John Lorinc’s piece on mental illness and law enforcement nailed the overlooked overlap of public health and public safety (“Stand Down,” July/August). It takes talent and dedication to discuss policy debates through compelling narratives, and I applaud Lorinc and The Walrus for this type of journalism.
New York, NY
Lorinc highlights a serious and important problem that needs further discussion, but this is not simply an issue between police and people with mental illness. Social attitudes also need to change. Too many of us still treat the afflicted with contempt or indifference. All too often, we fail to give them the same compassion and attention as those suffering from “real” diseases.
If you want police to stop killing people, you’ve got to do more than give them Tasers: http://t.co/olzASc9zVZ
— David Topping (@dtopping) August 7, 2014
The Wrong Track
In “Runaway Train,” Lorne Sossin writes, “The 1988 Railway Safety Act shifted responsibility from government to the rail companies, with Transport Canada taking an auditing role” (July/August). However, the clause “recognize the responsibility of railway companies in ensuring the safety of their operations” was amended in 2012. The RSA now recognizes “the responsibility of companies to demonstrate, by using safety management systems and other means at their disposal, that they continuously manage risks related to safety matters.” Sadly, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic demonstrated the quality of its safety management system.
The risks of a rogue asteroid and of cost-cutting measures (one engineer versus two; thin-shell oil cars versus thick) are incomparable. How Sossin can lump them into the same category is baffling, and serves to distract the public from where responsibility lies. Only Hollywood action heroes can save us from a cataclysmic asteroid. Such is the risk of being alive on a planet careening through space. Unregulated, unsafe, unsupervised, unaccountable trains carrying volatile substances for dubious financial reasons are not the same thing. I don’t care how much it costs shareholders, economies, governments, and companies to make their practices safe. That’s the fair cost of doing business. And if they can’t afford it, they should find other work.
New Westminster, BC
John Macfarlane brought me joy and frustration with his clear concern for North America’s future (Editor’s Note, July/August). For decades, the North American reality has been one of comfortable stasis. Sure, there have been amazing innovations in consumer goods, but the lack of real investment in infrastructure—along with the lack of political will to make such an investment—approaches pathological irresponsibility.
Updating infrastructure in a nation as large and as thinly populated as Canada is a complex and expensive proposition, but balanced budgets mean nothing if they come at the expense of sustainability. It’s time someone pointed out that the true economy is a result of how we manage the entirety of our existence. When we only shine light on what we know or believe is favourable, we leave ourselves at the mercy of shadows.
Hornby Island, BC
Macfarlane’s reference to Norway resonated with me: “The country has resisted the anti-government contagion that afflicts North America, turning ‘citizens’ into self-interested ‘taxpayers,’ and politicians into followers rather than leaders.” So many people seem to think government is bad and taxation an abomination. They fail to see that our standard of living—the highest the world has ever known—has to be paid for. And who must pay for it? Why, we the people, of course. There is no one else.
I laughed out loud when I came across the Thomas L. Friedman time-travelling analogy about flying from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. I felt the same way when my wife and I moved to Toronto from Kobe, Japan, in 1998. Today, Canada’s most populous city is growing exponentially—driven by the vast real estate market—as its infrastructure lags far behind.
But I do not agree completely with Macfarlane’s comparison with Norway. Let us not forget that the Scandinavian country makes millions of dollars from farming salmon off the coast of British Columbia, while paying no regard for the environmental degradation it is causing and while introducing pathogens to the general salmon population—pathogens that Canadian marine biologists believe could kill off our native salmon supply and destroy our own multi-billion dollar fishing industry. The Norwegians may be successful at seeking best practices within their own borders, but they have been given a free pass by the Harper government to run roughshod over this country’s natural resources.
Gregory St. Pierre
Dog Days of Summer
Alexandra Oliver’s poem “Watching the Cop Show in Bed” is more than funny (Summer Reading, July/August). Enjoyed is not quite the word I’m looking for, and neither is appalled. Appalling enjoyment? I’ll try to steel my nerves and be less careful about opening doors from now on.
Takoma Park, MD
Wonderful short story entitled "Brute" By Jessica Grant in the fiction section of the new @walrusmagazine. I'm a sucker for dog narration.
— Anahid Armenian (@HidannaYoMama) July 2, 2014
— Veronica Howard (@VeronicaHoward) July 27, 2014
This appeared in the October 2014 issue.