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A person holds a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in front of a police officer during the Rolling Thunder protest in Ottawa on April 30.LARS HAGBERG/Reuters

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Rights and wrongs

Re I Thought The Charter Protected Canadians’ Fundamental Rights, But I Was Wrong (June 22): It does, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” But since the limitation prescribed by Section 33.(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms could hardly be deemed reasonable, is the notwithstanding clause itself unconstitutional?

Louis Desjardins Belleville, Ont.

Contributor Sheema Khan is not wrong.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does protect fundamental rights, offering several methods which recognize how complex a process it may be. These rights aren’t frozen or absolute, not even those we cherish most.

The “balancing provision” acknowledges that sometimes the fundamental rights of individual Canadians are in conflict. It offers methodologies for resolution through the courts, when legislators fall short of enacting the laws required.

Politicians who risk applying the notwithstanding clause risk being voted out of office. That’s up to us as engaged citizens.

Does the Charter present absolute rights enshrined in an inviolable system? No. Injustices can occur. Nevertheless, it articulates fundamental rights in a way that is nuanced, contextual and evolving, and in which we can repose confidence if we do our part.

Our Charter is as Canadian as possible, under the circumstances – and as the circumstances keep changing.

Ellen Anderson Summerside, PEI

Life support

Re Calling Code Blue For Canadian Health Care (June 21): Columnist André Picard wonders what might fix our health care system. Let’s start with his example of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient waiting 20 days in emergency for a hospital bed.

An Alzheimer’s patient needs neither an emergency department nor hospital bed unless they have other underlying medical conditions. They need caregiver support in their own home. Leave hospital beds for the truly needy.

There are far too many lonely people wasting away in hospital beds because the proper placement for them is unavailable. Discuss.

Rob Graham Kingston

Are there not benevolent teams of medical staff who go into developing countries to do cataract operations? This is what we should have in Canada.

I found out that here in Kingston, no ophthalmologists are taking referrals for cataract surgery owing to the backup in surgeries. This is a disaster for aging baby boomers. At 67, my vision is too poor to drive without very strong eyeglasses, and I live alone.

I think we would be better off admitting we are in the developing world when it comes to some aspects of our health care system, and start dropping half the hoops to get care. Why do I need to see an ophthalmologist to say, again, that I need cataract surgery?

Just get me in line outside a tent for cataract surgery, and let’s go.

Alison Dennis Kingston

Priority 1, in my opinion, is to clear the backlog of patients awaiting surgery. To do this, governments should seek novel solutions, including partnering with the private sector.

Involvement of the private sector would be hotly contested by some. Nevertheless, if delivered in a timely and professional fashion, and at no charge to patients with equal outcomes, why not include the private sector, especially if wait times could be reduced?

As columnist André Picard points out, Canada is “sleepwalking toward catastrophe.” Without innovative solutions, this is likely to occur sooner than we think.

Cecil Rorabeck London, Ont.

Numerous parts of the Canadian health care system continue to function perfectly fine. In each instance, the failures are within the largely public system.

Meanwhile, staffing and access to dental services has continually improved over the past three decades. Wait times for physical therapists is basically no greater than the next day. Optometrist appointments are readily available. Many of the health care services that exist beyond the reach of government supply management controls are functioning remarkedly well despite the pandemic.

The contrast is striking and should be a point for reflection. Some parts are failing, but not all. Why?

Mark Wolfgram Ottawa

It seems we have been neglecting our health care system for years. People make it work. If we do not value their service, and pay them appropriately, our system will likely fail.

In Ontario, how can we justify holding nurses to 1-per-cent salary increases under present circumstances?

Donald Sephton Hamilton

We need increased efficiency and accountability, now. We needed it a long time ago, and instead more money was poured in. Still there was more waste, declining levels of care, bloated bureaucracy and burnout of those who actually strived to deliver good care.

“Having” a family doctor on paper does not equate with timely access to service. Running health care as a business equates with maximizing profit. Building bigger facilities when there is no reasonable minimum level of service does not equate with improved delivery of care.

As columnist André Picard points out, our system is fixable. What needs changing is staring us right in the face.

David Hughes Glass MD (retired); Saugeen Shores, Ont.

“Do we have the appetite for change, on a political and societal level?” This question has been an issue for 50 years.

Canada has continued to patch over cracks in the health care system, rather than “buy change.” The primary-care system cannot sustain itself under fee-for-service reimbursement along with a lack of teamwork in communities.

Canada’s hospitals operate with successful “team medicine.” We need this in communities as well. Soon we will wake up to the fact that trauma-focused emergency departments make poor and expensive primary-care centres. For the elderly, admission to an acute bed through the emergency can result in poor care and poor use of hospital resources.

Let our premiers and Prime Minister do what is right for citizens and fund primary-care networks where all health professionals work on teams, and stave off the system’s collapse. Our team-medicine hospitals need help – there should be community-based team networks.

Ken Fyke CM, Victoria

Cost comparison

Re These Circuses Sure Cost A Lot Of Bread (Editorial, June 21): For weeks now, a majority of British Columbians, including leading pundits of all political stripes, have railed against a proposal of $789-million to build a new Royal B.C. Museum.

Sounds like good value to me against an estimated $100-million cost to host five World Cup soccer games.

John Pringle Victoria

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