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President Donald Trump salutes as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. on Monday, March 20, 2017. The President wants to slash all U.S. federal funding, about $300-million a year, for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The program has helped fight invasive species, control algae and clean up pollution. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
President Donald Trump salutes as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. on Monday, March 20, 2017. The President wants to slash all U.S. federal funding, about $300-million a year, for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The program has helped fight invasive species, control algae and clean up pollution. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

WHAT READERS THINK

March 21: Water-protection nightmares. Plus other letters to the editor Add to ...

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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Water nightmares

Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I, too, was having a hard time sleeping, wondering what Donald Trump might do next. Then, he proposed cuts to Great Lakes restoration programs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and environmental regulations (Canadians Value, Worry About Fresh Water: Poll, March 20).

The proposed cuts include wetlands, or as he put it, “programs dealing with puddles and ditches.” The 1972 Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement led to world leadership in lake and river nutrient-pollution controls. By 1980, the focus had moved to toxic chemicals. The results of that research on the lakes and their connecting channels was applied elsewhere in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. Over the past 40 years, lakes, rivers and estuaries worldwide became sources of less-contaminated water and biota.

In the 1990s, Great Lakes research led to a better understanding of atmospheric sources of toxic chemicals to lakes, and thus to humans, even in remote areas such as the High Arctic. Such research supported national and global implementation of regulations and agreements, resulting in a less contaminated planet. Mr. Trump and his proposed cuts could start a global reversal of pollution controls and send us “back to the future” to a world of contaminated waters and smog days. So, I am now having an even harder time sleeping.

Rod Allan, former executive director, National Water Research institute, Canada Centre for Inland Waters; Burlington, Ont.

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Nuclear, incoming?

Re The Cassandras Are Warning Of Nuclear Doom – So Why Doesn’t Canada Seem To Care? (March 18): Elizabeth Renzetti’s review of the resurgent threat posed by nuclear weapons brings to mind physicians’ efforts to educate the public and political leaders about the catastrophic medical consequences a nuclear strike would present.

I quote from a 1982 City of Toronto pamphlet we helped to prepare: “A one-megaton (70 times the destructive power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) nuclear weapon detonated in the air above downtown Toronto during business hours would kill 750,000 people immediately and severely injure more than a million others; if detonated during the early evening, it would kill 624,000 residents and severely injure another 795,000. It would destroy 65- to 80 per cent of all the city’s hospital beds, along with blood banks, antibiotics, sterile supplies, diagnostic and life-support systems, operating theatres and emergency treatment centres. The blast would kill more than 5,000 physicians, leaving only one doctor for every 1,000 survivors – with only a little black bag for assistance.”

With our denser population, some 35 years later, these numbers would be higher. The devastating reality of nuclear arms calls on all of us, governments and citizens, to work to prevent their use.

Frank Sommers, MD, honorary and founding president, Canadian Physicians for Social Responsibility/Physicians for Global Survival

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Kids, constitutions

Re Cheque Please (editorial, March 20): While you state that “Indigenous children must receive medical and social services,” you also state that the funding “must largely be left to negotiations among Ottawa, the provinces and First Nations.” This is a ridiculous position.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that Ottawa discriminates against First Nations children by underfunding child-welfare services. You suggest that while this may be true, the government is under no obligation to rectify the situation.

You promote the idea that while children suffer, Ottawa and the provinces should continue to quibble over who pays, playing the same game of pass-the-buck they have been playing for years.

This would not be good enough for my children or yours. It is not good enough for any child in this country. The federal government needs to step up and fix this.

Andrew Hodgson, Ottawa

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Leaving aside for a moment the issue of whether human rights tribunals are courts, it does seem that none of the three branches of our constitutional democracy has the right to flout what the courts deem to be constitutional duties.

When a court says the government must spend money on aboriginal children, it is not itself directing how the money should be spent. It is simply stating how the constitution says the money should be spent, and in our system of democracy, we have given powers of constitutional interpretation to the court and not the executive or the legislature.

Human rights tribunals, if they are creations of Parliament and not of the Constitution, may lack authority to tell Parliament what the Constitution requires.

When a mother tells her children that their piece of pie must be split equally, it does not give the children any authority to determine how the parents’ portion must be shared.

Patrick Cowan, Toronto

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PR’s place

Just before the Dutch election, The Globe and Mail reported that 28 parties were vying for 150 seats. Soon after, a letter to the editor cited this as evidence that Canada should not even consider changing its “first past the post” system to proportional representation (Divided Enough, March 16).

As we now know, the extreme views of one candidate did not gain the kind of power it was feared they might. The voter turnout for the election was 84 per cent, which contrasts with the turnout of 70 per cent for most Dutch elections. I would therefore come to the opposite conclusion about the value of PR. The high turnout to me indicates that the Dutch are generally satisfied that their opinions are being taken into consideration, and therefore it is worth casting a ballot. Can we make that same claim about “first past the post” here in Canada?

Patty Benjamin, Victoria

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Creature comforts

Four winters ago, on a minus 30 C day with a fierce wind blowing, I heard frantic cawing coming from the light standard in front of our house. A crow was trying to hang on to its perch in the wind, complaining bitterly. Since I feed the other birds (and the hares) when it’s very cold, I quickly slathered peanut butter on stale bread and took it outside. I must have looked foolish waving a peanut butter sandwich in the air during a blizzard, but the crow figured it out. From the warmth of my front room, I watched him alight next to the sandwich, check it out, pick it up and disappear with it.

He’s probably around all year but comes back to that light standard every winter on very cold, ugly days. Then he requests and gets his dinner from me. He is no freeloader, he has never abused my small generosity and does not bring his friends. This is between him and me. He does not harass the smaller birds who use the feeder, nor does he caw early in the morning. He has been a perfect gentleman, to me anyway.

Why do so many people seem to feel killing our wildlife neighbours because they annoy us is righteous? They have as much right to share the Earth as we do. A little respect and kindness always go a long way – with anybody. Try it.

Claudette Claereboudt, Regina

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