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A crowd gathers before the We Day red carpet in Toronto, on Sept. 20, 2018.Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

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What we gain

Re WE Charity Affair Illustrates The Peril Of Corporate Virtue-signalling (Report on Business, Aug. 5): So Telus and Royal Bank of Canada, to save their reputations, withdrew their support of WE Charity at the first sign of controversy. Fair game. But why did they get involved in the first place?

It seems not about philanthropy, but exposure and advertising. If that’s the case, it’s simply another expense, part of the cost of business – definitely not philanthropy.

Rick Walker Toronto

Trade-offs

Re Kovrig, Spavor Mark A ‘Sobering’ Milestone In Detention (July 31): The failure of Ambassador Dominic Barton’s visits to Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, together with The Globe highlighting their 600 days of incarceration, underscores to me the futility of conventional remedies and raises the need to re-examine options.

Prominent Canadians such as Louise Arbour and Lloyd Axworthy point out that government has the authority to negotiate the release of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor in exchange for Meng Wanzhou. Justin Trudeau responds that this precedent could lead to a global surge of hostage-taking. Perhaps.

But 11 years ago, former Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay were held by terrorists in West Africa. The arguments on both sides were similar to those we hear today. Eventually, Mr. Fowler and Mr. Guay were released after their captors were paid a ransom, as it’s widely believed. This successful effort was not followed by a surge in hostage-taking of Canadians.

What happens if the Vancouver court releases Ms. Meng on a legal basis? Will China reciprocate? Perhaps not, and in that eventuality, solid Canadian leverage would be almost gone.

Would a prisoner swap provoke damaging retaliation from Washington? It’s a hazard that might be avoided by the selection of a potentially Trump-proof implementation date after the U.S. election. It’s unlikely to be a gold-medal legal procedure, but let us hope that the government reconsiders an approach more likely to bring Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor home – and quietly gets on with it.

John Graham Former ambassador, Ottawa

East meets West

Re Why Eastern Countries Are More Successful In Fighting COVID-19 (Aug. 3): Contributor Frank Ching explains how societal values affect pandemic response, with the West being the land of individualism, the East of collectivism. Mr. Ching focuses on Confucian societies, but much of what he says applies to Islamic societies, too. These notions of collectivism face much skepticism in the domain of human rights.

Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, Western powers have sought to confirm only the individualistic notion of human rights as authentically “human,” the rest being vestiges of a tribal, communitarian, traditionalist past to which we shall never return, high on our Fukuyaman pinnacle.

However, the obvious privileging of public hygiene, safety and the advice of experts, as seen during this year’s downsized hajj to Mecca, as well as the disciplined pandemic responses among East Asian populations – and the disaster we Canadians see south of the border – ought to shake up the glamourization of individualism.

Lewis Sherman Vancouver

Near and far

Re Employers Restricting Migrant Workers To Farms (Aug. 4): Tragically, it has taken the death of three migrant workers and the infection of more than 1,000 others by COVID-19 to reveal that Canada relies on labour from less-developed countries to grow its food.

I find Canada’s migrant-worker program reeks of exploitation just so we can have cheap local produce. But I ask: How “local” is a 100-mile diet if food can only be produced by guest workers from 4,000 kilometres away?

The system, with its built-in parameters of employer control, is reminiscent to me of indentured labour practices from the 19th century, and is hardly ennobling of a progressive country like Canada. We should revisit how food arrives at our dinner tables.

Vincenzo Pietropaolo Author, photographer, Harvest Pilgrims: Mexican and Caribbean Migrant Farm Workers in Canada; Toronto

After the fact

Re I Worked For The Ontario Government In the 2000s And I’m Haunted By Our Handling Of Senior Care (Opinion, Aug. 1): Reading contributor Pierre Cyr reminds me of similar regrets expressed by a senior official in the Harris government who helped drive a steamroller through Ontario health care, but years later expressed contrition only after first-hand experience while navigating the system with dying parents.

Then there was the Sudbury official, who was part of an accelerated integration of our three hospitals, lamenting years later that it hadn’t been their intent to create such a mess – only after his own hospital stays.

Instead of waiting until they personally experience misery in order to be convinced, public officials should have the empathy and wisdom to listen to patients, families and health workers who know the problems and have insight into solutions.

Instead, we endure the results of Mr. Cyr, the Harris staffer and the Sudbury official, who seem to begin by disrespecting everyone’s input, and end by begging forgiveness years later.

Nancy Johnson Sudbury

All for one

Re It’s Time To Unify The Disability Movement (Aug. 5): I worked in group benefits at many insurance companies and, since my retirement, volunteer with isolated recipients of the Ontario Disability Support Program. While I agree that those with disabilities are discriminated against and often forgotten, I was left wondering who could spearhead a much-needed social movement.

Disabled people are compensated by a patchwork of public and private organizations that most often come together only to co-ordinate maximum payments for recipients. It seems contributors Al Etmanski and Kathleen O’Grady were also at a loss as to how such a movement could be organized.

I stand with disabled people and would gladly get behind this cause, but feel ill-equipped to take the lead. I would hope there are many like me out there who would join a call to action.

Nancy Burda Pickering, Ont.

The case for canoodling

Re Love Him, Love His Canoe (First Person, Aug. 3): My husband and I met through the Winnipeg Canoe Club. At a reunion almost 50 years later, we were surprised to see that almost all of the couples were still married to spouse No. 1 – definitely not reflective of current divorce rates.

One paddler shared her explanation: When we dated, we paddled with different people and quickly sorted good combinations from bad. To paddle a canoe successfully, one has to communicate and work toward a common goal.

That’s what is needed in a successful marriage, too. Wise words!

Janice Wasik Tsawwassen, B.C.

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