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File photo shows Alberta Government Telephones operators in High River, Alta, during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. One reader writes that pandemics are not new and the surprise in our modern and scientific era is that governments were so ill-prepared for COVID-19.

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Wall and a hard place

Re Stephen Harper Strikes Back With A Warning About Big Government (May 14): Thanks to columnist Konrad Yakabuski for highlighting Stephen Harper’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Now we have a clear road map through the crisis and beyond. I urge governments to make note of everything Mr. Harper says … and do the exact opposite.

Ken Cory Oshawa, Ont.

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During this pandemic, Stephen Harper contends that Canada’s move toward big government is a disaster waiting to happen and universal basic income is a “delusion.” With all due respect to Mr. Harper, I believe COVID-19 has lifted the curtain on how ruinous our capitalist society has been.

Just one example: Witness the high death rates in for-profit long-term care homes. The pandemic’s silver lining is showing us a new way to move forward. I hope we choose to care more for ordinary people, the planet – and not the 1 per cent.

June Rogers Toronto

Closer apart

Re Two Metres Apart And A World Away (May 9): I have appreciated The Globe’s many thoughtful articles about the situation in long-term care facilities. While journalist Ian Brown presented a lovely narrative of a private organization providing excellent care, on the whole it has been private institutions that have been unable to provide care that protects its residents.

For-profit service means that money, which could go to the quality of care, is a priority. Corners are often cut, pay is poor and the bottom line becomes a focus.

While COVID-19 has primarily hit older populations, another time it could be our youngest members. Except for Quebec, Canada also has a patchwork system of child care. Research has shown that auspice in child care can make a difference. Perhaps we need to examine this issue more closely.

What do we mean when we say “we care?" Is a profit-driven motive the way to care for our vulnerable populations?

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Enid Elliot Victoria


Journalist Ian Brown’s article speaks to his exceptional ability to write about parenting a complex handicapped child who has faced extraordinary challenges since birth. He is the voice for so many of us who can’t write or speak as comprehensively about the countless layers of emotional impact that a special child brings. I easily identify with every word he writes.

Hard truths – capturing moments of joy and living with endless hope – define some of what it means to belong to this special parents club. We have been living “two metres apart and a world away” for most of our lives, anguishing for some kind of normal. Thanks to Ian Brown for releasing my welcome tears – he is the voice of my soul.

Susan Angus Edmonton

History making

Re Making History (Opinion, May 9): Contributor Margaret MacMillan astutely suggests that the progress, stability and prosperity of the West has perhaps developed a complacency painfully exposed, now that “our world might be more fragile than we liked to think.”

Canada could be even more susceptible to that complacency as we may feel superior to the ethnic nationalisms in Europe, and the racial and ideological divisions in the United States. As a result, our post-COVID-19 psychological adjustment to risk and fragility may be as challenging as our economic and medical recoveries.

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Instead of self-congratulation, we should look to nations, like those lauded by Prof. MacMillan, whose success managing the crisis may evidence underlying strengths and best practices. In doing so, Canada may better address inequalities, help vulnerable segments and build an adaptable and black-swan-robust infrastructure.

Chester Fedoruk Toronto


Pandemics are not new. The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed at least 20 million people (some estimates are as high as 50 million). The European plague wiped out 60 per cent of the population. Human history has not been void of pandemics.

The real surprise in our modern and scientific era is that governments all over the world were not even adequately prepared for this, in spite of recent brush fires that have sprung up, such as SARS and H1N1. It’s really governments that this pandemic took by surprise.

Douglas Cornish Ottawa

Survival skills

Re I Survived My Time As An al-Qaeda Hostage – And What I Learned Then Can Help All Of Us Now (Opinion, May 9): The mind-numbing tsunami of advice for coping mentally and physically with COVID-19 tempts many of us to throw up our hands in resignation. So it was refreshing to have contributor Robert Fowler remind us that, even in the most dire, life-threatening circumstances, we can choose to manage our mental health despite the uncertainty of our physical vulnerability.

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I, for one, very much appreciate his practical, experience-hardened tips.

Don Taylor Mississauga


Re Even After COVID-19 Is Beaten, The Stress And Depression Will Linger. How Do We Recover? (May 12): I applaud reporter Erin Anderssen for highlighting systemic issues that will require attention after the pandemic wanes. Indeed, to simply provide more individual-focused psychological care, while critical, would be but a Band-Aid solution for both the repercussions of COVID-19, and our society’s escalating mental-health challenges that predate this pandemic.

The current context provides us with an opportunity to address multi-systemic factors at the root of most mental-health problems. Evidence-supported biopsychosocial models should be dictating our response to what amounts to a public-health crisis. Individual biology is but a predisposing factor potentiated by environmental factors such as social, economic and educational inequity; relationship skills acquired in families exposed to more or less adversity; and availability of community-building resources.

The question is: Will we remember all that once we return to life as we knew it?

Yvonne Bohr C.Psych., LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research, York University; Toronto

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Re The Parents Are Not Okay (May 14): After reading this article, I immediately took my young children on a morning hike. We played, we laughed and we connected. Thanks to contributors Robin C. Williams and Jean Clinton for reminding us what is truly important.

Nathan Stoffman Toronto

Up and at 'em

Re Journalism Matters (Letters, May 9): Papers and cafés matter! I miss, more than anything, my 7 a.m. walk to the corner store on Denman Street to pick up my Globe, then on to my local coffee shop for an hour of blissful comfort; sipping, perusing and chatting with other café senate members as we sat to solve the problems of the world.

If I could have that back, I would wash my hands as many times as there are pages. It takes a café and a Globe to raise an elder.

Brian Emes Vancouver

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