Dr. Lukács goes to Ottawa (op-ed)

Thursday, 5 October, 2017

 

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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Delta Air Lines Inc. v. Gábor Lukács – Supreme Court of Canada hearing webcast video archive

Thursday, 5 October, 2017

Supreme Court of Canada has made the hearing webcast video archive (all ~3 hours) of Delta Air Lines Inc. v. Gábor Lukács (summary, parties, factums) – available to watch online.

Also have a watch (with video) of my previous reports
* “Air Passenger Rights Advocate interview post “Delta Air Lines Inc. v. Gábor Lukács” Supreme Court case oral arguments
* “Air Passenger Rights Advocate interview in advance of Supreme Court case with Delta Air Lines


Air Passenger Rights Advocate interview post “Delta Air Lines Inc. v. Gábor Lukács” Supreme Court case oral arguments

Wednesday, 4 October, 2017

Air Passenger Rights Advocate interview at Supreme Court post Dr. Gábor Lukács' oral arguments - thumbnail

Dr. Gábor Lukács, Air Passenger Rights Advocate, presented his oral arguments at the Supreme Court of Canada for the first time. Have a watch of a video clip of Justice Russell Brown asking Dr. Gábor Lukács questions during the Supreme Court hearing.

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

The following is an interview with Dr. Lukacs soon after the hearing finished while he was still at the Supreme Court of Canada when everything were still fresh in his mind. Some linked timecodes and rough notes are included but all notes are rough, and the video is the real authority of what were said.

Air Passenger Rights Advocate interview at Supreme Court post Dr. Gábor Lukács’ oral arguments

0:00 Reporter Kempton Lam (KL) thanks Dr. Gabor Lukacs (GL) for doing the interview. GL talks about where he is located.
0:30 [KL:] How do you feel right now after appearing in front of the 9 Supreme Court Justices?
1:03 [GL:] Particularly impressed by Justice Malcolm Rowe.
1:58 [GL:] Also impressed by how respectful the hearing was. And how interested the judges were in the case.
2:14 [GL:] On a personal level …
2:50 [KL:] The Judges’ probing questions and pointed comments/observations fascinated me, can you talk about your experiences? How do you feel about the case itself after the hearing?
4:27 [GL:] I think the star of the day is the Amicus Curiae Mr. Benjamin Zarnett.
4:37 [GL:] Also very impressed by Byron Williams, Counsel for Council of Canadians with Disabilities able to achieve in 5 minutes.
5:04 [KL:] I try to clarify if I had the right Amicus Curiae Mr. Benjamin Zarnett in mind. (note: I did)
6:15 [KL:] My impression of Amicus Curiae’s arguments and I ask GL to share his take.
6:53 [KL:] How do you feel about your own presentation? What is your main take away?
7:54 [GL:] Cover about 2/3 of points want to cover. Happy with being able to “roll with the blows” (answer questions asked and get along with the line of arguments).
8:28 [KL:] What do you feel about Delta’s presentation and arguments? To me as a layman, it feels like the two Delta lawyers were kinda speechless (in a bad way) and weren’t able to answer Judges’ questions well.
9:10 [GL:] Delta’s lawyers didn’t seem to be handling the situations well. Lacking a big picture thinking of what is the case about.
9:31 [GL:] Two moments of the hearing.
11:50 [KL:] While this is not an exact quote, I ask GL to comment on what one justice said, “… I think the rule of law just died a little bit.” which was quite memorable.
12:46 [KL:] Was it during presentations by CTA or Delta lawyers?
13:10 [KL:] Your take on CTA’s legal presentation and performance during the hearing.
15:14 [KL:] 3-5 key legal take aways (questions asked by Judges, etc) that you can share with us?
17:00 [KL:] We will talk in coming days. At the end you shook hands with all the other lawyers. How do you feel now the case is with the justices now?

As a mark of civility of Dr. Lukacs and all the lawyers arguing as best and hard as they can for their views, they shook hands after the hearing was finished.

Dr. Gábor Lukács & lawyers shook hands after Supreme Court hearing

References:
1) 20+ downloadable PDF files relating to SCC File No. 37276.
2) Factums on appeals are available online from the Supreme Court of Canada:
http://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/info/af-ma-eng.aspx?cas=37276

P.S. In advance of Dr. Lukacs presenting his oral arguments today, this reporter interviewed him at length and you can have a watch/listen to that interview.

Interview Dr. Gabor Lukacs re Delta Air Lines Supreme Court case


Air Passenger Rights Advocate interview in advance of Supreme Court case with Delta Air Lines

Tuesday, 3 October, 2017

Interview Dr. Gabor Lukacs re Delta Air Lines Supreme Court case

Here is my 2017/Oct/02 Audio interview with Dr. Gabor Lukacs, Air Passenger Rights Advocate, talking about his Supreme Court of Canada case with Delta Air Lines. Here are some rough notes and timecodes (link points) in the interview.

0:00 Independent reporter Kempton [K] asked Dr. Gabor Lukacs [G], Air Passenger Rights Advocate, how is he feeling two days before he appears in front of Supreme Court of Canada Judges?
0:49 [K:] Any special preparation one day before your first Supreme Court appearance? (Yes, G is scheduled to teach a match class Tuesday morning!)
1:20 [G:] Teaching twice a week this term helps my public speaking skills.
2:13 [K:] Not a good idea to lecture the justices? G explains how is it like appearing in front of Supreme Court justices.
4:25 [K:] Briefly explain what this case with Delta is about? And your role?
5:25 G gives a great analogy using a speeding car driving 160km/h down the highway. Who can complain about it?
6:35 G explains Federal Court of Appeal sided with his reasoning and ruled against the CTA (Canadian Transportation Agency) and said it was unreasonable to dismiss the complain.
7:15 G talks about the various PDF files (see reference) filed by him, Delta and other parties. [K’s apologies here re misunderstanding of the pages of documents filed.]
8:22 G explains to K an Amicus Curiae (an impartial adviser) is hired by the Supreme Court and paid for by Attorney General of Canada. And four interveners: ATTORNEY GENERAL (ONTARIO), CANADIAN TRANSPORT AGENCY, INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION, COUNCIL OF CANADIANS WITH DISABILITIES.
9:32 [K:] So the COUNCIL OF CANADIANS WITH DISABILITIES agrees with you and Delta against you. Are there some against you and with you?
11:17 [K:] So roughly how much time have you put into preparing for the case?
13:02 [K:] Have you been to the Supreme Court as a tourist before? How will you feel when you step into the court for the first time arguing a case?
14:30 [K:] How long will it take you to argue the case in front of the Supreme Court justices? [G talks about the Supreme Court proceedings on Wednesday and the various potential outcomes and scenarios.]
17:32 [G:] “What we are dealing with here is a cat which is claiming to be a lion (which is the Canadian Transportation Agency). They have been trying to pretend they are a court.” [K:] “You are not a fan of the CTA? :)”
18:01 [K:] Do you get to reply on top of your 40 minutes presentation time [before the Supreme Court justices]?
19:36 [G:] “This is the first time I’m the respondent! I’m usually the appellant.” [K:] You are usually the underdog in front of the court!
20:05 [G:] [The Federal Court of Appeal got things right substantially.] “We are dealing here with preventive power …”
20:38 G talks about Canadian Transportation Agency recently commencing an investigation of the Air Transat case based on media report without receiving any formal complain.
21:03 [K:] Since I first interviewed you in August 2013, more than four years ago, for the Air Canada case where you helped bumped passengers get $200, $400, or $800 compensation, how does it feel with your hours of hard work getting you to the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court of the land on Wednesday (Oct 4th, 2017)? [K: Great answers that go into some wonderful insight. I may try to transcript some of the answers when I can find some time.]
25:22 [K:] If you accidentally run into the Minister of Transport, The Honourable Marc Garneau, in the airport and get stuck with him in an elevator, what would you tell him in 30 seconds?
26:43 [K:] Taking my independent reporter hat off for a moment to speak as an air passenger and wishing G the best of luck.

References:
1) 20+ downloadable PDF files relating to SCC File No. 37276.
2) Via Air Passenger Rights’ FB page:
//The hearing is open for the public, and will be webcast live [Wednesday Oct 4th, 2017]:
http://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/info/webcast-webdiffusion-eng.aspx?cas=37276
THE ISSUE
The Court is called upon to decide whether Lukacs can complain about Delta’s practice of discriminating against “large” passengers.
BACKGROUND
The Canadian Transportatoin Agency (Agency) dismissed the complaint because Lukacs is not “large.”
The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Agency’s decision as being unreasonable: the purpose of the complaint is to prevent harm to the public, and not to seek individual benefits.
SUBMISSIONS OF THE PARTIES
Factums on appeals are available online:
http://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/info/af-ma-eng.aspx?cas=37276 //


Canadians will be able to identify sex as ‘X’ on their passports beginning Aug 31

Friday, 25 August, 2017

Good move by the Canadian government in announcing the news to implementing the change, “Canadians will soon be able to identify sex as ‘X’ on their passports Transgender travellers and those who do not identify as male or female, can check off an ‘X’ box“.

It is time for Canada to catch up with up-to-date science. Similar to what some other countries (Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Nepal, Denmark, India and Pakistan (Ref The Economist video)) have ALREADY been doing!

Too many people commenting on this news on CBC Facebook page need to update their science knowledge from decades old invalidated science. Quoting World Health Organization, United Nation re “Gender and Genetics”:

Most women are 46XX and most men are 46XY. […] In addition, some males are born 46XX due to the translocation of a tiny section of the sex determining region of the Y chromosome. Similarly some females are also born 46XY due to mutations in the Y chromosome.

P.S. Don’t choose to remain ignorant in face of science from reputable source like World Health Organization, United Nation.

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 10.44.37 AM - Canadians can choose gender as X

Reference: (The Economist, July 11, 2017) Which countries allow an option other than male or female on passports?


U of Toronto engineering researchers mend broken hearts with expanding tissue bandage

Friday, 25 August, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 9.56.43 AM - New biomaterial developed by U of T engineering researchers could be delivered through minimally invasive surgery

Very cool news. Excerpts from University of Toronto news “New biomaterial developed by U of T engineering researchers could be delivered through minimally invasive surgery” (emphasis, extra note & links added) (for an in-depth look, see technical article, Nature Materials “Flexible shape-memory scaffold for minimally invasive delivery of functional tissues” ),

A team of U of T engineering researchers is mending broken hearts with an expanding tissue bandage a little smaller than a postage stamp.

Repairing heart tissue destroyed by a heart attack or medical condition with regenerative cells or tissues usually requires invasive open-heart surgery. But now biomedical engineering Professor Milica Radisic [K’s note: including links to PubMed listed articles] and her colleagues have developed a technique that lets them use a small needle to inject a repair patch, without the need to open up the chest cavity.

Radisic’s team are experts in using polymer scaffolds to grow realistic 3D slices of human tissue in the lab. One of their creations, AngioChip, is a tiny patch of heart tissue with its own blood vessels – the heart cells even beat with a regular rhythm. Another one of their innovations snaps together like sheets of Velcro™.

Such lab-grown tissues are already being used to test potential drug candidates for side-effects, but the long-term goal is to implant them back into the body to repair damage.

“If an implant requires open-heart surgery, it’s not going to be widely available to patients,” says Radisic.

She says that after a myocardial infarction – a heart attack – the heart’s function is reduced so much that invasive procedures like open-heart surgery usually pose more risks than potential benefits.

“It’s just too dangerous,” she says.

Miles Montgomery, a PhD candidate in Radisic’s lab, has spent nearly three years developing a patch that could be injected, rather than implanted. [K’s note: more news on Miles]

“At the beginning, it was a real challenge,” he says. “There was no template to base my design on, and nothing I tried was working. But I took these failures as an indication that I was working on a problem worth solving.”

After dozens of attempts, Montgomery found a design that matched the mechanical properties of the target tissue and had the required shape-memory behaviour: as it emerges from the needle, the patch unfolds itself into a bandage-like shape.

[…]

The scaffold is built out of the same biocompatible, biodegradable polymer used in the team’s previous creations. Over time, the scaffold will naturally break down, leaving behind the new tissue.

The team also showed that injecting the patch into rat hearts can improve cardiac function after a heart attack: damaged ventricles pumped more blood than they did without the patch.

“It can’t restore the heart back to full health, but if it could be done in a human, we think it would significantly improve quality of life,” says Radisic.

There is still a long way to go before the material is ready for clinical trials. Radisic and her team are collaborating with researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children to assess the long-term stability of the patches, as well as whether the improved cardiac function can be maintained.

They have also applied for patents on the invention and are exploring the use of the patch in other organs, such as the liver.

“You could customize this platform, adding growth factors or other drugs that would encourage tissue regeneration,” says Radisic. “I think this is one of the coolest things we’ve done.”

Injectable tissue patch could help repair damaged organs – U of T Engineering


Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau, Please help free #LiuXiaobo’s wife #LiuXia

Sunday, 16 July, 2017

2017 My two questions to the PM.png

So far Canada has very muted responses to Liu Xiaobo‘s death (on Thursday July 13, 2017) and his wife Liu Xia‘s continual house arrest. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted she is “terribly sad” and issued a strongly worded written statement including the words but, as far as I know, nothing was said in-person on camera by neither Minister Freeland nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself. Here is an excerpt from the written statement (download a PDF file with my highlights and notes),

In particular, my thoughts go to Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, herself a tremendous symbol of courage and poise, who remains under house arrest,” Freeland said. “We continue to call for the release of all political prisoners.

I have, so far, been unable to find any evidence of Canadian reporters asking Trudeau, on camera, about his view of Liu Xiaobo‘s death and his wife Liu Xia‘s continual house arrest. Since Mr. Trudeau was visiting Calgary yesterday for Stampede, I thought I would try my best to ask him a question myself. I thought, on the day of Liu Xiaobo‘s funeral (yesterday, Saturday, July 15), it was the least I could do to pay my deepest respect to Xiaobo and did my small part to try to shine a light on Xia‘s continual house arrest and get the PM to do more help free her.

Here is a video of my attempts in asking Trudeau. I have included some additional footage so you can see my questions in context of the crowd.

I asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau my first question as an independent reporter. For my second try, I took off my reporter hat and paid my respect to Liu Xiaobo by making a request to my Prime Minister as a Canadian citizen with Hong Kong heritage. On the sady day of Liu Xiaobo‘s funeral, when I’ve read reports of Chinese government sending secret police to pretend to be his best friends (many were too young to be his “best friends”) at the funeral, reports of his wife forced to burn his body to ashes and spread the ashes into the sea so no one can pay his grave site proper respect, I thought the least I could do to pay my respect to Xiaobo and did my small part was to try to shine a light on freeing Xia from her continual house arrest.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Please help free #LiuXiaobo’s wife #LiuXia!

20170716 Funeral news pix 03 - closeup

Photos credit: HK01 July 15th report, “劉曉波告別式:國保疑混入充數 被監控好友證無一「好友」出席”

20170716 Funeral news pix 04 - spreading ashes at sea

Photo of Liu Xiaobo’s ashes being spread at sea. Photo credit: Tweet of 吾尔开希 Wu’er Kaixi. Here is a Medium article “Murdered but Undefeated” by Wu’er Kaixi that I hope to read soon.

P.S. As reported by Radio Canada International (RCI), Governor General David Johnston was “on a state visit to China from July 10 to 14, accompanied by a large delegation of Canadian politicians and business leaders“.

Further quoting the RCI report, [emphasis added]

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Johnston in Beijing on Thursday, urging both countries to expand cooperation in such areas as trade, law enforcement, technology and culture, and launch negotiations on a free trade agreement at an early date, reported the official Chinese Xinhua agency, which had no mention of Liu’s passing.

Given the Chinese government’s self-proclaimed meaningless “rule-of-law” which lead to the shameful premature death of Mr. Liu Xiaobo and continual house arrest of Liu Xia, any discussion of cooperation in law enforcement is absolutely premature. How can we be sure any cooperation in law enforcement is absolutely Charter of Rights and Freedoms compliant under the current Chinese judicial regime?

July 16, 2017 update: Foreign Affairs Minister @cafreeland tweeted, “Canada continues to call on the Chinese govt to release #LiuXia and offer her safe passage out of China, according to her wishes. #LiuXiaobo” at 5:26 PM – 16 Jul 2017 from London, England

(audio) BBC World Service Newshour, “Ai Weiwei says Western countries failed Liu Xiaobo

Guardian, July 15, “Liu Xiaobo: dissident’s friends angry after hastily arranged sea burial

NYT, July 15, “Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Dissident and Nobel Laureate, Is Cremated

China cremated its only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, on Saturday, but watchful officials allowed only his widow and a few other mourners to bid farewell to the man who was also the country’s most famous political prisoner.

Later in the day, Mr. Liu’s ashes were lowered into the sea in a simple ceremony, ensuring that there would be no grave on land to serve as a magnet for protests against the Communist Party, especially on the traditional tomb-sweeping day every April.

Maclean’s, July 14, “Ottawa’s despicable display in China – Terry Glavin on the death of Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and Canada’s efforts to wine and dine the prisoner’s tormentors

It would be hard to imagine a more obscene display of Canada’s slavish relationship with China’s depraved Communist Party regime: The very moment imprisoned democracy activist and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo died under heavy guard on a hospital bed in the northeast city of Shenyang on Thursday, a beaming Governor General David Johnston was posing for photographs at the opulent Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, shaking hands with Chinese tyrant Xi Jinping, Liu’s jailer, and tormentor.

It was all so very chummy. […]

Liu’s death marks the first time a Nobel peace prize winner has died behind bars since the pacifist Carl von Ossietzky died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1938.

xx


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