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Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus takes part to a news conference after a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Pneumonia due to the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2020.

Christopher Black/WHO/Reuters

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Medical history

Re How We Avoid A Repeat Of SARS (Jan. 21): In 2003, I was on staff at Scarborough Grace Hospital when a patient was admitted to our intensive-care unit with a severe respiratory tract infection.

An alert nurse in our unit had heard from contacts in China that, in spite of limited information from Chinese authorities, there was an outbreak there of a similar illness. As well, experts in infectious disease first told us the outbreak was being mislabelled and should be called “MARS” – mild adult respiratory disease. Later we were assured that there was no transmission from patients to hospital staff, and so no need to wear protective masks. Finally, as columnist André Picard says, “contradictory messages" sent out by various bodies and officials complicated management.

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Does this all sound familiar? Have we learned since then? Can we indeed “avoid the debacle of 2003?" I certainly hope so – but I am skeptical.

Larry Grossman MD, FRCPC, Toronto

Please stand up

Re Barton To Be Among First To Testify Before Committee Tasked With Investigating Canada-China Relations (Jan. 21): It certainly seems appropriate that Canadian envoy to China Dominic Barton should testify at the parliamentary committee on Canada-China relations. He can hopefully help dial down the rhetoric and partisan comments on all sides and bring the focus back to the sad reality of the situation.

Hopefully, the committee will also ask former U.S. ambassador David MacNaughton or acting ambassador Kirsten Hillman for their take on why Canada – the United States’ closest ally and largest trading partner – is being thrown under the bus in regards to China, and what our government is doing to extricate us from under there and get the U.S. to act as a true friend would and should.

James Finlay Toronto

The rue of law

Re Trudeau Rejects ‘Prisoner Exchange’ Of Two Canadians In China For Meng Wanzhou (Online, Jan. 21): Justin Trudeau has rejected the potential prisoner exchange of Meng Wanzhou for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, saying that “we are a country of the rule of law and we will abide by the rule of law.”

It is unfortunate for Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor that their release would not result in the preservation of jobs in vote-rich Quebec. Otherwise, Mr. Trudeau would perhaps be more willing to consider using the power of his office in a legal matter.

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Jonathan Taylor Lethbridge, Alta.


Re Canada Caught In Israeli Campaign Against ICC Probe (Jan. 22): Attacks on the International Criminal Court are nothing new. Countries that refused to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC, such as Israel, the United States and China, seem to have always resisted this court with its global respect for the rule of law and accountability for crimes against humanity, lest they be targeted for their international boot-prints.

In a very dangerous world splintered by nationalism and shifting alliances, support for an international court of justice should be vital to at least try to control genocidal tendencies and the extinction of human rights. It seems an important time in our history to promote international co-operation, respect for human dignity and the rule of law. Canada should speak out and take a principled stand to preserve and support the ICC’s jurisdiction and effectiveness.

William Trudell Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers; Toronto


In these volatile times, we look to the law for certainty. Yet U.S. Republicans are calling Donald Trump’s impeachment trial a “ridiculous charade”; Israel is engaged in a campaign to discredit the International Criminal Court; China refuses to accept Canada’s extradition treaty with the United States; and the federal and B.C. governments are at odds with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs over whose rules should apply to a pipeline. We are reminded that the law is neither absolute nor infallible.

As is often the case, these issues are complex, and workable solutions will likely fall within the vast grey area between positions. Viewing complex issues in simple I’m-right-you’re-wrong terms is not helpful. In fact, it seems to be part of the problem.

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Donald Hall Ottawa

Destination Cooperstown

Re Good Manners, And Patience, Pay Off For Larry Walker (Sports, Jan. 22): Larry Walker not only became the second Canadian to join baseball’s Hall of Fame, he did it in an ever-so-Canadian way.

Before the inductees were announced, Mr. Walker tweeted that he didn’t think he had mustered enough votes, but that was okay with him. He just felt blessed to have been a Major League Baseball player after flunking-out at hockey.

Sweet, Larry. You deserve it.

Dan Turner Ottawa

Baked

Re Meghan And Harry Move To Canada: The Plan So Far, And The Questions It Raises (Online, Jan. 21): With their plans to market Goop-like products, Harry and Meghan will likely be raking in the loonies. I am sure that with their already vast fortunes, and plans to make more, they can be personally responsible for any security they need.

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I would be profoundly dismayed if Canada pays for this. Let them eat cake and pay for it themselves. Jeanne’s Bakery is the place for cake in Winnipeg.

June Slobodian Winnipeg

Converted

Re Fifty Years Later, Metric Still Hasn’t Won The Day In Canada (Jan. 22): Freedom to choose has been a boon to Canadian retailers as they can state prices in ways that might seem cheaper to consumers. Would you rather see hamburger priced at $5 for each pound or $11 a kilogram? Instead of $1.09 for each litre of gas, how would you react to $5.04 a gallon?

Doug Brandy Ottawa


While sipping my eight-ounce coffee after a 15-kilometre run, I chuckled over Andrew Coyne’s column. Now for some breakfast: a half-cup of oatmeal, or should I say 50 grams? Or 118 millilitres? How much water do I need again? Forget it; I’m suddenly in the mood for eggs.

Kate Soles Victoria

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Indeed, the imperial system is so immediately intuitive: Water boils at 212 F, freezes at 32 F; there are 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards to a mile and don’t forget 16 ounces to a pound.

This article annoyed me so much that it made me mess up today’s sudoku.

Line Baribeau Quebec


Columnist Andrew Coyne is correct. The conversion to metric is not yet complete, and won’t be until we change our speech. Only when we hear phrases such as “we are just centimetring along,” or “go the extra kilometre,” or “a gram of prevention is worth a kilo of cure,” will we know conversion is complete.

Mark Roberts Gananoque, Ont.


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