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Justin Trudeau: Forgive and forget?

Justin Trudeau seems to be asking for more than forgiveness regarding this brownface scandal. He is also asking for our trust.

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Mr. Trudeau is asking first for trust that he did not know what he did was immoral. This is a lot to believe and choosing to do so has many consequences. It would absolve him of much moral responsibility – he then only needs to be forgiven for the sin of ignorance.

Politicians, when caught doing bad things, often plead ignorance. They may explain their ignorance in various ways, such as being young or unfamiliar with circumstances, and so on.

I suspect that he did know and that he did not take the wrongness of brownface all that seriously. Not taking seriously the implications of actions that inflict suffering on others is a clear example of being raised in privilege.

While privilege sometimes creates ignorance of the suffering of others, it just as often engenders a conscious indifference to the suffering of others. One knows something is wrong, but does not really care. Or one knows something is wrong, but does it because it was fun to do. Conscious indifference enables one to put aside the suffering of others in order to do something that one wants to do – such as go to a party in brownface.

A person with conscious indifference may not really intend to offend anyone. But before deciding whether to forgive Mr. Trudeau, Canadians should carefully consider just what we are being asked to do. It strikes me as quite a lot.

Richard Feist PhD, Faculty of Philosophy, Saint Paul University; Ottawa

Read more letters to the editor: Do readers believe Justin Trudeau didn’t know better about racist makeup?

Where have I seen a Canadian politician do something similar to Justin Trudeau? In a tape that surfaced from 1991, Brad Wall was at a Saskatchewan Progressive Conservative gathering where he made fun of soon-to-be premier Roy Romanow by mimicking a Ukrainian accent, all while laughing uproariously. Mr. Wall apologized when the tape came out in 2008, and to Saskatchewan’s credit, the media and political opponents had a field day with criticism before gradually letting the subject drop.

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All people do stupid things in their youth. This could be said of Mr. Wall, the former Saskatchewan premier who was 25 at the time, just as much as it could be said for Mr. Trudeau. The outcry at his past actions is not my idea of a just Canadian society.

Linda Paul Regina

I don’t believe Justin Trudeau will be damaged by the revelation he wore brownface and blackface 18 long years ago. In fact, it could win him votes.

The dirty little secret of life in Canada is that racism infects almost all of us in ways conscious and unconscious. That some prejudiced security guards still follow black people around in stores is but one example. It mostly doesn’t bother us at all.

The truth few of us nice white folks would admit, even to ourselves, is that racism does not really offend us. It seems the racism that dare not speak its name, disguised as concern over immigration and refugees, is most appealing.

If it is likely some people may not vote for Mr. Trudeau’s party because of his blackface gaffe, it is just as likely some people will stick with – or switch to him – because of it.

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Skip Hambling Delhaven, N.S.

As someone of South Asian and Muslim background, I’m not offended by what Justin Trudeau wore (although a 29-year-old teacher should have known better).

What I do find concerning is Mr. Trudeau’s hypocrisy. The same man who would likely be calling for Andrew Scheer’s leadership resignation if he were in the same position is now preaching forgiveness. He would likely not allow someone to run as a Liberal candidate if they had partaken in blackface even once. Yet. it seems his own rules don’t apply to himself, because he was “too privileged” to know any better.

Mr. Trudeau needs to uphold the moral code he has set for everyone else.

Aliraza Asrani Toronto

Just imagine the juicy headlines if past elections were held today.

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"Sir John A. shows up in Parliament drunk as a skunk”

"PM Mackenzie King consults crystal ball to divine strategy for war, communes with dead mother and dog for their opinions”

“PM Wilfrid Laurier’s alleged mistress (and son?) seen strolling in Ottawa”

Julianna Drexler Toronto

Fighting fire with fire management

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Re The Amazon’s Forest Fires Are A Global Peril – But So Are Canada’s (Sept. 7) In his article, contributor Arno Kopecky compares Canada’s boreal forest to the recent devastation in the Amazon. But in Canada, we in fact operate under rules designed to keep forests as forests forever. We manage forests for environmental and social values, including biodiversity, carbon and recreation.

Here, we harvest less than 0.5 per cent of our forests each year and replace every tree. Of those we do harvest, Natural Resources Canada numbers show that turning them into products, and replanting younger seedlings, removes 20 million tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions from the atmosphere a year. In the boreal forest, trees only live for 100 years. As these trees age, they become more susceptible to pests or fires, or simply die and decay over time, thus turning into carbon emitters if they were not harvested.

Canada’s forests are actually facing unprecedented challenges in the face of worsening natural disturbances, devastating pests and fire. In British Columbia, the carbon emitted from the 2017 forest fires was four times higher than in 2003. It is forest management that not only improves Canada’s carbon story, but mitigates fire risks as well.

We invite Mr. Kopecky, and all Canadians, to join us in working with governments to adapt broader approaches to land-use management that advance the health of our forests.

Derek Nighbor President, Forest Products Association of Canada; Ottawa

Colin Carroll President, Canadian Institute of Forestry; Mattawa, Ont.

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A matter of life or death: A final word, for now

Re Let’s Not Forget About Living With Dignity (Sept. 16): Some people might want to choose not to continue draining Canada’s medical system and its support staff.

Perhaps we might do well to remember Gillian Bennett, a brilliant psychotherapist who, at 85, suffered from advanced dementia and killed herself in 2014. Ms. Bennett wrote shortly before she died that keeping her mindless body alive could cost Canadian taxpayers as much as $75,000 a year. And for what good reason? “Understand that I am giving up nothing," she wrote. "All I lose is an indefinite number of years of being a vegetable in a hospital setting, eating up the country’s money but having not the faintest idea of who I am.”

Then there is the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1993, when it decided 5-4 against Sue Rodriguez’s right to die as the 42-year-old suffered from ALS. Justice Peter deCarteret Cory, who dissented, wrote that “the right to die with dignity should be as well protected as is any other aspect of the right to life," and government laws that would “force a dreadful, painful death on a rational but incapacitated terminally ill patient are an affront to human dignity.”

Andy Buchan Burnaby, B.C.


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