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People fill a sidewalk in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver on March 21, 2020.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Indigenous health

Re ‘Are We A Top Priority?’: How Indigenous Communities Are Bracing For Coronavirus (March 23): I am concerned at the disaster that may be looming for Indigenous people living in the many dozens of fly-in-only communities of Northern Ontario and elsewhere across Canada’s North, a region I came to know well when I was lieutenant-governor of Ontario.

Even with the best will in the world, I don’t believe there is any way the government could halt the spread of COVID-19 if it is introduced into communities where there may be 10 to 15 people living in one- or two-bedroom clapboard buildings; where there are boil-water advisories; where medical care is often limited to a handful of nurse practitioners. Battlefield triage would happen and we would all wring our hands, but it would also be hard to rectify the neglect of generations of Indian Affairs bureaucrats and indifference of most prime ministers going back to Sir John A. Macdonald.

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For Indigenous people, COVID-19 could be akin to the chickenpox and smallpox epidemics of pre-Confederation days. Extraordinary action should be taken to prevent a repeat of history.

James Bartleman OC, OOnt; London, Ont.

Homeless health

Re Advocates Call For Help To Protect Vulnerable During Outbreak (March 16): Most restaurants, bars and social venues are closed in Vancouver. The streets are mostly deserted. Recently, I happened to drive through the Downtown Eastside. I was appalled to see the usual street scene going on as if nothing was happening. It looked like hundreds of people tightly packed on two blocks of sidewalk.

Many of these unfortunate people do not have a home to self-isolate in. As a medical doctor, I am very alarmed that this is ripe ground for COVID-19 infection and spread. These citizens, if infected, could overwhelm the ability of our system to treat them.

It is ironic that Vancouver has not been able to solve the homeless problem for decades. These people may finally find housing – in the ICUs of our hospitals.

Derryck Smith MD, Vancouver

Landlord woes

Re What Relief? (Letters, March 20): A letter-writer suggests that the government reduce rents by 50 per cent in response to the spread of COVID-19. I own a small apartment building in central Ottawa. Since retiring, the rent I collect from this building has been my sole source of income. Roughly 30 per cent of my revenue is required for my expenses: taxes, utilities, maintenance. A 50-per-cent decrease in rents would reduce my income by about 70 per cent, an amount that would barely pay for my groceries.

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The government of Ontario has also just published its sunshine list. Even at the best of times, income from my building would not place me on the list. Rather than targeting low-wage retirees, I would prefer that all those well-paid civil servants, whose salaries I am paying for with my taxes, contribute to those who have been worse affected. Perhaps 50 per cent of incomes above $100,000 and 100 per cent of incomes above $250,000 could be pooled into a fund for those who are now without an income, or struggling below the poverty line.

Anna Dolan Ottawa

Rainy days

Re Get Ready For Deficits The Likes Of Which We’ve Never Seen (March 19): For years our federal and provincial leaders have been running deficits while the economy was strong. Yet there will always be the next recession, war, natural disaster or even pandemic around the corner that requires significant government economic intervention or stimulus.

So for current and future politicians, an obvious lesson to learn: Don’t run deficits in good economic times.

Dale Mills Guelph, Ont.

From coast to coast?

Re The CBC’s Closing Of Local Newscasts Amid Crisis Is A Stunning Failure (March 20): I am 74 years of age and have watched CBC news in one form or another my entire life. But the times they are a-changin’.

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As contributor Robert Hurst points out: "Shame on the CBC for closing its local newscasts amid the coronavirus pandemic.” He could be accused of being biased, but TV critic John Doyle has also railed at the CBC’s news direction, or lack thereof.

If a national broadcaster cannot provide local news in markets as large as our largest cities, perhaps we no longer need a national broadcaster.

Larry Durst Markham, Ont.

When I heard the announcement from the CBC, I was shocked. If our national broadcaster disappears locally during a national emergency, why have a national broadcaster? I believe this is a complete failure of leadership and could be the beginning of a very quick end to the CBC. Choosing between funding for pandemic relief or the CBC now seems like a no-brainer.

Robert Hawkins Bedford, N.S.

In the details

Re Full Disclosure (Letters, March 20): A letter writer believes that Ontario receives “nothing like” the daily updates posted by officials in Buffalo, N.Y. In fact, the provincial government posts more detailed information about COVID-19 cases on their website. Updates are posted twice daily, at 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Details, when available, include the age and sex of a patient, whether the infection was linked to travel, the country travelled from and the patient’s status.

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Ken Cory, Oshawa, Ont.

A letter writer should be be assured that the Canadian government’s website gives more data, twice a day, than even old-school Buffalo news anchor Irv Weinstein could in his heyday.

John Marion, Toronto

By design

Re In This Time Of Sickness, We All Need To Take A Breath – And Parks Our Lungs (March 20): Architecture critic Alex Bozikovic is right to remind us of the value of public parks in this time of personal isolation. Landscape architects design these parks. In these perilous times, we should be harnessing the skills and ideas of designers of all disciplines: architects and interior designers to propose changes to public and private spaces to facilitate social distancing; industrial designers to develop low-cost and high-efficiency protective masks, shields and sanitation devices; graphic designers to bring clear, compelling and up-to-date information to the public; fashion designers to consider new forms of protective clothing and gloves.

Canada, and particularly Toronto, has one of the best educated and most experienced design work forces in the world. They should join emergency response teams in the coming months to rethink how we live and interact.

Arlene Gould, Toronto

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Tank half full

Re Province Unveils Stimulus For Oil And Gas Producers (March 21): Irony: When gas is as low as 72 cents a litre – and there’s nowhere to go.

Tom Scanlan Toronto


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