Letters to the Editor: May 2024

On birth control, train travel, and health care in Quebec

Hard Pill to Swallow

In “It’s Time for a Birth Control Revolution” (January/February), Nicole Schmidt brings much-needed attention to the lack of options many face when it comes to finding a contraceptive method that doesn’t compromise their mental or physical health. We also can’t forget cost is often a barrier keeping people from accessing birth control, a situation that disproportionately affects lower-income people and recent immigrants. That might help explain why, in recent years, nearly half of all pregnancies in Canada were unplanned. If the federal government indeed moves forward with a proposal to include birth control in its new pharmacare plan, it will be important to read the fine print to determine exactly what methods will be covered, who will be eligible—and who could be left out. While the arrival of the birth control pill, all those decades ago, did change millions of lives, we still have a long way to go.

Carly Weeks
Toronto, ON

The Road to Disillusionment

In “Vaclav Smil Is Fed Up” (January/February), Arno Kopecky struggles with Vaclav Smil’s evolution from being a champion in the fight against climate change to “an unwitting spokesperson for the oil-and-gas industry.” About fifteen years ago, I heard Smil speak at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo. His talk, titled “9 Billion People + 1 Planet = ?,” was delivered with passion and precision. One takeaway from this was his lament that if everyone drove a Honda Civic, we’d be able to make a real difference. With SUV and pickup truck sales representing an ever-increasing percentage of North American vehicle purchases (now over 50 percent), is it any wonder that Smil is so disillusioned?

Paul Tortolo
Waterloo, ON

On the Wrong Track

Reading Lynn Cunningham’s “All Aboard?” (March/April), in which she laments what she sees as the deteriorating romance of train travel, I found myself disappointed. In early 2022, at the age of sixty-eight, I purchased a now-discontinued Via Rail pass. This allowed me to travel across Canada in segments, including return trips from Winnipeg to Churchill and Jasper to Prince Rupert. This was done in economy—not sleeper class—and while these trips are not for everyone, each voyage was wonderful, with beautiful sights, great camaraderie among passengers and staff, and parts of Canada I’d never seen before. Clearly, Cunningham did not feel this magic. Her essay took delight in finding fault with Canadian experiences instead of embracing what we have. My advice to Canadians young and old would be to experience long-distance train travel in Canada at least once. It will be a trip of adventure and discovery, one you’ll always remember.

Tony Hooper
Toronto, ON

Unhealthy Debate

Toula Drimonis’s “Don’t Get Sick in Quebec” argues that the province prioritizes language laws over its citizens’ health. The hypocrisy is outrageous: Would you say that about people in Canada’s North wanting to use their own Indigenous languages? Of course not! There are much more pressing concerns to health care, like how the rampant privatization of the system might render essential medical services inaccessible or the lack of sufficient general practitioners in the country. And Quebec has traditionally had more progressive health care policies than the rest of Canada. For many years, I worked with people at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health helping people in Ontario quit smoking. Quebec provided nicotine replacement therapy; Ontario did not at the time. We need to deal with real threats to our medical system rather than old arguments which pander to national divisions.

Sharleen Treleaven
Stoney Creek, ON

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