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Jan. 14: Helicopter ride a ‘big deal’? Plus other letters to the editor

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Helicopter ride a 'big deal'?

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Re Trudeau Denies Use Of Aga Khan's Private Helicopter Was Unethical (Jan. 13): A front-page headline in Friday's Globe and Mail makes a big deal about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's using his host's helicopter during a vacation which the story reports he tried to keep "secret."

Can we please take a Valium?

For the wealthy, this is the equivalent of sending a car to pick you up at the airport and no harm was done to Canadian taxpayers.

Meanwhile, on page three, you report that Justice Rosalie Abella of Canada's Supreme Court was named Global Jurist of the Year for her career commitment to human rights (Canadian Judge Named Global Jurist Of The Year On Record Of Human Rights, Dec. 13).

Do we really have to debate which story is more deserving of page one?

Brian Burke, Montreal


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What is most troubling about the Prime Minister's use of the Aga Khan's posh Caribbean digs and his private helicopter is not that Justin Trudeau and his family opted in for the perks but that he (and indeed his wife) failed to have the judgment to simply say, "No."

The problem is not so much availing himself of the benefit, but the character flaw in not recognizing that the benefit did not outweigh the costs: Those costs include the optics of entitlement, apparent and/or real conflicts of interests and, perhaps most tellingly, the obvious belief on his part that he could get away with it.

Whether it is the Prime Minister's innate character flaw or instead our failure as Canadians to hold those in positions of public trust to account, the fact that we find ourselves as a nation with a Prime Minister afflicted with the cancer of entitlement is a very poor outcome.

We must shake off the complacency – all of us: the public, the press and the powerful.

Joanna Gualtieri, Ottawa


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Re PM's Friendship With The Aga Khan Should Be Celebrated (Jan. 12): The Conservatives and the New Democratic Party, as well as the media, should be ashamed of themselves for trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill, and in the process casting aspersions on the Aga Khan.

Let's celebrate that our Prime Minister is friends with such a respected world figure. The Prime Minister's mistake was to think that he and his family could visit a long-time friend over the holidays without telling everyone where they were going, just as the other 99 per cent of us can.

I encourage Mr. Trudeau to take off his "down-filled sackcloth" and celebrate his friendship with this inspiring man and friend of Canada, the Aga Khan.

Patricia Montgomery, Newmarket, Ont.


One wonders: Did the Prime Minister collect his access fee from the Aga Khan?

Ken Johnson, Lindsay, Ont.


AI Institute? Think national

Re AI Is The Future, And Canada Must Seize It (Report on Business, Jan. 7): Canada has a rich history of research into artificial intelligence (AI), going back more than 40 years.

Globally, we punch well above our weight. For example, in the areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the Computer Science Rankings site places the University of Alberta third, the University of Toronto seventh, and includes three other Canadian universities in the top 50.

Two machine-learning areas that are generating the most excitement today, deep learning (Geoffrey Hinton) and reinforcement learning (Richard Sutton), were pioneered by Canadian academics.

The article's authors assert that "We must build a world-leading AI Institute in Toronto." Why Toronto? The authors, who extol the virtues of Toronto to the exclusion of the excellence elsewhere in Canada, call for a "very significant funding commitment" to build the AI Institute. What about the recent federal government investment of $93-million directed to the Université de Montréal for machine-learning research?

As a Torontonian now working at the University of Alberta, I am acutely sensitive to the "Toronto-is-the-centre-of-the-world" syndrome. A Toronto-based AI Institute would be a way to solve a University of Toronto problem that its "machine-learning researchers are spread across many departments in disparate buildings already at capacity." There is not much that is of national benefit in that.

Jonathan Schaeffer, dean, Faculty of Science, University of Alberta; Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence


Hockey culture's unjust streak

There is something unjust and possibly immoral in a Canadian hockey culture that has always encouraged the body checking of an opposing player whose head is down and therefore in an extremely vulnerable position (Winnipeg Jets Rookie Patrik Laine Out Indefinitely With Concussion – Sports, Jan. 9).

In this instance, Patrik Laine, an 18-year-old who is likely not yet fully grown and neurologically developed, takes a devastating hit at speed while looking behind to receive a pass.

This is simply wrong.

You cannot always have your head up, as this play demonstrates so clearly. This kind of checking belongs in the same category as the blindsided and hit-from-behind body checks, which are illegal.

Either the National Hockey League gets serious about concussions or it risks being run out of business by class-action lawsuits or, perhaps even more likely, by the desertion of fans who are sick of seeing graceful, gifted players felled by cheap shots.

Brian Deady, MD, New Westminster, B.C.

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