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Language and the Games

I was deeply dismayed to witness the cursory treatment given to Canada's second official language at the opening ceremonies of the Games ( VANOC Defends French Content Of Opening Ceremony - Feb. 15). It is incomprehensible that, after 41 years of official bilingualism in Canada, the French dimension of Canadian society, both in its historic dimension and its contemporary reality, was treated so shabbily by Olympic organizers.

The Games do not merely present an image of the host city, but represent the image of the entire nation to its own people, as well as the other peoples of the world. Montreal understood that in 1976; Calgary understood in 1988. Sad to say, it appears that Vancouver has not yet caught up with the rest of Canada. Something must be done over the next few days to rectify this sorry situation.

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Robert Keaton, former president, Alliance Quebec, Montreal


The fact that announcements at the opening ceremonies were given first in French, then English, made a huge positive impact on me and sent a strong message that Canada values its francophone residents.

Officials may wrangle over the details, but I believe they may be too immersed in their environments to realize that those Canadians who do not focus on Quebec for a living, or citizens in other countries who are largely unconcerned with our internal politics, did not tally the number of French performers at the ceremonies. Our bilingual country is trying to walk the talk. VANOC is to be congratulated and should carry on with the closing ceremonies as planned. Further debate on this will just appear fractious, perhaps even petty.

Jacqueline Barker, Cobble Hill, B.C.


Francophones and anglophones are both declining as a percentage of Canada's population. Allophones, on the other hand, are forming a larger percentage.

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Heritage Minister James Moore more accurately might have complained of VANOC's failure to make the ceremonies more multicultural, rather than more francophone.

Charles Sager, Ottawa


Even in defending themselves, Olympic organizers are equating "French" to "Quebec." The impression left with the world is that all Canadians learn their history, and their slam poetry, in English.

French is my third language, and I have never lived in Quebec. But the language is part of my identity as a Canadian and has been spoken in my region for centuries. I felt let down.

Tom Urbaniak, Sydney, N.S.

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Where the money goes

If Stephen Harper's plans for maternal health make it harder for women in developing countries to get abortions, those plans will lead to botched procedures and misery - whether or not that is what Mr. Harper, or any Canadian with reservations toward abortion, wants ( Michael Ignatieff Is Playing Politics With Women's Lives - Feb. 15). Lack of access to prophylactics and safe, legal abortion options are a leading cause of death among women around the world.

The fact "there is more need for maternal-care assistance … than Canada can ever meet" is not an argument for designing a maternal-care package that only offers options agreeable to Mr. Harper's - or Neil Reynolds's - ideology.

A number of women will seek abortions, regardless of the laws of their countries or the maternal-care package offered by developed nations. Any attempt to allocate funding in order to make it harder to do so will lead to more misery and death, as ideological funding by the Bush administration showed clearly.

Julian Reid, Ottawa

Red tape, in a parallel Alberta?

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Todd Hirsch says Alberta's economy would diversify if only small business didn't face the "red tape" and "bureaucratic hurdles" that "crush small enterprise" ( Can Albertans Redesign Their Own Economy? - Feb. 15). Huh? I'm a small business owner in Alberta and I've never seen any of this. Is Mr. Hirsch living in a parallel Alberta? Alberta has probably the laxest, most business-friendly regulatory system in Canada.

That "red tape" nostrum from the 1980s is more than stale. Mr. Hirsch should look a little closer to home. The oil and gas industry sucks up investment capital so fast, other businesses are left starving for finance.

Dave Thompson, Edmonton

Proud for so many reasons

Alexandre Bilodeau has provided something more than his magnificent gold performance ( Gold Comes Home - Feb. 15). He has provided an example of the role that individuals with a disability play inspiring us as they overcome their challenges.

Thank you, Alex and Frédéric.

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Brian Smith, Toronto

The Party of No

Konrad Yakabuski is off the mark when he defends what has been called the worst U.S. Congress ever ( It's Democracy, Not Dysfunction - Feb. 13). According to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, the House has passed 200 bills that are being held up in the Senate. The Republicans have become known as The Party of No. They even vote against bills that they have co-sponsored.

Their obstructionist tactics are being used to defeat President Barack Obama's major programs, including a deficit-reduction commission, health-care reform, cap-and-trade legislation and job creation. Their use of the filibuster far exceeds that of either party in previous sessions of Congress.

The American people in 2008 voted for a Democratic President and a Democratic-controlled House and Senate. It is unconscionable that the Democrats should be unable to pass any major legislation because of the Republicans' obstructionism.

The idea that this is the system of checks and balances the Founding Fathers intended is ludicrous.

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Manuel Matas, Winnipeg

'Tumultuous but constructive'

In 2000, while I was director of the Royal Ontario Museum, our Master Planning team delivered two reports - a comprehensive redisplay proposal, based on curatorial research; another on architectural criteria underpinning later building plans ( Help Wanted: A Visionary For A Canadian Cultural Institution - Jan. 22). Exhibits in the new Libeskind building disregarded our narrative plans, while my choice for architect, Frank Gehry, was lost to the AGO. Notwithstanding, the achievement of ROM's fundraising team was exceptional.

The operating budget for 2001 disproves the article's "populist excess" allegation: research, collections, educational, family-engagement expenditures expanded; Egyptian Art drew record audiences. Budgets to 2004 were balanced, despite declining provincial support, pension liabilities were eliminated, renewal of galleries and "blockbusters" of high curatorial quality were included. My years at the ROM were "tumultuous," but constructive change in entrenched, inwardly focused cultures always creates backwash.

Your article links my experience with that of Vanda Vitali in Auckland, in the context of the search for William Thorsell's replacement at the ROM. You focus on her personal employment matters, but don't delve into how her museological expertise contributed much to positive change at the Auckland Museum. Change-agents seldom endear themselves to those for whom the status quo represents exactly that - status - but all museums need timely renewal, then a calm refocus.

The ROM must become "more affordable, [engaging]ethnic and religious groups" and redefining museological concepts as "a centre for innovation, information, technology, combined … within the grasp of … the average Ontarian." Bravo!

Lindsay Sharp, Foxground, Australia

Speaking of Our Glorious Leader

Why is it that Canada has political leaders who can't lead, "famous" Canadians who don't live in Canada, newscasters who speak of that of which they know nothing, and "Canadian" Olympic sponsors who operate from Atlanta? John Doyle says it like it is: saying it with clarity and humour, cutting through the hyperbole and reflecting what most Canadians think ( How About A Little More Childish Delight? - Review, Feb. 15). John Doyle for OGL.

John Paterson, Kingston, Ont.

Real estate negotiations

Michael Appleton ( High, Higher, Highest, Sold - letters, Feb. 13) believes a realtor acting on behalf of a seller must be a "skilled negotiator" to wrangle "top dollar" from the buyer's agent. But "top dollar" is in the best interest of both agents: the earnings of each increases with the final price. This shared objective doesn't seem to call for much negotiating skill. In most other Canadian industries, the buyer's agent would be considered in a conflict of interest.

Jeff Fairless, Kanata, Ont.

Top to bottom: head to ...

I enjoyed Ian Brown's article about phallic totem poles, condom capes, our Prime Minister, whom he cutely referred to as "Hairhat," the G-G's attire and, of course, Nelly Furtado's "fantastic ass" ( A Daring, Dazzling Show That Made Us Proud - Feb. 14).

I admit, however, that I did have to check a few times to see that, indeed, I was reading The Globe and Mail as opposed to some alternative paper. Good on The Globe for trying to reach all segments of the population.

Jean-Guy Lavoie, Edmonton


Kvetching about the show should stop. VANOC did us proud. I'm sorry some Canadians felt underrepresented but, on the whole, we were all there. But please advise if Nelly Furtado got out of the shrink wrap okay. That was some tight, eh?

Helen Godfrey, Toronto

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