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Canada and the Middle Kingdom

As a member of Canada's first delegation to China after the Cultural Revolution and a long-time student of the country, it is appalling to see our benign neglect of this important international partner ( China's Rebuke - Dec. 4).

Canada, through Norman Bethune, Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien and many others, had established a relationship with China built on mutual understanding, respect and trust - not just crass, one-sided trade policy or moral superiority on rights. The carrot of having more visitors coming to Canada is chump change in the overall scheme of things.

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While the Middle Kingdom may be a little off course (pollution, greed and basic freedoms), a good friend can do more to influence another by staying in a relationship. Five lost years is nothing in the history of China. But momentum in the current economic industrial shift is light years that a good friend wasted through lack of understanding.

David Simpson, Ottawa

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Stephen Harper is in China, a country where I was torn from my wife, tortured for practising my spiritual belief and deemed a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International ( Canada's Reward - Dec. 5).

I was sentenced to more than three years for mailing letters to friends trying to debunk the regime's demonization of Falun Gong practitioners.

For 1,280 days, I struggled to survive heavy slave labour, electric shock torture and sleep deprivation. For months, I urinated and coughed blood and had high fevers. Worst was witnessing fellow Falun Gong practitioners suffering torture. The daily screams from female cells almost brought me to a mental breakdown.

Enough is enough. How much should we try to appease a fascist regime by ignoring terrible crimes to gain trade benefits? Would we be so uninterested if those being tortured and killed were our loved ones?

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The Prime Minister must call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong and not be manipulated by this ruthless regime.

Lizhi He, Toronto

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The PMO released a joint statement that Canada and China agreed "to promote and protect human rights consistent with international human rights instruments." This is ironic, as Stephen Harper's own government has abruptly cut funding to Kairos, an organization that supports some of the most marginalized communities overseas and upholds the very Canadian principles of human rights Mr. Harper is promoting in China.

Kairos has received support from CIDA for 35 years, only to have its funding cut at the 11th hour ( Ottawa Ceases Funding Of Overseas Human-Rights Group - Dec. 3). Could one reason be that Kairos has been outspoken about Canadian mining practices, the ecological impact of the Alberta tar sands, and human-rights violations in Colombia?

NGOs can't be as effective as they are without the freedom to bring to light inconvenient truths that affect lives and livelihoods in Canada and abroad. More is at stake here than just an agency losing its funding; it's about allowing civil society to have a dissenting voice and, more importantly, giving voice to the voiceless.

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Jim Dahl, executive director, Canadian Feed The Children

Dec. 6, 1989, and long guns

On the evening of Dec. 6, 1989, I spent one and a half hours on the phone with my daughter. We tried to share with each other what the murders of 14 young female students at Montreal's L'École Polytechnique meant to her, a young female student at another university.

Twenty years later, I have watched my daughter grow to be an accomplished young woman. Not so fortunate are the mothers who continue to mourn daughters lost to a man who killed them with a long gun in Montreal. I have just finished reading a letter by the mother of Anne-Marie Edward, one of the young women who died. She cannot understand why the Conservative government wants to remove the long gun registry. I do not understand either. Since the registry has been in place, the number of women killed by long guns has been reduced significantly.

Leave the registry in place. Let it be the legacy of the L'École Polytechnique massacre.

Margaret J. McGovern, chair, Toronto Caucus, Canadian Federation of University Women

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Stevie Cameron's article on the anniversary of Dec. 6, 1989 ( Have We Forgotten The Dead? - Nov. 4) attempts to perpetuate the myth that the long gun registry protects women. It might have been enacted with that purpose, but it has not and cannot do anything to further that noble goal. Instead, it is an egregious and expensive attempt to scapegoat the innocent. Imagine how much good $2-billion could have done if spent directly on the problem.

Teri Jane Bryant, Calgary

Justice is bigger than politicking

Crime in Canada has been on the decline in recent years; Canadian judges in Canada have always had wide discretionary powers of sentencing. This fear-based Conservative government, however, wants to reduce these powers for judges.

When jurists such as the highly esteemed Marc Rosenberg and John Keast raise the alarm ( With Light Sentence For Arsonists, Judge Defies 'Mantra Of Jail' - Dec. 3), I hope Canadians and leaders of Canada's opposition parties have the courage to redress this blatant meddling in the justice system purely for political gain.

Gregory Gillis, Toronto

Suing, then and now

In his letter ( A Little More Circumspect - Dec. 4), Mark Arnold "applauds" my recently tabled amendments to the State Immunity Act to give victims of torture a civil remedy, but says that I had an opportunity to do that when I was justice minister and therefore should be "a little more circumspect" now.

I appeared before the parliamentary subcommittee on public safety in 2005 and supported providing a civil remedy for victims of torture and terror - and did so as justice minister, as I had done as a law professor.

After our government was defeated, I met with then-public safety minister Stockwell Day to offer support if the Conservative government were to enact such legislation.

My private member's bill - supported by members from all parties and an array of human rights NGOs and legal experts - will accomplish the objective I sought then as minister. It is an absurd anomaly in our law that a victim of a breach of contract can sue the foreign state, but the victim of an act of torture and other heinous international crimes cannot.

Irwin Cotler, MP, Mount Royal

Running hot and cold on climate

After recent revelations of chicanery - suppressing and deleting data, freezing out contrary scientific opinions, jigging statistics - at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, one of the chief sources for the climate policy of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I was interested to see what Jeffrey Simpson, long a critic of what he argues is foot-dragging on climate change policy by the government, would have to say. He didn't disappoint: the same old, same old ( Judge The Government's Emissions Targets By Its Exit Strategies - Dec. 2).

Richard Simon, West Vancouver

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In their glee at allegations of intellectual dishonesty on the part of climate change scientists at the University of East Anglia, climate change deniers conveniently ignore the fact that the overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming did not emanate solely from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit ( Climate Science's PR Disaster - Dec. 1).

At worst, I suspect the so-called "Climategate" scandal will be remembered alongside the Piltdown Man affair. The early 20th-century fabrication of a "missing link" was a remarkable fraud, but its revelation did not call into serious question the legitimacy of the theory of human evolution. Similarly, if it is determined that scientists at East Anglia did manipulate their data, their error will not be sufficient to undermine the vast evidence for climate change collected independently by scientists worldwide.

Forrest Pass, Ottawa

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There will be no silver bullet to tackling climate change. Canada needs to pursue all options to reduce emissions, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), wind, solar, energy efficiency and much more. A 2009 report by Canada's National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy found CCS to be the single-largest CO2-reduction option available for the country.

As Jeffrey Simpson notes, there is a cost associated with CCS technology ( Politically Tricky: Holding The Temperature Rise To Two Degrees - Dec. 4). However, a recent report by The Delphi Group, an Ottawa consultancy, found that CCS is cost-competitive with other reduction options such as renewable energy.

Eric Beynon, Integrated CO2 Network

Pinkest elephant in the room

Obviously Sky Gilbert can't "quit" being gay ( If That's What It Means To Be Gay, I Quit - Dec. 2). But thank goodness at least one English-speaking homosexual in this country has the moxie to point out the pinkest elephant in the room: that being sexually attracted to someone of the same gender, or reassigning one's gender, has nothing to do with either art or progressive politics. Today, gay "culture" in the Western world is conservative, unpliant and excludes most of us who don't look the role. It's marketing.

We disappointed millions of heterosexuals who used to think we were cool because we'd change things, but instead we reinforced them.

Guy Babineau, Vancouver

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