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Letters to the Editor March 27: Academic freedom at McGill. Plus other letters to the editor

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Academic freedom

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I write in sorrow at the university's decision not to support Andrew Potter in the wake of his Maclean's article. Though there may have been inaccuracies in his piece, there were also some "inconvenient truths." As an alumna of McGill, I am dismayed by the university's response and agree with Margaret Wente (Academic Freedom? McGill Caves In To Tribal Politics, March 25).

As Don Macpherson reported in the Montreal Gazette on March 23, the fact that Richard Martineau in Le Journal de Montréal just wrote of societal breakdown in Quebec – an article which did not attract public condemnation – only rubs salt in the wound.

McGill should have done better.

J.C. Sulzenko, Ottawa

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Andrew Potter's article in Maclean's about the supposed "malaise" in Quebec is subjective, unbalanced and, to my mind, biased. "Freedom of speech" is not a credible defence against the propagation of prejudice and negative stereotype. This is especially true in the specific context of his position as director of McGill's Institute for the Study of Canada, whose mission is to foster deeper understanding of this complex federation. Incendiary speech and intemperate opinion are harmful to this mission.

The larger context is McGill's particular status: The university's administration has worked hard to integrate this anglophone island into the broader academic culture of Quebec. Prof. Potter's article, which demonstrates no real knowledge of Quebec but a great deal of hostility, undermines that effort.

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Freedom of opinion is one thing; responsibility to the nation and respect for the institute's mandate, are another. The institute has had better directors in the past, and it will in the future.

Prof. Potter was right to resign.

Eric Savoy, Département de littératures et de langues du monde, Université de Montréal

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Andrew Potter's resignation ironically adds to the perception that Quebec has an "essential malaise."

Douglas L. Martin, Hamilton

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China's clout

Readers of The Globe and Mail undoubtedly agree with you that the human-rights situation in China deserves serious criticism (A Despicable Practice, editorial, March 22). We deplore Hong Kong's loss of autonomy and the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

However, surely the world's most serious problem today is North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons. Kim Jong Un appears to be as unstable as the President of the United States, whose territories Mr. Kim's missiles may soon be able to reach.

The most feasible way to avoid a nuclear exchange is to persuade the Chinese government that Mr. Kim has become such a liability that it should replace him with someone else. Any military action by a Western country against North Korea would result in a catastrophic loss of life and property in South Korea.

China could topple Mr. Kim's government within a month, if it chose to do so. I have spent hours over a few days watching trucks and flatcars travel across the Friendship Bridge between Dandong in China and Sinuiju in North Korea. The trucks and trains entered North Korea fully loaded. They invariably returned empty. North Korea is totally dependent on goods from China.

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Sad as it is, the time may have come to set a few priorities. For the moment, stay silent on issues around human rights, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea. Focus instead on winning Chinese goodwill and co-operation in a coup d'état against Kim Jong Un.

Graeme Mount, Victoria

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Barriere Lake's plight

Re First Nation Says Outside Manager's Pay Prevents Spending On Crucial Issues (March 23): I was part of the Human Rights Delegation that visited Barriere Lake on March 23. The introduction of third party management there in 2006 because of some financial management issues and a deficit of $83,000 was a stupid, punitive measure that has only added to the misery of the Algonquins who live there.

The resource wealth that is being taken from the unceded territory of Barriere Lake Algonquins is estimated at more than $100-million a year, from which the community receives nothing.

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The domino effect on the daily lives of people in Barriere Lake from the Kafkaesque bureaucratic decisions of federal and provincial governments is frankly unbelievable; for example, paying 10 per cent of the community's meagre budget to a third party manager in Quebec City that visits once a month and has the power to deny even minute requests for community programs.

Barriere Lake has successfully healed factional fighting in its community, has a system of customary governance that works, and has educated itself on financial management. It has paid off the deficit time and again over the more than 10 years it has been under third party management.

Joan Kuyek (DSW), Ottawa

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Go figure

A letter writer points out that Justin Trudeau's travel expenses compare favourably to Donald Trump's and asserts that he is happy to pay his $0.003 share of the $127,000 Trudeau family vacation with the Aga Khan (Island Economics, March 25).

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Leaving aside the issue of whether Mr. Trump's behaviour should ever be used as a benchmark, here's another calculation.

This one factors in the $310-million that Canadian taxpayers have paid to the Aga Khan Foundation over the years. Add that to the $127,000, divide by roughly 25 million taxpayers, and the individual share becomes $12.40.

As for the challenge to find a cheaper, warm, tropical experience, how about a mai tai in the prime ministerial tub?

Rudy Buller, Toronto

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