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A dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is drawn during a clinic at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont., on Jan. 2.Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press

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Pandemic responsibility

Re On Balance (Letters, Jan. 14): A letter-writer worries about the erosion of civil liberties if vaccines are mandated widely. In all discussions of rights and liberties, I would like to see them framed as one side of a two-sided coin. The other side is responsibility.

Spreading harmful disinformation regarding vaccines should be seen as not honouring freedom of speech. On the other side of the coin, it is also not respecting the responsibility to seek out and speak the truth, thus benefiting society at large.

Tony Bull Ottawa

Re Quebec’s Unvaxxed Tax May Be A Stretch, But It’s Hardly An Assault On Liberty (Opinion, Jan. 15): “Sin taxes” are well-established precedents of governments taxing bad health behaviours. One can cynically look at these targeted taxes as prepaying for future health costs.

A smoker in British Columbia is currently paying $6.50 in tax per pack of 20 cigarettes. Assuming they smoke a pack a day, the annual tax is $2,372.50. Assuming this Canadian sinner survives for 30 years, they will have paid more than $70,000 toward their potential cancer treatment arising from poor health choices.

To carry this somewhat twisted logic to its fullest, smokers should launch a civil suit against the government, arguing they are being discriminated against by contributing more than their fair share to future health costs.

Neil Alexander West Vancouver

Djokovic and democracy

Re Game, Set, Match: How The Novak Djokovic Vaccination Saga Finally Ended With His Inglorious Deportation From Australia (Jan. 17): What a great demonstration of how a democratic society is governed.

Tennis Australia and the state of Victoria pushed rules and business interests to get Novak Djokovic into the Australian Open. There’s nothing unusual about pushing an agenda.

The federal government, responsible for health and immigration, had rules and interests of its own. Government interests often look like a political play – that too is normal in free societies.

To test government decisions, sometimes courts are called upon. Twice, Mr. Djokovic and the world got to see how Commonwealth laws are handled in court and, in short order, an outcome was achieved.

Good on Australia for the bravery to show that it is a multilayered society with vulnerabilities, weaknesses and strengths. The lifeblood of free democracies is a mix of competing interests that can overcome hurdles and prosper together.

Aapo Skogster Langley, B.C.

Rules of the game

Re ‘Be Afraid And Expect The Worst’: Warning To Ukraine A Signal Diplomacy Has Failed (Jan. 15): Canadians who advocate the admission of Ukraine to NATO should be wary of their wishes coming true.

An attack on one NATO member is to be considered an attack on all, requiring a collective response. Were Ukraine to be admitted, any invasion or assault by Moscow would require Canada to engage in conflict with Russia. Is this what Canadians want?

Relations between Russia and its former Soviet members will always be tense, fraught with the danger of armed intervention. There are complex historic relationships that make them, in a way, prisoners of the past.

Now Ukraine is caught between its desire to be a Western democratic state and the reality of geopolitical subservience to Russia. Canada should support the principle of democratic self-determination in Ukraine, but without acceding to NATO admission. That would only make a bad situation worse.

Ray Argyle Kingston

Rule of law

Re Role Of Foreign Judges Faces Fresh Scrutiny In Hong Kong’s Crackdown (Jan. 13): I beg to differ with the former chief justice of the Supreme Court. I believe there is no rule of law in Hong Kong and that force reigns, as evidenced by the repression of freedom of speech, jailing of dissidents and adoption of punitive laws.

Some jurists focus on the rule of law as primarily a legal concept, as opposed to a political institution related to the exercise of power. With the rule of law, the law is supreme. It is the ultimate arbiter in power’s exercise.

In Canada, the Constitution and Charter ensure the law’s supremacy. In Hong Kong, Beijing and the Communist Party seem to be the ultimate authority, therefore there is no rule of law to protect nor to enforce, either in the administration of justice or in the exercise of political power.

Jean Jacques Blais PC, QC; former solicitor general of Canada; Ottawa

Children first?

Re The Pope’s Criticism Of Childless Couples Demonstrates A Gross Ignorance (Jan. 14): To judge the Pope for his comments on childless couples is most revealing to me, primarily because the rationale is almost exclusively about money. I find neither critic particularly worthy of praise, nor are any of us mere mortals able to see inside the souls of others.

I am grateful that my parents – raising a family in the 1930s and 1940s during a severe depression and devastating war – avoided calculating the certainties of their children’s future potential, believing it to be a ludicrous exercise. Money enough to manage, with no frills, was okay for that generation. When expectations are low, or even absent, there is little room for disappointments.

Expectations for today are in a freefall thanks in no small part to a microscopic organism that has interrupted our best laid plans. We are all destined to live with some uncertainties – a humbling legacy for any age.

Joan McNamee Kamloops, B.C.

The Pope’s job is to get into “good trouble” for applying the insights of Catholic tradition. For Catholics, openness to having and raising children is a core component of marriage, not a choice that can be separated away.

If marriage is the best life a person can live, why would anyone not take their chance to live it to the full? That is a line of reasoning young people can benefit from, no matter what choices they make, and it is Catholic at heart.

Matthijs Kronemeijer Toronto

Canadian correspondence

Re Jack London Is Born (Moment in Time, Jan. 12): Jack London had more Canadian connections than often realized.

At the Oakland Public Library, the young London was influenced by a well-read librarian who was a graduate of Queen’s University. Frederick Irons Bamford introduced him to Darwin and Marx, whose writing convinced the writer that the logic of social evolution led to socialism. He went on to become an active socialist and radical social critic.

In another connection, London later befriended an itinerant Canadian socialist agitator, Wilfrid Gribble, who arranged for his dystopian novel, The Iron Heel (1908), to be serialized in a Canadian newspaper.

David Frank Fredericton

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