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Re Trudeau's Refugee Bias Is Unjust (Nov. 26): We should heed Omer Aziz's advice to allow single male Syrian refugees into Canada.
I was once about to turn down a seemingly weak application to my department at the University of Waterloo. Luckily, I asked the registrar's office if they had any additional information on the applicant. It turned out that at age 8, he'd been evacuated, along with thousands of other children, from the extreme violence of the civil war in South Sudan to safety in an enormous refugee camp in Kenya.
Growing up alone in the camp, he received an education, acted as a mentor to other children, was a key member of a mediation team for settling disputes, and headed the poetry club, among other formal activities. It was a remarkable CV from the international college of hard knocks. We admitted him, and learned much from an exceedingly gentle human being along the way.
Surely, among the millions who have fled similar violence in Syria, there are thousands more like him who deserve a welcome here.
Greg Michalenko, Waterloo, Ont.
What's missing in this argument is common sense. For once, a politician is actually showing some by disallowing single, straight, male refugees. These seem to be the ones who are trying to kill us.
Sadly, a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch, and it causes us to be fearful of all of them.
S.J. White, Toronto
Re Trudeau Meets The Queen – Again (Nov. 26): I was pleased to read the accounts of the meeting between Justin Trudeau and the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Good to know the Prime Minister didn't have to pay for the spins of the father.
Norman Brown, Hamilton
Racist and leaders
Re Schooling Wilson (editorial, Nov. 26): Judging historical figures by applying the standards of today is problematic. We have to consider the context of the times when racism and other prejudices were commonplace.
This should not be an excuse, but it helps to explain why someone may have had such views.
Important world leaders may, as individuals, not have been admirable. Winston Churchill was a great world leader, but he also advocated eugenics, called blacks by deplorable names and fought to deny them freedom and democracy.
Churchill and Wilson were racist but they also achieved great things. Their achievements do not excuse their racism, nor does their racism diminish the importance of their achievements.
Reiner Jaakson, Oakville, Ont.
The charge against Woodrow Wilson is not just that he embodied the racism of his time but that he actively led it as president of the United States by imposing segregation on the civil service, reversing the gains that blacks had made since the civil war and demoting those who had reached fairly high positions.
The discussion at Princeton (where the board of trustees is now considering the matter) is thus more complex and significant than judging past conventions by present standards.
Neville Thompson (PhD, history, Princeton); London, Ont.
Capacity to intrude
The horrific attacks in Paris have led to a wave of finger-pointing – often powerfully disassociated from the realities of the failures (Pointing Fingers Won't Prevent Intelligence Failures – Nov 25). The answer from security agencies is inevitably to request more surveillance and more capacity to intrude into citizens' lives.
These requests are made despite the historically unprecedented access to digital information that security agencies already enjoy and repeated expansions of security powers. Clearly "more security" is not the answer to preventing all future attacks.
The intelligence failure in Paris painted a familiar picture. Many of the attackers were known to French officials, and Turkish intelligence agencies sent repeated warnings of another. Yet in their rush to blame communications technologies such as iPhone encryption and the PlayStation (claims since discredited), security agencies neglect the lack of adequate human intelligence resources and capacities needed to translate this digital knowledge into threat prevention. Also absent is attention to agency accountability – the unaddressed information-sharing problems that caused the mistaken targeting and torture of Maher Arar.
The targets of terror are not only physical, but also ideological. Introducing a laundry list of new powers in response to every incident without regard to the underlying causes will not prevent all attacks, but will leave our democracy in tatters.
Tamir Israel, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, University of Ottawa; Monia Mazigh, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Re Is Yoga Culturally Oppressive? That's A Stretch (Nov. 26): Yoga courses, a case of cultural appropriation? Sounds like some middle-class suburbanites have decided to appropriate the indignation of the oppressed. Indeed, the world would be a better place if only we could prevent people from practising yoga.
Bernard Lahey, Montreal
I'm feeling oppressed by the people who've decided yoga is culturally oppressive. Yoga is a human institution – nothing more, nothing less – so guilty on all counts as charged.
Never mind about the capitalist world-vision improvement embodied in great, butt-fitting yoga pants. Downward dog on people.
Ellen Flookes, Calgary
Chop, chop until …
Re CBC Has Proved That It Can Withstand The Axe (Nov. 26): Given that Canada is now at one of the lowest levels among industrialized nations for public broadcasting support – about $29 per capita per year, compared to an average of $82 and a high of $180 for Norway – I wonder just how far down should we go with public services?
Would forestry survive with more cuts? Veteran support? Medicare? History will prove we all can survive cuts for the sake of the bottom line, but should we, in one of the richest countries in the world, need a race to the bottom? By the way, Stephen Harper tried that, we still had a huge deficit.
Peter Keleghan, Toronto
Let's talk turkey
President Barack Obama's turkey-pardon speech was a witty dig at the Republican hopefuls intent on gaining his job, but secretary of state William M. Evarts (1818-1901, Republican) has him beaten on the turkey-humour front (Obama Jokes About Presidential Race During Turkey Pardon – Nov. 26). After Thanksgiving dinner, Evarts was reported to have quipped: "You have been giving your attention to a turkey stuffed with sage; you are now about to consider a sage stuffed with turkey."
Will Hendrie, Toronto