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School trustee lashed

After reading Fights just a part of school: trustee (March 17), I was personally insulted, offended and utterly aghast. How a supposedly intelligent elected official could alienate and offend all educators and students in the North End and inner-city districts of the largest school division in Manitoba is unbelievable -- talk about putting your foot in your mouth.

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In an apparent attempt to deflect responsibility and to lessen the seriousness of the brawl at Kelvin High School, trustee Mark Wasyliw showed his ignorance of what is actually going on at schools such as St. John's High School and others in the North End, and the core area of Winnipeg in general, by stating that "schoolyard fights happen in the North End on a regular basis and they go unreported because that's considered routine behaviour for that part of Winnipeg."

I was the vice-principal at St. John's High School for nearly six years before I retired (I am a graduate also), and I can honestly say that, although we did have the odd fight between individuals, there never was an incident involving weapons such as we saw at Kelvin on March 16. In addition, I know how hard the staff at schools such as St. John's work to ensure that there is a safe and caring environment for all students.

Wasyliw's comments also implied that the quality of education offered at Kelvin is somehow superior to that offered at these other schools -- nothing could be further from the truth. If he only took the time to find out for himself instead of spreading untruths based upon falsely held beliefs and stereotypes, he would know about the real teaching and learning that goes on in these schools under some very difficult and challenging circumstances.

In my opinion, he owes the dedicated educators and students in the North End and inner city a sincere apology and a commitment to visit these schools to see exactly what is going on so that he might start to appreciate their efforts. If his comments reflect the attitudes of the present school board and leadership in the division, I am much happier about my decision to retire when I did.

Ross Wedlake

Winnipeg

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What was trustee Mark Wasyliw thinking when he spoke about the recent violence at Kelvin High School? He may need to give his head a shake if he believes that schoolyard fights in the North End are considered "routine behaviour." Parents and educators in all areas of our city, not just in the "affluent neighbourhoods," are opposed to violence.

It is hardly a defence of a school's reputation to create stereotypes about other areas of the city and the values of families living there. Wasyliw should be less concerned about the reputation of his school and more concerned about students and the issues they are facing.

pat mallis

winnipeg

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The staff at Kelvin High School are to be commended for their swift and appropriate action to quell the disturbance that occurred on March 16.

The administration and the school division could not have done anything different in terms of a policy or procedure that would have prevented this unfortunate and frightening incident.

After all, the perpetrators were not Kelvin students. They came to the school. In fact, the incident occurred off the school property. It is now time to let the investigation proceed by the stakeholders and the police. It is time to return to a normal routine and allow healing to occur.

Liz Cronk

Winnipeg

Yes to taxation

Re: It's time to consider tax hikes (March 16). Dan Lett should be congratulated for his sound analysis and rational and courageous recommendation. In addition to avoiding the long-term costs of cuts in essential services, if tax restoration is done in the right way, tax increases can help to solve our inequality problem.

Returning to more progressive taxation could assist in reversing the effects of growing inequality, including increasing social conflict and decreasing population health status. Do our governments have the integrity and commitment to fairness to do this?

Sid Frankel

Winnipeg

Warhaft is great

Re: Who is Warhaft? (Letters, March 16). Marion Warhaft is the best food critic in Canada. She's honest, articulate and appreciates first-rate food and excellent service. I've never been disappointed by any of her recommendations. Perhaps letter writer Debbie King should expand her palate by frequenting Simon's Cuisine in Winnipeg or the Harvest Moon in Garson, Man., both highly rated by Warhaft and, in my experience, worth every penny.

David Square

Tyndall

Death penalty heinous

Re: Capital punishment (Letters, March 17). Tori Stafford's murder was heinous, and we must never forget the victims of crime.

We must also not forget people like David Milgaard and the many others who have been convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. If the justice system executes an innocent person, there is no way that their death can be undone. Our justice system is imperfect, and it has made mistakes in the past -- and it may make mistakes again in the future.

We must, therefore, ensure that there is no way that a mistake may lead to the death of an innocent person. The only way to ensure this is to see to it that capital punishment never returns to Canada.

Michael Dwilow

Winnipeg

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In Canada in 1978, a proposal to reinstate capital punishment was defeated in Parliament, the leader of each political party voting against it.

Canada has ratified the United Nations Second Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at abolition of the death penalty. Canada would thus be in contravention of its statutory obligations under international law if it reinstated the death penalty. The arguments in favour of capital punishment do not stand up to scrutiny, and I trust that Canadians will want to retain our nation's honour and ignore calls to reinstate the death penalty.

James Rodney Ledwich

Winnipeg

Are weeds so bad?

Re: Cosmetic pesticides face ban in province (Jan. 2). Not surprisingly, when asked for their opinions, some local lawn-care companies brushed off the potential ban as being "little more than politics."

Since when has an industry enthusiastically endorsed something that could potentially result in huge profit losses? Furthermore, to suggest that this ban is not related to health and safety is ludicrous.

Over time, there has been an increasing focus on pesticide research and a considerable amount of information has been generated. Many of the results indicate that pesticides have a role in human illnesses such as cancers, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and birth defects.

So, is it worth risking your health and the health of others in order to have a perfectly manicured lawn?

Interestingly, CropLife Canada warns that this ban could stigmatize pesticide use in agriculture. Well, news flash -- these pesticides are already being "stigmatized."

Many of these chemicals are known to lead to resistance, bio-accumulation, and negative health effects in both animals and humans who were not intended to be harmed.

This stigmatization is readily seen with the growing popularity of organic foods.

If Manitoba accepts this ban, perhaps society will witness a shift in priorities. If manicured lawns become less of a concern, then other issues may fade as well.

For example, weed-control costs may not increase if the overall demand for cosmetic pesticides decreases. Besides, are the weeds really so bad? In some cultures, dandelions are eaten for their nutritional value? Maybe we should give it a try.

melissa macleod

Ottawa

Beware little expenses

Re: It's time to move (Letters, March 17). I recently bought a house and have to say that all these tax increases are making me quite nervous as well.

I was hoping to stay in the middle class for a couple more years, but it looks like I'm fighting a losing battle. Was it not Benjamin Franklin who said: "Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship."

Cheryl Ormonde

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 20, 2012 A11

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