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Doctors W.W. Wigle, Jack Griffin and W. Arthur Blair at the Medical Action for Mental Health conference held in Ottawa, March, 1964, in conjunction with the CMHA's landmark publication, More for the Mind.

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Health care’s orphan

Re People With Mental Illness Don’t Need More Talk (Jan. 30): Philip Moscovitch is spot on. Stigma against people with a mental illness is alive and well and impervious to superficial virtue-signalling campaigns. Ignorance is the root of stigma, one that will not be overcome by sending texts with a hashtag or donning a colourful T-shirt for “Mental Health Awareness” day at work, as well-intended as those campaigns may be.

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Ignorance drives people to view those with a psychiatric diagnosis as defined by the mental-health problem. Whereas someone with a medical issue is a person first (e.g. “He has arthritis”), stigma eclipses the human experiencing a mental illness (“He is schizophrenic”).

Ignorance of mental illness is everywhere, perhaps most insidiously in the media, which perpetuate these misinformed views, and in health-care providers, which results in misdiagnosis, inappropriate involuntary hospitalization, humiliation, and discourages help-seeking. People with mental illness would be better served by funding for grassroots education for the media, public, politicians and health-care providers alike, so we can move from talk to informed discussion, resulting in effective action.

Christine Purdon, Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology University of Waterloo

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In 1963, CMHA published More for the Mind, which noted that in no other field except leprosy has there been as much confusion, misdirection and discrimination. Nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Paul Garfinkel called mental health the orphan child of health care. It still is.

Despite the success of Bell Let’s Talk, and more than 10 years of work by the Mental Health Commission, the mental-health share of health spending continues to decline. The recent Health Accord between Canada and the provinces will invest $5-billion in mental-health services over 10 years, but spending will still be short of the annualized $3.1-billion investment that is required to reach the Mental Health Commission target of 9 per cent of health spending.

While this seems like a lot of money, it only requires a per capita investment of $120 per Canadian, which would be added to the $6,839 per capita we spend on health each year. Without these investments, wait lists and wait times will continue to grow. For example the wait list for supportive housing in Toronto has grown from 700 in 2009 to more than 15,000 now. So we need both – more talk and more action!

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Steve Lurie, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto Branch

The China problem …

Re China Is Not Seeking To Launch A New Cold War. That’s What Trump Is Doing (Jan. 30): John Ibbitson declares that China does not seek a new Cold War but “demands that its borders be respected.” Indeed, it is not “blameless,” and has “manipulated trading rules to its advantage.”

Yes – and taken Canadians hostage, interrogating them for several hours daily, keeping the lights on 24/7, not allowing legal representation when they are interrogated and limiting consular visits to one per month. It has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in “re-education” camps, and has intelligence laws that oblige individuals, organizations and institutions to assist security officials in carrying out a wide array of intelligence work.

Mr. Ibbitson says the question in Canada-China relations in Ottawa is whether Justin Trudeau is up to his job. Nonsense. Mr. Trudeau could be Solomon, Abe Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, the Pope and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity and he would not be able to solve the problem of China’s actions within its borders and around the world. The solution will be years of the international community pressuring China to conform to international standards of human rights, criminal and commercial law.

Jacques Soucie, Newmarket, Ont.

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John Ibbitson clearly defines the problem: “But the government in Beijing does not seek to impose its ideology and Chinese culture on the world. It demands that its borders be respected, although this is an issue because it has a very expansive definition of where those borders are.” China is indeed seeking to expand its borders – one 5G network at a time.

Mark Christian Burgess, Cobourg, Ont.

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Tuesday’s issue of The Globe and Mail featured the Huawei problem in articles, opinion pieces and the editorial, Getting Over Our China Illusions. Much was made in each about the fact that this was about the “rule of law.” Let’s be clear about something: The United States, and the current administration in particular, cares about the rule of American law, and especially as it relates to commerce. If you disagree, perhaps you should ask the people of Iraq who continue to die because the rule of international law was ignored by the U.S. and the “coalition of the willing” (hello, Five Eyes members).

The “special” relationship we have with the United States has not saved Canada from being declared a security problem (steel and aluminum tariffs). Yes, we share our belief in democracy with the United States (as long as our friends are voted in: Hello, Gaza). But let’s have clarity on the issues at hand.

E.L. Springolo, Aurora, Ont.

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Re Diplomacy, Eroded (letters, Jan. 30): For years, I’ve watched with dismay as successive Canadian governments have increasingly rewarded their political friends with the top overseas appointments. As sorry as I feel for John McCallum in the humiliating way he was treated, it is my profound hope that our next Canadian ambassador to China (and elsewhere, for that matter) is selected from the ranks of Canada’s trained diplomatic corps.

Beverley Cattrall, Victoria

Dyslexia, literacy

Re Canada’s Shortfall In Basic Skills Costs Us All (Jan. 25): Dyslexia is the elephant in the room when there is discussion of low literacy. Dyslexia affects, by the Ontario Ministry of Education’s own admission, 6 per cent to 17 per cent of students. That is at least one in 15 kids for whom the way reading is taught in our schools does not work.

How can we continue to deny all those children the equivalent of their “ramp” into our educational system?

Reading is fundamental to education, literacy and success in life. Helping these students learn to read by using proven, researched instruction methods in our schools would go a long way to improving literacy in Canada.

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Our grassroots volunteer organization hears from families every day looking for but not finding help for otherwise bright, hard-working children who struggle with reading. Effectively addressing dyslexia in our schools must be part of the solution to the literacy skills shortfall.

Riina Makk, President, Decoding Dyslexia Ontario; Victoria Harbour, Ont.

Hmm ...

Many MPs seem to be finding that their temporary chamber during Centre Block renovations is beautiful, a little cramped, and has acoustic issues that can make it difficult to hear debate. MPs being able to hear is vital. MPs being able to listen, well, solving that enduring conundrum will take more than sound proofing.

Eric LeGresley, Ottawa

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