Winter 2017
Letters to the Editor

On banning corporal punishment, compliments to our photo contest contestants, and praises for our faculty and alumni

Infographic ranking the top 5 stories of the Autumn 2016 issue by number of website views and then by number of Facebook likes

Infographic: The Office of Gilbert Li


Ban Corporal Punishment

John Barber’s interesting article “The Hidden Epidemic” (Autumn 2016), about Prof. Esme Fuller-Thomson’s important work on adverse childhood experience, mentions section 43 of the Criminal Code, which gives parents and caregivers a defense against assault when corporal punishment is used against children.

Fifty nations have banned the use of corporal punishment of children. To our shame, Canada is not among them. Among the 94 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, number six is the repeal of section 43. Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to implement all 94. He could start by repealing section 43, bringing Canada in line with countries around the world that recognize the harm done by the use of corporal punishment.

Ruth Miller
BA 1960 UC, MEd 1981, Toronto


Winning Shots

Splendid composition marks every one of the winning photos in the magazine’s “Take Your Best Shot!” contest (Autumn 2016). The viewer’s eye is drawn into the heart of each photo. Well done!

Carol Shetler
BA 1981 UTSC, Oshawa, Ontario


Questions about Biotechnology

Re: “Hungry for Hazardous Waste” (Autumn 2016), I appreciate that U of T Magazine is trying to positively report on the valuable research taking place at the university. However, I think it is vitally important for a university magazine to promote critical thinking and ask questions of research, rather than simply accepting the claims of researchers at face value.

For instance, are there direct risks of this application of biotechnology? Are there uncertainties about how the organism will affect the ecosystem into which it is released, and the organism’s potential to evolve in unforeseen ways?

Why is a biotechnological approach needed? Are there lower-tech approaches that would be equally effective at the remediation in question? How are the bio-safety and bioethics questions related to this research being considered and addressed?

I am not opposed to the use of biotechnology, and this case may represent a very helpful use. However, I am opposed to the lack of critical thought in this type of reporting about biotechnology.

Matthew Legge
BA 2006 Victoria, Richmond Hill, Ontario

Prof. Elizabeth Edwards responds:

Thank you for your important questions and I am happy to try to answer and clear up any confusion.

Biotechnology refers to any use of living systems to develop or make products, but does not necessarily mean that organisms are genetically or otherwise modified. In our case, we are using naturally occurring microbes found in soil and groundwater. We grow them in the lab to boost the numbers of the most active benzene-degrading microbes, which allows them to do the same job as the resident microbial population, but more quickly. Since these more active organisms only grow on petroleum hydrocarbons, as soon as the contamination is gone, they will die back.

We are also taking the steps to obtain Environment Canada approval of our enriched cultures. My partners at SiREM and I have done this previously for another culture of microbes for treating chlorinated-solvent contaminated wastes, which we market under the name KB-1. We worked with Environment Canada to ensure our cultures comply with the same regulations as other specialized microbial cultures such as those used to make beer and cheese.

In terms of alternatives, our approach is actually the lowest-tech option possible, other than to do nothing and let nature take its course. Conventional treatment requires extensive digging and dumping and just moves the contamination from one location to another, whereas bioremediation actually destroys the contaminant in place. As with any remediation effort, regardless of the technology, careful monitoring is required to understand what is happening to the chemicals below the ground.


Understanding Crime

I was in one of the first classes taught at U of T Mississauga by Prof. Contreras, who was profiled in “The Inner Lives of Gang Members” (Autumn 2016). He was a great professor, and the course – a senior seminar on drugs in the city, if memory serves – was very compelling. By the end of the semester, the knowledge I’d gained made me look more analytically at crime and the sociological forces that can sustain, produce or circumvent criminal actions.

Dan Davis
BA 2015 UTM, Oakville, Ontario


Women in Engineering

More women are now in engineering, which is great. But, as Kirsty Duncan points out in “Bringing Science Back” (Autumn 2016), we need to be forceful about our abilities and our desire to succeed, even if there are professors or colleagues – male or female – who try to tell us that we cannot do it. Women need to have a great deal of confidence, and should avoid negative people in their life and career. I encourage more women to pursue science and engineering.

Mariana Grinblat
MEng 1986, Toronto



Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s minister of science, graduated with a BA from University College at U of T in 1989, not 1986, as was reported in the Autumn 2016 issue (“Bringing Science Back”).


Write to us!

U of T Magazine welcomes letters at All letters may be edited for clarity, civility and length.


Our readers tweeted about some of the impressive people profiled in our most recent issue:

On Science Minister Kirsty Duncan:

Great profile of @ScienceMin in @uoftmagazine. Her dedication to discovery science & #womeninSTEM is inspiring!
Plus she’s run eight Boston marathons. Props and mad respect for her as a scientist and as a runner!

Betty Zou @BisousZou


Nice opening my email and seeing @KirstyDuncanMP

Celina C-Chavannes @MPCelina


On our tribute to psychiatry professor Paula Goering, who died recently due to cancer:

Great U of T Magazine piece on a remarkable person.

David Gratzer @DavidGratzer


On Robin Mazumder, the occupational therapy grad who tries to make urban life a little better:

Just love this guy! Watch out for him: a game changer, leader and visionary!

Skye Barbic @skye_barbic


This reader also loved the Teabot, created by PhD student Rehman Merali:

It’s things like this that ensure I remain a proud alumna. Thx for making my day @myteabot #UofTea #prioriteas

Niya B @destiniya


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