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One in five Canadians

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Re Record $100-Million CAMH Donation Marks Shift On Mental Health (Jan. 12): The $100-million donation to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is evidence that mental health research has come out of the shadows 12 years after the Kirby Report.

Yet progress on the research front should not be mistaken for the gaps in access and care that have been fuelled by structural stigma. While mental illness has a disease burden 1.5 times that of cancer and heart disease, the mental health share of health spending is in decline.

In 1979, it accounted for 11.3 per cent of Ontario's health spending; it now accounts for 6.5 per cent. Even with the Health Accord money that will flow to the provinces over the next 10 years, the increased funding only get us 16 per cent of the way to the 9-per-cent target recommended by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Let's hope the CAMH funding can be used to shine a light on treatment gaps and promising practices that can be spread and scaled to improve access and outcomes for people living with mental illness and addictions, and create the political and bureaucratic will to ensure that the one in five Canadians living with mental illness get equitable access to treatment and support.

Steve Lurie, executive director, CMHA Toronto

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Wages, inequity, anger

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When she raised the minimum wage, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne assumed that employees' hours would stay the same, and that's just not the case. However, protesting in front of Tim Hortons or other businesses will do employees no good either.

While I believe the protesters have good intentions, they will simply deter customers from going inside the business, which in turn will give these locations even more reason to cut employees' hours or eliminate positions altogether. As someone who is precariously employed and earning close to the minimum wage myself, I offer this advice: The best thing people can do is to frequent these businesses more often and support front-line employees.

Arthur Gallant, Hamilton

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In your editorial, A Steaming Cup Of Reality (Jan. 9), you state: "A drastic rise in wages must be met with an equal response. Stealing tips isn't acceptable [great point], but raising prices or cutting employee benefits and hours, or a combination of both, is an acceptable response – regardless of the personal wealth of the employer." It is reprehensible that The Globe and Mail supports this strategy.

The whole purpose of increasing the minimum wage is to ensure that workers at the lower end of the wage spectrum are not exploited too much by their employers. Without wage laws, who knows how low employers would go?

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An employer that cuts its workers' hours or benefits in response to being mandated to increase wages to the legislated minimum is clearly defeating the purpose of the increase in the minimum wage.

Robby Bernstein, Toronto

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Homeless in Canada

Re The Blame Game Will Not Solve Toronto's Homelessness (Jan. 10): The crisis in homelessness is not a "devilishly knotty problem." It is a direct result of government disinvestment in affordable housing over the past 25 years. As a result, Canada has a mere 4 per cent social housing. Compare this to Western Europe, where it's 23- to 40-per-cent of total stock.

Today most people lose their housing in Ontario because they can't afford it. A recent study of low-income tenants facing eviction at the Landlord and Tenant Board found almost half were spending more than 50 per cent of their monthly income on rent, putting them at high risk of homelessness.

Homelessness is about poverty. It's about a lack of affordable housing. It will take all levels of government to end it.

Tracy Heffernan, provincial director, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)

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Addressing youth homelessness by providing safe housing, coupled with supportive programs and counselling to enable success in the work force would enable us to "break the cycle." Early intervention is the key to solving our homeless crisis, not providing shelters which are simply revolving doors.

Helen Smith, Victoria

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Fight for death

Re Faith-Based Care Poses Challenge To Assisted Death (Jan. 12): There is no such thing as "faith based" medical care. Medicine is based on science. Faith is based on religious beliefs. Why should we allow publicly funded hospitals to impose their religious views on tax-paying citizens and refuse to provide health care such as assisted dying?

The suffering caused to Ian Pope and other dying patients is unconscionable. We should respect the religious beliefs and autonomy of individuals but not those imposed by institutions. The boards of all these hospitals should be fired and religion taken out of public health care.

Derryck Smith, Vancouver

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Just wondering …

Re Loblaw Serves Up Some Baloney (Jan. 11): If Loblaw has been jacking up the price of bread for so many years, something it has admitted to, why doesn't it cost less now? Shouldn't the price be lower, since Loblaw admitted to overcharging for 14 years?

Kathleen Hopkins, Summerside, PEI

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Reclaim your brain

CEO Jill Birch is right when she says, "If you can't make the time or find the resources to learn how to be a better leader, you shouldn't be leading" (Leadership Advice Goes Beyond 140 Characters – Report on Business, Jan. 10). Lack of time is an excuse used by many to justify their addiction to busy-ness that yields no real, tangible results.

Leaders, put down your devices and reclaim your brain.

Lisa Cooke, Markham, Ont.

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I commend the investors who are urging Apple to play a role in curbing smartphone addiction (A Strong Signal – front page, Jan. 9). We also need intervention through other avenues, including health-care providers and educators. The cellphone ban in schools being considered in France would be a good start.

What is fascinating with all of the (welcome and overdue) discussion around smartphone use is that we have passively allowed these devices to infiltrate our lives to the very core. They have a profound and negative affect on our family life, social life, mental health, our ability to learn and focus – and on top of it all, we are giving corporations a pass to bombard us with more advertising messages than ever.

Never mind the effect AI will have on our species, we have already allowed machines to take us over.

Mary Lapner, Ottawa

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