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Confusing two terms

Based on some of your April 10 letters, Disregarding suffering, there is certainly misunderstanding about assisted suicide. It is not euthanasia, as a dictionary will clarify. Suicide is the taking of one's own life; euthanasia is the taking of another's for whatever compassionate reason.

Assisted suicide is the provision of a compassionate means for an individual to end his or her own life. Committing suicide itself is a messy business, though not illegal, but in Canada anyone at all providing any help or even being nearby can be prosecuted, fined and possibly jailed.

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My friend Susan Griffiths does not advocate "legalized euthanasia." Neither does she consider "tarting up a facility to end lives... as a medical clinic." Of course that is repulsive and it is obviously the product of someone's imagination. Comparing Griffiths' understanding of assisted suicide to actions in Germany prior to the Second World War, and leading inexorably to the death camps, is simply ludicrous.

One writer's opinion is that Griffiths should just cope, mainly to give others the dubious pleasure of helping her. The truth is that Griffiths was well-served by doctors here; she took three to five pills every 21/2 hours, day and night, and still felt her body deteriorate. To consider her beloved family and friends drawn into this regime for several years while she suffered was just not acceptable. She views her planned death as a release, not only to herself, but to all of us.

Griffiths was a vital, energetic, loving, tolerant and generous woman. She could have taken her decision privately but this public attention in Canada was and is important to her. It is her hope that those who agree will work towards assisted suicide here.




Regarding April D'Aubin's April 11 letter and Mary Ellen Douglas's comments in the same-edition story, Assisted suicide back in public spotlight, Susan Griffiths has a terminal illness. Let's not confuse a terminal illness with a disability.

Anyone who says "pain can be controlled" has never suffered nor seen first-hand the effects of a terminal illness. One can live with a disability. One cannot live with a terminal illness.




Concrete sustainability

Re: Towers of wood frames soaring (April 6). The environmental claims made for tall wood buildings are being contradicted by a growing body of third-party, peer-reviewed research from respected academics.

From a cradle-to-cradle or full-life-cycle perspective, concrete consistently outperforms other materials on a variety of sustainability metrics, including greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, an excellent example of the sustainability of concrete exists right here in Winnipeg, home to one of North America's most innovative (and dare I say beautiful) green buildings -- Manitoba Hydro Place.

Hydro Place exploits concrete's thermal mass to achieve energy efficiencies upwards of 70 per cent over conventional buildings, and in a way that also secures benchmark-setting indoor air quality.

Since close to 90 per cent of all the greenhouse gasses associated with a building occur during the operation of that building (heating, cooling, lighting, etc.), the climate benefits of Hydro Place's efficiency utterly eclipse the greenhouse gases generated during its construction, including those emitted to make the concrete.

That is not to say that the cement and concrete industries are shirking their responsibility to lower their manufacturing greenhouse-gas footprint. We have and continue to make progress on this front. Nor is it to suggest that we shouldn't ever build structures out of wood. But if sustainability is your criterion, as it should be and as it is increasingly around the world, a life-cycle perspective will often show concrete as the clear choice.


Cement Association of Canada



Price of absent fathers

Don Marks' April 10 column, No 'respect' leads straight to violence, clearly identifies, and rightly so, that a lack of respect for other human beings is the bottom line when it comes to inner-city violence, usually perpetrated by youth.

As an inner-city teacher, anti-poverty activist and son of an absent father, I am convinced that the essential reason why young inner-city males reach for knives, baseball bats and guns to settle perceived disputes is that they have had no secure, reliable, non-abusive, caring, sober father to celebrate their maleness and to prepare them for life's journey.

Who or what can help violence-prone, nihilistic youth to regain respect for others, not to mention their own self-respect? Educators can have an enormous influence. So can organizations like Big Brothers, the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA.

But we can move forward with new strategies as well, such as the concept of a multi-faceted inner-city sport, recreation and male-bonding centre.




Banking withdrawals

Ah, the tight-fisted banker. Reading the April 8 story RBC feels the heat on its hiring brings back memories. Unhappy memories.

Not so long ago, schoolchildren went door to door collecting coin for UNICEF at Halloween. Each year, Manitoba's major banks would take turns to cover the cost of counting all that small change. At the time, the reported cost of paying a company to process that coin would have run into the thousands. One year in the 1990s they told us that "times were tough" and they could no longer help out.

Today, RBC is outsourcing jobs and rubbing it in by having existing staff train representatives of their foreign replacements. Whatever the legalities, Canadians are not happy to see major corporations squeezing out a few more dollars by moving jobs to Calcutta -- especially after they have been benefiting from the federal government's lower tax regime.

The banks should remember that if they outsource enough Canadian jobs, there might be no one left to buy their stock.




It appears that the CEOs of RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC and BMO, in their haste to replace Canadian workers with temporary workers from foreign countries, have become confused about the difference between legality and morality.

Was it not these same CEOs and their banks that had received a $114-billion bailout from Stephen Harper a year or so ago, a bailout created from the taxes paid by the very same Canadian workers these CEOs can't throw out on the street fast enough?




U of W has not done badly

Every year, the Free Press gives the universities a platform to whine about how hard they've got it. On April 9, it was David Barnard's turn and on April 10, it was Lloyd Axworthy's (Don't sacrifice universities on deficit-reduction altar).

You can do a lot with statistics but if you cut the crap and just look at the bottom line, you will see that the University of Winnipeg has not done that badly.

Its website gives budget details only from 2007 through 2012, and during those years the U of W's total revenues have gone from $87 million to $120 million, an increase of 38 per cent.




Accident in waiting

Your April 9 photo Bacon and legs of the gelato-holding unicyclist is definitely worth a thousand words.

This type of cycling on a sidewalk is an accident waiting to happen. She appears to be wobbling all over the place where a pedestrian might not be able to artfully dodge her circus act. This devil-may-care exercise needlessly imperils the elderly, children and the not-so-mobile.

I suggest she rides the electrical or telephone wires and terrorize the chipmunks. No, wait -- she'd have PETA breathing down her neck.




Smith an inspiration

I was pleased to read the April 4 article about the work Joy Smith has done regarding human trafficking, Compassion into action. Her efforts to heighten awareness of this perverse and truly sad issue is an inspiration.

How refreshing to see that an elected member of Canada's House of Commons has put her time and effort into a very worthy cause. She has shown us that a committed individual actually can speak her mind in spite of initial opposition from even the prime minister.

We can only hope that all members of Parliament will learn from her example. There is no place for partisan politics when social injustices are in the balance.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2013 A13

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