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Feb 24: Border policy, and other letters to the editor

A young man from Yemen is handcuffed by an RCMP officer after crossing the U.S.-Canada border into Canada near Hemmingford, Que., on Friday, February 17, 2017. For many asylum-seekers crossing from the United States into Canada, Roxham Road in the small Quebec town of Hemmingford represents the first steps of a potential new life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson


Truth serum

I teach critical thinking to first-year university students and now I know why my job is so hard (Ontario Teacher Faces Panel For Misconduct, Feb. 22).

When a high-school teacher like Timothy Sullivan shares his anti-vaccine position with students, he undermines the very mission of education. And his defence – that he is “pro-science, pro-asking questions” – is a sad irony.

He is anti-science and pro-conspiracy, and shouting at students in line to be immunized by public health nurses “not to get the vaccine” is inexcusable.

More than ever, we need young people who can think critically, who can evaluate evidence and make rational decisions. Mr. Sullivan, and his irrational, dangerous ideas, have no place in our schools.

Paul Benedetti, faculty of information and media studies, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.


Border concerns

The recent influx of would-be refugees crossing the U.S.-Canadian border has opened up debate throughout Canadian society (Uncertain Crossing, Feb. 20).

On one hand, there are Canadians who think we ought to be more welcoming of these refugee claimants and accept more of them. On the other hand, those who disagree with the influx are scolded as being uncaring at best, racist at worst, and everything in between.

It is unfortunate this is such a contentious issue, as the reasons for the various concerns are genuine and based, I believe, in the lack of trust in the Canadian government and the courts and their inability to remove non-citizens promptly when they are convicted of criminal offences.

If non-citizens commit and are found guilty of criminal offences, they ought to be returned to their country of origin expeditiously with no lengthy appeals. If this were to happen, Canadians could begin to trust that the government was serious in ensuring that anyone coming to our country would be an asset rather than a liability.

Were this the case, I think it likely that more Canadians would be welcoming of refugees and would-be refugees.


While Canadian acceptance of would-be refugees crossing our unmanned U.S.-Canada border is laudable, it does raise a concern over traffic moving the other way. To date there appears to be little on this issue from both the press and the government.

As the word spreads in the refugee and immigrant community and the weather warms, the current trickle will likely become a flood attracting U.S. President Donald Trump’s attention and the realization that potential terrorists could walk south across our border with apparent ease.

Although we should continue our open reception of legitimate would-be refugees, it does raise a concern over the security, especially when the first news of a successful refugee claimant crossing is from his 911 call to the RCMP for pickup.

Would we not be better served by strengthening our control over our borders rather waiting for the inevitable repercussions from Mr. Trump?


Source of problems

Your article regarding First Nations boil-water advisories is a strong attempt at unpacking the complexities of the situation faced in many First Nations communities (Unsafe To Drink, Feb. 21).

Water First, a not-for-profit organization, has been working to address drinking water and environmental water challenges with First Nations for four years; we’ve now worked with 28 First Nations, largely in Ontario. If there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that the situation is incredibly complicated and there’s no single solution, but there’s one approach that holds much promise: local training.

Many of the key factors identified in the article, which impact a First Nation’s ability to produce safe drinking water, can be addressed by strengthening local training.

In Ontario, 54 per cent of First Nations under a long-term boil-water advisory do not have a certified operator. Technology alone does not provide reliable and safe drinking water – the people behind it, at the local level, are incredibly important. Processes related to water treatment plant procurement, operations and maintenance are complex and critical, and with additional local training, these factors can be significantly improved upon. Local education and training initiatives will be key to any lasting remedies.


Thank you for your comprehensive article on First Nations water issues. The article points out the failings of our government departments in using taxpayer money wisely. This has happened not only concerning water on native reserves but also in many other areas with other departments, including native housing, payroll software programs,, military equipment procurement and treatment of veterans. It seems the level of federal government incompetence is endless and Canadian taxpayers continue to suffer for it.

If there is one major thing the Trudeau government could accomplish, that would be to clean up the federal bureaucracy mess.

Gary Lewis, Owen Sound, Ont.


Trade’s casualties

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt misses the point on globalization (Restoring Faith In Globalization, Feb. 22). It is not an issue of faith but fairness.

He relies on faith that the free market will create trickle-down benefits to all. However, while stock markets have fully recovered from the 2008 recession and have reached new heights, wages, while starting to rise again, have not recovered to prerecession levels and climate change is ever-increasing.

Average workers are not against international trade, they just want the rules for such trade to be fair. Until free-trade agreements contain protections against the race to the bottom, workers, their families and their communities will continue to oppose them.

We are not nostalgic in our pursuit of economic and environmental justice. We do look to a future where trade agreements will prevent companies from giving more rights to corporations than to workers and to communities and where the carbon footprint of trade must show a net improvement in its impact on the environment.

Rabbi Shalom Schachter, steering committee member, Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, Toronto


Home truth

Re Seven-Planet Find Excites Astronomers (Feb. 23): I don’t think we should even consider relating to other forms of life in the universe until we can demonstrate that we can get along with ourselves here on Earth.