Letters

Letters

Suicide Solution; Mappy Days; Harsh Territory; Taxing Affair; Civil Engagement; Cor!; Tusk, Tusk

Illustration by Joel Kimmel

SUICIDE SOLUTION

In “The Morgentaler Effect” (January/February), Wayne Sumner compares the legal state of assisted suicide to that of abortion in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and offers a prediction: all it would take to legalize assisted suicide is one patient, and one doctor committed to taking a stand—a new Morgentaler.

Sumner paints a compelling and likely prophetic picture, but there is another possibility. In Canada, there is a medical practice that sits between typical palliative care and assisted suicide: “palliative sedation,” the use of pharmacological sedation in cases of intolerable and intractable suffering near the end of life. Used conservatively, it will not hasten death. Used liberally, it certainly can.

Palliative sedation is accepted practice in Canada, but indistinctly so. At many levels of medicine, work is afoot to determine acceptable uses. But the law is virtually silent. It does not clearly stipulate at what point in the course of disease sedation may be employed as a last resort, nor what other treatments must be undertaken beforehand.

Consider this: a terminal patient expected to live a year decides, after some treatments, that her suffering is too much and her future too bleak to bear, and elects for deep and continuous sedation. Is this an assisted death, or a variation on standard treatment? The ensuing legal discourse could be far more protracted and nuanced than even the abortion debate, and the law might proceed in the same manner as the patient’s end: not with a bang, but a whimper.

Victor Cellarius, MD
Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care, Mount Sinai Hospital
Toronto, ON

MAPPY DAYS

I am one of those “map-makers” who caused the trouble that is the basis for Grant Stoddard’s article (“The Lost Canadians,” January/February). As a geographer, I have found that our geographic expectations often do not coincide with reality. Angle Township is a good case in point. Here is another:

I once had a student from Baker Lake, way north in Nunavut. I asked him what his home was like. “About 1,700 people, lots of unemployment and poverty, lots of government jobs, lots of art,” he responded. “And, by the way, it is the community closest to the centre of Canada.”

In terms of land mass, that is absolutely right. But geographers usually determine a country’s centre by population. So I presented this problem to my student from Baker Lake and his class. And here comes the ultimate Canadian irony: the mean-centre population of Canada lies in the United States, in the American part of Lake Superior.

Tom Poiker, Ph.D.
Professor of Geography (retired)
Coquitlam, BC

harsh territory

Madam Premier”(January/February) is well written but superficial. I understand that Lisa Gregoire’s article is a profile rather than a political piece. But it seems to glorify Eva Aariak without taking a serious and critical look at what she has (or hasn’t) done for the territory. I’m surprised Gregoire didn’t discuss the heavy criticism Aariak and her government are facing for inaction; some Nunavut residents even feel she is being controlled by top bureaucrats within the government.

Aariak is a smart, graceful woman, wonderful to talk to and philosophize with. But is she succeeding as premier?

Anonymous (online)

Just finished the unrelenting Puff Piece on Premier Eva in @walrusmagazine. All it’s missing is a cherry on top.

@RadicalOmnivore (Twitter)

TAXING AFFAIR

John Macfarlane is incorrect to claim, as he does in his Editor’s Note (January/February), that cities have not had significant taxing powers under Canadian legislation.

Ontario municipalities received the power to levy income tax and corporate taxes in the mid-nineteenth century (most other provinces based their municipal legislation on what Ontario enacted then). The power to levy income taxes was removed by the provincial government in 1936 when it passed the Income Tax Act, and municipalities were compensated for this loss of a revenue source. Toronto, for example, received a payment of $1.21 million. In 1944, when Ontario municipalities lost the ability to levy corporate taxes, they were again compensated. Toronto received $150,000.

The whine, from Mr. Macfarlane and many municipal leaders, that cities don’t have enough revenue is pretty tiresome. Why don’t they ask for the power to levy more taxes, like a sales tax or a GST? A one percent GST in Toronto would raise close to $1 billion a year. Some of us tried to get then mayor David Miller to ask the province for this power, but he wasn’t interested, and the request was never made. Like most city leaders, Mr. Miller wanted politicians at other levels to increase taxes and then turn them over without strings. He wasn’t willing to do the deed himself.

This country needs city leaders who are willing to ask for new taxing powers and use them. The whine will never get us what we need.

John Sewell
Mayor of Toronto (1979–80)

CIVIL ENGAGEMENT

I agree with Jeremy Keehn’s argument that games are addictive (“Uncivilizing Influences,” January/February). But games are a learning tool unlike any earlier form of media.

Before I started playing Civilization, I had no interest in history or world events. Through the game, I began to understand more about how governance works. I learned the importance of public policy, and that agreements made in diplomatic talks are often not set in stone. I developed a sense of how populations grow, and how civilizations progress. I became more interested in politics, and went out of my way to learn more about history and world leaders. These interests have enriched my life and, I think, made me a better person.

Games make us addicted to learning—they reward us for developing new skills and applying them. The skills taught by Call of Duty may not be applicable to the real world right now, but who knows how useful they’ll be in the future.

Anonymous (online)

COR!

Craving Corrie” (January/February) reminded me of my all-time biggest programming blunder as acting program director at CBLT (CBC Toronto), between Ron Devion and Ivan Fecan. In 1980, I thought it would be okay to pre-empt the Sunday episode of Coronation Street for the live broadcast of the investiture of the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Alexander Kennedy Runcie. The audience reaction was swift, and overwhelmingly negative; my poor colleagues at CBC audience relations were swamped with hundreds of calls.

I very quickly understood the passion with which fans embrace the show, and never messed with Corrie again. Lesson learned.

Geoff Cudmore (online)

TUSK, TUSK

In “Craving Corrie” (January/February), The Walrus incorrectly stated Debbie Travis’s birthplace. She was born in Lancashire, UK.

Riffing” (March) contains misspellings of Tom Thomson’s and Bruce Kuwabara’s names. The Walrus regrets these errors.

This appeared in the April 2011 issue.