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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a speech on the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights in the House of Commons Feb. 14.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

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Unintended consequences

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While there is no question that the general well-being of Indigenous people absolutely has to improve, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's speech last week raises some troubling questions (Trudeau Promises Government Recognition Of Indigenous Rights, Feb. 15).

For example, he went on at some length about their right to self-determination. In any other context, this means the right to secede. Does Mr. Trudeau really mean that each Indigenous band has the right to secede from Canada, thereby turning the country into a sort of patchwork quilt? If not, just what does he mean?

Equally troubling is his stated objective of signing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. A very valid concern has been raised that signing the declaration would give the Indigenous community the right of veto over projects considered to be in the national interest, and indeed this view has been expressed by Indigenous leaders themselves.

Giving certain citizens rights that other citizens do not have, based on racial considerations, is most certainly not the way to long-term reconciliation. The Prime Minister needs to think through the consequences of what he is proposing or else the impact of his actions may well exacerbate the divisions that already exist and damage the country permanently.

John Sutherland, Victoria

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Migrant shuffle

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Israel is relocating Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers to a country, Rwanda, that has agreed to patriate them (Israel's Treatment Of Eritrean And Sudanese Migrants Is Shameful, Feb. 14). This is not the same as sending them back to their strife-ridden countries.

If there is evidence in Rwanda that the migrants are being mistreated, then the Israeli policy must be reworked and would be wrong. If, however, they are being given safe harbour, then is this not how refugee programs should work?

Richard Gruneir, Leamington, Ont.

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Deliberations on juries

As much as the Prime Minister and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould want to deny it, there is no doubt in my mind that both were commenting on the jury verdict in the Colten Boushie case when they said Canada has to do better (You And I Can Question The Stanley Verdict – Politicians Should Not, Feb. 13.)

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One only has to ask if there had been any action or comment from Mr. Trudeau had there been a guilty verdict in this case. We all know the answer to that.

All of us should be very concerned about the potentially disastrous impact this will have on future jurors. Already, I know of no one who enthusiastically embraces jury duty. There is the financial hardship for many (potentially disastrous), possible post-traumatic stress disorder for those who have to review gruesome evidence (with no support after the trial), and the isolation of being sequestered, to name a few challenges.

There have now been many calls for reforming the jury system. The first thing that should be looked at is how jurors are being treated.

Alfhard Brandl, Mississauga

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There is a system of jury selection and presentation of jury findings that would go a long way to resolving the current outcry over the Gerald Stanley trial results.

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Lawyers would no longer be able to influence the selection of jurors without sound legal or moral reasons. Ethnicity is not an acceptable reason. Jury composition can then be representative of the general population, which is a historical principle of jury selection.

Accompanying this change is a corresponding change in presenting jury findings. Jurists vote according to their conscience after listening to the trial details, with the majority votes determining the conclusion offered to the court. The options are guilty, not guilty, and not proven when there's a tie vote. This system has worked well for hundreds of years in Scotland.

Robert Cheadle, Calgary

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Gerber baby's influence

André Picard's column poignantly captures how far we must go to achieve genuine and comprehensive inclusion for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (People With Disabilities Deserve More Than Just A Cute Gerber Baby, Feb 13).

Welcoming an adorable baby with a captivating smile is just the first step in creating a world that honours the profound significance of each human being, whatever their challenges. Lucas Warren, the new Gerber baby, deserves the same opportunities as his peers to find a meaningful job, enjoy music, art and culture, and make a difference in the lives of others.

This is the goal of Camphill, an international movement of vibrant lifesharing communities, where people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities live, work, and celebrate life together. There are more than 120 Camphill communities worldwide, including Camphill Communities Ontario (located in Barrie and Angus) and the Cascadia Society and Glenora Farm in British Columbia.

Mr. Picard poses an essential question: "When the Gerber baby grows up, will he be able to live up to his potential, to live the life he wants to live?" The response should be an emphatic yes. But all of us must work together to turn awareness and acceptance into inclusive action.

Shelley Burtt, executive director, Camphill Foundation, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.

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Mr. Picard's column provides an interesting perspective to the typical Gerber baby story. We applaud Mr. Picard for bringing light to continuing issues in the disability community.

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) agrees there are several opportunities for businesses and organizations to become more involved with inclusion – directly resulting from the 2018 Gerber baby announcement.

CDSS is a national leader in promoting the abilities of people with Down syndrome, while ensuring that there are equal opportunities to live, work and play in their own communities. Inclusive communities are being built through CDSS's outreach and network across Canada.

The Gerber baby is sparking momentum for furthering greater inclusion discussions. These conversations strengthen CDSS's efforts to make communities better for all Canadians.

Kirk Crowther, national executive director, Canadian Down Syndrome Society, Calgary

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Winner take all

Interesting that new B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson is so interested in fighting electoral reform and keeping the first-past-the-post system (Wilkinson Opposed To Electoral Changes, Feb. 5). If the Liberals had used first past the post in their recent leadership race, Diane Watts would be the new leader. Mr. Wilkinson would have placed third, well behind both Ms. Watts and Michael Lee.

Blaise Salmon, Victoria

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