Letters to the Editor – March 10, 2010

RE: Liberals want abortion and contraceptives included in G8 health initiative

The exclusion of contraception and abortion in an initiative aimed at improving women and children’s health is tragically ironic. This motion is a pathetically unambiguous reflection of Conservative Christian beliefs. In fact, women’s health and maternal health are not exclusive and offering reproductive autonomy is critical in maintaining female wellbeing. The implementation of contraceptive education and provision should be reason enough as it directly improves quality of life by reducing the spread of HIV and STIs. Moreover, households in many developing countries do not have the economic capability to support additional children. By offering contraception, we are providing measures to counteract this overpopulation. In addition, it is a misconception that abortions cannot improve a child’s health. There are overwhelming health challenges faced by mothers and their fetuses during pregnancies. Often in these cases, abortion is the only preventative method that decreases both child morbidity and maternal mortality. Furthermore, without sufficient funds, women will continue to seek covert operations that offer unsafe abortions. This will ultimately contribute to the rising concern of infections and deaths. The negligence of the Harper government lies in their insistence that their ideology be imposed on others, at the expense of essential health care.
Elena Shen
University of Western Ontario

RE: Animal rights activism gone awry (Feb. 22, 2010)

I was happy to see that the pieing of Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea spurred discussion about the cruel seal slaughter.

Ms. Shea not only defends but celebrates the seal slaughter, in which seals are bludgeoned, shot at point-blank range, and often skinned alive for their fur. Even while publicly admitting that she has never observed the killings in person, she claims these barbaric practices to be “humane.”

Unlike Ms. Shea, PETA does not advocate or carry out actions in which someone could be injured. This harmless, vaudevillian stunt—in which a caring activist and mother lobbed a tofu cream pie at a politician—grabbed headlines, bringing the seals’ plight to the attention of audiences around the world. Throwing pies is theatrics; slaughtering seals is violence.
Canada’s image will be tainted as long as the seal slaughter exists and the country continues to allow cruelty to animals on a massive scale. If Canadian politicians don’t want to see animal activists showing up at their speaking events and protesting at the Olympics in Vancouver, they must end this universally condemned massacre.

The hunt is not even profitable to Canadian taxpayers. The commercial seal slaughter, which accounts for 97 percent of seals killed each year, is not a longstanding subsistence trade; it is a case study in government waste. Canada spends C$7 million in taxpayer money every year subsidizing the massacre through Coast Guard support, pro-sealing campaigns, and travel. Millions more are spent on research and market development in behalf of the industry. But profit from the slaughter barely exceeded C$1 million in 2009, and in Newfoundland, this income accounts for less than a fraction of 1 percent of the economy.

PETA is determined to stop animal suffering, and we will continue to speak out, run ads, involve celebrities, and publicize videos and photographs to make our point. The situation is critical, and some activists will use tactics that some people find outrageous or offensive. But the seals can only thank anyone who grabs people’s attention. For change to come, someone must stir things up.

Drew Winter
College Campaigns Assistant

RE: Bringing obscurity to the forefront (Feb. 24, 2010)

I was once of the same opinion of Ian Froese in that yes, there were a few sports that were the base of the winter games and a lot of filler. Then, I actually watched a lot of the sports.
Not every sport is based on pure physical strength. Curling, for example, involves more strategy, rather than fitness. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a sport, or that it doesn’t deserve a spot in the Olympics. If anybody that criticizes the Luge or the Skeleton has the nerve to do what those athletes do, then by all means complain away, but until someone puts their hand up to lie on their back going 130 km/h down an ice tunnel, I would stop detracting from the achievements of the competitors.

Some people may say that ski-jumping is no more than physics, but all sports can be explained through science. It still takes talent and athletic ability to be able to execute a ski-jump masterfully. In some European countries Ski-jumping is as entertaining as a rock concert, drawing crowds of thousands, and Ski-jumpers are often celebrities in their home country. Please don’t forget that Winnipeg is not the centre of the universe. Just because someone who has no knowledge of a sport sees it as silly, does not mean that it doesn’t have value as an Olympic event.

Ice dancing during the initial day of competition may appear to be just ballroom dancing on ice, but if you can watch Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in a gold medal performance that was absolutely spectacular and then tell me that it didn’t take years of practice, athletic ability, mental strength and finesse, then you must not have been watching with your eyes open.

As it has always been, new sports are added to the Olympics each year and an informed committee chooses sports based on their merit and the base of athletes that compete in each sport. Ski-cross and snowboard cross are much the same, so please don’t pretend to be an expert on athletic competition after watching a thirty second clip of an event on the evening news. If you would like to tell the athletes that have won medals in fringe sports that their sport doesn’t qualify as a real sport because you don’t understand just how difficult it really is, then be my guest. The fact is that while some may not appreciate Fencing as an Olympic event, some may not appreciate Nordic Combined, but they are both extremely difficult and deserve recognition on an international scale. Athletes that compete in Nordic Combined and other cross country events often have the best endurance of all winter athletes.

Lastly, is it easy to forget that Germany and the United States are kicking Canada’s ass on the basis of these ‘fringe’ sports. Maybe a more open attitude is what’s preventing Canada from owning the podium. These sports are opening the eyes of a new generation to athletic opportunities available to them and nobody that is narrow-minded and uninformed should chastise them for chasing this dream rather than wanting to pursue more traditional sports. Hockey isn’t always the only thing on Canada’s mind.

Kahlia Beaudette

RE: Vandalism, alleged assault besmirches UMSU election (Mar. 3, 2010)

I have to say that I am extremely appalled and disheartened by the offensive actions and vandalism of campaign materials during this year’s UMSU elections. It seems that the banners and posters of the Moving Forward slate running for the UMSU executive positions have been a direct target of these malicious and cowardly acts. If the people who are committing these acts of defacement do not want to participate in this year’s election, it is their decision; however, I would ask that they don’t prevent other people from participating by destroying campaign materials.

It’s important that students have the ability to have a say in what happens at their university, and the destruction of campaign materials is preventing people from fully participating in this year’s election. All students need to stand up against these actions and treat them for what they are. They aren’t an attack on the candidates running, they’re an attack on democracy and they are an attack on our individual rights to become informed and engaged students on campus. These people have no right to destroy personal property and we won’t allow them to deny students the ability to learn more about the candidates, slates and sides running in this year’s election and referenda.

To those who are destroying the campaign materials, it’s time you grow up and take some responsibility for your childish actions. And to everyone else who believes in democracy, we all need to get out there and vote in this year’s elections. We need to prove that we will not be silenced and we will not be intimidated.

Rochelle Viray
Senior Stick of Science

RE: Israeli Apartheid Week

I am writing to express my concern over the University of Manitoba’s decision to host the “Israeli Apartheid Week” on campus from March 8-12.

Exploiting the language of human rights to legitimatize the campaign to demonize and delegitimatize the state of Israel, which the promoters of this event are doing, constitutes what Gerald Steinberg (President of NGO Monitor and Chairman of the Political Studies Department at Bar Ilan University) has termed “lawfare” and presently represents a far more serious existential threat to Israel than warfare. The manipulation of international law and morality, implicit in the campaign attacking Israel as an apartheid state and accusing Israel of being guilty of war crimes, works to enlist the sympathy of human rights advocates who unconsciously, uncritically, and irresponsibly accept propaganda disguised as truth and fact. In this way, the fundamentally flawed narrative of Palestinians as victims and Israelis as perpetrators flourishes despite its being founded on a one-sided, biased, and inaccurate assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Facts deliberately or inadvertently overlooked in the on-going attacks on Israel include: 1. Israel is the only stable and democratic state in the Middle East whose continued existence affords the only hope for peace in the Middle East; 2. Palestinian Israelis have the same rights as Jewish Israelis in the state of Israel, except for the right to serve in the Israeli armed forces, unlike in neighbouring Arab states such as Jordan, where 3000 Palestinian Jordanians have been stripped of citizenship since 2004, Kuwait, where 300 000 to 400 000 Palestinians were ordered expelled following the ousting of the Iraqi military, and Lebanon, where 400 000 Palestinians are deliberately kept as refugees and denied many basic rights – all this without any outcry from human rights advocates; 3. 40 % of the West Bank and 95% of Gaza is under the direct control of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas respectively; therefore, the Palestinian leadership must assume some responsibility for the plight of the Palestinian people rather than blame the Israeli ‘occupation’; 4. Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-9 was not an offensive attack on Gaza but a defensive response to eight years of daily rocket attacks launched from Gaza on Israeli settlements; the biased “Goldstone Report” endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council accusing Israel of human rights violations and ‘war crimes’ discounts Israel’s right to self-defence and Hamas’ choice to operate within and behind a civilian population; 5. Hamas is a terrorist organization with a mandate to destroy Israel as stated in its Charter, and although democratically elected in Gaza in 2006, it delegitimized itself and confirmed its terrorist status by a violent coup in 2007; 6. Hamas has deliberately exploited the refugee crisis to enlist sympathy for its cause and further its campaign against Israel; and 7. the justification for Israel’s so-called ‘apartheid’ wall exists in the significant reduction in the number of suicide bombings in Israel which serves not only the security of Israelis but demonstrates the ‘good faith’ of Palestinians and so facilitates the peace process.

The tragedy of this situation is that the very mechanisms and language of human rights that were created in response to the destruction of the Jews during the Holocaust are being used against them in the current campaign. What is most distressing about the University of Manitoba allowing this event to take place is that ultimately, this is not an issue of freedom of expression or of academic freedom because the IAW campaign is not about promoting the rights of Palestinians but about denying the right of Israel to exist, which is a crime against humanity.

None of this denies reasonable and honest criticism of Israeli policies; what must be precluded from the discourse is misinformed, biased, and dishonest criticism of Israel disguised as concern for the human rights of Palestinians.

Penny Jones Square
University of Manitoba staff and student