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It's a store, people

How wonderful that IKEA has finally opened. Maybe now we will no longer be inundated with stories that speak to the never-ending pursuit of material possessions. With all the attention from media and government officials, one would surmise that Winnipeg was on the brink of discovering a cure for cancer or finding world peace. Please let the hype stop. It's a store, people!

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Buy fair trade

It's been 100 years since 150 garment workers died in the Triangle Factory fire in New York. The doors were locked, exits were blocked and the working conditions were brutally unsafe. Labour organizers 100 years ago routinely were arrested or beaten.

Look how far we've come. Now we outsource to factories where the doors are locked, fire extinguishers don't work and the pay is $27 a month. That's 18 cents an hour. Labour organizers are arrested, beaten or killed.

The Gap and Walmart are two of the largest importers from Bangladesh. One way to change these subhuman sweatshops is to demand that the clothing labels pay the suppliers a decent fee. A fee that will allow them to upgrade the factories and pay the workers a living wage. Until this happens, we should take our shopping dollars elsewhere. Buy fair trade clothing or apparel that's produced in Canada.



Picking up the tab

Re: Ford's fall raises Katz questions (Nov. 27).

Whether Mayor Sam Katz violated conflict-of-interest rules is to be decided by a judge and Katz will know which interpretation of conflict of interest, his, or that of Joe Chan, the restaurateur taking him to court, applies.

Given that no ruling has yet been made, I was put somewhat at a loss by a statement attributed to Katz's lawyer, Robert Tapper, who is said to have argued that "Based on Mr. Chan's logic, the mayor would violate the rules any time he takes a councillor to lunch at his restaurant to discuss city business."

It is my understanding that the basic principle behind conflict-of-interest regulation is that no one should be allowed to use public office for personal gain. The issue is not who owns the restaurant, but who pays the bill. If Katz wants to take a councillor to his restaurant and he picks up the tab, it's not a problem, but if he bills the city and we taxpayers pick up the tab (and he makes a profit from the transaction), then it is a problem.




I am writing this letter in shock that a Toronto judge has been given the power to remove an elected official from office for a petty incident that did not involve any kind of criminal offence. It absolutely disgusts me that not one politician or media outlet has taken the time to consider the significance of this ruling by an attention-seeking judge who has taken the side of their petty political beliefs. Shame on those in our country who profess to be on the lookout for offenders of our valued democratic rights. Shame on us, the citizens of Canada, for allowing this travesty to happen.




I've always admired Winnipeg lawyer David Matas and my friend David Kilgour of Ottawa (both Nobel Peace Prize nominees) for their principled fight in tandem to defend the religious freedom of the Falun Gong in China as perceived enemies of the state. That's why I find it so puzzling that Matas is pursuing the prosecution of our mayor over what, at worst, was a minor error in judgment of the public's perception -- in booking his own restaurant for civic employees.

I can find no civil rights violation in any of this or any harm whatsoever to civic governance. Rather, since the distinguished lawyer has to know there can be only one result of all this if the mayor is deemed guilty -- his removal from office -- I believe Matas's conduct in continuing this pursuit is beneath him. Laws that do not provide judges with discretion in sentencing usually are harsh. I find it sadly ironic that Matas is fighting draconian laws in a faraway country while he champions them at home. Our mayor, even if he were not the nice person I think he is, deserves better.



Narrow definition

Re: Definitions matter, (Letters, Nov. 28). If I am following Michael Melanson's logic correctly, for him the primary grounds upon which one would want to discuss genocide in Canada is for purposes of prosecution and punishment. This is a very limited vision. Debates about genocide in other locales show that there are many other compelling reasons for such discussion. Efforts to achieve genocide recognition among Armenian, Herero, or indigenous Australian communities are not reducible to a desire to see perpetrators tried in courts of law. These efforts are rather directed at achieving other valued forms of justice, such as historical acknowledgment, commemoration, reparation and restitution.

In short, there is much more at stake than punishment and prosecution when we engage in genocide debates. By proffering an extremely narrow reading of the UN Genocide Convention, it appears Melanson hopes to pre-empt such discussion and thereby to sidestep a serious and critical confrontation with Canada's colonial history and its continuing reverberations.

No one needs to "broaden" the concept of genocide to confront this past, as Melanson claims. Genocide is a historically, legally and politically contested notion and its content and application will continue to be open to discussion and interpretation, both in law and among the greater public. Melanson's absurd image of Canada being tried alongside Milosevic notwithstanding, we cannot simply avoid this difficult conversation. The Canadian state sought through residential schools and other interventions to destroy indigenous groups as groups. It is worthwhile for we Canadians to consider what this means and to explore the many ways that we might make justice together with our indigenous neighbours.



Make the trains wait

While enduring the never-ending debate over building the Waverley Street overpass, I think it would be very cathartic to one day stop my car in the middle of the railroad crossing for no apparent reason and block all train traffic for 30 minutes.



Cummings a traditionalist

Re: Praying for Burton Cummings (Nov. 27)

Perhaps those who are disappointed that Burton did not sing the "traditional" Canadian anthem would have preferred he had sung it entirely in French. After all, it was the only version we had for more than 20 years after it was written in 1880. Or perhaps the 1908 Robert Stanley Weir version that contains the phrase "True patriot love thou dost in us command" but curiously contains no reference to God. Or perhaps the version Cummings and I learned in school (1950s and 1960s) which again contains no reference to God (which wasn't added until March 1967). So, no mention of God for the first 67 years of the last century. I guess that makes Burton Cummings the traditionalist.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2012 A13

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