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ICU health-care workers don PPE before entering a negative pressure room to care for a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator at the Humber River Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, December 9, 2020.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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Visual evidence

Re Politics 2021 (Editorial Cartoon, Jan. 7): The contrasts in Brian Gable’s illustration say everything that we perceive about the differences between the United States and Canada.

One is supposed to imagine what evil forces are behind the rioting in Washington while Ottawa sleeps peacefully, all the politicians smug in their beds – yet across Canada, thousands sicken and die, seniors wait in fear, vaccines sit in freezers, ICUs fill up, airlines remain vectors of the virus, border security is weak and leaders go on and on about how hard they are working.

How lucky Canadians are to not have to endure the political chaos of the U.S.

Steve Harker Kingston

Re Capitol Riot Sparks A Republican Reckoning (Jan. 8): If anyone had trouble understanding the definition of “systemic racism,“ then I submit the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a white mob, and the treatment accorded to it by the security contingent, as a crystal-clear example.

Compare that to scenes from this past summer of quasi-military forces marshalled against, and then charging into, peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Washington’s Lafayette Square.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Ginny and Ed Merringer Toronto

Up in the air

Re A Moral Compass Will Never Guide Air Canada’s Direction, Pandemic Or Not (Report on Business, Jan. 8): Yes, Air Canada’s marketing efforts seem inappropriate and untimely. But let’s be fair: The reality is that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are still travelling this winter.

Our government has also suppressed Canada’s airlines like few others in the world yet, unlike other governments, has refused to fully engage the industry in discussions about financial support or further opportunities for safe travel.

We love to bash our airlines. I’ve travelled (economy) for business in North America for years and have always found Air Canada to be much better than airlines in the United States. Yet Canadians can be passionate about not supporting our country.

We often flock to foreign destinations and have little interest in seeing our country, reject Canadian or North American vehicles in favour of imports and eschew Canadian brands, stores and other products in favour of “better” foreign brands. The continuing result: We Canadians are selling our companies, real estate and other assets to foreigners to finance our craving for all things non-Canadian.

Let’s call out issues, but remember that we should take some pride in Canada and support each other.

Tony Hooper Toronto

Re Garneau Rejects Airlines’ Calls To Delay, Revamp Testing Rules (Report on Business, Jan. 8): It is likely that more infectious variants of COVID-19 will continue to appear without warning. It is more probable that these will arise outside of Canada than domestically. Therefore, efforts to screen Canada-bound travellers are to be applauded. However, asking passengers to show a negative test result at check-in does not seem adequate.

Not only is there ample time to become infected after testing, but in some places it is less expensive and easier to buy a fake test result than to have a legitimate one properly performed. Better protection would be provided if mandatory rapid testing were performed prior to boarding as part of security clearance. But even this is less than ideal because the sensitivity of rapid tests is not high enough to detect all infections.

The alternative of closing the border to tourists travelling by air would be unpopular, even if desirable from an epidemiologic viewpoint.

Michael Pollak MD, FRSC; Alexander Goldfarb Research Chair, McGill University; Montreal

Prisoner priority

Re Older, At-risk Federal Inmates To Receive Shot, Sparking Criticism From Tories About Priorities (Jan. 7): Prisoners in Canada’s federal institutions are people with human rights, even when incarcerated.

A disproportionately high percentage are Indigenous or Black. Large numbers of female prisoners are victims of abuse. All live in extremely crowded conditions. The question should not be whether elderly prisoners and prisoners with pre-existing conditions should be prioritized for vaccinations. The question should be why every prisoner – and every member of staff in contact with them – is not immediately vaccinated.

To neglect Canada’s prisoners in this pandemic would be akin to introducing a de facto death penalty.

Rhoda Howard-Hassmann PhD, FRSC; Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights (2003-2016), Wilfrid Laurier University; Hamilton

More life

Re Oil Patch Study Shows Drop In Emissions, But Authors Urge Caution (Report on Business, Jan. 4): The “life cycle” study of oil patch emissions quantified only upstream emissions “from well-to-wheel.” The common failure to consider emissions emitted in manufacturing, transporting and placing oil sands equipment before beginning production results in significant underestimates of the actual life-cycle emissions of these facilities.

Economic analyses of oil sands investments, for example, invariably consider the huge upfront costs of constructing a facility – a cost, spread over the expected life of a facility, that is usually greater than the actual lifetime operating cost.

It is likely that the full cost of emissions for each barrel is at least one-third greater than the figures generally reported in so-called life-cycle emissions studies.

Jon Petrie Vancouver

Log off

Re Governments Should Work With Facebook Rather Than Attack It (Jan. 4). In a democracy, the role of the government should be to manage private companies and markets for the public good, and not necessarily to create friendly environments for them. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission should break up Facebook; monopolistic companies have excessive rates of profit that result in more inequality of wealth – an undemocratic outcome.

The suggestion that businesses should be responsible corporate citizens, while laudable, seems to ignore the myth of corporate responsibility for anything other than shareholder profit and customer benefits.

Peter Venton Toronto

Rhino refresh

Re How South Africa’s Campaign Against Poachers Brought Rhinos Back From Near Oblivion (Jan. 4): The pursuit of a substance more precious than diamonds, gold or cocaine can be relentless. Such is the plight of the rhinoceros, an animal persecuted for its prized horn. Poaching, it seems, is destined to push this species to extinction.

But good news is even more precious. Conservation efforts have not just stemmed rhino poaching in South Africa. They have revealed the importance of innovation, sustained investment and international co-operation, from poacher-sniffing hounds that can’t be bribed to long-standing cultural norms that can be changed.

The key to success: a mindset rooted in evidence and committed to the long haul.

James Schaefer Professor of biology, Trent University; Peterborough, Ont.

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