May 2022

Contents Related Letters

Re: “Special Temporary Measures,” by Dominique Clément

Interestingly, Dominique Clément points out that historians and other scholars have generally viewed a government’s resort to emergency powers in Canada critically, while the public has generally been supportive. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to which the Emergencies Act is explicitly subject, provides a practical test for assessing whether limitations of rights and freedoms “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” An important part of any assessment would be to scrutinize the regulations made under an emergency statute to see whether they could meet the Charter test.

As far as I can see, scholars, as well as journalists and filmmakers, have seldom examined such regulations closely. At whom were the exceptional powers addressed? To whom was special authority granted? For what purposes? For how long? The review of the recent invocation of the Emergencies Act, now under way, will no doubt address such questions. It will be interesting to see whether this sort of scrutiny, by applying the Charter test and illuminating issues touched on only lightly in the past, will reduce the difference between traditional scholarly critiques and public support of the exercise of emergency powers.

Ivo Krupka

Re: “The People’s Province,” by Murray Campbell

I am a native of Saskatchewan, and though I left many decades ago, I try to get out to our homestead every year — at least when we’re not dealing with COVID-19.

The purpose of the visit is to see the old place and the family graveyard, where my parents and grandparents are buried. On my last visit, as we passed a huge agricultural machine, I asked the cost and was told $250,000.

Farming is now an expensive business, and you need economies of scale even east of Yorkton, never mind on the southern plains. I expect this is what has converted Saskatchewan from socialism to conservatism.

Joe Martin

Re: “A Neglected Pledge,” by Elaine Coburn

I’m humbled and honoured to have my Book, Standoff, reviewed in the Literary Review of Canada.

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Re: “The Western Terminus,” by Marisa Grizenko

I enjoyed the review of Daniel Francis’s Becoming Vancouver, including the reference to “rampant real estate speculation, which was present before the city’s founding and is still a strong force to this day.”

Years ago, I was researching the career of the lawyer and poet Tom MacInnes (1867–1951), who, like August Jack Khahtsahlano, was interviewed by Vancouver’s city archivist James Matthews. Although he is little known for law or poetry now, MacInnes’s star flamed brightly in the CanLit of the day. He produced at least six volumes of poetry between 1908 and 1934, and apparently even Bliss Carman was a fan. High praise, indeed.

But to get to the point: MacInnes was a member of the Vagabond Club, an association of writers and artists that flourished in Vancouver between 1914 and 1928. Forty years after its demise, a former member described it as an “outlet for whatever small talents we possessed in a city in which the buying and selling of real estate was the preoccupation of the majority of the inhabitants.”

It may also be worth noting that in 1909, MacInnes was retained by Ottawa to provide a legal opinion on whether there was unextinguished Indigenous title in British Columbia. He concluded that there was and that B.C. had been acting illegally since the 1860s. He also proposed a clever course of action that the ­federal government could take to bring the ­province into line. But Victoria dug its heels in, and Ottawa backed down.

Hamar Foster

Re: “Curtain Call,” by Elizabeth Hay

I very much appreciated Elizabeth Hay’s charming review of Alastair Sweeny’s biography of Thomas Mackay, the “Laird of Rideau Hall,” along with the abbreviated history of Ottawa she tells. The piece captures qualities of the city I know best — a snowy community in the wilderness, tucked away behind the “curtain-like” falls that pour into the Ottawa River. Many thanks for including it.

Julien Russell Brunet

Re: “Finding Illich,” by Michael W. Higgins

I don’t recall ever reading on your letters page any comments regarding your humour or story proximities. I could not help but be amused, however, by the nearness of Michael W. Higgins’s “Finding Illich” and John Fraser’s “A Father’s Son.” On facing pages, we were given an incomprehensible polysyllabic ­gallimaufry of abstruse ideas and something so simple, straightforward, and easy to both read and understand.

Phil Palter

Re: “A Father’s Son,” by John Fraser

What a rare review! Honest to the core.

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