A Black Montreal family says they were victims of racial profiling when they were removed from a Florida-bound flight after telling Air Canada staff their bags hadn't been loaded on the plane.
Members of the Wright family are calling for accountability today as they described the situation July 28 at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.
Keith Wright says that after his daughter informed a flight attendant the family's bags were still on the tarmac, the plane returned to the gate and the pair were asked to disembark and not told why.
Wright says seven other members of the family — ranging in age from five to 60 —— were also removed from the plane bound for Orlando, despite them having no interaction with staff.
Fo Niemi, the executive director of Montreal's Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), says the Keith Wright and one of his daughters "politely raised questions to the flight attendant about their luggage not being loaded onto the plane."
The pilot then announced that some luggage would be left behind because the plane was overweight.
A white passenger asked to be let off. A supervisor got on the plane and asked the white passenger and his son to leave the plane and then asked Wright and his daughter to leave too.
The rest of the family was then asked to leave as well and another Black family, who is unrelated, was also asked to get off.
The Wrights say that when they left the plane, they were faced with three Montreal police officers, two border officials and a SWAT officer.
Because they risked missing their $11,000 cruise, the Wrights went home to get cars and drove to the U.S. to get a flight to Florida. In the end, they were still missing one bag that Air Canada lost.
"This is nothing but racial profiling and discrimination," said Keith Wright. "My entire family, including my five-year-old granddaughter, was made to pay the price for her grandfather and her mother politely asking questions about their luggage in the rain."
"We were all penalized for that, as if Black travellers have no right to ask questions about their belongings," Wright said.
His daughter, Jodi, said someone from the airline has to be held accountable.
"Air Canada violaged our dignity, treated us with total contempt and ruined our cruise," she said.
The family says it will file racial profiling complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, assisted by CRARR.
"There are times we have to suspend our disbelief at the outrageous and excessively demeaning way this family was treated," said Niemi. "This is consumer racial profiling at its worst."
In an emailed statement, Air Canada said it could "confirm that a group of passengers were deplaned from their flight to Orlando on July 28, 2023, following an incident onboard the aircraft."
Christophe Hennebelle, vice-president of corporate communications, said the airline won't discuss the incident publicly because it deals with its customers directly.
"However, these actions were taken only for the safety and well-being of our other customers and crew," Hennebelle said in the email. "Should a complaint on this matter be filed with the competent authorities, we will take the opportunity at that time to explain our decision."