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A child's life

Re Ontario Hospital Cannot Force Chemo On 11-Year-Old, Court Rules (Nov. 14): Pediatric oncologists said this child's bone marrow cancer has a "90- to 95-per-cent chance of being cured with chemotherapy." Those are overwhelming odds, yet still the judge allowed the mother to refuse, citing her "aboriginal right" to use traditional medicines. This is beyond understanding since we're told that without the chemo, the girl will likely die.

The Charter talks about actions that "would bring the administration of justice into disrepute." That's the least of what this child's death will do.

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I cannot begin to express my anger and sorrow at this decision.

Richard Nicholson, Calgary

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Aboriginal values do have a great role, not just white man's medicine. The residential school program ruined untold lives. Our First Nations should have the choice to make traditional decisions that honour their personal values. This judge has made a brave and timely decision.

Neil Finnie, MD, Victoria

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If and when the young girl dies, how will the judge and the child's family sleep at night?

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Steven Diener, Toronto

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Two brave teens

Re The Meaning Of Rinelle Harper (editorial, Nov. 14): I hope Malala Yousafzai and Rinelle Harper meet one day.

Michelle Karis, Halifax

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Canada's top doctor

Re Ottawa To Cut Powers Of Nation's Top Doctor (Nov. 12): As Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, I see the amendments to the Public Health Act as an enhancement to my public health role. These changes will allow me to focus exclusively on moving Canada's public health issues forward, in providing advice, collaborating with partners, and interacting with Canadians.

The article does not reflect the direct access and scientific advice I provide to the Minister of Health on a daily basis. I wholeheartedly support the decision and believe it allows me to focus my efforts squarely on the public health agenda. The Public Health Agency's president will focus on leading the organization.

We will work together with our many partners to ensure that the public health interests of Canadians are well served. The past 10 years have shown that both roles require considerable time and attention. The Agency is evolving in a way that makes good management and public health sense.

Gregory Taylor, Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada

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While supportive of the idea of removing the administrative burden from the Chief Public Health Officer, I am suspicious about the government's intent, which I am sure is to muzzle the CPHO.

This is a government that has a profound contempt for science, and a record of opposing public officers with an independent voice, even when that is required by legislation. The importance of a medical officer of health being an independent officer was established in the 19th century, and is as true today as it was then, given the adverse health effects of poverty and of our industrial economy (especially fossil fuels).

There is a potential solution: Establish a dual role, making the CPHO at the same time an independent officer like the auditor-general, reporting to Parliament, not to the minister.

Trevor Hancock, professor and senior scholar, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria

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Bye-bye, Beer Store

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I can't believe that in the second decade of the 21st century, Ontario is still debating what to do with the Beer Store monopoly.

What may have made sense in 1927 no longer does. What does make sense is selling beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores. Fear-mongers predict sales to minors and outright carnage in the streets – but then again, great horrors were predicted when debating Sunday shopping and same-sex marriage, none of which occurred. Let's move the province into the future.

Ian McCrea, Toronto

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Go on, sleep in

Thank you for Elizabeth Renzetti's column on teens, sleep and school start times (Wake Up To The Benefits Of A Later School Day – Nov. 10).

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Horizon Alternative, a middle school in downtown Toronto, has been starting its day at 9:45 since 2008. Teachers began this because of research into adolescent sleep patterns, their own experience with adolescent learners, and their desire to be welcoming to students with long commutes.

Allowing the kids to arrive at 9:45 means that they are more rested and ready for the day. As parents, we see the benefits twice: We have calmer mornings without having to fight their natural need for more sleep and nicer evenings without the unenviable task of pushing them toward bed when they aren't tired.

With a school schedule that respects their natural rhythms, they are more alert during the day and more able to complete homework in the evening.

Isfahan Merali, Steve Thuringer, co-chairs, School Advisory Committee, Horizon Alternative Senior School, Toronto

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Justice? Vengeance?

Re Cruel And Unusual? (Nov. 12): I used to think I was conservative – cautious, a traditionalist with respect for social order and a suspicion that things were better "before." But when did the Conservatives begin to see themselves as the party of vengeance?

Although I rolled my eyes whenever Stephen Harper's crew began beating the drums about the need to be tough on crime, I seldom said much about it. It took Lysiane Gagnon's column to remind me that their obsessions with violence eventually play out in the real world.

It is difficult to sympathize with Justin Bourque, but the test of a civilization is how it handles difficult problems. At my worst, I might like the idea of 75 years in prison, or the death penalty, or burning at the stake – but I spend a lot of time trying to avoid being at my worst.

That the Conservatives feel they can use the fears of people like me is extremely annoying. If anyone is trying to see that Justin Bourque is remembered as a hu-man being, I'll certainly sign up.

Brant LeBaron, Coaticook, Que.

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Justin Bourque killed not one RCMP officer, not two RCMP officers, but three RCMP officers. It is only right that he should wait not 25 years, not twice 25 years, but three times 25 years before being allowed to apply for parole.

Cruel and unusual?

Just and past time, I say.

Katherine Edwards, Edmonton

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Politicos and us

Re Ruling Establishes Honesty As The Law For Business (Nov. 14): The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly emphasized how important honesty is. If only the ruling could apply to politicians as well.

What ever happened to the "social contract"?

Alan Lawrence, London, Ont.

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