Letters for March 26, 2004

VSO headline was misleading

I am writing in response to the article in your March 9 edition entitle “Missionaries preaching marketing savvy.” As someone who has been involved with various international development agencies, including VSO, I am concerned by the headline writer’s confusion between the work done by independent international development organizations and that of religious missionaries.

The article profiled a couple to go overseas with VSO. The headline used two terms – missionary and preaching – which I believe to be inappropriate in this circumstance. Missionary organizations may do valuable work in many countries, but by a stadard dictionary definition, a mission is “a ministry commissioned by a religious organization to propogate its faith or carry on humanitarian work ”

A small amount of research would have revealed that organizations like VSO are not affiliated with religious institutions and take a very different approach to development work. The term missionary, in this case, is being taken out of context, if not used improperly. Volunteers with independent international development agencies do not “preach,” but approach their work with sensitivity, respect and a desire to learn as much as they teach.

Using these two terms gives the wrong impression of this agency and similar organizations in volunteer-sending circles. The fact is that missionary work uses a different approach and it is inaccurate and inappropriate to use the term mission when describing the work of VSO and other such groups.

Keri Abella,

Somerset Street W.

Editor’s Note: The headline was indeed inaccurate and inappropriate. We apologize.

Not all circuses are cruel to animals

This letter is in response to the comment left by Mr. Baxter, who seems to think that all circuses who do animal acts are alike. Sure, many circuses have been accused of cruelty to animals and of keeping their animals in unacceptable conditions.

As an animal lover, I find that deplorable, but I know that most of those have crooked administrations, more interested in making money than in taking proper care of their animals. But there are some good animal circuses, like Shriner’s, whose best interest is to take proper care of those animals. And they probably do.

Mr. Baxter says that animals shouldn’t be forced to do unnatural things, like jump through fire. Well, dogs aren’t born with the ability to fetch things on command, jump over hedges on command, or even dance on command. Yet the Superdogs do it all the time during their shows.

Are you going to say that the Superdogs shows should be banned?

Mr. Baxter wants people to go instead to more ‘progressive’ humans-only circuses. One big problem: are there any good ones around? Maybe, but they’re few and far between.

Circuses which don’t abuse animals (because they don’t have any) may be good theoretically, but if they don’t look like circuses, what’s the use?

Nevin Humphrey,


Development not appropriate

As has been pointed out in several of your stories and an editorial, putting up a 155-unit, nine-story building on the corner of Gladstone, Kent and Florence streets will degrade our neighbourhood and make it barely worth living here.

All anyone has to do is to consider 300 to 400 new neighbours plunked onto their street to see what problems will be created: overwhelming vehicular and pedestrian traffic, parking problems, the shadowing of adjacent homes and a blot on the horizon of everyone’s sight.

Such an irresponsible plan will jeopardize what is a sound, healthy and happy community that is based in a population of diverse ages, interests and occupations.

We are a community that relishes the mixed use currently in place. In the quarter mile that comprises our neighbourhood, we have home owners and renters, small businesses, several churches, two community centres and quick and easy access to main east/west, north/south arteries. We take great pride in keeping our properties neat and well-landscaped and are justifiably concerned about the negative consequences of over-crowding.

In her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, urban planning icon, Jane Jacobs, reminds us that we must plan to fit people, not plan to fill space. Neighbourhoods and citizens need to be listened to and they should decide the results they want for their communities.

Shannon Lee Mannion,

Florence Street