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People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal, Oct. 25, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

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Re Trudeau Calls COVID-19 Pandemic A ‘Horrific National Tragedy’ As Death Toll Surpasses 10,000 (Online, Oct. 27): By not initiating an aggressive testing policy nor providing provincial financial aid to enable such an initiative, the federal government seems to have put the onus of staying COVID-19-free squarely on the shoulders of individual Canadians.

Canada and the world’s epidemiologist are experts. Why aren’t we listening? Why are we letting Quebec chart its own deadly course? Yes, health care is a provincial responsibility, but surely COVID-19 has created a national health care emergency that warrants overriding potentially deadly, often politically driven provincial decision-making.

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Nancy Carten Comox, B.C.

Francophone futures

Re Blanchet Demands Apology From Justin Trudeau For Government’s Decision To Invoke War Measures Act In 1970 (Online, Oct. 28): To rebut such outright chutzpah from Yves-François Blanchet, a simple vote would not do. A sort of parliamentary referendum would be both ironic and appropriate.

With as much multi-party support as possible, the Prime Minister should declare a vote of confidence – not in his government nor his father, but in Canada.

Ken DeLuca Arnprior, Ont.

Re Quebec Sovereigntists Pin Their Hopes On 1995′s Unfinished Business (Opinion, Oct. 24): Who is to say the next generation won’t share the sovereigntist dreams of the generation that preceded them? Canada must complete the business of renewing federalism, columnist Konrad Yakabuski says. I find this is naive.

To English Canada, it feels like francophone Quebeckers have completely submitted and no longer give a damn about the province’s place in the federation. But one day, today’s young francophone Quebeckers may also come to the conclusion that the way federalism works in Canada is no longer acceptable. They may no longer want to be governed, to a large extent, by others, no more than Canada would want to be governed by another nation.

I believe renewed federalism will not cut it, because it will never free francophone Quebeckers from the will of the anglophone majority.

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Yvan Giroux Gatineau, Que.

Help wanted

Re B.C. Doctor On A Mission To Change How To Treat Alcohol Dependence (Oct. 23): I was fortunate to have the doctor that I had back in 1991. I was drinking three cases of beer a day, and kept a bottle of bourbon on the nightstand in case of the dreaded insomnia.

My doctor was a typical Albertan – he practised medicine part-time and mostly ranched. One day, he sat me down and explained that, at 32, my liver was packing it in and I would soon have to choose between life and booze, because they were now mutually exclusive in my case. He asked me to think about it, and walked out of the exam room.

Next year will mark 30 years of sobriety for me. I am so grateful that my doctor did not wean me off booze by addicting me to some other drug. Since May 5, 1991, I have owned my life. Period.

I don’t know where my doctor is today, but the tough love worked.

Ken Johnston Toronto

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Thanks to Jeff Harries and his drive to help those with alcohol dependence. Why a "pill that could curb cravings and reduce drinking” is not in the forefront of treatment, I do not know.

What I do know is that if a young addiction doctor had not offered Naltrexone to my 83-year-old father, on his second time in the hospital for drinking dependence, he would no longer be here. The doctor was kind and knew that my father’s desire to “cut back” was a big ask for a lifelong drinker. The introduction of that medicine changed the life of my father and all those around him. He has been sober two-plus years since that day, with no counselling.

I only wish there was a similar pill for Dr. Harries’s own ALS diagnosis.

Symantha Rush Toronto

Over the top

Re Toronto Gets Swamped By Hazel (Moment in Time, Oct. 15): When the last of Hurricane Hazel hit, I was six and living in Brantford, Ont.

My school was dismissed at lunch time. I lived 20 minutes from the Grand River, where one dike by the dam created a canal that fed factories in the area. My mother took me to see the dam and the results of the storm.

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I have such a clear picture of standing on the slope going down to the dam and watching the swollen river that had breached its banks completely, rushing in a torrent of brown water filled with branches and other debris. The startling thing was the number of cows in the river, some of whom were still alive.

At that time, the river was filled with all kinds of pollutants from industry. All this flowed straight down to Lake Erie. The result of this terrible calamity was a new dike being built between the river and the old dike.

The Grand is now a very wide river that has pushed against its sandy banks to become more and more shallow. It is also much healthier, and still a wonderful place to go for walks.

These events were definitely a precursor to the floods and tragedies we witness today.

Lorna Froidevaux West Vancouver

Dog days

Re Unearthed Genomes Hint At How Far Back Dog-human Friendship Goes (Oct. 30): Wow, 14,000 years. What’s that in dog years?

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Simon Renouf Edmonton

Apples to a-pulls

Re Paying Homage To ‘Halloween Apples,’ A Bygone Prairie Tradition (Oct. 30): Reporter Jana G. Pruden finally convinced my husband that I wasn’t suffering from false memory syndrome, when I insisted that we chanted “Halloween apples” while growing up in Winnipeg.

“Why would a kid actually ask for apples?” he’d ask. But his Thunder Bay chant wasn’t any better: “Halloween treats, please.” How insipid! And why say “please?”

I find a lot of younger kids don’t say anything any more. They just ring the bell.

This year – if they show up – should give kids an opportunity to think up something really ominous.

Liz Primeau Mississauga

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A few years ago, I researched my hometown’s unique chant. In Thunder Bay, it was always “Halloween treats, please,” until the ubiquitous “trick or treat” began to dominate in the late 20th century.

Though our polite homegrown chant is now rarely heard, some diehards still encourage their children and grandchildren to use it, with varying degrees of success.

Barbara Yurkoski Ottawa

While “Halloween apples” may have been the cry on the Prairies back in the day, my mother in New Brunswick thought “trick or treat” was too abrupt.

I was instructed to call out: “apples cakes or candy, or down comes your shanty” – an even more extortionist threat, combined with an unfortunate critique of the residence at which I was calling.

Katie FitzRandolph Fredericton

My B.C. grandchildren were bewildered when I told them we had a singsong chant to accompany our Halloween rounds: “Halloween apples.” We, too, were bewildered upon arrival from Edmonton to Vancouver, on Oct. 31, 1950, as the night air filled with fireworks being lit in schoolyards everywhere.

Lynne Collins Surrey, B.C.

Growing up in the 1950s on the West Island of Montreal, it was our Halloween custom (at least in the neighbourhood) to say, “Charity, please,” from the Québécois expression La charité s’il vous plaît. I have yet to meet anyone from elsewhere who used this expression.

Leslie Buckle Calgary

As an oft-transplanted child of British diplomats, I barely flickered when the Halloween cry of “Halloween a-pulls” in Edmonton became the less musical “trick or treat” in Montreal.

The odd looks I received at the first house cured me of that one. “Must be like not singing Frère Jacques in French when I moved to Edmonton, or not having Halloween at all when we moved back to Britain,” I thought.

How lovely to read that I was actually being true to my temporary Prairie roots.

Claire Marshall Ottawa

From a certain era on the Prairies, one knows that children did not shout “Halloween apples” – it was “HA-lo-ween-a-PULLS.” And loud enough that one needn’t ring any doorbells.

Michael Moore Toronto

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