Letters to the Editor: September/October 2021

On the monarchy, loneliness, neuroscience, and more

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Narrow Neuroscience
In “Mapping Mental Illness” (June), Simon Lewsen tracks a team of neuroscientists attempting to determine the biological causes of mental illness. While Lewsen’s research is thorough, scientists’ obsession with mapping the human brain distracts from the root causes of mental illness. Scientific research needs to incorporate the impact of preventable, socially produced stressors on mental health, including financial strain and lack of access to food and shelter. My own experience with depression was heightened by ongoing reports of violence against women and a culture that permits misogyny. Looking only at genetic and biological causes of depression means ignoring the larger social context and potential solutions, such as front line treatment that comprises holistic social, medical, and financial support.

Amy Gaeta
Boston, MA

Keeping The Doctors Away
As an Albertan physician who got a medical degree in Australia and resides in the United States, I found Jagdeesh Mann’s “Doctors With Borders” (June), a story about foreign-trained doctors struggling to find work in Canada even amid the pandemic, deeply resonant. I’ve often felt that we Canadians are more interested in projecting our health care system’s virtues than in looking inward at what needs to change. This inability to confront our shortcomings contributes to large-scale health policy problems, such as the poor utilization of welltrained international physicians, inadequate pandemic preparation, and dangerously long wait lists for specialist medical attention. Mann has touched on a symptom of a health care culture more concerned with protecting “the Canadian way” than with serving its communities.

Steve Brennan
St. Louis, MO

Solo Act
In “Years of Solitude” (July/August), Sharon Butala ruminates on the loneliness of growing old. The essay’s long, languorous sentences seem to imply an undercurrent of delight in writing earnestly and being true to herself. If not for solitude, after all, how does one find time to write? Yes, loneliness can be quite difficult, but there are also silver linings, and Butala seems to have found one in writing.

Madeleine Wakefield
Calgary, AB

The Royal We
As one of many Canadians who is proud of our constitutional monarchy, I was dismayed to read David Schneiderman’s explanation of what it would take for Canada to decouple itself from the Crown in “Ask a Constitutional Expert” (June). No system of government is perfect, but by separating ultimate authority from elected leaders, the Crown offers Canadians an apolitical head of state to protect against governmental tyranny and the undue accumulation of power. Queen Elizabeth II has served the institution well in her almost seventy years on the throne. For me, the Crown has evolved to become not an institution of power for power’s sake but a system that safeguards power and is based on lifelong service by a monarch to uphold what defines our nation and the Commonwealth. I find nothing objectionable in that.

Alexander Killby
Ottawa, ON

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Jennifer Hollett I have been devouring The Walrus's Summer Reading issue and remarking on the quality of all of the contributions from our former and current Fellows. It reminds me that every issue of The Walrus is a culmination of the efforts (including lengthy fact-checking) of the editorial team, the emerging journalists they train, and the generous supporters who make all of this happen.

Through The Walrus Editorial Fellowship Program, we have the privilege of training the next generation of professionals who are passionate about the integrity of journalism. In the Summer Reading issue, 2021 Cannonbury Fellow Connor Garel wrote a piece on Frankie Perez and the art of breaking. Tajja Isen contributed an excerpt from her first book, Some of My Best Friends. Isen, who also began her career at The Walrus as a Cannonbury Fellow, is currently Editor-in-Chief at Catapult magazine.

Our 2022 Chawkers Fellow, Mashal Butt, was instrumental in making sure we got the facts straight in our Summer Reading issue, having fact-checked six features, including Sarah Totton’s short story “The Click.” And in our September/October issue, you can read a cover story on housing affordability by our 2022 Justice Fund Writer in Residence, Julia-Simone Rutgers. (Rutgers is now a climate reporter for The Narwhal.)

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With gratitude,

Jennifer Hollett
Executive Director, The Walrus