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Danger: asbestos

Re Asbestos Top Source Of Workplace Deaths in Canada (front page, Dec. 15): Health Canada continues to maintain, with tragic irony, that asbestos fibres can "potentially" cause cancer "when inhaled in significant quantities"?

My husband supervised renovations and new construction before we emigrated from the U.K. to Canada in 1970. In our more than 32 years together, "executive" medicals always gave him a clean bill of health. When he felt unwell before Christmas, 1998, we assumed he'd soon recover. When his discomfort increased, he eventually sought treatment in March, 1999. We were shocked at the diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma, undoubtedly caused by exposure to asbestos fibres at some point early in his career. He died five weeks after diagnosis – and five days after his 56th birthday.

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So it is not only those who work directly with asbestos who are at risk – it is anyone who happens to be in an area where asbestos is being disturbed. It is not the amount inhaled, it's the fact any is inhaled.

When The Globe and Mail publicized the thalidomide tragedy, I admired your ability to rouse politicians and public in this cause. I regretted there hadn't been a similar response to the publicity you'd given to asbestos. I am seeking awareness, not compensation.

Do you think it's possible that our time has arrived?

Patricia A. Wallis, asbestos widow, Toronto

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Café under siege

Re Sydney Under Siege (front page, Dec. 15): Can a lone gunman put a city of 4.5 million people "under siege"? By using such hyperbole, the media are guilty of feeding into the propagation of fear and hysteria, to the great advantage of those who would profit from a terrorized populace.

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Joe Davis, Gibsons, B.C.

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Carbon calamity

Thank you for your support of a carbon tax (Two Words: Carbon. Tax – editorial, Dec. 13). Now, where were you in 2008 when Stéphane Dion was running on essentially this policy?

David W. Booz, Toronto

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A carbon tax is not the right approach for a climate-change action plan for Canada. Developing nations (China, India and others) will not agree to legally binding caps on CO2 emissions; meanwhile, developing nations' total CO2 output is now at about 60 per cent of the world total. Canada must develop a comprehensive climate change-adaptation strategy, which is the most cost-effective and sensible approach now.

M.L. Khandekar, Environment Canada scientist (retired), Markham, Ont.

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Locked-in logic

Re Sentenced To Failure, Again And Again (editorial, Dec. 15): The CIA uses solitary confinement as a torture technique. And Canada uses the same practice on mentally ill inmates to avoid "undue risk to the safe management of the federal correctional system." Curious, isn't it?

Alfredo Schulte-Bockholt, associate professor of sociology and criminology, Saint Mary'sUniversity, Halifax

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I was anguished to read Coralee Smith's account of her daughter's death in solitary confinement (The Prison System Failed My Daughter – Dec. 13). It was not the prison system that failed Ashley, it was the medical system.

After all the suicide attempts and abnormal behaviour, it is unbelievable that her doctors did not order her to a mental-health facility for proper treatment.

If Ashley had fractured her femur in prison, she would have gone immediately to hospital. For her fractured mind and spirit, she was left to languish in the very environment that likely broke it.

Once more, the poor prison staff were put in the impossible position of dealing with a mentally tortured teen needing real help, not more punishment. And then given a final order not to intervene unless she's not breathing? Now, they are potentially accused of "homicide"? Let's call it like it is: The medical system failed Ashley, and the closure of psychiatric facilities and beds by provincial governments has made it likely there will be more cases like hers.

Paul J. Moroz, MD, Manotick, Ont.

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The government tries to reassure Canadians that its "requirements emphasize that an inmate is to be released from administrative segregation at the earliest appropriate time." In Edward Snowshoe's case, the "earliest appropriate time" never came. He spent 162 days in solitary before hanging himself. In Ashley Smith's case, more than 1,000 days in solitary went by without the "earliest appropriate time" arising.

The government claims inmates subject to the Canadian version of solitary confinement "are routinely provided with their personal effects, which can include books, television, hobby materials and other personal items." Ashley Smith's mother visited the cell in which her daughter died and saw no such items. While the government's policy makes significant attempts to appear measured and appropriate, the reality tells a completely different story.

The few cases that grab headlines are inevitably those in which a death ensues. There are so many more inmates who are suffering needlessly. We have prisons for a reason. The inmates transgressed our laws and need to be rehabilitated, treated or punished. Punishing is the only objective that seems to be at the heart of this government – and it is the least effective of the three in ensuring our society is truly safe and humane in the long term.

Shannon K.C. Prithipaul, president, Criminal Trial Lawyers Association of Alberta

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'Please blame me'

Re Airline Chief Fires Daughter After She Has Tantrum Over Macadamia Nuts (Dec. 13): How often do we ever hear a parent say, "Please blame me; it's my fault. I failed to raise her properly?"

Cho Yang-ho, the chairman of Korean Air Lines, might have produced a spoiled brat for a daughter, but I do admire his honesty.

John Clench, Vancouver

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Elizabethan drama

Re Yes, New York Kissed Aristocratic Heinie, But This Pledge Is Royally Antiquated (Dec. 13): Elizabeth Renzetti is a brilliant columnist whose work I quite enjoy. She caught me off guard though, with her vitriolic rant on the Royal Family. And I'm not even a monarchist. To one extent or another, our Royal Family has frequently provided us with senses of warmth, commitment, style and stability. Those things will always be relevant.

Gavin Giles, Halifax

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Re Festive Greetings, Fellow Citizens! (Now Duck) (Dec. 15): Just when I'm embarking into the technologically up-to-date, environmentally sound (and, it must be admitted, money-saving) world of e-cards, I learn that if I send one to Elizabeth Renzetti, she'll consign it to digital oblivion without batting an eyelash.

She even dragged Hitler into her column. While I'm not one who has bought into the meme that "the first person who mentions Hitler loses the argument," I still think that's a bit Scrooge-ish.

Barrie Zwicker, Toronto

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