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Nov. 20, 2007: Veterans drape flags from an overpass as the motorcade carrying the caskets of two soldiers killed in Afghanistan drives by, enroute to Toronto, following a repatriation ceremony at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

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Our veterans. Ours. Act

I’ve conducted the burial service for many veterans (Our Veterans Deserve Better – editorial, Sept. 13). Some of the worst experiences of my life as a clergyman are wrapped up in Canada’s war veterans. Nobody gives a damn is my lasting memory. There is nothing more shameful than a nation which has abandoned its own troops in their hour of death. It actually gets worse. Beautiful men and women who are now offered $2,000, and this is considered a good result?

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From the graveside of babies, to children, to adults and seniors, I’ve lost count. From PTSD, to murder, to suicide. Forty years of service has left me broken. Hardest of all was the standing at an empty grave. One vet in a casket, one old widow wondering how to pay the padre and a stranger.

I myself live with PTSD. I have heard over and over from politicians, “We can and must do better for our ailing veterans.” History won’t treat these leaders well. It’s far too late to keep promising. Act.

Rev. Peter Grogan, Sarnia, Ont.

PP gets pooh-poohed

Re Maxime Bernier Says New Venture Is People’s Party Of Canada (Sept. 14): The arrogance and dismissiveness of politicians we’ve been electing has reached dizzying new heights. Where does Maxime Bernier get off with a title like the People’s Party of Canada. Are we to assume the other parties don’t house people of Canada?

We should all be glad he’s overlooked the resemblance of his new party’s name to the confusing number of splinter parties in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, where parties would keep splitting from the main party with names such as the Popular People’s Front, People’s Popular Front, the Front of Popular People etc. So, in that respect, his party will be lampooned into oblivion in no time (Remember the briefly initialled CRAP party?).

On a daily basis lately, I usually lament on most topics north or south of the border by saying, “If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny.” In Mr. Bernier’s case, I’m glad it’s funny. I hope John Cleese is laughing at this classic example of life imitating art.

Mark Power, St. John’s N.L.

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Charter turmoil

Re Caroline Mulroney’s Testing Time (Sept. 14): In 1968, an Ontario Royal Commission issued a report following an inquiry into the uses and abuses of government power. An entire chapter was devoted to the duties of the Attorney-General. “The duty of the Attorney-General to supervise legislation imposes on him a responsibility to the public that transcends his responsibility to his colleagues in the cabinet. It requires him to exercise constant vigilance to sustain and defend the rule of law against departmental attempts to grasp unhampered arbitrary powers…”

In the Toronto City Council case, it is the duty of the Attorney-General to advise cabinet against the invocation of the notwithstanding clause, to vote against the legislation and probably to resign her cabinet position should it proceed. What did Caroline Mulroney do? She voted for the bill. Her actions will define her not only as a politician, but as a person.

Leslie McIntosh, Toronto

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As someone who has voted for each of the three major parties, I was looking for an alternative to the Ontario Liberals in the recent election. Had either Christine Elliott or Caroline Mulroney been the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, I would have seriously considered voting PC. I could not support Doug Ford, as I consider him demonstrably unfit for office.

I now believe, given their apparent unqualified support for whatever Mr. Ford does, those two leadership rivals, and the Attorney-General in particular, are equally unfit for office. The PCs have demonstrated that being in power is more important than integrity and doing the right thing.

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As their mentor might say, sad.

Phil Ford, Ottawa

AI’s reach, and form

Re AI Needs More Products, Not More Researchers (Report On Business, Sept. 10): Canada should be strategic in growing its leadership in artificial intelligence beyond just research, but any push to increase Canadian products in the market must be grounded in clear, rights-respecting standards. For example, encouraging startups to commercialize their products cannot occur without simultaneously establishing frameworks that mitigate the potential negative consequences of the technology – coding in existing biases and discrimination. There is an opportunity here for Canada to be a leader in both human rights and artificial intelligence.

Toronto, one of the country’s biggest tech hubs, already influenced the creation of an international framework this year, the Toronto Declaration on protecting the rights to equality and non-discrimination in machine learning systems. It’s a starting point for tangible means of upholding rights and clarifying the obligations of companies and government. The declaration has received widespread global attention and contributed to positioning Canada as a leader in this space. If these principles aren’t included in discussions on technological development, we risk incentivizing innovation while disregarding the implications it can have for society – and Canada’s reputation – in the long term.

Nikki Gladstone, RightsCon, program and community manager, Access Now

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Re Robots Like Us (Report On Business, Sept. 8): I found myself both fascinated and unsettled by the article on the work of Sanctuary Cognitive Systems Corporation on robotics and artificial intelligence. The whole business feels quite uncanny. However, I would offer the company some advice. Company CEO Suzanne Gildert says she believes that if people are going to accept and interact with robotic peers, the robots must resemble humans as closely as possible. That led Sanctuary to source the bodies for their creations from a San Diego-based company that produces sex dolls.

I know nothing of sex dolls or robots, but I suspect the average sex doll does not really resemble humans very closely. Or at least, not most of us. Having a robotic intellectual peer padding about the house would no doubt have its appeal. But I think it might wear thin pretty quickly if it also reminded me daily of my physical imperfections.

Nigel Brachi, Edmonton

Testament to courage

I felt compelled, as usual, upon arising to grumble to myself and ask what kind of nonsense or challenges I would have to face until I read the obituary of concentration camp survivor Henry Bawnik (Concentration Camp Prisoner Survived Inferno at Sea, Sept. 13).

Mr. Bawnik, who was imprisoned in four concentration camps, is pictured in 1949 as a 24-year-old recent immigrant to the United States. After years of horror we couldn’t imagine, he is shown (incredibly) with a slight smile on his face. His apparent relief and gratitude to be alive is a true testament to human spirit, courage and survival, and negates our current right to complain about anything. Rest in peace, Henry.

Dan Fraser, Victoria

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