Nfld. & Labrador

2 men fired, contractor turfed as fallout from racist incident on Labrador flight continues

The two men at the centre of a storm of controversy over a racist incident aboard a PAL Airlines flight this week have been fired, and their employer has also been turfed from a contract in Churchill Falls.

Owner of Kankote Enterprises says actions of two men do not reflect the values of him or his company

Two men aboard a PAL flight from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to St. John's made racist comments Monday evening. (Miriam Lidd/Facebook)

The two men at the centre of a storm of controversy over a racist incident on board a PAL Airlines flight this week have been fired, and their employer has also been evicted from a Nalcor Energy job site in Churchill Falls.

Those were the latest developments Wednesday afternoon in the fast-moving fallout from some disturbing behaviour on a flight from Labrador to St. John's on Monday.

The owner of Mount Pearl-based Kankote Enterprises, Kevin Hackett, issued a statement late afternoon, saying the men had been fired.

Churchill Falls in Labrador is a company town managed and operated by Nalcor. (Submitted by Michele Power)

This followed an earlier statement from the general contractor on project, EnerCon Builders of St. John's, saying that Kankote had also been turfed from the project.

"This is extremely unfortunate and disappointing as the actions of the two employees, in no way, reflect the values and integrity of the company," Hackett said in a written statement to CBC News.

"Kankote Enterprises does not condone the words or actions of the two employees and their employment has been terminated."

This is extremely unfortunate and disappointing as the actions of the two employees, in no way, reflect the values and integrity of the company.- Kevin Hackett

The owner of EnerCon was similarly strong in his condemnation of the men's behaviour.

"It's necessary to demonstrate to everyone that this type of behaviour is just not acceptable and it won't be tolerated," said EnerCon president Danny Coffey.

Coffey said he took the extra step of firing Kankote because "we're just not affiliating ourselves with subcontractors who employ persons who demonstrate this kind of behaviour."

The dominos began to fall Tuesday when PAL Airlines announced the two men would be indefinitely placed on a no-fly list, and not permitted to board future flights.

Nalcor followed up Wednesday, announcing that the two men would not be allowed to return to Churchill Falls, which is a company town.

Then the firings began.

'Will not stand for such behaviour'

EnerCon received a general contract from Nalcor to undertake renovations at the company-owned Height of Land Hotel in Churchill Falls, site of the massive and iconic Upper Churchilll hydro generating station.

EnerCon hired Kankote as a subcontractor, and the two men were flying from the job site to St. John's when they made the racist comments to Indigenous passengers.

The matter caused an uproar on social media, and prompted Indigenous leaders to strongly condemn the behaviour.

"We would like to apologize for having unknowingly contracted work to a company that employed persons who behaved in this manner," Coffey stated.

The town of Churchill Falls is managed and operated by the Nalcor, the province's energy corporation.

"Nalcor has made great strides in recent years to build relations with Indigenous groups in Labrador, and will not stand for such behaviour," said Deanne Fisher, a spokesperson from Nalcor. 

"Nalcor cannot control who is hired by contractors, but can take action if they behave in such as unacceptable manner."

In a tweet Wednesday morning, Premier Dwight Ball condemned the reported comments by the two men.

"The behaviour is unacceptable. We will continue our work and call out racism," he said. 

"One of them said, 'Here comes an Eskimo' and [an Inuk man] walked by and the other guy said, 'Can you smell him?'" said former MP Peter Penashue, who was aboard the flight.

Penashue said he was sitting behind the men on the PAL flight and described them as being drunk and loud.

He and others aboard posted their thoughts about the incident as well as photos and a video of the men, sparking public outrage.

CBC News has not been able to talk to the men involved.

Read more by CBC Newfoundand and Labrador

With files from Terry Roberts

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