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Shoppers wear masks at a mall on the third day of Quebec's mandatory mask order for all indoor public spaces July 20, 2020 in Laval, Que.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

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Mandatory masks

Re Rising From the Ashes: The Mandatory-Mask Debate Feels Awfully Familiar (July 21): Columnist Robyn Urback has drawn a compelling parallel between objections to mandatory masks in indoor public places and past objections to smoking indoors. But to say there are few satisfactory approaches to implementing regulatory changes requiring a shift in personal behaviour does not account for Ontario’s efforts to curb smoking.

Faced with ingrained tobacco use in the 1990s, the government and a coalition of stakeholders implemented an integrated strategy using consultation, education, research and increased enforcement to complement legislative action. Legislation both reflected and furthered public support by providing minimum provincial requirements that municipalities were allowed to exceed, but not lag. Additional funding and co-ordination ensured it all came together.

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This type of plan to address viral transmission seems to be lacking, not just for mask-wearing, but for rule-making, communications, screening, contact-tracing and incident response. This pandemic demands even greater speed and collaboration, but there are lessons available to address behaviour right now.

Denis Gertler Former director, Smoke-Free Ontario Branch; Toronto

Police policy

Re Undermining Trust In Police Harms Us All (July 20): I’ve just caught my breath after reading former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli’s apologia for the RCMP.

He writes that “our national police force, created more than a century ago to bring peace and order to the West, has always reflected the values … of our society.” I don’t know what an Indigenous Canadian would think of this statement, but I’d say it was false – having worked in wrongful convictions for 16 years, I can safely say that the RCMP’s concern about image is paramount.

Ken Klonsky Vancouver

It’s clear to me that policing, like long-term care, requires more than a business-as-usual approach, as evidenced by police leadership’s apparent playing down of problems.

The claim that “the vast majority of police work … is carried out appropriately,” as former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli writes, seems inconsistent with the 10 per cent that “could be more effective,” especially if that percentage occurs in any interaction with racialized minorities.

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Then “there is systemic racism in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, because there is systemic racism in Canada.” Parents would be familiar with the refrain of “everyone else was doing it.” Public institutions may reflect our attitudes, but should also reflect our aspirations. Would we accept a Supreme Court no more racist than the population?

And criticisms should “recognize many serious and longstanding efforts of organizations including the RCMP … to eliminate racism.” But have these worked? Is there evidence of a culture of improvement? At this point, a participation medal for trying does not seem enough.

Rather than “undermining” trust, well-founded current concerns suggest that the RCMP should earn back trust by demonstrating an ability to acknowledge, analyze and improve.

Chester Fedoruk Toronto

Most of society has been silent for a variety of reasons, but I want to acknowledge the difficult and stressful job that police do.

As former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli writes, Canadian police respond to millions of calls a year. And, yes, some turn out badly, and the cries for change to some policing practices are warranted and welcome. However, I find recent depictions of police to be one-sided and “piling on.” Mr. Zaccardelli’s opinion on anti-police rhetoric may be the first I’ve read that provides a different context other than criticism from every angle of society.

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I appreciate the opportunity to read the adverse opinion for a change.

Bob Purcell Pickering, Ont.

Whose priority?

Re Back-to-school Must Be Our Top Priority (July 21): There have been many columnists who link economic recovery and parental sanity with schools and daycares being fully operational, and consider the virtues of in-person schooling and how it prepares a person for later life and independence. While this may be true, what about consideration for students who find in-person schooling excruciatingly painful?

These are students who are bullied, have anxiety or face systemic discrimination based on race or socioeconomic status. For many of them, online learning or homeschooling have been reprieves from the agony that the school system forces them to endure.

As Canadians and governments rethink such things as universal income and long-term care facilities, perhaps we should also think about the kind of school environment we send our children to – for their sakes, and not those of economic recovery and parental sanity.

Robert Hayashi Aurora, Ont.

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What happens when a teacher or education worker has to self-isolate multiple times because of exposure (and we get about 10 sick days a year)? And what kind of socializing will students experience when they are two metres apart? How to teach gym? Music? Drama?

Most everyone agrees that schools need to reopen. But doing so without providing any guidance for how it can safely be done, for all concerned parties, would be irresponsible.

Melanie Dickie Belleville, Ont.

Case for Karen

Re Am I A ‘Karen’? (First Person, July 21): I am a “Karen.” That’s my name and I’ve always liked it. I’ve been called Karen for 65 years.

I have known many Karens, a good friend of mine is Karen. I don’t think either of us is “an entitled white woman who wants what she wants.” I am trying to not take this personally, but can we just stop? I am sure many of us know Karens who are not like these mean “Karens.”

Getting upset about waiting in line at a coffee shop for 25 minutes and complaining to the manager is not something to be ashamed of. It’s being assertive and speaking up for one’s self. We try to teach this to our children.

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Karen Burd Oakville, Ont.

Fit to print

Re U.S. Cable News Is Headed For The Gutter, But Fox Is Already There (July 22): TV critic John Doyle writes that, after a recent column about Tucker Carlson, “some of the mail I received can’t be quoted here.“ I disagree.

The mail should be printed, along with the names of senders, so that they can be held accountable, hopefully ostracized and maybe fired from their jobs.

Andrew Martin Toronto

Dog days

Re In Pittsburgh, The Blue Jays Could Find A True Home Away From Home (July 22): I must regretfully disabuse contributor David Shribman of the belief that he will be “seeing” a major-league team in Pittsburgh named the Toronto Blue Jays.

With the Jays roster consisting of one ostensible major-league starting pitcher and a collection of batters who can’t find the strike zone, Mr. Shribman should expect this farcical 60-game season to be painful and boring.

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Selby Martin Toronto

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