MINISTER OF ED
When Jean Chrétien formed his government in 1993, his cabinet included many inexperienced ministers (“Aid for Aides,” September). He asked the Institute on Governance, an Ottawa non-profit organization, to design and deliver training to the rookies and their new aides. The half-day program, featuring Allan MacEachen, Marc Lalonde, and Arthur Kroeger, among others, happened within days of the swearing-in ceremony; after that, several dozen chiefs of staff, legislative assistants, and communications staff were put through a boot camp, led by current and former officials. To my knowledge, this kind of training has not since been offered, so I was pleased to see the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs at Carleton University stepping up to the plate.
Claire E. Marshall
Former vice-president, Institute on Governance
THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
In “Spellbound” (September), Linda Besner writes, “No one ever truly fell in love in Esperanto (or if they did, it was a small, geeky wedding).” First, I know a couple—he Canadian, she Czech—who had only Esperanto as a common language when they met and fell in love. I assure you, they lived happily ever after. Further, Besner’s correlating the depth of love with the lavishness of a wedding is consumerism at its very worst.
KEEPING THE FAITH
I was greatly disappointed and offended by Lisa Gregoire’s “The Jihadi Hunter” (September). Interviewed by her in my capacity as president of Noor Cultural Centre, I had formed an expectation of the article’s objectives, which were stated as an exploration of the challenges facing Canadian Muslims today, including “issues of politics, newcomer settlement, devotion, and debate.” What we got instead was a focus on, and a largely uncritical portrayal of, one Muslim who happens to be a fervid and relentless critic of all Muslim compatriots who are not subscribers to his precise way of thinking. It is impossible to do justice to the community when projecting from such a person’s vantage point.
My organization, Noor Cultural Centre, was described in Mr. Fatah’s words as “Hamas and Hezbollah supporters” without a shred of evidence. For those who are familiar with Noor, the suggestion is outrageous. However, for anyone who is not familiar with us (and we would expect that to include most Walrus readers), Ms. Gregoire’s failure to point out all the countervailing evidence would have been an inducement to credit the serious charges. We consider ourselves, and the Canadian Muslim community, to have been grossly ill served by this article.
President, Noor Cultural Centre
It was with shock and dismay that I read Lisa Gregoire’s piece, which reads more like a soapbox for Mr. Fatah than like a serious piece of journalism. Fatah levels some serious, defamatory charges against Noor Cultural Centre in particular, and since no one from the Noor community is quoted as a counter-perspective, he seems to get the last word. Furthermore, Gregoire provides little to no context to indicate what Noor is, how it operates, and who frequents its numerous classes, lectures, and prayer services, to allow the reader any opportunity to properly evaluate Fatah’s accusations.
As an educator and academic who has been involved in interfaith education for over a decade, I can attest to the invaluable contribution Noor Cultural Centre has made to the Toronto landscape. It is a unique institution, actively working to foster a diverse spiritual community while encouraging education, debate, and nuanced dialogue. I would hate to see the weight of Fatah’s outrageous and unsubstantiated claims damage the reputation of such an esteemed place.
One more point that speaks to Ms. Gregoire’s failure to do her due diligence as a reporter: unlike the Catholic faith in which she was raised, Judaism requires no intermediaries between the self and God; nor does it recognize any universal religious hierarchy. A rabbi is primarily a respected teacher, and neither a rabbi nor a synagogue is necessarily required for prayers. Like Muslims, Jews can pray anywhere, as long as the setting does not detract from one’s prayer. In these respects, Judaism is much more similar to Islam than it is to Catholicism, as Gregoire assumed. But facts seem to be of little import in this article.
Probably not a coincidence that I support both slow food and slow news.
Yes! Can we also ditch anonymous comments on media websites? RT@walrusmagazine: is it time for a slow news movement?
Promising question, bog standard undergrad answer. Bleh.
Michael Harris’s “Life After Death” (September) was excellent. As a fifty-year-old, HIV-negative guy who began having sex with men in the late ’70s (with wild abandon) and then spent a decade watching an entire generation die, I can tell you that the emotional wreckage is substantial, yet oddly ignored.
Like many gay men of my age, I have spent my entire adult life living in the present, with an eye on the future; and the past, while informative, seems so detached and spectral. There’s a vague sense of loss, not only for those who actually died, but also for a generation of gay men whose lives would likely be very different if they had not spent a decade convinced they would be dead before they were forty.
In “Life after Death” (September), Michael Harris refers to a 2003 clinical study indicating that the lifespan of Canadian gay men is between twenty and thirty years less than the average. However, some context is necessary. Similar figures appear in a multi-authored study published in a 1997 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology, of the death rates for gay men in Vancouver from the mid-’80s to the early ’90s, when the AIDS epidemic was at its height and the disease was a virtual death sentence. This state of affairs severely skewed mortality figures.
Contextualization, I suspect, is also necessary for Harris’s claim that single gay men in Canada are up to six times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to commit suicide. Statistics like these have been grist for the mill of those who stigmatize the lives of gay men as intrinsically unhealthy and self-destructive.
New Minas, NS