2 men banned from PAL flights after making racist remarks to Indigenous passengers

Two men have been banned from PAL Airlines after making racist remarks to Indigenous passengers aboard a flight Monday from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to St. John's.

The men used a derogatory term to describe Inuit aboard the flight

Miriam Lidd sat across from the men who made racist comments aboard a PAL flight Monday evening. (Miriam Lidd/Facebook)

Two men have been banned from PAL Airlines after making racist remarks to Indigenous passengers aboard a flight Monday from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to St. John's.

The remarks upset passengers aboard and sparked outrage on social media.

"One of them said, 'Here comes an Eskimo' and [an Inuk man] walked by and the other guy said, 'Can you smell him?'" passenger Peter Penashue, told CBC News.

Penashue, a former member of Parliament for Labrador, said he was sitting behind the men on the PAL flight and describes 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.

In a statement Tuesday, PAL Airlines said the two men would be banned indefinitely from the airline's flights.

He said the men also made fun of the Innu-aimun language after hearing a woman speaking it on a phone. 

"One of the guys up front said, 'That's a funny language' and the other guy, you know, mimicked the sound of Innu and then they all giggled and laughed," Penashue said. 

Former member of Parliament Peter Penashue sat behind the men, and posted pictures of them as well as his thoughts on what happened. (CBC)

Once the plane was on the ground in St. John's, Penashue said, he saw the men again in the airport terminal.

"These two men came out of the washroom and obviously they knew I was talking about them," he said. "One of them called out really loud, you know, to be heard and he said, 'I'm not f--kin' apologizing for anything.'"

Penashue said the whole experience left him frustrated and angry.

"What do you do? I mean, you can't change people like that," Penashue said. 

Penashue said he wasn't sure if anyone brought the issue up with the flight attendants but said he did receive a call from PAL on Tuesday. He said he told the representative the two men should be banned from getting on PAL flights ever again.

"And No. 2: drinking has to cease on planes.… There's just no room for that kind of behaviour." 

I never thought I'd ever have to experience something like that.- Miriam Lidd

Penashue said the two men should take a good look at their views and be mindful of how hurtful comments like that can be.

"You can't change people overnight but you have to be challenged ... We can't continue this type of behaviour in a public place," he said. 

First experience

Miriam Lidd of Nain sat across from the men for the duration of the two-hour flight. She said the men made comments she believed were directed at her and her father, whom she said she was accompanying on a medical trip.

Lidd said the experience has left her hurt and disappointed.

"I've heard before, you know, stories of racism and stuff like that, but having to experience it myself is overwhelming. I don't know what to think," Lidd said.

The incident occurred on a PAL airlines flight from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to St. John's on Monday evening. (PAL Airlines)

Lidd also said one of the men simulated sex while standing behind one of the stewardesses.

"Almost, like, sexually harassing her, like pretending to kiss her neck and pretending to hump her back without touching her," she said. "She kindly said to him, have a seat sir, you're making me uncomfortable."

"They should have been kicked off [the flight]" she said, adding that the crew did stop serving them alcohol after the stopover. She said the flight attendant told the men they were being disrespectful and rude, after which they became quiet.

Comments 'deeply troubling': PAL

PAL Airlines vice-president Stephen Dinn confirmed the incident and said the airline is "deeply troubled" that customers experienced it. 

"Comments such as these have no place in our society and will not be tolerated by our company," said the written statement. 

Dinn also commended both the flight crew for how they handled the situation and the other passengers for showing restraint in the situation. 

"We have a proud history of partnership with Indigenous groups in Labrador and will work closely with our partners and communities to ensure our flights remain a welcoming environment for all our customers," he said

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Jacob Barker


Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.

With files from Janice Goudie