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The nation's soul

Canada's Sesquicentennial in 2017 presents an historic opportunity for this adolescent country to finally grow up by accepting responsibility for the racism, grave injustices and colonial oppression that have defined relationships with the indigenous populations throughout too much of our history.

The repulsive legacy of residential schools, of ignoring treaty relationships and obligations, of nearly 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women over the past 30 years, and of unconscionable poverty reflects a profound malaise in the nation's soul.

The 150th-anniversary project should be a national strategy to make Canada whole by comprehensively addressing this enduring blight on our history and standing as a nation.

Terry Downey, Saskatoon


The trouble with "cultural genocide" and its implication of criminal racism is that it does not allow for the fact that during the period in question, the British privileged classes almost universally sent their children to residential schools. Children were subjected to practices, including caning, which were acceptable then but are considered abusive today. Damage was surely done to those children as a result.

Dare we think that the government authorities who instituted Canada's residential schools truly thought they were doing the right thing?

Is it not true that the Crown regarded Canada's indigenous people as "My children"? Does motive and historical and social context count for anything?

John Bryden, Hamilton


As a pediatrician who cares for children with problems that are directly and indirectly the result of the residential school system, I disagree that "a fixation on the past … can make future progress more, not less difficult" for aboriginal people (Fixating On Past Is Not Productive – June 3).

Every Canadian needs to look at aboriginal people through the lens of what happened as a result of residential schools. We need to understand the devastation wreaked on families when children were forcibly removed and then abused. We also need to see the strength and resilience that aboriginal people have shown.

I work in a medical school where we actively recruit aboriginal students. A student wrote me recently that my lectures on abuse triggered difficult memories for him. He didn't want sympathy, he didn't want to make excuses.

He wanted to know what I could suggest to help him be the best physician that he could be despite his difficult past.

Aboriginal people I have known through my practice have displayed incredible trust, strength and generosity. They are getting stronger every day.

We owe it to them to humbly ask for forgiveness and pave the way for their children to thrive.

Barbara Fitzgerald, developmental pediatrician, Department of Pediatrics, UBC


A question of trust

The Canadian justice system cannot afford to have a politically opinionated Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If Beverley McLachlin wants to use politically loaded terms like "cultural genocide" in public speeches, she must be prepared to recuse herself from all related cases.

Otherwise, Canadians will be unable to trust the legal foundations of their justice system.

Boris DeWiel, Prince George, B.C.


I applaud Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin's courage in saying that the forced removal of children from their families and the often horrific subsequent treatment they received during their time at residential schools constitutes "cultural genocide."

Canadians need to be reminded of the time when First Nations youth snowshoed and walked 1,600 kilometres from Northern Quebec to Ottawa during the Idle No More movement. Where was our Prime Minister when they arrived in Ottawa? Meeting panda bears from China.

Bonnie Stacy, Victoria


How is it that the Chief Justice used the words "cultural genocide" a week ago, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has been pondering the residential school issue for nearly six years, submits its findings this week with exactly the same words? Very unfortunate timing?

Marc Whittemore, Kelowna, B.C.


Sense? Priceless

Sure, more money would have helped the RCMP on Parliament Hill be better equipped on that fateful day last October (Parliament Hill Security Gaps Blamed In Part On Budget Cuts – June 4).

But the human errors made that day (among them: an on-duty officer reading a report instead of watching for trouble; a ministerial car left to be hijacked; an improperly operated police radio; two officers not seeing a man with a long gun running onto The Hill) all showed a total lack of something that no budget can ever fund – common sense!

Peter A. Lewis-Watts, Barrie, Ont.


South China Sea

Re Rumours Of War (editorial, May 29): In your comments on the Chinese government white paper, China's Military Strategy, you rightly indicate that "it is good for great powers to have an understanding of each other's objectives."

The white paper is just a case of transparency on the part of the Chinese military. Its purpose is to help other countries have a better understanding of China's defence policy and build mutual trust.

The best way to solve the disputes in question in the seas near China is through consultation and negotiation by countries directly concerned, according to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

China's construction activities on the Nansha islands and reefs recently are, first and foremost, aimed at improving the working and living conditions of personnel stationed there and better fulfilling China's international responsibilities and obligations, including search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, meteorological observation, ecological conservation, navigation safety and fishery services.

There has never been and will never be any problem in respect of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Yang Yundong, spokesperson, Chinese Embassy in Canada


Love in canoes

We recently returned from our Huntsville cottage, where we have been co-existing with blackflies every spring since the 1970s (Accursed Blackflies Only Doing Their Job – May 30).

As our first defence back then, my wife and I walked into a Huntsville store and asked for an outfit that would protect us from blackflies.

The clerk responded with a puzzled smile, then told us to try next door. "Weird city folk," he probably thought.

We didn't realize at the time that we were in a sex shop; the sporting goods store was next door, complete with the mesh bug jackets we were after.

Those bug suits work great.

Perhaps those making love in canoes could use them during the spring blackfly offensive (A Hardy Canadian – letters, June 2).

Rudy Bies, Mississauga

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