A Lac-St-Jean, Que., area hotel is apologizing after charging a group of aboriginal children nearly 50 per cent more than the standard rate for a room.
Last week a group of young hockey players, between the ages of five and seven, and their parents checked into the Château Roberval in Roberval, Que. A room was supposed to be $104 a night, but the players were charged $150 per room, per night when they stayed in town to compete in the Mashteuiatsh minor league hockey tournament.
The Pessamit children were booked into 15 rooms. They had travelled from Quebec’s North Shore region to participate in the tournament.
However, another large group of hockey players checked into another property owned by the same person, Mario Beaubien. They were charged the regular rate, paying $46 less.
"When the parents questioned the hefty hike, they were told there is often a 'ruckus' when there are aboriginal tournaments," said Yan Riverin, a father of a six-year-old in the tournament.
'Humiliating' for parents
"It's humiliating. It's also insulting to see that in 2014 situations that we consider racism could still take place in our Quebec society," Riverin said.
Mashteuiatsh Chief Gilbert Dominique, whose community sponsored the tournament, denounced the apparent case of discrimination, saying that Mashteuiatsh gives Beaubien and his hotels a lot of business.
He demanded a formal apology, suggesting that without one, the Innu community might boycott Beaubien’s hotels.
Luc Tremblay, a spokesman hired by Beaubien this week to help with damage control, said Beaubien noticed the error the employee made and worked to correct it even before the media caught wind of it.
Tremblay said the owner contacted the families the next day when he learned what had happened, apologized and refunded them more than $1,300.
But Riverin said the damage is done, adding that he doesn't believe the owner's apology is sincere.
An honest mistake, owner says
The employee who overcharged the hotel guests was Beaubien's son, who is in his 20s.
"He made an honest mistake," Tremblay said, adding that he was applying an old policy from before Beaubien acquired the hotel eight months ago.
"It seems that this method of billing already existed as an internal policy, and the new administrators did not ask themselves the reason for this charge," the spokesman said.
Dominique said the incident with the hotel shocked him.
Tremblay said Beaubien has three aboriginal employees and that recent accusations of racism are ill-founded.
For the Pessamit team, the only silver lining to the story is, the children won the tournament.