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Prevention prescription

Re Canadian Officials Continue Tests For Coronavirus (Jan. 24): The need for precautionary measures was the clear message from the SARS Commission inquiry into problems with Ontario’s response in 2003. The commission advised not to wait for scientific certainty to act. There is mounting evidence now that the new coronavirus is either here or on its way. We should get out in front of the disease.

There is much that can be done now to prevent spread, yet in an echo of SARS, health-care system leaders once again seem more focused on reducing any perception of a problem. The better way to allay understandable fear would be to ensure health-care workers, particularly in hospitals, have proper protective measures, equipment and training to prevent the kind of spread that happened during SARS.

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Telling us to calm down seems infinitely less effective than showing us concrete actions that – we learned the hard way – are needed.

Nancy Johnson, occupational health and safety specialist (retired), Ontario Nurses’ Association; Sudbury


Re A New Deadly Virus, And The Lesson Of SARS (Editorial, Jan. 22): A key SARS lesson: Keeping health workers safe by taking a precautionary approach was a major reason why British Columbia had no outbreak, while Ontario had 44 deaths and 247 probable cases. Half the Ontario victims were health workers.

Consider: The first SARS patients in Toronto and Vancouver presented within hours of each other. The B.C. patient was placed on full precautions within minutes of entering Vancouver General Hospital. The Toronto patient was not isolated for 21 hours. Some suggest good fortune was behind B.C.’s outcome. Justice Archie Campbell of the SARS Commission said B.C. “made its own luck” by taking a precautionary approach to worker safety.

Justice Campbell further wrote: “It is not surprising that SARS was contained so effectively at an institution so steeped in the precautionary principle.” On his recommendation, this approach is now enshrined in Ontario’s public-health legislation.

Mario Possamai, senior advisor to the commissioner, Commission to Investigate the Introduction and Spread of SARS in Ontario; Toronto

For the culture

Re This Doesn’t Look Like Reconciliation (Editorial, Jan. 24): During 30 years working in the criminal justice system, what I saw consistently with First Nations people was that they were cut off from their cultural heritage. This usually led to both social and cultural isolation, and I found this lack of feeling rooted to anything was as significant a factor in criminality as poverty and lack of education.

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I did what I could to encourage them to reconnect, to find a First Nations elder to guide them through the process. And it was a process, since they almost always lacked the confidence to approach those who were in the best position to help them.

The residential schools are long gone, and the Sixties Scoop happened well before most First Nations people today were born, but the lasting effects are still very much there. In addition to providing education opportunities and working to reduce poverty, helping them reconnect with their culture should be a mandatory step on the long road to reconciliation.

Steve Soloman Toronto

ABCs of KPIs

Re On Education Funding, Kenney Gets It Right (Jan. 24): In his support for Jason Kenney’s move toward a new set of performance indicators for post-secondary education, columnist Gary Mason welcomes universities to the “real world.” As a former faculty association president, dean of arts and academic vice-president, I can assure him that this is where we have been all along.

Remember there was Ralph Klein’s foray into KPIs and its impact on Alberta’s post-secondary system. At that time, KPIs encouraged the province’s two largest universities to become more open and absorbent. Government policy rewarded an increase in capacity – thereby encouraging a modification of admission standards and the increased use of contract and sessional faculty. But this also had consequences and potentially unintended outcomes.

KPIs placed some academic programs and institutions in Alberta at considerable risk: Smaller institutions lost students as a direct result of government policy, and were then punished for declining enrolments through reduced provincial funding. Rather than locating universities and colleges in a private sector context, I would suggest that they are better framed as community assets. It is also helpful to remain attentive to another truth of the “real world” – that post-secondary systems can be weakened by the consequences of government policies that fail to fully attend to the diversity of these vital institutions, and what they contribute to their communities and our collective future.

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Scott Grills Brandon University

Calendar check

Re Garneau To Meet With Families Of Canadian Max Crash Victims (Jan. 24): At long last, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau has finally agreed to meet with relatives of the 18 Canadians who died last March in the tragic 737 Max plane crash. The families had been wanting to meet with Mr. Garneau for 10 months – even a busy cabinet minister surely could have found an hour in his schedule to meet, offer support and try to provide some answers to the grieving families.

Michael Gilman Toronto

Taking a stanza

Re Ontario, Education Unions Battle For Public Support (Jan. 24):

School is a place to learn
Learn about life and earn
Earn knowledge and ask questions that burn

So I imagine it was all quite a shock
To hear that school was coming to a stop
Once a week we were stuck in this lock

It’s strange to not be in school
Denying education is honestly quite cruel
Students caught right in the middle of this duel

This is all such a mess
Parents are very distressed
We all take a moment to reassess
And take a deep breath…

Nonetheless we say yes to the crazy amount of stress
And deal with this problem in the flesh because sometimes
Stubbornness isn’t always the best…

Problems are hard to deal with – sigh
It’s hard to come to an agreement – why?
Because no one will budge – it’s a tie

But if you are going to disagree
If you’re going to fight, just please –
Don’t have students caught up in your cold cold breeze.

Jahaan Malik Grade 7 student; Markham, Ont.

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