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Canada 'My family is ashamed of me': Men apologize for racist remarks aboard Labrador flight

22:30  12 december  2019
22:30  12 december  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

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

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The two men at the centre of a storm of controversy related to their racist behaviour aboard a flight this week are offering public apologies to the Indigenous people of Labrador and their families, and say their lives have been turned upside down.

Dave Beck and Thomas Scott are both from St. John's, and have worked for many years as plasterers and painters.

They had been working on a hotel renovation project in Nalcor-owned Churchill Falls for nearly three weeks, employed by a Mount Pearl company called Kankote Enterprises.

With their work just about complete, they boarded a flight on Monday to return to their homes, not knowing they were about to be thrust into the spotlight.

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'I was intoxicated'

That's because of their drunken, rude and racist actions inside the close confines of a Dash 8 airplane.

Vilified on social media, fired from their jobs, and banished from Churchill Falls and PAL Airlines, the two men spoke publicly for the first time Thursday. Both men said they're not racists.

"I was intoxicated," Beck told CBC News during an interview at his kitchen table in the Goulds area of St. John's.

"I know that's no excuse for the remarks I made, my words that hurt so many people. especially Indigenous people. I'm not a racist. I would say culturally uneducated. Culturally illiterate."

Scott also agreed to an interview, and was equally contrite.

"I'm sick to my stomach. I can't eat. My family is ashamed of me. And I feels bad for the people that we disrespected. I feel very sorry about that," said Scott.

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a man looking at the camera: Dave Beck, left, and Scott Thomas say they're sorry for the remarks they made aboard a PAL Airlines flight earlier this week.© Provided by cbc.ca Dave Beck, left, and Scott Thomas say they're sorry for the remarks they made aboard a PAL Airlines flight earlier this week.

Both men say they a paying a steep price for their unacceptable behaviour.

"My job is gone. One of the best employers I ever had. I have no income now whatsoever. I'll live on my savings until that's gone and we'll take it from there, I guess," said Beck.

He said what happened on the flight was not typical of his behaviour.

"The [embarrassment] that I've caused them all. My sons. My daughter. My wife. Her family. My family. I'm truly sorry," he said.

Beck said he would agree to meet with Indigenous leaders, if necessary, while Thomas said he plans to write a letter of apology.

"It hurts. It hurts me and it hurts the company that I worked for for the last 20-odd years," said Thomas. "I hurt me family. A lot of me friends are hateful toward me. And I'm very, very sorry for it."

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They were already intoxicated when they boarded the flight in Churchill Falls, and continued to drink beer purchased on the flight as it made its way to St. John's.

As passengers boarded the flight during a stopover in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Beck used the derogatory term "Eskimo" to describe an Indigenous person, prompting Thomas to remark, "Can you smell him?"

This incident was witnessed by Innu Nation member and former Labrador MP Peter Penashue, and other passengers on the flight.

Both Beck and Thomas admit this happened, and to an allegation that they mocked a woman speaking her native language during a phone call.

Their behaviour prompted some passengers to begin photographing and videotaping the men, and later publishing imagery and messages on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Thomas said he did not realize at the time he had crossed the line.

"I don't know, just the beer, I guess, and everything else. We just started drinking and things started escalating," he said.

Simulated sex

There was also an allegation that Thomas simulated sex with one of the flight attendants as he stood behind her in the aisle, prompting her to say he was making her uncomfortable.

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But Thomas denies that happened.

"I never done that," he said, while Beck said he was sitting near the window and "never left [his] seat."

Thomas also denies that he remained belligerent once he arrived at the airport in St. John's, with witnesses saying he loudly said he would not be apologizing.

How the dominoes fell

As word of the incident began spreading, Indigenous leaders began speaking out about the hurtful and disrespectful behaviour.

By Tuesday, PAL Airlines announced that Beck and Thomas had been placed on an indefinite no-fly list with the airline.

On Wednesday, Nalcor banished the two men from Churchill Falls, which is a company town and site of the Upper Churchill hydro generating station.

The fallout continued Wednesday afternoon, with the general contractor on the hotel renovation project, Enercon Builders of St. John's, announcing it had fired Kankote, which was hired as a subcontractor. Beck and Thomas were the only two Kankote employees in Churchill Falls.

And Kankote followed up with a statement saying Beck and Thomas had been fired.

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

With their reputations badly tarnished, Beck and Thomas say their employment prospects are now very bleak, but hope people can accept their apologies.

"I don't know if you can tell. I have a lot of remorse for this right now," said Beck.

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