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Former governor-general Michaëlle Jean. Today’s topics: Prorogation secrecy; Egypt in transition; Jerry Sandusky and evil’s elements; Lonesome George; bicycle helmet laws, protecting the PM … and more (Thibault Camus/AP)
Former governor-general Michaëlle Jean. Today’s topics: Prorogation secrecy; Egypt in transition; Jerry Sandusky and evil’s elements; Lonesome George; bicycle helmet laws, protecting the PM … and more (Thibault Camus/AP)

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June 27: Prorogation secrecy, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Prorogation secrecy

Four years later, hints are emerging as to why former governor-general Michaëlle Jean assented to the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue Parliament in 2008 (Jean Feared ‘Dreadful Crisis’ When Harper Sought Prorogation: Ex-adviser – online, June 26). That this is the most we can get by way of a public accounting of this crucial moment in our country’s constitutional history highlights the need for reform.

At the very least, we ought to expect that Parliament, in consultation with the Supreme Court, would provide clear legal guidelines for moments such as these and that governors-general would produce written decisions reflecting these guidelines.

As it stands, we are left with a process that makes the selection of popes seem transparent by contrast.

Craig Keating, Department of History, Langara College, Vancouver


Constitutional scholar Peter Russell on the former governor-general’s authorization of the prorogation that saved Stephen Harper: “There was no easy decision that day.”

But there was the correct one. And Michaëlle Jean didn’t make it.

Louis Desjardins, Belleville, Ont.


Egypt in transition

While it is true that many analysts underplayed the power of the Muslim Brotherhood at the time of the Egyptian revolution, it is a similarly farcical illusion to imagine that the United States could have managed the transition to democracy to bolster other parties before the election (After Mubarak, No More Illusions – June 26). This would almost certainly have led to a second, violent wave of protests.

The truth is that the Muslim Brotherhood’s unsavoury statements on Jews are in keeping with anti-Semitic cultural currents in Egypt. These were bound to come out in a democratic process. Yet, the presence of anti-Semitism should not disqualify Egyptians from enjoying representative government. Rather, it should remind us of the urgency of building real connections between Arabs and Jews, in the Middle East and at home.

Mark Krass, Alexandria, Egypt


Evil’s elements

Jerry Sandusky, the assistant football coach to the godlike Joe Paterno at Penn State, will likely serve what amounts to the rest of his natural life – a euphemism, given his predilection for unnatural acts with children – in prison (Ex-Penn State Coach Sandusky Guilty On 45 Counts In Sex Abuse Trial – June 22).

As Canadian scholars Varda Burstyn, Bruce Kidd, and Brian Pronger have established, professional and college sport in the U.S. is dominated by a pathological hypermasculinity that often finds outlets in sad ways. On the one hand, there is no venue in our culture where homosociality is so favoured; on the other, that homosociality – which has nothing to do with homosexuality – takes its form in hockey fights, dirty hits and on the football field, and numerous other situations where power seeks to dominate.

The Penn State football program should be discontinued in its entirety for at least a decade. That move would send a message.

Jerry Sandusky is not an idiosyncratic example out of time and space. His acts and the context in which they took place clarify a system in which the banality of evil and the horrendous failure of impersonal bureaucracy came together to produce tragedy.

Geoff Smith, Kingston


Hitting on George

Lonesome George the tortoise failed to mate, so a Swiss zoology graduate “smeared herself with female tortoise hormones and, in the cause of science, spent four months trying to manually stimulate him” (‘When He Looked At You, You Saw Time In His Eyes’ – June 26). I guarantee the number of hits would have been astronomical if this had appeared on YouTube.

Charles Cook, Toronto


Democrat, autocrat?

Malaysia’s human rights record under Prime Minister Najib Razak remains of great concern (Malaysia’s Leader – letters, June 25; A Roster Of The Modern Autocrats – June 9). Peaceful protesters are beaten and teargassed by police, hundreds are arrested, temporarily detained and their organization, Bersih, declared illegal.

Their crime? They called for fair elections.

Amnesty International has called for urgent reforms for freedom of assembly and expression, an end to torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, harsh treatment of refugees and migrants, and executions. These human rights issues are of grave concern to Malaysia’s human rights defenders and the international community.

Margaret John, co-ordinator for Singapore and Malaysia, Amnesty International Canada


Empathy, respect

As Margaret Wente (Cosmic Justice? Bully For Us – June 26) says, the main issue has been sidetracked by the outpouring of compassion and outrage over the bus bullies story: How and why did this incident happen? The reasons are myriad, but the means to try to avoid future incidents is clear. Tolerance education and the imperative to teach our children compassion and kindness for others is paramount.

Our solution is to help youth learn strategies on how not to be a bystander, and our programs, which teach over 10,000 students every year effective methods of intervention, are crucial if we are to make any progress in the fight against bullying and other forms of hate. In the long run the teaching of empathy and respect is the only effective approach.

Avi Benlolo, president, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies


Helmet hard sell

Bike to the Future in Winnipeg expressed dismay when the Manitoba government proposed helmet legislation. Governments should use their resources to improve laws and driver education to make cycling safer, rather than requiring cyclists to wear armour, which they can choose to do themselves to improve their chances of survival (Cycling Helmet Laws Not So Clear-cut On Many Issues – June 25). Legislating a safe passing distance of one metre, and slowing residential traffic to 30 km/h would do much more to protect cyclists.

Charles Feaver, Winnipeg


Helmets save lives and prevent brain injury: I know from my experience as a surgeon and an active cyclist. It is upsetting when preventable death and injury occur because people do not follow simple safety measures.

Paul Goobie, surgeon, Moncton


PM protection

Much as any Canadian PM and his/her family should feel and be safe from harm, $20-million a year for a “world-class” Protection Detail seems excessive (Tightened Tactics Breed Detail Dissent – June 23).

Teaching Stephen Harper karate would be cheaper: Didn’t the PM’s pal Vladimir Putin save a TV crew from a Siberian tiger attack? And, even without specialized training, Aline Chrétien knew how to wield an Inuit carving.

Clive Robertson, Kingston

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