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Police policing

Re Only Civilians Can Police The Police (Editorial, July 16): It is interesting that there is even a debate about this concept, not to mention tactics such as secretive internal investigations, long delays, minimal or no penalties and no apparent effect on the increasing trend of police abuse of power.

One could ask: Should the WE Charity scandal be investigated by Liberals, or the Mike Duffy scandal have been investigated by Conservatives? Should alleged violations of hunting laws be investigated by people with hunting licences?

Years ago, two Oxford-educated humorists produced an excruciatingly funny history of England called 1066 and All That. Its description of the Magna Carta was that “nobles shall be judged by nobles because they understand.” The implication was that nobles could get away with anything they did to the lower classes, which is what happened for centuries.

We should abolish a system in which “police are judged by police because they understand,” and institute independent supervisory bodies with adequate representation of those most subject to police violence and racism.

Ed Whitcomb Author, Understanding First Nations: The Legacy of Canadian Colonialism; Ottawa

All existing police supervisory bodies investigate large numbers of complaints but lay virtually no charges, and those few rarely result in convictions. Whether the police do it, or independent investigators do, the results have equally approached zero. Systems are designed to produce the results they inevitably achieve.

We should rethink the process and do something quite different if we are to have any impact on police lawlessness.

Clayton Ruby CM, Toronto

WE works?

Re Liberals Resist Further Probe Of WE Affair (July 18): Friends and I, unpaid volunteers, spent more than two decades working to get Ottawa to acknowledge Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914 to 1920. An endowment of $10-million was established in 2008 as a gesture of symbolic redress. The annual interest earned on that amount has been used for supporting various commemorative and educational projects recalling this historic injustice, when thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans were unjustly rounded up as “enemy aliens” and forced into heavy labour.

Meanwhile, two brothers with connections to the Liberals (almost) managed to administer $900-million, virtually overnight. This news tends to undermine public confidence in the objectivity, fairness and transparency of the civil service in Canada. Those responsible should go.

Lubomyr Luciuk Kingston

For years, it seems WE Charity has largely avoided accountability. We should look past this now-cancelled contract and think critically about WE’s work. Just as we should no longer plead good intentions for ultimately self-serving volunteer trips, I believe the issue of WE’s international development cannot be solved with a new board of directors.

We shouldn’t need to pay thousands of dollars to see poverty in another country for it to matter. How many Canadian communities would welcome unskilled teenagers to build schools while taking jobs away from local workers in the process? Our entitlement to imposing our inexperience on “global partner villages” feels unjustifiable.

Ultimately, I find that WE doesn’t need a new board – it needs a new mindset toward international development.

Aeriel Benjamin-Kent Toronto

Cancer claims

Re Claims System For Workers With Cancer Outdated: Study (July 11): Ontario had a solution to the ongoing problem of occupational cancer claims 25 years ago, when the Occupational Disease Panel was created from the Royal Commission on Asbestos in 1985. Over the course of its brief life, the panel, with representatives from management, labour and science, issued 20 unanimous policy reports to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

For example, the panel’s work on firefighters led to effective policies supporting payment for brain and other cancers. Unfortunately, the WSIB did not respond to all reports, and many workers and their cancers remain uncompensated.

Since the panel’s dissolution by the Conservatives in 1998, the WSIB has had no clear way to investigate and develop independent adjudicative criteria for occupational disease. The historic compromise of workers forgoing the right to sue employers, in return for a presumption of workplace causation, has proved to be unfair.

Not until there is consistent political commitment, across successive governments, will we believe that workers claims will ever be fairly adjudicated.

Carolyn Archer Senior research officer (1988-1997), Occupational Disease Panel; Toronto

Nicolette Carlan Chair (1991-1998), Occupational Disease Panel; Waterloo, Ont.

Pipeline protections

Re Environmentalists’ New Tack Signals Even More Difficult Era For Pipelines (Report on Business, July 11): Columnist Eric Reguly writes, as an aside, that “in Canada, where pipelines are more lightly regulated, information on pipeline leaks is difficult to obtain.”

We believe that Canada has one of the most stringently regulated pipeline systems in the world. The Canada Energy Regulator enforces regulations on 73,000 kilometres of our country’s interprovincial and international pipelines, including inspections, investigations, audits and enforcement.

Leaks from CER-regulated pipelines are rare. There were no liquid leaks from buried CER-regulated pipelines reported in 2019. There were six leaks that did occur at CER-regulated above-ground facilities last year; each of these incidents were followed up by the CER and the company to reduce the risk of future occurrences.

For leaks that have occurred, the CER website provides details on pipeline incidents, including injuries, environmental impacts, fires, explosions, the substance released, how much was released, what happened, why it happened, when and where and overall industry performance. In addition, there have been no fatalities reported at CER-regulated facilities in the past five years.

Keith Landra Chief Safety Officer, Canada Energy Regulator; Calgary

Health history

Re Advocacy Groups Challenge Police Access to Ontario Virus-testing Data (July 17): Granting police access to the personal information of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 is reminiscent of the demand of surgeons and first responders in the 1980s to know the HIV status of persons under their care.

These health professionals argued back then that personal safety required such disclosure. In practice, the information provided only an illusion of safety; it was the persons with no tests on record who placed them at risk. The answer then, as it should be now, is to presume that all persons are infected and take appropriate precautions.

As happened during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, access to such information will likely drive those at greatest risk of COVID-19 from being tested. They are the people who historically have been marginalized and whose advocates are now challenging Ontario’s disclosure law.

“No test is best” was the slogan of a distrusting gay male leadership in the 1980s, an admonition that would be devastating for control of the current pandemic. There should be no justifiable need for police who encounter citizens to know their COVID-19 status.

Philip Berger MD, Toronto

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