Photographic Negatives; Mr. Right?; Tusk-Tusk

Illustration by Sam Island
Illustration by Sam Island
Photographic Negatives

Ian Brown (“Facing Difference,” May) falls into the all-too-common trap of viewing people with intellectual disabilities as inherently different while trying to argue that they are not. By suggesting that people with intellectual disabilities exist to teach us humility and “to curb our self-regard”—to serve as a reminder of anything, really—he devalues everyone’s worth. He also puts the disability in front of the individual by writing “intellectually disabled people.”

I have often heard how “cute” people with disabilities are, particularly those with Down syndrome. But viewing people with intellectual disabilities as “fragile and flawed,” or even as cute, limits the chances that they can properly and fully integrate into society, as such terms implicitly keep them separate.

Rob Rombouts
Hamilton, ON

I’m angry. I’m angry because this article represents itself as radical, arguing that people with disabilities have worth because they make the rest of the population aware of how good they have it. There is nothing radical about that idea; it is ignorant and offensive.

Brown does suggest some important points (genetic testing and aborting fetuses with Down syndrome just because their lives are not valued are problematic), but he also exploits the individuals photographed and presents subjective ideas—including “No one should wish anyone the difficulty of an intellectually disabled life if it can be avoided”—as objective truths. Essentially, his essay argues that the life of someone with Down syndrome is inherently tragic, valueless, difficult, and not worth living.

Abigail Kidd
Ottawa, ON

The Walrus will surely receive many letters about the offensive essay that accompanied Jaime Hogge’s lovely photographs of people living with Down syndrome. Add my letter to the pile.

But I have an even larger gripe: I read some of the well-written criticism that was posted to thewalrus.ca, including by people who participated in the original project. I am glad that the editors respected the wishes of those who feel betrayed by the article, and who have asked that the photos of them and their loved ones be taken down. You do a disservice to your other readers, however, by deleting their comments.

It would have been more transparent to remove the offensive essay, as I think you should still do, and replace it with an apology while leaving all reasonable criticism visible. It would have been brave to admit your mistake, apologize for it, and keep in the public record the history of events and the important criticism that will, hopefully, make your work better and more respectful in the future. You chose a coward’s route.

Matt Leiss
Toronto, ON

Mr. Right?

Like many Canadians, I had no idea how extreme right and intransigent Jason Kenney was (“True Blue,” May). I fear for Canada if he is our future. All extreme hardliners, whether right or left, religious or racial, are dangerous—and Kenney would fit in well with the Tea Partiers, even on their right side, assuming that was possible. If he got his hands on the PM’s seat, it could easily fracture Canada in a way that the PQ has never been able to achieve. It’s time for the Liberals and the NDP to work co-operatively, and for the people to take control and get back to living in the grey area that accommodates the vast majority. Get to the polls, Canadians.

Peter Belliveau
Moncton, NB

“True Blue” conveys a false understanding of what Marci McDonald describes as “the separation of church and state, as spelled out in the US Constitution.” That is not spelled out there at all, but rather in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a church congregation. The Constitution does have the First Amendment, which forbids the government from sanctioning a state church and from interfering in the free exercise of religion, but there is no prohibition on religious belief informing a public official’s policy positions (no more than there are such prohibitions on leaders seeking inspiration from astrology, Planned Parenthood, or seances with their dead mothers).

If Kenney wants to craft a pro-life policy, the reason to vote against him would be one’s support for abortion, not his violation of a non-existent American constitutional provision.

Steve Weatherbe
Victoria, BC

I used to think of Kenney as a largely benign Conservative minion, albeit with a mean streak. Now I find out that he is a repressed religious fanatic with just a veneer of niceness, a truly frightening politician who makes Harper look like a kitten.

I am especially disturbed that Kenney has named his mother as “his designated travel companion.” Does this mean she travels on the taxpayers’ dime when she accompanies him? How ironic that an MP who has denied so many Canadians the opportunity to reunite with their families can’t leave home without Mom.

M. Kathryn Dunlop
Ottawa, ON


The June Letters page described The Man Who Skied Down Everest as Canada’s first Academy Award winner. In fact, it was the first to win for documentary feature. The National Film Board’s Churchill’s Island won for documentary short in 1942, the first year the academy honoured documentaries. And Mary Pickford took home Canada’s very first Oscar in 1930, for best actress.

The May issue attributed a study of online memory tests to the Alzheimer’s Association in the United States (“Forget about It”). Julie Robillard actually led the study, conducted at the National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia.

“The time has come,” The Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” Send us a letter, an email (letters@thewalrus.ca), or a tweet, or post on this website. Comments may be published in any medium and edited for length, clarity, and accuracy. Mail correspondence to: 411 Richmond St. E., Suite B15, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M5A 3S5

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