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Touched by coverage

I wanted to commend the Free Press for its summary of Manitobans who passed in 2012 that contributed to their communities (An indelible mark, Jan. 5).

I personally knew two of the people, Bob Fraser and Lynn Stephen, and I was touched that "regular folks" were acknowledged in this way.




I was saddened to note that of the 183 people featured, only 41 women were recognized for their achievements and contributions. While I do not doubt that the journalists that worked to compile this list made efforts to highlight women as well as men, it speaks to the pervasive sexism that still exists in our society.

I also am aware that the people that died last year were largely part of the demographic that lived most of their productive years during an era when feminism had yet to make itself known and women simply did not have the same opportunities to be the movers and shakers that we have today.

I am grateful to the women and men who have worked hard to bring issues of equality for women to the public consciousness. Feminism has made great strides in opening doors for women to be able to participate more fully, to hold positions of leadership and to have their paid work valued more equally. Yet it seems, in some ways, all we have done is to allow women to achieve and participate in what is still a patriarchal society. Why is it that we largely still only recognize those that contribute to their communities in roles of leadership and entrepreneurship?

Participation in politics and prowess in paddling a canoe are both wonderful achievements, but I would also like to salute all the grandmas out there that work hard to make the perfect perogy.




I read An indelible mark looking forward to the tribute to an incredible Manitoban nurse, Margaret Mackling, who died Dec. 11 after a 43-year career marked by dedication, intelligence and leadership. There were no words or mention of her.

During her lifetime, Mackling was recognized for her contribution to her profession with numerous awards, both local and national. She was also an adjunct assistant professor for 18 years at the University of Manitoba's faculty of nursing. She was a long-time community volunteer, a lover of life and a good friend.




Misguided thinking

How condescending, how paternalistic, how utterly chauvinistic. According to your Jan. 5 editorial, Expect no quick fixes, First Nations people, and the Idle No More movement, are simply misguided in thinking that there is anything in the 435-page omnibus budget bill that affects them or their way of life adversely. You think it is simply wrong assumptions that make First Nations people think that the changes to the Navigable Waters Act might not be in their best interests.

Not even mentioned in this editorial is that an entire cross-section of the environmental movement and the Liberal and NDP caucus, as well as the Green Party, many former government scientists and even former environmental ministers, some Conservative, happen to agree with them and think these changes are not in the best interest of Canadians, period.




Ignoring research

The Economist does a good job in arguing that the gap in premature mortality between the rich and poor results in unfairness for the poor when retirement benefits are delayed or tax expenditures to support retirement saving are provided (Longevity gap hard to close, January 4).

But their explanations for the gap ignore significant research findings and put too much emphasis on the lifestyle choices of the poor, and their policy prescriptions are far too limited.

Why not act directly to decrease the premature mortality gap by decreasing socio-economic inequality through more progressive taxation, enlightened labour market policy and poverty reduction policy? The Economist does mention correctly that some harmful practices may be a result of the stress of poverty. But they do not even acknowledge the fact that fewer resources limit the opportunity to engage in health promoting practices. Neither do they mention the direct material effects of poverty, including less adequate shelter and nutrition.

The Economist thinks that the transition from a manufacturing to a service economy has eliminated workplace environments as a cause of the premature mortality gap, but the evidence shows that many workplaces offer little control, status, support or developmental opportunities to the worker. These factors have been shown to have negative health effects.

Public policies that decrease resources to the poor (Manitoba welfare rates are below 1992 levels of purchasing power) and discrimination and social exclusion of the poor also play a role. So, let's not join The Economist in blaming the culture and choices of the poor for their premature mortality. It's just not that simple.


Faculty of social work

University of Manitoba


Insidious proposition

Re: Guns to Americans are like hockey sticks to Canadians (Jan. 4). The danger of a column of anecdotes is obvious. A few scattered examples may be generalized out of proportion.

While accurate statistics are somewhat difficult to obtain, it is clear that gun ownership in the U.S. has been steadily declining for decades. At this time less than a third of American households own guns, and less that one-fifth of Americans own handguns. I suspect that more Canadians own hockey sticks.

More insidious is the proposition that the ownership of guns can not be controlled because it is somehow innate to the culture. The political strength of groups like the National Rifle Association is obvious but not unassailable.

Of course articles that show the superiority of Canadian culture vis-a-vis the U.S. are popular. We should be a little careful, though, especially considering the fate of the long gun registry.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2013 A14

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