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Adam Capay exits the Thunder Bay courthouse after a stay of proceedings was issued on his charge of first-degree murder.

David Jackson/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

..................................................................................................................................

Truly civilized country?

Re Judge Issues Stay In Case Of Adam Capay, Who Spent 1,636 Days In Solitary (Jan. 29): Canada prides itself on being a keen observer of human rights. Yet Adam Capay was kept in solitary confinement here for about four and a half years. Is this the behaviour of a truly civilized country?

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David Amies, Lethbridge, Alta.

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I have not read all the material on the ongoing debate about the use of solitary confinement. So I was surprised to read that much of Adam Capay’s four and a half years in solitary was spent in cells illuminated around the clock. In Canada!

It was only a few days ago that I was upset to read that China is holding Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in cells that are lit 24 hours a day.

Jim Duholke, North Vancouver

Diplomacy, eroded

The removal of Canada’s ambassador to China has been a dramatic highlight in the diplomatic dust-up between Canada and China. But it hides an issue of potentially greater concern, namely, the erosion of Canada’s once formidable diplomatic capability.

Successive governments have moved away from the Westminster tradition to an Americanization of ambassadorial appointments by assigning political colleagues and party stalwarts to head Canadian missions abroad.

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The primary argument in favour is that these appointees have political connections unavailable to non-partisan career diplomats. The arguments against are that they often lack foreign-language skills, knowledge of the history and culture of other countries, experience on the ground, an understanding of international systems and insight regarding what does and doesn’t work in life abroad.

At the same time as the sidelining of senior career professionals, governments have been hollowing out the core rotational Foreign Service, through abandoning direct national recruitment of the best and the brightest, limiting training and promotion opportunities, and flat-lining resources for the delivery of international-relations management and foreign-policy development.

Merging aspects of the Foreign Service with the domestic Public Service may seem to make sense on some levels, but the resultant homogenization puts Canada at a disadvantage in the international arena, where our global partners and competitors continue to develop and support their own highly trained and specialized diplomatic professionals.

Canada is confronting radical changes in global affairs. To ensure we have the means to protect and advance our multiple interests abroad in this shifting landscape, the Canadian government needs to urgently reassess its foreign policy capacity.

Abina ( Abbie) M. Dann, former ambassador and career diplomat; Ottawa

Gary J. Smith, former ambassador and career diplomat; Perth, Ont.

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Robin Higham, former ambassador and career diplomat; Ottawa

Richard Kohler, former ambassador and career diplomat; Ottawa

Daniel Livermore, former ambassador and career diplomat; Ottawa

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It was a terrible mistake to fire John McCallum. His remarks were having the effect of transferring accountability for the Meng extradition to the United States, where it properly belongs, as well as assuring the Chinese that under Canadian law, the extradition was not a fait accompli.

Now, no one, not the Chinese, not the Americans or even Canadians know what our government’s intentions are – other than floating rudderless through this crisis.

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Jim Thomson, Edmonton

Hegemons, hippos

Three hegemonic powers exist on the planet – the United States, China, and Russia. They compare rather well to hippopotamuses in a backyard swimming pool: If they paddle about amiably, no one else in the pool drowns. However, when in rut, trust hippopotamuses to churn the water until one is declared alpha-hippo.

When that happens, every other small creature in the pool confronts a tsunami. Canada, for instance. Until waters calm, says Paul Heinbecker (Moment Of Truth – Opinion, Jan. 26), Canada is obliged to count its blessings, grab the American hippo’s tail with one hand and hold on for dear life until the thrashing stops (the national nose would be held with the other hand, for obvious reasons of hippo anatomy).

John Higginbotham says much the same, but adds that Canada was always kidding itself for ever having hallucinated that the Beijing hippo might be a hottie (Don’t Blame John McCallum For The Current China Mess, Jan. 28).

There really is no “long game” for Canada, hippos being what they are. Their rut is cyclical, to extinction. The CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) and CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) – add also CUSMA (Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement) or NAFTA, or whatever else waddles out of the kiddies’ pool of the U.S. Congress – are, at best, flimsy flotation devices. They’re okay, but you can always still drown.

L.W. Naylor, Stratford, Ont.

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Unfair advantage

Re New Cancon Tax Proposals Would Cost Us (Jan. 29): Canadian content is great, but where is a Canadian more likely to watch it in coming years: online or broadcast TV? Our tax system confers an advantage to Netflix and other foreign services by not requiring them to collect GST on sales to Canadian consumers. This effectively puts a premium price on Canadian television because Canadian cable providers and streaming services must collect the GST.

The government could fix this distortion by making Netflix and other foreign internet companies collect GST on sales. But people hate “new” taxes, especially the so-called “Netflix tax.” So do governments in election years. Instead of broadening the tax base for the GST, the government could shrink it by zero-rating the GST on similarly situated Canadian service providers, somewhat levelling the playing field.

Alexander McPherson, Newmarket, Ont.

A soothed soul

Re Well Versed (First Person, Jan. 24): Essayist Frank Buchar’s fine suggestion that memorized poetry can soothe the soul sent me running to my bookshelf. But it struck me Bible verses can also serve that purpose, for believer and unbeliever alike. I even discovered there’s an app for that, not to mention scriptural counsel in Deuteronomy 11:18, which exhorts, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul.”

Gregory Smith, Monsignour, West Vancouver

And the winner is …

Re NHL’s All-star Doo-Dads Are Distracting And Underwhelming (Sports, Jan. 28): Next year, the NHL all-star skills competition should add some new categories. I suggest:

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- Best Don Cherry imitation;

- Best cliché interview;

- Most nonsensical interview;

- Most aw-shucks modest interview;

- Worst hair cut;

- Worst facial hair;

- Worst parking-lot-to-dressing-room outfit.

Nigel Smith, Toronto

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