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The Art Gallery of Ontario plans to sell some A.Y. Jackson paintings to free up money to purchase Indigenous and other Canadian art.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

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

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Poorly drawn plan

Everyone can agree that the Art Gallery of Ontario should acquire more Indigenous and Canadian works, but no one should support the AGO’s proposed plan of selling off paintings by Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson in order to fund such a plan (Change Of Scenery: AGO To Sell A.Y. Jackson Paintings To Diversify Collection, Jan. 11).

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You don’t cut off part of your left arm in order to create a better balance with the right.

For an important acquisition program like this, the AGO first needs to try to raise funds from private and public sources. Failing those efforts, and assuming the AGO is truly serious about its plan, 100 per cent of the entire AGO acquisition budget in the next several years should be dedicated to the purchase of more Indigenous and Canadian works.

AGO management needs to be far more innovative in its approach to this.

Edward Carson, Toronto

Votes from away

Yasmin Rafiei suggests that there should be no limitations on the voting rights of expatriate Canadians (Why Should Expats Suffer For Suffrage? Jan. 11).

She states that “my right to vote enables me to decide the state of the home I plan on returning to.” But I don’t believe that it is reasonable for those of us who live in this country, under the authority of the Canadian government, to have its operations influenced by a large population that does not live here and is not greatly affected by government decisions.

Voting rights justifiably should have two limitations: citizenship and residency. Only citizens should be permitted to vote because citizens are presumed to be loyal to this country; they have made a home here and expect to stay. Only residents should be permitted to vote because only residents are significantly affected by their government.

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Jeff Breukelman, Richmond Hill, Ont.

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The right to vote must and does exist for every Canadian, always and anywhere. Yet the exercise of that right can and should be reasonably limited, such as Canadians below an age of maturity, and, as in the case of expats, Canadians who are not experiencing and engaging with any community of electors in Canada because their ordinary place of residence is elsewhere.

We cast our ballots individually and secretly, but we are making a collective community decision about our representative voice in government.

Limiting voting rights is reasonable, and it is arguably more reasonable to limit expats in the exercise of that right than it is to limit, say, 14 year olds who live and experience the community on a daily basis and can therefore make an informed contribution to the collective best interest in choosing representation for their community.

Gregory Lang, Toronto

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Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that expats do have full voting rights, it is time to do what Italy has done (Supreme Court Rules Voting Restrictions On Expatriate Citizens Are Unconstitutional, Jan. 11).

We should give them parliamentary representation to express their unique needs and perspectives by creating four House of Commons seats: Europe, Americas, Asia and South Asia (including Australia and New Zealand), and one Senate seat. Not only is it fair but we need to hear those opinions.

Eric Mendelsohn, Toronto

Prevention for everyone

Without minimizing the tragedies of each suicide, and the disastrous effects on family members and friends, the recent loss of 15 military members should be kept in perspective (Defence Department Reports 15 Suicides Last Year Despite New Preventative Measures, Jan. 10).

The rate of suicides for males in Canada is 17.9 per 100,000, females 5.3 per 100,000, according to Statistics Canada. With regular forces of 70,000, plus reserve forces of 30,000, of which 15 per cent are female, it seems the rate in the military is not much different from that in the general population. The only reason to point this out is that research into causes and prevention should not be limited to the military, but is urgently needed for the general population.

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John Cocker, Stouffville, Ont.

Educating Grayson

I would like to commend Guelph, Ont., mother Lisa Kahn for having the courage to go public with her autistic son’s story (Educating Grayson, Jan. 5).

She speaks for the many parents who might fear shame and judgment if they come forward. This, in turn, fuels a culture of silence and isolation for many affected families. Judging from the follow-up articles and letters to the editor, this is a serious and urgent problem which needs immediate attention. Let’s make sure the risk Ms. Kahn has taken in exposing the enormousness of the problem has not been in vain.

Barbara Loosemore, Toronto

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I take issue with a letter writer’s characterization of special education classes as “much more about daycare than learning” (Is It Fair To Put Kids With Complex Needs In A Regular Class? Jan 8).

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I teach in a self-contained classroom for students who have intellectual (developmental) disabilities at a high school. I work together with my students to set their learning goals. Students learn to take the bus, cook their own food, get jobs, communicate their hopes and dreams for their future, and develop social and self-regulation skills that serve them through their lives. We teach academic skills, too.

Last October, we ran a school-wide fundraiser and collected more than 1,000 pairs of socks, distributing them to local shelters. We run a popcorn-sales business, and operate a clothing closet serving the student body. Every student, regardless of their disability, can participate in these activities. We are an important part of our school.

Please don’t assume that placing students in a self-contained classroom “doesn’t do much for the disabled,” as the letter states.

Heather Calder, Elmira, Ont.

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As a retired high-school English teacher and special educator, I’ve worked with students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in both inclusive and congregated school settings.

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When I began working with adolescent students with ASD I was surprised to discover that my background in learning disabilities was well-suited to meeting the needs of my students who also learn differently. Temple Grandin, a leading ASD expert who also has autism, challenges educators to adopt a strength-based approach to teaching. In her book, The Autistic Brain, she encourages us to “stop thinking about what’s wrong [and] instead [think] of what could be better.”

My students taught me that a strength-based approach can reveal abilities and talents previously hidden or misunderstood; and as their strengths developed their challenging behaviours receded. Of course, challenging behaviours need to be addressed and understood but as part of a strength-based approach to teaching and learning.

Corinne Levitt, Toronto

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