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Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei answers a question during an interview at his studio in Beijing September 27, 2012. (DAVID GRAY/REUTERS)
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei answers a question during an interview at his studio in Beijing September 27, 2012. (DAVID GRAY/REUTERS)

What readers think

Dec. 31: Disputing Ai Weiwei’s picture of China, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

What was the rush?

Tom Flanagan ignores a couple of important points (Bill C-45 Simply Makes It Easier To Lease Land – Focus, Dec. 29).

First Nations have very little trust in our government with very good reason and the issue of leasing reserve land is extremely controversial. I worked as an economic development consultant for an Alberta first nation in the late ’70s and was told, in no uncertain terms, not to bring any proposal that entailed leases of reserve land to Council, as it was sure to be rejected.

Burying the proposed legislation in Bill C-45 only compounded the problem.

If the government had introduced the legislation as a stand-alone bill, and allowed proper discussion, rather than ramming it through as part of the budget, it would have had a better shot at acceptance. After all, the Indian Act dates back to the 1870s. What was the big rush to change it?

Jim Bertram, Toronto

Nuanced China

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei enjoys enormous prestige, so what he says about China is often accepted without question (The Meaning Of Freedom – Focus, Dec. 29).

Ai says the Chinese people have no right to vote. This is true as far as it goes. But at village and county levels, there have been vibrant ground-level elections and protests that often send corrupt officials packing.

He says the Chinese people can’t participate in any kind of political discussions. This is not true. China’s urban newspapers and its ubiquitous micro-blogs and Internet forums carry wide-ranging debates on corruption, political scandals, environmental pollution and whatnot. They often influence policy outcomes.

Ai says the Chinese people can’t get information freely. Yes, authorities alternately tighten and relax censorship. But if you live in a big city and have a decent job and education, you are likely to enjoy good access to books, newsprints and the Internet.

Life in China today is complex – a land of contrasts and contradictions, as you would expect.

Alex Lo, Hong Kong


Jeffrey Simpson writes of 10 trends that have changed the world in the past 50 years (The Trends That Changed Our World – Dec. 28). Here are two more.

1. Population inflation: If current trends continue – and there’s no indication to the contrary – the sustainability of world resources and man’s ability to cope will be tested to the extreme. Demographic trends are the root causes of many hidden world events;

2. The erosion of national borders and traditional concepts of sovereignty, and the increased interdependence of the world: Politically, economically, socially and technologically, the world is one neighbourhood. What happens in one part of the globe affects the other parts as never before – for example, the 2008 economic collapse, the UN’s “responsibility to protect” notion.

Elie Mikhael Nasrallah, Ottawa


Jeffrey Simpson provides a succinct, cohesive synthesis of the influences shaping our world. He does what he does best: a beautiful synopsis of a range of disparate material into an understandable whole.

Joan Hotson, St. Catharines, Ont.

There to comfort

I know the bond that’s possible between a dog and a human from experience (This Pooch Offers Comfort to Small Victims of Crime – Life & Arts, Dec. 28).

But the response by possibly deeply abused children who have this Labrador, Harper, beside them as they answer questions about alleged crimes against them took the connection to a very deep level. Harper is well trained but uses instinct to move closer to a troubled child because she can smell stress and fear. “She know she’s there to comfort.” A beautiful story in the midst of terror and trauma.

Heather Dewart, Edmonton

Hockey moments

Thanks to Eric Duhatschek for capturing the very essence of hockey and the Canadian spirit in his reflections on the 1987 Izvestia Cup (Canada’s Miracle On Ice Almost Forgotten – Sports, Dec. 27).

The Canadian team, short on talent but long on heart, upended one of the strongest Russian teams ever. To win the series in Moscow was even more special. In the article, Russian coach Viktor Tikhonov noted that his 1988 team was his best.

It’s time for Hockey Canada to do the right thing and give this Canadian team the proper recognition it deserves for this largely unreported achievement.

Bruce Unfried, Winnipeg


So this is Canada in the winter (Soccer’s Joe Cool – Sports, Dec. 28).

What’s more natural in December on the front of the Sports section than Bulgarian and Japanese soccer players competing in the English Premier League?

Well, for starters, hockey. There’s lots of action in leagues such as the OHL. The play may not be flawless, but it’s entertaining.

As a soccer fan, I was happy to see the story on Dimitar Berbatov – and it was spot on. As a Canadian, I would feel better if soccer were still on Page 6.

Peter Dance, Orillia, Ont.

Courtroom attire

The Supreme Court finds itself in a difficult position reconciling Canadian legal tradition and religious rights (Dressed For Court – letters, Dec. 22).

As an Ahmadi Muslim raised in Canada, I believe that the Supreme Court’s asking Muslim women to remove their niqabs does not go against Islamic principles of covering oneself.

On the contrary, based on guidance from the founder of Islam himself, the Prophet Mohammed, scholars have agreed that, in certain circumstances, Muslim women are allowed to temporarily remove their niqab.

Giving crucial testimony in a court of law is one such situation. But what remains is whether it’s right, on a human-rights level, to ask a woman to remove the niqab if it makes her feel highly uncomfortable, exposed and even violated.

Khizar Karim, Brampton, Ont.


The last time I sat in a courtroom (during the Air India trial in Vancouver), the many lawyers and the judge watched their computer screens, seldom raising their eyes to the woman testifying. It was explained to me that there was instantaneous transcription of her words. So who needed facial expressions, or even tone for that matter?

As an inexperienced court watcher, I saw her terrified facial expressions and was partially relieved to know she was going to receive protection after testifying.

Her testimony was ultimately dismissed as lacking credibility. What I saw was that nobody of importance was looking at her. Better had she worn a niqab for protection.

Carole Itter, Vancouver

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