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Let them speak

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Re No, Minister: Today's Bureaucrats Have A Different Attitude (Sept. 28): Most observers of Ottawa's public service see little sign of disloyalty; what they do see are senior public servants promoted for their loyalty to the Conservative government, and too often willing to do its bidding regardless of the potential illegality or harmful consequences of the actions proposed.

They see mid-level public servants forced to distort or suppress evidence that offends the government's ideological agenda in areas such as law and order, public-health protection and environmental management, receiving little support from senior public servants who oversee them.

And in what code of conduct does it state that public servants who retire or quit have to take a vow of silence? As long as confidentiality rules are observed, ex-public servants have the same rights as any other citizen to enter into debates about what represents good public policy.

John Langford, professor emeritus, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria


Former public servants, as long as they maintain the "omerta" silence on privileged ministerial and cabinet confidences, can and should play a role in the broader debate on the role of the public service, the use (or non-use) of evidence and the decline of government knowledge and data.

Working on citizenship and multiculturalism in the early days of the Harper government, public servants were all too often unaware of their own biases, and thus contributed to the climate of distrust. We were not able to move quickly to "loyal implementation," once advice had been given and considered. But the government's overall distrust of the public service and its sharper (or different) ideological edge and rejection of evidence, as captured in many Globe articles over the years, also played a part.

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Given its grounding in real world experience, commentary by former public servants, particularly on framework issues such as evidence-based policy, is a necessary complement to that of academics and pundits.

Andrew Griffith, former director general, Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Ottawa


Muscular? Well …

Re Harper's World (Focus, Sept. 26): Canada's international role is "loud" and … "muscular"? What muscles are flexed when you lecture and leave?

Dave Robertson, Vancouver

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The Harper government talks a muscular stance; the walk is very different. It has withdrawn funding for just about every aspect of foreign policy, from the active military to veterans. The only strong belief the Conservatives consistently hold, one that underlines their approach to all aspects of governing, is to reduce the size and role of government, domestically and abroad.

Colleen Mead, Victoria


Won't bear thinking

Re Grizzly Bear Trophies Part Of 'Circle Of Life' (Sept. 26): While recognizing the overwhelming public opposition to his industry, Scott Ellis insists that grizzly bears aren't threatened in British Columbia. Nothing could be further from the hard reality: Grizzly bears have already been eliminated from vast areas of Western Canada due to overhunting and destruction of their habitat.

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Analyses of grizzly bear mortality by scientists has revealed that overhunting of bear populations is commonplace. The situation is so dire that for a second time in 10 years, the country's expert panel, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), has instructed the federal government to legally list and protect the animal under the Species at Risk Act.

Allowing a legal trophy hunt on this animal is not only irresponsible in terms of sound wildlife management, it's unethical, too.

Faisal Moola, adjunct professor, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto


Decency – for all

On the eve of the election, Janice Stein, long-time warrior for democracy and decency, has given vent to a bout of despair ('When The Old Order Dies … What You Have Is Barbarism' – Focus, Sept. 26). Fortunately, the old order is more robust than those who despair give it credit for.

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In their flight from barbarism, millions are today betting their lives on the causes Janice Stein defends. As the election debate proceeds, Canadians must make it clear that they support those who flee – or we will indeed have surrendered to barbarism.

John Polanyi, Toronto


I was a refugee. I crossed the Hungarian-Austrian border in the middle of the night in late 1956. In Austria, at the hut of the first border guard, I was given a hot cup of tea. I was taken to a room where I was shown to a small bunk bed.

Next morning, I was taken to a refugee camp in Eisenstadt, where a shopkeeper gave me espresso and a banana. The next relief camp was in Dover, England. We got there on a boat and buses, and on each seat there was a sandwich and an orange drink, among the best meals of my life.

The Hungarians, by then lots of us, were allowed to go to the movies free. In the next place, in Edmonton, we were given $5 weekly, free room and three meals a day. I will never forget the kindness shown by all. I hope and trust that the next arrivals will also be treated that way.

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John G. Lenard, Toronto


The naked truth

Re A Tiny Wedge, A Giant Distraction (editorial, Sept. 28): Sputter! I finally have the chance to vote out a government that is repressing religious freedom, that believes there is only one way to be part of the Canadian "family" – but that issue should matter less than some other issues in this election (such as the economy)?

Will we look back one day and wish that we had paid more, not less, attention to these "distractions"? And realize that we had the opportunity in this election to stand up for the rights of all of our citizens (and potential citizens), but we chose to ignore it?

Leslie Firth, Ottawa


The niqab is a (so-called) religious practice that has "no demonstrable harmful consequences" for others"? I beg to differ. Any practice that presents a female as a lesser human being to the larger population does cause harmful consequences to others.

Charlotte Haber, Toronto


I have no understanding of why anyone wants to wear veils, funny hats, talismans on necklaces, clothing locked in time, floor-length black gowns in summer, backward collars or many other examples of religious garb.

I have even less understanding why anyone other than the wearer needs to be concerned. But clearly, I am out off touch with society. Many believe that what others wear needs to be legislated, specifically when affirming loyalty to the country.

My solution: Do it naked.

In order not to single out new citizens, have everyone appear in public naked and take the oath, so all can see who is who, and that they aren't hiding anything. Let's start with the swearing-in ceremony for the new Parliament we elect on Oct. 19.

Stuart McRae, Toronto

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