Today’s letters: Ottawa bridges can be ‘built back better’

Saturday, June 12: On bridges and rail; the Catholic Church and residential schools; and the joie de vivre of les Canadiens. Write to us at letters@ottawacitizen.com

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Ottawa’s bridges can be ‘built back better’

Re: How to get people across the Ottawa River — and save our heritage bridges, June 7.

Finally, someone has made some practical suggestions about traffic, public transit and bridges in Ottawa-Gatineau. George Bruce Levine suggests a coordinated and strategic approach to the problem, rather than one where the National Capital Commission, the city of Ottawa and the city of Gatineau work in isolation to try to solve the problem of getting people back and forth across the Ottawa River in the most efficient, least costly and least disruptive way possible.

Rather than blasting an expensive tunnel under Sparks Street or turning Wellington Street into a dead zone like the current Sparks Street, it would be refreshing if the three parties got together and made the best use of existing and planned infrastructure.

I agree that traffic would be least disrupted by permanently closing the Alexandra Bridge to cars and turning it into a tramway-cycling-pedestrian crossing only. The old train bed leading to the bridge on the Ottawa side is still mostly intact and currently used only as a parking lot. An STO Ottawa terminus in the basement of the new addition to the Château Laurier could easily be incorporated into the latter’s plans, if the Senate doesn’t want to give up its meeting rooms in the former museum of photography to accommodate a Wellington Street terminus. Moreover, such a tramway system would enhance the NCC’s current nebulous plans to modernize or replace the Alexandra Bridge.


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As for an STO tramway on the Prince of Wales Bridge, that would be a great improvement compared to the current derelict condition of that structure.

A comprehensive and coherent transit, traffic, cycling and pedestrian plan for the Ottawa-Gatineau region would also be a great candidate for the federal government’s infrastructure fund that is earmarked for “building back better.”

M. Sharon Jeannotte, Ottawa

A brilliant idea for our bridges and trains

Wow! What a brilliant idea architect George Bruce Levine puts forth for Ottawa’s bridges and trains and the future of moving us across Ottawa and Gatineau. I could just picture it as I read the article. It touches all the bases. Let’s do it.

Arlene MacDonald, Ottawa


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A graceful plan for a graceful bridge

George Bruce Levine has suggested an excellent solution to the problem of what to do with the Alexandra Bridge. It is a gracefully constructed piece of heritage linking parks and museums on either side of the Ottawa River and mustn’t be redesigned to accommodate increased automobile traffic.

Indeed, as the pandemic has proven, Ottawans will walk and cycle if space is provided. Converting the Alexandra into a non-automobile venue would provide a beautiful carbon-free gateway into Gatineau and Ottawa as well as accommodating the new Gatineau tramway. Let’s hope politicians and planners are listening.

Julie Newlands, Ottawa

When governments get together, what can go wrong?


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George Bruce Levine presents a common-sense, affordable, less disruptive and far more practical approach to integrating Gatineau’s STO proposed tramway into Ottawa’s transit system. So obviously all “leaders” involved will ignore the idea completely and proceed with the thinking that we’ve come to expect from our political class, which is little to none, before launching into the next poorly planned, implemented and over-budget transit debacle.

Hey, but we now have the additional brain power of the NCC and Gatineau city hall. What could possibly go wrong?

Ian Stewart, Ottawa

Local politicians look after their own

Re: Coun. Tierney apologizes for ‘inadvertent’ leak to media of confidential memo, June 9.


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Tim Tierney is the latest politician to be given an easy pass for what in private industry and government would be considered grounds for dismissal, or at the very least strong sanctions.

Tierney has confessed to “a mistake made in good faith” and council took him at his word, promptly cancelling its investigation of the leak of information to a journalist. Perhaps, like Liberal MP Will Amos, his problem was “stress and poor time management” — seemingly grounds for mercy regardless of the offence.

The same politicians who demand resignations for much lesser and imagined transgressions from their opponents, quickly forgive and forget when it’s one of their own.

Andy Pridham, Orléans

A splash of optimism on the ice


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Re: The Montreal Canadiens — artists of inspiration and vessels of hope, June 10.

All those superlatives about the Montreal Canadiens took me back to living in Montreal before that fabled game in 1971. I jumped on the description that, “wondrously, defiantly, audaciously, improbably, the Montreal Canadiens are making a run for the Stanley cup.”

When I taught in Montreal in Ville d’Anjou, the demi-gods of hockey, whom I well remember, were the rocket and the pocket rocket; Jean and Guy; and Jacques — often carrying Montreal, Quebec and all of Canada to  stunning wins. Imagine, 24 Stanley cups.

It is a different game now with all the strong American teams, so if Montreal wins it will be a prayer to the Gods on high and a thumbs-down to all we have endured in the last year and more. Go, Habs, Go.


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Mary-Jane Burns, Ottawa

One way to make the Catholic Church apologize

Re: Letter: What would make the Pope apologize, June 10.

A letter-writer asks: “What would it take for the Pope to apologize for the unspeakable atrocities by the residential schools in Canada?” Perhaps removing all Canadian tax exemptions and treating the church as the giant corporation that it actually is would be a good start.

Charles Morton, Manotick

Trudeau is trying to divert responsibility

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appeals for the Catholic Church to apologize are little more than an attempt to minimize the atrocities sanctioned by the government.

The main reason we have government is to protect us. The state has the monopoly on violence to maintain order. This means when any individual or organization acts in an outrageous manner, it is up to the government to act immediately. The church did not have such a monopoly during the era of residential schools.


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The federal government has an interest in minimizing its role on this issue to avoid having to pay reparations. This is why the Trudeau government is still fighting Indigenous compensation claims. By pointing the finger at the church, the hope is to divert the responsibility for reparations to it.

Abdurahman Ibrahim, Ottawa

Who’s to blame here, Prime Minister?

The Canadian government set up residential schools; used the RCMP to force Indigenous children into the schools; refused to send the deceased children’s bodies home; refused to provide markers for graves; refused to maintain the grave sites; and still hasn’t provided safe drinking water for all living Indigenous Peoples.

So the prime minister uses the distraction that the Pope didn’t apologize in the hopes that all will forget the past and present government’s role in all of this.


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Joe Zebarth, Ottawa

The church must practise what it preaches

As a Roman Catholic, I find it shamefully ironic that while our priests regularly encourage us to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our church will not do the same regarding the horrors of the Kamloops residential school.

The sacrament (confession and absolution of sins) is a way to face our faults and weaknesses, name them, be remorseful, be forgiven and  heal. Yet our own church will not do as it preaches. First Nations deserve a formal apology from Rome and from Canada’s bishops.

In a recent letter to the diocese on the topic, Archbishop Marcel Damphousse uses the word “reconciliation” four times in addressing the Kamloops residential school burials. He says, “Let us work together for true and lasting efforts to make real the reconciliation for which we all long.” Well, I say, stop the rhetoric. Make it real. Apologize.


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Allison Fagan, Kanata

Make June 21 a special day

The Catholic Church has been called on to step up and apologize for its role in the misguided federal policy of attempting to assimilate the Indigenous population by forcing children into residential schools. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald’s government may have encouraged that disastrous policy but it was perpetuated by every federal government of both political stripes for more than 100 years. Nor was this the only abuse of the Indigenous population — from the Beothuk genocide in Newfoundland to giving out smallpox-infected blankets, to the suppression of the North-West Rebellion, to name a few.

The time and climate is ripe for the prime minister to step up. June 21 is already recognized as National Indigenous Peoples Day. Make it a national holiday — to recognize Indigenous people and their contribution and sacrifices to Canada. Let’s really celebrate. Step up.


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Leif Schonberg, Osgoode

A tragedy across many eras

Re: Sir John A. wrong name for parkway in 2012, even more wrong today, June 3.

I have no strong view about the wisdom of removing statues of Sir John A. Macdonald. I’m all for it if it will help with much-needed healing and reconciliation.

But I would be interested in the views of Canada’s Indigenous communities: Is there a risk that targeting these statues (and school/street names etc.) will absolve successive leaders, both political and religious, who perpetuated this atrocity until late in the last century? Is there a better way to acknowledge that this was not a travesty of justice and human rights in one era, but a shameful, systemic wrong whose effects have endured?


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Elaine Lawson, Kanata

Don’t change historical names

Like many Canadians, I am sick and tired of the vandalism of statues across Canada and in particular the recent destruction of a statue in front of Ryerson University. These people should be charged with destruction of property.

On another note, the various name changes proposed for universities/roads should not be tolerated. These represent Canadian history and shouldn’t be altered under any circumstances.

Stan Painter, Kanata.

‘Colonization’ is too gentle a word

I think it is time to remove the world “colonization” from our history books and replace it with something that more closely describes the reality of what occurred. Perhaps “invasion” would be a more accurate word.


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Robert Broatch, Ottawa

Canada could lead in teaching about the past

Canada’s sad history with “Catholic” residential schools is but a single plate on an ugly, worldwide smorgasbord of human mistreatment that defines a horrible part of the 20th century.

I am not trying in any way to diminish the gravity of this legacy, but I dare you to find a world culture without similarly miserable tales to tell. It is a global problem.

Yes, do teach about the past, but do it so as to forge a better path forward for all of humanity. Canada could become a leader on this quest. Or not.

Thomas Brawn, Orléans

Delays in cancer surgery are killing people

Re: Ontario has a backlog of nearly 16 million medical services: Ontario Medical Association, June 9.


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A lovely neighbour on our street died last week, not from COVID-19, but because of COVID-19. Her scheduled cancer surgery had been postponed. Cancer kills more people than COVID-19. Surely in a city the size of Ottawa, arrangements could have been made to keep the surgical unit open in one hospital, allowing urgent cancer operations to continue.

Her throat tumour had continued to grow, eventually preventing her from swallowing. Radiation and chemo couldn’t help. The media and the medical unions have not given enough attention to this dreadful situation. It’s time to change and realize that certain medical operations can’t be put off and delayed. Lives are at stake.

Bob Ferguson, Ottawa

City’s tax breaks need explaining


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Re: Letter, Mayor, council hoodwinking us, May 31.

This letter and recent columns by Mark Sutcliffe and Randall Denley expose the ridiculous design of Ottawa’s so-called Community Improvement Program.

In the case of Hyatt Place Hotel, which just opened in Bells Corners, the numbers suggest tax relief for 10 years in the amount of $230,000 per year for a total tax rebate of $2.3 million. Moreover, there were tax-paying buildings on the re-developed site, so it looks like well over $300,000 per year will be removed from city revenues for 10 years. That shortfall will be passed on to those of us who do not qualify for nifty rebates.

No one on council, including ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli, has explained the thinking behind what looks like a reverse Robin Hood approach: Take from the poor and give it to a multi-billion dollar corporation to build a hotel within several  blocks of two other hotels.

Barry Wellar, Nepean


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