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In this April 24, 2012, file photo, Islamist fighters stand guard during a hostage handover in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali. (AP)
In this April 24, 2012, file photo, Islamist fighters stand guard during a hostage handover in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali. (AP)

What readers think

Jan. 16: the Mali mission, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Message on Mali

I have to wonder about Prime Minister Stephen Harper: No sooner do I send him a note congratulating him for staying out of the civil war in Mali, than he dispatches a heavy-lift military transport (Canada Joins Mission To Mali – Jan. 15).

Does he think France or our other allies are going to be impressed by that? Surely the lessons learned from our involvement in the civil war in Afghanistan are not so distant as to be forgotten. Good intentions are not enough when both sides to a conflict are essentially without merit.

Douglas V. Bjorkman, Vancouver


Eco-idle no more

The Idle No More movement began with first nations people standing up to the federal government over the gutting of our country’s environmental laws and regulations (Harper Needs To Stay The Course – Jan. 14). Under the Harper government, many of our waterways have lost coverage under the Navigable Waters Protection Act – now the Navigation Protection Act. Omnibus legislation has usurped our democratic rights to due process and public consultation.

What do we want our government to protect – pipelines and navigation, or our waterways and lands? All Canadians should “idle no more” and stand with the first nations people, demanding a return to federal accountability and protection of our environment. Stephen Harper’s “course” needs to change with respect to environmental policies.

Jennifer Dockstator, Oakville, Ont.


Ill winds, fortune

Describing how politicians’ fortunes are often buoyed by outside events beyond their control (Will Harper Join Elite Club Of Long-Serving PMs? – Jan. 15), Lawrence Martin wrote: “If it had been Mitt Romney who got a momentum-turner late in the U.S. presidential campaign instead of the one given Barack Obama by Hurricane Sandy, the outcome might well have been different.”

After his first-debate debacle, President Obama’s numbers plummeted, while Mr. Romney’s soared, but Mr. Romney’s post-debate bounce had already started to recede before Sandy hit. Republicans prefer to attribute their loss to Sandy as a talking point, rather than to the weakness of their candidate, the lack of popular support for their ideology, and the changing demographics, which favoured the Democrats.

Manuel Matas, Winnipeg


To be Indian

Richard Wagamese’s article, To Be Indian In Canada Today (Jan. 14), is an excellent addition to the conversations created by the Idle No More movement. I teach a course in community development to young (and sometimes not so young) aboriginal people at an aboriginal health agency in Toronto. We often have long, interesting and passionate dialogues in class on the nature of being “Indian” in Canada and how to move forward. I’m going to make sure that each student gets a copy of his excellent piece; it will be a welcome resource for those discussions. I also hope it is discussed among the wider Canadian population: We badly need the education.

Lawlor William Lee, Toronto


After listing the usual litany of social pathologies facing Indians, Richard Wagamese points to the apparent root of these problems: “They suffer because different orders of government dispute who’s responsible to pay or provide for a service.”

To be sure, our governments can do much better. But what of those individual and community attributes that lead to well-being: personal responsibility, hard work, individual initiative, commitment to excellence, the honour of achievement, looking out for others, volunteerism, sound community governance? Are governments responsible for achieving these?

John Graham, Ottawa


Latte lassitude

Re The Latte-A-Day Plan For Building Your Wealth (Report on Business, Jan. 15): Enough latte-bashing. Let’s try to get to the root of the savings problem. Rob Carrick’s better way to house affordability results in a smaller house, but some money saved for the future.

The tradeoff is between the pain (maybe embarrassment) of a smaller home, versus the pleasure of a comfortable future retirement. For many people, pain today far outweighs pleasure enjoyed 10 to 30 years down the road.

As for the cheaper macchiato coffee Mr. Carrick recommends, I’ll give it a try. Maybe I’ll add a chocolate biscotti, with all the money I’ll save now.

Paul Carvalho, Hamilton, Ont.


Oil, rail, pipe

The debate between proponents of moving crude oil by rail and those advocating more pipelines misses a crucial point (With Pipelines Under Attack, Railways Leading Race To Move Oil – Report on Business, Jan. 12).

The riskiness of moving crude oil should not be measured by the number of pipeline breaks per million barrels shipped, or the incidence of derailments per tons of oil moved. The true measure of the risk associated with the movement of crude oil is the likelihood of a break or spill, times the total direct and indirect cost associated with a pipe break or derailment. If the average indirect and direct cost of a pipeline break significantly exceeds that of the average derailment, it means little to say that pipelines are less risky simply because there are fewer incidents per barrel or tons shipped.

Douglas Auld, Guelph, Ont.


Chavez’s future

Reality check: Imagine for one moment, if you will, a newspaper in Venezuela calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to resign (If Too Ill To Swear An Oath, Resign – editorial, Jan. 10). The sheer hubris of thinking you have the right to call on a democratically elected president of a sovereign, foreign nation to quit is truly unbelievable.

John Richmond, Toronto


Word wise

The term Schadenfreude can best be understood in context (At A Loss For Words? – Life & Arts, Jan. 11). An example of Schadenfreude: If a person elbows himself to the head of a queue and, while rushing, slips on a banana peel, the people in the queue might well feel Schadenfreude.

Ursula Litzcke, Vancouver


My wife and I have always had our own phrase describing the Estonian term you define as “The feeling of laziness. Can’t be bothered to do anything. Don’t want to work or go anywhere.” We call it “command and control.” Command and control constitutes the TV remote, land-line phone, cellphone, laptop – and any other electronic device that allows either of us to ensconce ourselves on the couch for the day. The Estonian word viitsima sums this up perfectly.

English, as it has done for millenniums, should appropriate this word immediately. Or maybe tomorrow – I am feeling rather viitsima today.

Conner Steacy, Kingston

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