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Motherhood issue

We seem to expect northern women to be so brave. My heart goes out to the women Mary Agnes Welch described so well in The motherhood issue (Feb. 13), women who give birth in nightmarish conditions that would terrify those of us who were scared enough to bring life into the world in the relative comfort and safety of a local city hospital.

The story immediately reminded me of the dangers that likely await my Plan Canada foster child. Nathalie is 11, and lives in a tiny community in rural Benin where water is scarce and a latrine is an open field. In African countries, 1.16 million babies die every year, and in some of the most remote areas one in seven teenage moms now die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda stepped up to the plate when they put maternal and child health at the top of the 2010 G8 agenda in Huntsville, Ont., this summer. As we in Manitoba attend to improving birthing conditions for women in the north, I hope we can also align ourselves strongly with our sisters in developing countries.

World leaders made important commitments dating back to the 1990 World Summit for Children. Let's hope they will honour those commitments as never before, and re-dedicate themselves now to committing their money and expertise to providing safe healthy conditions for the most vulnerable moms and babies in the world.

Jennifer Dundas



Re: The motherhood issue (Feb. 13). In her article on pregnancy in northern Manitoba, reporter Mary Agnes Welch describes having a baby on a remote reserve as bordering on "cruel." Welch castigates citizens in Winnipeg for being indifferent: "If Winnipeg had northern Manitoba's remarkably high rates of infant mortality, premature births and teen pregnancies, there would be a riot at the legislature." Welch is unfair in her criticism of Winnipeggers and wholly uncritical of the putative truth of her article: remote reserves are increasingly untenable as populated areas.

Welch notes the "funding purgatory" that traps on-reserve mothers. On-reserve health care is a federal responsibility while off-reserve that responsibility falls to the province. That discrepancy is a result of Canada's long history of social and legal bifurcation between citizens and Indians. Welch believes more money should be spent to rectify the discrepancies between southern urban centres and northern reserves. Although Welch mentions the endemic poverty of remote reserves, she doesn't consider the possibility that the remote reserves are simply beyond remediation.

Birth rates on remote reserves average above eight per cent per annum, several percentile points above the birth rate elsewhere in Manitoba. If conditions on remote reserves are already critical, how much more so will they be in a few years time?

As happens so often in discussions of all things aboriginal, Welch never mentions the role of personal responsibility. She seems to think that it's all right for people to continue living in chronically desperate environments and that the onus is on the state to deliver health to those people. Better health and better living conditions are usually just a few hundred kilometres away. Remaining on a remote reserve is a personal choice that Winnipeggers hardly need feel responsible for. The reality is we can't afford Welch's fantasy of making remote reserves more like urban centres and I think it is cruel to suggest otherwise; the utopia of remote reserves with living standards comparable to southern urban centres will always lay East of Eden.

Michael Melanson



Share a bin

On average my wife and I put out half a small (77-litre) garbage bag. We compost all vegetable waste, coffee grounds, egg shells, peelings year round and recycle all that is acceptable. Our neighbour puts out much the same amount of garbage.

So today we used one bin for our two bags. They looked quite pathetic lying there so I'm going to look for more contributors to keep them company next week. We could rotate whose bin goes out each week.

There must be thousands of households in the same situation. So share a bin. The time and cost savings on pick-up could be considerable.




In a time where everyone and everything is "going green," what is the problem with the automated garbage pick-up? My family of six will not be adversely affected when the system reaches our area (St. Vital). Our weekly garbage already fits in a container smaller than the city's 240-litre container; we recycle, and compost. I think it's time to be aware of what we are throwing away. Our landfills are overflowing and I worry about what future generations will have to deal with.

My biggest concern is for the garbage collectors who might be out of work because they will not be needed. I'm disappointed that the public or the media haven't been concerned about them.

Two St. James residents have a great idea, though. They have hired private contractors to pick up their trash in retaliation for the new bins. It sounds like a good solution for people who are throwing out too much.

They can pay for their excess trash to be picked up if they can't change their garbage practices. "Only a fool stays the same."




A tax freeze?

I wonder if many other Winnipeg residents share the same tax freeze that I am experiencing?

Last year, before reassessment, taxes on my condo were $160 per month. This year, after reassessment, they are $220 per month.

That, plus extra charges for city services, amounts to a tax freeze. Meanwhile, taxes are being eliminated for city businesses.

If you want to run a decent city you need to pay taxes. Quit pretending we have a tax freeze.

There is no magic bullet. You get what you pay for.




Not a good deal

Did Toyota make a deal with Energizer? When you get into a Toyota, you start the car and you just keep going and going and going (if you catch my drift).

Herb Stark

Massapequa, N.Y.


The real crime

Kamal Dhillon could not have been more wrong (Not wrong, just illegal, Feb. 13). She only looks at the subject from the user's point of view, not the view of the artist and the industry that is responsible for putting out music.

File sharing has caused the bankruptcy of such giants as Tower Records, caused massive layoffs in the record industry and artists being dropped from their labels. New music has to come from somewhere. The music industry had a business model that worked until file sharing came along.

Because of the massive loss of CD sales, labels can no longer afford to take a chance on a new artist or on anything that is new creatively. The labels have to resort to distributing banal, predictable commercial pap that is thrust upon the public, causing indifference and disinterest in new music as a result.

Dhillon offers up touring as an alternative source of income for musicians. Only the cream of the crop of touring acts make any money. These acts "made it" in the first place by massive sales of their music. And Dhillon fails to recognize the emotional toll that touring takes on the average artist, by being away from family and loved ones for years and months on end, just to scrape by on a meagre income.

She says that digital sales are up. That's true, but again, an artist doesn't make much money from a 99-cent single. I don't expect that an entire generation that grew up thinking it's their inherent "right" to acquire music for free, will ever change their attitude now that the genie is out of the bottle.

But, be aware that file sharing has already caused a massive downward spiral in the quality of music being distributed, and will deprive many new and talented artists from being discovered. And that's not only wrong, it's a crime.

Dave Kochan



An abomination

Re: Bartley Kives' This City (Feb. 14). I have never in my life written a letter to the editor but, after reading this article, I feel I have to comment.

I'm not sure whether his article is intended to be humorous or serious but, in either case, he failed miserably. It may be that Kives can only get attention by belittling other people, but I would consider this article the only abomination that occurred this weekend.



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