Dr. Lukács goes to Ottawa (op-ed)

 

Yesterday, Dr. Gábor Lukács, Air Passenger Rights Advocate, went to Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa to present his arguments in the case Delta Air Lines Inc. v. Gábor Lukács (SCC case summary & factums). Dr. Lukács is a respondent for this case because he won in the Federal Court of Appeal (CBC news) in September 2016. And then Delta won the right to appeal that FCA ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada in February 2017. (note: you can watch the hearing webcast video archive (~3 hours) to get a closer look.)

As Dr. Lukács put it in the 2016 CBC news interview,

“The underlying issue is, can you stand up for your neighbour? For the weak? For those who may already be disadvantaged in some way in society?

I first interviewed Dr. Lukács in August 2013 for the video report and article “Halifax mathematician gets bumped Air Canada passengers $200, $400, or $800 compensation“. During this 4+ years, I’m still amazed that a regular Canadian non-lawyer (math professor/researcher by training) has volunteered so much of his free time in helping others. And sometimes even risking being sued (and actually being) by airlines which have teams of lawyers and money.

To me, it was great to be able to video interview Dr. Lukács right inside the Supreme Court gown room where lawyers prepare their formal court attires. At the end of the hearing yesterday, it was nice to see lawyers from both sides and Dr. Lukács shook hands. I believe parties from both sides can violently disagree with each others’ ideas and submissions but it is nice to be civil after arguments are heard.

Over four years later, I still find the following 2013 answers given by Dr. Lukács very illuminating and insightful of why he spend so much of his free time in helping the Canadian flying public,

“Upon hearing the interviewer suggesting this delay compensation [$200, $400, $800 from Air Canada] should be named after Lukács, similar to mathematical theorems were named after Euclid or Gauss, Lukács paused to think for a moment and then thoughtfully insisted that,

“… it doesn’t matter where it was me or somebody else who got those [air passenger] rights. What is important [is] that those rights are put in place. And that people will now have better treatment. It doesn’t matter it was me, or my neighbour, or my friend or you, or that person in another city who made those changes. For me, it’s a question of I’ve learned enough about airlines to know that something are just wrong and against the law. And when I happened to see that, like in the case of what happened in Ottawa airport, I cannot just walk by and do nothing. I feel a responsibility.

Knowledge gives some responsibility. When you know that something is wrong, and you have quite a good idea of how to fix it, that does impose on you some level of moral responsibility, social responsibility. And so the issue of air passenger rights needs a face in Canada. I don’t see myself as a full-time passenger rights advocate, I am a mathematician after all. But certainly, I know that I am able to bring, through the agency, to the Canadian public some prospectives & arguments that benefit everybody. So I do it.””

Concluding thoughts

For years, I’ve gained inspirations from this one particular quote I LOVE“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” by Margaret Mead.

Seeing what Dr. Lukács has been trying to achieve by himself, it seems to me we sometimes doesn’t even need “a small group … people“. At times, all we need is one person to try to make a difference for the better in our increasingly perilous world. Do what each of us can, in the best way we know how. Success is never guaranteed but we and no one else can blame ourselves after we try the hardest we can.

P.S. Have a watch again of the action inside the Supreme Court yesterday.

Justice Russell Brown asks Dr. Gábor Lukács Questions during Supreme Court case with Delta

P.P.S. I’ve always found the political comedy-drama “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington“, a film is about a newly appointed United States Senator who fights against a corrupt political system, insightful and illuminating. As I get older, I find I’m not naive enough to ignore the bad but I’m more willing & eager to look for the good each and everyone of us can do in our own area of interest and competence.

There is no reason you or I can’t be our own “Mr. Smith”, “Dr. Lukács”, … and going to our own “Washington”, “Ottawa”, … which to me stands for ideals we strive to achieve.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Speech

P.P.P.S. Speaking about theorems being named after mathematicians, I still hope Dr. Lukács’ Air Passenger Rights work won’t slow down his mathematics research as I hope to see a math theorem bearing his name one of these days.

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