Today’s letters: Simone Biles’ courage; cats, coyotes and conspiracies; and why it’s still important to wear a mask

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Citizen letters U.S. gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the all-round Olympic competition this week to protect her mental health. Photo by MIKE BLAKE /REUTERS

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Biles is a portrait of courage

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Re: “It’s no surprise Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka hit their limits at Olympics,” July 27

Last Friday morning I went into work early to watch the Olympic Opening with the youth who were on the inpatient unit. As the commentators discussed the various athletes and their sports, the courage of Simone Biles came up. As a gymnast, Biles is physically courageous. One of the vaults she has developed is so dangerous that gymnasts get points just for trying it.

Biles’ withdrawal from competition yesterday to focus on her mental health is a reminder to all of us that the physical courage of a great athlete is the tip of the iceberg. The real courage, the greatest part of the fear they must overcome and the pressure they face, is mental. Underneath the grace and the perfect execution is a mental strength that is enviable.

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When an athlete is injured physically, we see what is happening and the athlete has our support, but we are just learning about the mental injuries caused by competition. As you might expect, Biles faced a barrage of social media derision for her decision. Mental health is still not as worthy as physical health.

As someone whose patients are pretty much the same age as Biles, I know it takes courage to acknowledge mental health struggles – especially your own. My young patients understood perfectly what Biles had to face to speak about her mental health. With her dignified revelation and her subsequent support of her team, she became a much more powerful role model to young people.

Dr. Gail Beck, Clinical Director, Youth Mental Health, Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre

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If athletes can’t ‘break records,’ what’s left?

Re: “Why such Olympic-sized negativity when describing athletic achievement in Tokyo?,” July 26

According to Biswafit Aikat , in the Olympics, no more “records broken,” shattered,” or “opponents destroyed.” I assume the word “defeated” must also be written or heard no more.

I am not an avid sports fan, but I am truly nonplussed at Aikat’s comments, except to conclude that he wants athletes and fans turned into wusses. I am appalled.

Jacques Dufault, Orléans

Message on masks is confusing

Re: “Don’t put away the masks just yet,” July 30

When COVID 19 started to go around 18 months ago, society did not have a vaccine against this virus. Therefore, medical and political leaders imposed public health measures such as wearing a mask and physical distancing and told us to do so until medical science develops a vaccine and until a certain percentage of the population is vaccinated. That request was reasonable. Most Canadians followed the directive.

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Now that we are about to achieve that percentage of vaccination, some medical and political leaders are telling the vaccinated people to continue practicing these public health measures. We are confused. Why change the message now?

We are told that several people are refusing vaccination for various reasons. The reason cited most of the time is that an imposed vaccination is against individual civil liberties.

But Canadians are forced to drive on the right side of the road and must stop at red lights and stop signs. Because the public health argument is more important that the individual civil liberties argument. So, if enough people were to refuse to stop at those intersections and drive on the left side, leaders would then prevent everyone from driving in order to keep all of us safe?? We are not amused.

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André Corriveau, Stittsville

At least tell us when we can take masks off

The current reopening plan is making good on freedoms that we lost in March, 2020, being returned. But based on comments from Dr. Moore and now Dr. Etches, it looks as if masks will truly be the last to go, and there’s no apparent timeline or vaccination number for when they’ll become a thing of the past.

Masks work; that is not the issue. The issue is that basically being told “Great work getting vaccinated; now keep that mask on!” does little good. It doesn’t entice people to get the shots because it feels like there’s no point, and it frustrates the vaccinated because they’re basically being told you haven’t done enough. Even making masks optional for the fully vaccinated come the next stage would spark good will across the province, like it is in other provinces.

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But if masks will still be around for the fall, we should at least be told when we might finally be able to leave them at home. It finally feels like the finish line is here; a lot of things are back in the two-dose summer. We at least deserve to know what and when the target for a maskless fall is.

John Sullivan, Ottawa

Why not re-vaccinate would-be travellers?

We have done everything you asked: we stayed home; we didn’t see our grandkids; we wore our masks and shopped once a week; we got the vaccine and accepted not only waiting longer than the recommended 4 weeks but also ‘take any vaccine you’re offered.” All this with the promise that life can get back to normal.

With this normalcy, many seniors were hoping to begin enjoying plans that many have waited decades to make a reality. Naturally, travel is part of those plans for many seniors.

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Yet, now we’re told that some countries, notably our neighbour to the south where so many Canadian seniors like to winter, will not recognize our mixed vaccines, even if they are both the mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna. And tough luck for those vaccinated with AstraZeneca.

Quebec is doing the right thing and offering a top up to anyone with mixed doses. Why isn’t Ontario doing the same? I am urging the prime minister and the premiers to make this right. It is completely unfair to pull the rug out from under so many people, but especially seniors who presumably have many fewer years in front of them to start to enjoy life again as the pandemic eases.

Sharon Moren, Kanata

Coyotes, cats and conspiracies

Re: “Ottawa Humane Society seeks to dispel conspiracy theories, insists cat killings likely caused by coyote,” July 30

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At 6:12 a.m. on July 2, I took a photo in Stonecrest Park in Barrhaven, near Adrienne Clarkson Elementary School. I was walking my dogs, when we ran into a coyote who was obviously eating something in the outfield of the baseball diamond. We came back later to discover it was a cat. While I hate to restart the great keep your cats indoors debate, this poor creature was literally ripped apart. Its end must have been terrifying and horrific.

I am in no doubt that humans do kill cats, but how about accepting that, sometimes, there could be a more likely explanation. Stonecrest Park was home to a family of foxes for the last 2 years, June’s Barrhaven Bear was caught 10 minutes away, I have weasels in my backyard and the neighbourhood is overrun with rabbits. Is it really that hard to believe that coyotes wander in searching for prey? As I regularly see cats roaming the neighbourhood and the park, it’s inevitable that something unfortunate will happen.

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Peter Studer, Barrhaven

Elmdale redevelopment exposes planning problems

RE: “Tower development at Hintonburg node would demolish old Elmdale Theatre building,” June 30

The old Elmdale Theatre property is part of a redevelopment proposal that would build an 18-storey tower where the current zoning restricts projects to a building half that size. Readers already know, however, the Ottawa’s Planning Committee will, in all likelihood, allow the project to go ahead, if the Committee’s previous decisions are anything to go by. It is time to change the process of selection to the Planning Committee so that urban core interests are not always sacrificed to those of suburban and rural areas of the city.

Paul Bennett, Ottawa

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Get Afghanis to safety first, then fill out the form

I hope most Canadians are appalled and chagrined by the fact that many Afghanis who helped the Canadian Armed Forces, and probably innocent members of their families, may die a rather horrible death because some bureaucrat thinks it is necessary to have a lengthy, complex form filled out online before providing safety for these people.

Many good things can be said about living in Canada, but the fact that we are so often required to communicate with our government by trying to complete an incomprehensible form is not one of them.

The government may need information from the potential refugees, but it does not need forms. I would urge all of my fellow citizens to contact their Member of Parliament, whether a government member or an opposition member, and ask them to use whatever influence they may have to see to it that the Afghanis in question are brought to safety and damn the bureaucrats.

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Bruce Simpson, Ottawa

More transparency on reconciliation is needed

It’s been 6 years since the TRC tabled its report, yet leaders from Indigenous communities are extremely dissatisfied with the rate of progress in achieving the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action. Like many Canadians, I want to know the truth about the federal and provincial government’s track record.

Canadians need trustworthy information not partisan spin about the implementation of the Calls to Action. This means we need our Auditors General to tell us the unvarnished truth and our parliamentary oversight committees to hold governments accountable for their performance.

Therefore, I call on federal and provincial Auditors General to comprehensively and regularly audit their respective governments’ progress in achieving the Calls to Action, until the job is done. Further, I call on federal and provincial Public Accounts Committee to relentlessly demand implementation of the TRC Calls to Action, until the job is done. Maybe then the truth will lead to reconciliation.

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John Reed, Carleton Place

Indigenous identity isn’t that simple

Much as writers like Celeste Pedri-Spade and letter writer John Moses would like, and benefit from, a simpler system where they are “in” and the rest are out, they are in fact ignoring the complexity of Canada’s history and repressive treatment of Indigenous peoples.

To begin, a status card only relates to one small group of Canada’s constitutionally recognized First Peoples. IRS Status cards are also held by many non-Indigenous members by marrying an Indigenous man.

Inuit are recognized by land claims agreements of which approximately 15 per cent have not formally signed up for their entitled benefits. It also excludes Canada’s Métis people (the largest group), some of whom have protected benefits and other less so.

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They also are excluded Indigenous people who fought bravely in both World Wars and were “rewarded” by the “right” to give up their status to become “enfranchised” so they could get an advanced education, hold a mortgage or to not to send their child to residential school. Their children and grandchildren do not have IRS cards.

Do not discount everyone who doesn’t have a card, but dig a little deeper and see if their skills and abilities can help further the situation for all of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

Audrey Lawrence, Ottawa

It’s not just about defunding police, it’s about rethinking

Re: “Defunding the police is a simple solution to complicated real-life problems,” July 27

Mr. Denley accuses those of being in favour of “defunding” the police of being simplistic. In fact, it is Mr. Denley who is being simplistic (and disingenuous) in his argument. Yes, there are those who just want to cut back on the budget, but the real issue with the Ottawa Police is not the number of police officers, but the recruitment and training of those very officers. Too many police seem to see their job as enforcing, punishing, and maintaining control. We see, all too often, examples of the police acting like the town bully — and getting away with it.

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Dealing with our out of control police will require a whole new approach and philosophy. Defunding per se is not the answer, but fundamentally re-allocating resources and changing the way we think about our community and its needs is needed.

David Polk, Blackburn Hamlet

Sorry Mr. Harper, there is racism in the U.S.

Re: “Stephen Harper slams ‘woke’ left in rare interview,” July 30

It is amazing, on the eve of Emancipation Day in Canada, that I read about the interview our former PM, Stephen Harper, gave in Texas. Harper claims that there can’t possibly be systemic racism in the U.S. as coloured people want to become American and that the “woke” society and the ‘nihilistic’ left are seeking to end the democratic system. This is amazing given the insurrection on Capitol Hill by the far-right Trump supporters and attempts to disenfranchise black voters in a number of states. Canada has much to amend with systemic racism and residential schools. The first step is to acknowledge the wrongs committed and the next is to make amends and deal with them. I believe Canada is trying to do this.

Nancy Biggs, Orleans

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