greek God. The treatment of these works of art is a disgrace.

Louise Macdonald, Toronto

Hmm …

You report that due to weather-related school closures this week, one Toronto father was “stuck in his downtown condominium babysitting …”

Dads don’t babysit! They parent.

Susan Vukadinovic, Calgary

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