The Flanagan factor
Here's a home truth for Richard French (One Fewer Above The Parapet – March 5): Hard as it may be for libertarian academics such as Tom Flanagan and Mr. French to grasp, there are some issues that lie beyond debate. One of them is the sexual exploitation of children.
Frederick Sweet, Toronto
I say Tom Flanagan should express himself publicly on child pornography and on anything else that matters to him (Professors Defend Flanagan's Views – March 2). Letter writer Geoff Rytell (Flanagan Yardstick – March 5) wonders whether I'd extend that right to Ernst Zundel, the Holocaust denier, when, unlike Mr. Flanagan, Mr. Zundel is not a professor.
Of course I would. If I had my way, not only would Canada be free of hate-speech laws, but all of us would enjoy the protection that academic freedom affords professors. Why not?
Mark Mercer, chair, Department of Philosophy, Saint Mary's University, Halifax
The measure of academic narrow-mindedness is the call for a debate on child pornography – until it's one of your own.
Douglas L. Martin, Hamilton
In the production, distribution and consumption of pornography, there are many dark areas and combustible elements. Where Tom Flanagan should have used a flashlight, he lit a match.
Chris Warburton, Ottawa
Isn't Tom Flanagan the same Tom Flanagan who believed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be assassinated?
Edward Mullens, Owen Sound, Ont.
The statement in your article Controversial Push To Cut Childhood Obesity (March 5) that 92 per cent of food and beverage advertising to children in Canada is undertaken by companies that are part of the voluntary Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative is obviously meant to be reassuring and deflect calls for more oversight and regulation.
But a 2009 analysis undertaken by the Public Health Agency of Canada of 83 products identified as "better for you" by the CCFBIA found that as much as 62 per cent of them would not be acceptable to promote to children under advertising standards established in the U.K., Denmark, Brazil or New Zealand.
This study and the subsequent 2012 provincial and territorial report on reducing the sodium intake of Canadians both recommended reducing Canadian children's exposure to the marketing of foods high in fats, sugar and sodium.
This recommendation is now supported by Ontario's Healthy Kids Panel. While the CCFBIA's voluntary code, established in 2008, was a step in the right direction, it's clear that, five years later, as panel co-chairs Alex Munter and Kelly Murumets say, more action is called for.
Perry Kendall, B.C. health officer, Victoria
Ties to slavery. Not
No connection to slavery ever existed for Sir John A. Macdonald, our first prime minister (Sir John's Family Ties To Slavery – March 2). The only tie Paul Waldie cites is that the father of Macdonald's second wife, Agnes Bernard, owned slaves. But Thomas Bernard, a wealthy businessman in Jamaica, died in 1850, 17 years before his daughter married Macdonald, so they never knew each other.
If one wants to argue that a father's sins descend on his children, there would be a problem in this case. Slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833, and Agnes Bernard was born in 1836.
Charles Smedmor, Toronto
Shin Bet candour
Thank you for publishing These Israeli 'Gatekeepers' Aren't Afraid To Speak Out (March 5), a candid eye-opener for those who wonder why Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories continues and why Israeli politicians haven't addressed the settler problem. Simply ignoring this reality is not going to lead to a just solution for anyone.
Mohamedarif M. Jagani, Markham, Ont.
Congratulations on pointing out the egregious blurring of government and party roles (More Silos, Please, We're Canadian – editorial, March 5). But it often suits the political process and party goals to keep ethnocultural communities in their "silos." It makes them easier to manipulate.
You segregate them – especially the first-generation immigrants who haven't yet mastered English–– and trot them out as props for photo ops to demonstrate how "inclusive and pluralistic" a party has become.
The ethnocultural communities themselves are not blameless for not integrating more broadly into the political apparatus, especially once they become comfortable. There are also community "leaders" who fancy themselves as gatekeepers to the party elite.
Your editorial is right that "major parties should be based on a broad coalition of interests." It's time they also stop using ethnocultural communities as pawns, too.
Gordon J. Chong, Toronto
It was uplifting to read your Lives Lived column on Hon Yuk Ying (March 5). So many of our Chinese communities have similar heroic grandparents. We're all richer when they share such life stories.
Dale Taylor, Richmond Hill, Ont.
On the sidewalk
Toronto's chief planner can rest easy about the safety of bikers on the city's streets (Chief City Planner Wants Streets Safer For Bike Riders – March 4). That's because the bikers are safe and secure on the sidewalk, where they harass the pedestrians.
I've never crossed the Bloor-Danforth Viaduct without jumping out of the way of a biker. But here's the cherry on the cake: dog walkers who tie five or six dogs to their bikes, then ride around the neighbourhood.
Sleep well, Jennifer Keesmaat. Just don't go for a walk.
Catherine McMahon, Toronto
At the risk of making light of head injuries (Head Shots – letters, March 5), an old Gordie Howe story comes to mind.
On the Jack Parr show, at the height of Mr. Howe's career, he was asked why he wore a cup to protect the "family jewels" but nothing on his head. He replied: "You can always pay someone else to do the thinking for you."
Craig Sims, Kingston