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Jan. 25, 2014, Toronto - We have a word for that which survives.


January 25, 2014 
By Peter Sells

We have a
word for that which survives.


Clemens, Pasteur, Joplin, Newton, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Euclid, Homer, Sun
Tsu, Ptolemy, Hammurabi and countless others, famous, infamous and anonymous,
left us the society we have in our stewardship today. Do we honour them?


parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, maybe even our great-grandparents if we
are so fortunate as to have known them, loved us or neglected us, taught us by
example – good or bad, guided us into our lives, and grew old. Out of
obligation, out of moral duty, out of love, out of respect, or in spite of
bygone wrongs, how do we care for them?

Today I
offer no answers. Just questions.

In times
of flux, which is to say in all times, we make changes out of technological
necessity, social responsibility, financial efficiency or to reflect moral
evolution. Our changes move society forward, but do not always deal with that
which we have inherited – legacy systems, legacy contracts, legacy buildings.
We did not allow existing restaurants or places of assembly to continue to
permit smoking on the premises, because there was no technical reason to do so.
Conversely, we did not impose seatbelt requirements on older vehicles that were
not designed to include them, because there was no technical method by which
this could be safely and uniformly accomplished.

Now we
are faced, once again, with a tragic loss of the precious lives of our learned
and respected seniors, lives that had already paid their dues in full. Some of
these lives would  have started on
horseback in 1920s rural Quebec, without any of the conveniences that we take
completely for granted today; therein lies a rustic legacy we have essentially
lost, a body of wisdom that will soon exist only in oral tradition and literature.

We have a
recent and tragic legacy to recognize and to confront. The obstacles are not
technical, that hurdle has been crossed. There is no obstacle preventing all
units in all seniors’ residences in Canada from being sprinklered, and all such
facilities being adequately staffed, beyond those obstacles that are financial
and bureaucratic, pure and simple.

Today I
offer no answers, because as often is the case, we already know the answers. We
have the knowledge, and through that knowledge we have the power. Do we lack
the wisdom to act?

How will
our grandchildren care for us? Will they have learned by our example what it
means to honour and respect us?

What is
the legacy that will survive us?

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