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Letters to the Editor May 14: Canadians’ demands on diplomacy. Plus other letters to the editor

The Canadian Flag is illuminated by morning light atop the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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Demands on diplomacy

Re Two Canadian Women Freed From Somaliland Detail Harrowing Ordeal (May 13): I read with dismay about the harrowing experience faced by Karima Watts and Maymona Abdi in a Somaliland prison. Like many Canadians, I’m relieved they are now safely home.

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However, their misguided disappointment in the consular support provided to them smacks of the entitlement shared by many Canadians in the expectation that our government will play the white knight to Canadians in trouble abroad, despite clear warnings of danger.

On its travel advisory website, the government explicitly warns Canadians to “avoid all travel” to Somaliland and Somalia. Yet, the women ignored the risks and went there. That is their prerogative. Notwithstanding, they still received consular assistance in the form of visits (consular officers do not have magical powers – they can visit and try to ensure Canadians are treated fairly based on international treaty, but little else). The women also received temporary air fare to return home, but are upset at having to repay the cost of the tickets. Do they expect taxpayers to foot their travel bill as well?

The women’s ordeal was truly harrowing, but when will Canadians learn that if they travel to dangerous parts of the world, they must assume those risks, and not criticize our government when they end up in trouble?

Norm Baillie-David, Ottawa

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With all the negative news, it is a story like this which should remind us how lucky we are to live in a country such as Canada.

No police force breaks into your house, shoots someone, and takes two people off to jail. Nor do they later have you sign a statement you cannot read, stating that, yes, you did drink alcohol in a country that has made it illegal.

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For the most part, we live in a “Live and Let Live” country. Let’s reconsider all the “terrible’” things that happen in our great and democratic country, and put things in perspective. Is there another country you’d rather live in? Not me. Not by a long shot.

Steven H. Brown, Toronto

Inspired, not hopeless!

Re Don’t Panic Over Mass Extinction (May 13): According to Margaret Wente, “Green alarmism, of the type peddled by Ms. Thunberg and many others, is instilling a message of hopelessness in an entire generation of kids.”

As someone who has been deeply inspired by Greta Thunberg, I believe Ms. Wente is completely missing the point. Making me feel hopeless is precisely the opposite of what Greta is doing.

The UN reports are depressing, but ignoring them won’t solve anything. The cure is taking action, and that is exactly why Greta has become so popular. At last, someone understands that more needs to be done, and this 16-year-old Swedish student is inspiring millions.

It’s not about the righteous versus the damned. It’s about making our governments realize that they can’t just throw our futures away, at least not without a fight. We’re not anti-human. We’re fighting to save the future of the human race. The problem is that humans are the ones trying to destroy it.

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According to Ms. Wente, my generation needs some good news. So I’ll give you some: We know the facts, and for once, we’re not ignoring them. We are taking action, and we are changing the course of our future.

Shirley Barnea, Grade 9, Montreal

Rules for the 21st century

Re The Junius Guide To Modern Life (editorial, May 11): Your six rules for “managing the 21st-century news glut, and our era’s oversupply of non-stop, high-decibel outrage” are great. I would add two more:

Rule No. 7: Attack the idea, not the person.

When debating, reverting to name-calling or belittling language does not move the debate forward. Ideas, on the other hand, should be able to stand up to vigorous debate if they are to be of real value.

Rule No. 8: Punch up, not down.

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Take your best shots against more powerful people, not people in a weaker position. If you’re looking to be elected, don’t make fun of disabled people or “deplorables.” You may not pay an immediate price, but eventually we all feel the effects.

Bruce Van Dieten, Toronto

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I much appreciated your editorial, but felt two points needed amplification:

Rule No. 1: “You don’t need to have an opinion about everything.”

In fact, a large part of political life should consist of the identification of “representatives” who will have the time to inform themselves about complex issues, so that they make the decisions or draw the conclusions that we do not have the time or resources to make ourselves.

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Corollary to Rule No. 1: If you don’t have a well-informed, considered opinion of your own, you may have to trust others. If the others happen to be politicians, choose carefully. Find those who are trustworthy.

Rule No. 4: “When you take a stand be forceful.”

This one is problematic. Decisions are almost always based on incomplete information. Consequently, the decision itself should embody the inevitable uncertainties associated with them. Incremental advance is generally preferred over blind leaps of faith.

Corollary to Rule No. 4: It is more important to be constructive than it is to be forceful. The future is not only uncertain, it doesn’t exist yet. Each stand we take is part of the construction of the future. So, be confident that the stands you take are ones that you would want to be part of your future.

Geoff Rowe, Ottawa

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December, 1973: Mme. Pauline Vanier leans on her son Jean's shoulder for chat at Christmas celebrations.

Jean-Marie Versleege/The Globe and Mail

Their capacious hearts

In the picture accompanying Michael Higgins’s moving article on Jean Vanier on Saturday, a handsome but unidentified woman of some presence is seen clutching his shoulders as she prepares to get down on her haunches to join Jean on the floor of the L’Arche residence in France (A Life Of Service Grounded In The Mind And The Heart – Opinion, May 11).

Appropriately enough, because the picture was published on Mother’s Day weekend, the unidentified grande dame was his mother, Madame Pauline Vanier – Mammy to everyone else in that remarkable picture and to thousands around the world.

She may well have been a bigger influence in Jean’s life than his father, governor-general Georges Vanier. She was not an intellectual, but her capacious heart was what she passed on to her son and, as everyone who ever met her knew, it radiated extraordinary warmth to all who came within her orbit.

John Fraser, Toronto

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Re Holding It Together (Opinion, May 11): What a beautiful Mother’s Day gift Sarah Hampson gave your readers.

I am in awe of her own very personal story, and those of the women she profiled. Closing with, “In the end, that love, that gratitude, is all we need to know” perfectly captured what anyone who journeys through the brilliant highs and challenging lows of parenthood can wish for.

Ingeborg James, Toronto

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