Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/8/2011 (2135 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A just punishment
Props to Mia Rabson and Alexandra Paul for their insightful article on aboriginals and the justice system Aboriginals will suffer: experts (Aug. 19).
With 90 per cent of jailed youth and 71 per cent of adults reoffending within two years of release and the vast majority of crimes occurring in our most impoverished neighbourhoods, why can't people understand that a justice system separating offending individuals from their communities and inhibiting their abilities to be financially self-sufficient -- by locking them up and giving them a criminal record -- is a counter-productive way to deal with crimes that almost exclusively stem from the offenders' social and economic inadequacies?
I encourage those who are really interested in reducing these anti-social behaviours to consider the numerous plausible alternatives offered in the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.
This is one of the worst positions the legal system and the country of Canada might ever find itself in. The idea that aboriginals should be treated differently than the rest of the Canadian population, when it comes to sentencing for a crime committed, is nothing short of reverse discrimination. If you commit the crime, you must do the time.
It should never be suggested that we establish a two-tier system for meting out the punishment. If a higher number of First Nations people are serving time for crimes, then let's look at what the aboriginal support systems are doing wrong. It is time that we treat everyone the same in Canada.
Harms outweigh benefits
Peter Zahradka in his Aug. 17 letter, Treating heart disease and not just symptoms, seems to suggest that screening tests for heart disease should be encouraged despite the evidence to the contrary.
Zahradka ignores the clear explanation in Alan Cassels' Aug. 12 article, Chill out and save $690, that those who have these particular screening tests are actually harmed. His argument is based on the assumption that if one screening test is helpful (e.g. mammography screening for breast cancer) then surely screening for heart disease should also be helpful. He even falsely suggests that taking medication based on the recommendation from these tests will prevent the need for bypass surgery.
The research shows that the harms of these screening CT scans outweigh the benefits. This is not unique or unusual. There have been many attempts to use medical tests to screen for disease, hoping that the test will identify a condition early enough to improve the patient's outcome. This is the critical point.
To justify the use of a screening test (a test used to identify disease before symptoms appear), we need to show that identifying the disease with that test actually improves the patient's outcome. This is the case for some cancer screening tests (pap tests for cervical cancer and fecal occult blood tests for colorectal cancer) and not for others (chest X-rays for lung cancer).
There are also screening tests useful for other non-cancer conditions (cholesterol screening blood tests and diabetes screening tests), each recommended from a certain age. Other heart disease screening tests, like ECGs and CT scans, have been shown to cause more harm than good.
Manitobans need to know the advantages and disadvantages of tests so that they can have informed discussions with their doctors. This is not about the $690 or whatever the tests will cost. It is about making health decisions that will be of benefit rather than harm.
Thank you for publishing Chill out and save $690 (Aug 12). Alan Cassels cites research that concludes that succumbing to the seductive advertising of private clinics offering diagnostic testing does nothing to make the patient healthier -- only poorer.
He states that such one-off testing frequently suggests anomalies that pose no threat to health, but which lead to further testing, medications and sometimes surgeries. The point not made in the article was that in Canada the expense of all this follow-up is largely borne by the publicly funded system.
The private clinic makes no profit on such a messy and uncertain business. By ignoring the blandishments of these peddlers of snake oil, we not only save ourselves money but also our cherished public health system, currently facing ever-increasing demands upon it.
Brennan muddies water
In an internal message Aug. 4 to the employees of Manitoba Hydro, CEO Bob Brennan responded to the Public Utilities Board order (99/11), issued on July 29, in connection with Hydro's request for approval to increase electricity rates.
Brennan tells Hydro's employees that the PUB, in asking for access to Hydro's export agreements, refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
That is at odds with the information publicly available in PUB order 99/11 and also in PUB order 95/11. Contrary to Brennan's claim, both orders make it abundantly clear that the PUB agreed to receive the requested information in confidence.
Manitobans can understand the basis for maintaining some confidentiality of export agreements. However, it appears that Brennan is misconstruing the facts on this matter, even to the point of trying to hoodwink Hydro's own employees.
Given all of the other deception and the failure by Hydro to co-operate on many other requests for information by the PUB in the recent rate review, as reported in the two PUB orders, an uncomfortable pattern is starting to appear.
The matter of the subpoena, which is the subject of PUB order 95/11, will go before the courts but not likely before the Oct. 4 election. Hydro needs to abandon its opposition to this reasonable request for information that will enable the PUB, as it exercises its legitimate watchdog mandate, to determine with more confidence the extent to which export sales impact the rates that all Manitobans pay for their electricity.
Perhaps Manitobans can look forward to the stonewalling of the PUB and the deception to end now that Brennan has resigned.