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A B.C. ambulance paramedic is seen outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, on March 23, 2020.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

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The watchmen

Re Phone Tracking Might Be What we Need To Contain COVID-19 (March 24) and Toronto Denies Using Cellphone Surveillance To Monitor Coronavirus (March 25): As an intensive care physician, I understand the tyranny of time with respect to saving life. Every region that has managed to get the coronavirus outbreak under control has taken aggressive efforts to test as many people as possible, and began social distancing and self-isolation as soon as the alarming news arrived from China.

Additionally, Taiwan has legislated a cellphone-based “electronic fence” to ensure people who test positive are self-isolating for 14 days. Canada should have a similar system that strikes a balance between public safety and privacy. It should be done now.

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Peter Zalan Past president of the medical staff, Health Sciences North; Sudbury.

Building relief

Re Landlords Face Calls To Offer Rent Relief (Report on Business, March 25) and B.C. Promises Rent Relief And Freeze On Evictions (March 26): By urging landlords to backstop tenants unable to afford rent owing to the COVID-19 crisis, I believe the Ontario government and the City of Toronto are shirking a duty to support citizens in need. These actions not only led some groups in that city to withhold rent, but it also placed landlords and their financial backers in an extremely vulnerable position.

The B.C. government responded with steps that consider landlords and tenants alike, including temporary $500-a-month rent support. In doing so, I find British Columbia is setting an example for the rest of the country.

Randall Mang Sidney, B.C.

Mourning phase

Re Ashes To Ashes. Adjust Adjust (Opinion, March 21): The Spanish flu followed the carnage of the First World War and led some in North America to avoid funerals, resulting in a movement of “no funeral by request” and the start of memorial services (now renamed celebrations of life) excluding the human body as principal actor. Both these changes to cultural traditions challenged the way we understand ourselves as human beings.

Funerals allow us to consider the past – what a family narrative has been. They bring together loved ones to comfort one another and begin a healing process. For the narrative has forever changed and living characters seek new ways of incorporating the deceased, no longer bodily present, in constructive new ways. And the future narrative has yet to be written, filled with possibility both hopeful and dark.

Some individuals try to avoid the pain of physical life with denial, just as those who called for no funerals sought to prevent the pain they experienced during the Spanish flu. Others incorporate the pain of healing and seek new ways forward. I would like to thank contributor Brandy Schillace for starting a hopeful conversation about the shape of things to come.

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John Bailey D.Min, retired archdeacon; Coquitlam, B.C.​


The danger in contributor Brandy Schillace’s advocacy for the virtualization of mourning, as a response to COVID-19, is that it plays into the hands of the anti-religious.

Her suggestion that large groups at churches, synagogues, mosques or funeral homes be replaced by online memorials would not only lead to a dilution of death’s significance for the bereaved, but provide (to use a deliberately ironic phrase) a gift from heaven to atheists. They may see a useful weapon in the war against faith that encourages the abandonment of physical places of worship.

I imagine Richard Dawkins must be rubbing his hands.

Nick Lomonossoff Nepean, Ont.

Trade deadline

Re COVID-19 Isn’t The Only Thing That’s Gone Viral. Ageism Has, Too (Online, March 26): I’m old and ready to negotiate. I’ll trade my respirator for easy access to medical assistance in dying. I’m not prepared to spend any time lying about while drowning in my own fluids.

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Barb Sullivan Windsor Forks, N.S.

Recent history

Re Uncharted Territory (Opinion, March 21): From this century alone‚ we seem to have forgotten the impact of Sept. 11, 2001, with its military and security reaction, subsequent financial crisis and civil turbulence; the steep plunge of the 2008-09 financial crisis, which came as close to the Depression as most Canadians have ever experienced; and the now-eclipsed H1N1 swine flu pandemic, which infected 3.5 million Canadians and killed 428.

Canadians came through each of these crises with enough confidence that they were able to semi-forget the effects, it seems. I trust we can do it again.

David Winch North Hatley, Que.

Keep calm and…

Re A Wartime Economy Is A Particular Thing (March 25): Starting our self-isolation time, my wife was going through boxes and came across the following flyer issued in 1940 by the United Kingdom Ministry of Information for the War Office and Ministry of Home Security: “STAY WHERE YOU ARE: If this island is invaded by sea or air, everyone who is not under orders must stay where he or she is. This is not simply advice: It is an order from the Government, and you must obey it just as soldiers obey their orders. Your order is ‘Stay Put.' "

The flyer also answered, “What will happen?” “How shall I prepare to stay put?” "How can I help?” It concluded with: “STAY PUT: It’s easy to say. When the time comes it may be hard to do. But you have to do it; and in doing it you will be fighting Britain’s battle as bravely as a soldier.”

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We are living through a tricky time, but nothing compared with Britain in 1940 and other places at other times. We should just do what’s right and keep our spirits up.

Dennis Apedaile Canmore, Alta.


I grew up in London during the Second World War. I slept in an air-raid shelter every night for two straight years – our house was hit twice. I learned that it’s okay to panic from time to time, everybody does. I certainly did. Also I learned that in war, first things come first. And right now, for all of us, that should be following government guidelines on hygiene and social distancing.

Some say hope is not a strategy. But hope got us through those dark days. Now as my wife and I walk, no longer to Tims, but along the local trails, we are meeting many others for the first time. We feel a reawakening of the old civilian wartime spirit.

Once again, we are following the same unwritten rules: Hope, keep calm and carry on.

Gordon Salisbury Mississauga

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Re Rational Advice (Letters, March 21): A letter-writer refers to the ration coupons that were a fact of life in the 1930s and wartime thereafter. I still have my grandparent’s remaining coupons – still valid?

Craig Sims Kingston


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