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Black circle of relatives from Montreal alleges racial profiling after being got rid of from flight

The Wright family says they’re still traumatized by what happened to them aboard an Air Canada flight.

On July 28, nine members of their family boarded a flight at Trudeau airport heading to Orlando, Fla., to go on a cruise.

They say the flight was delayed after they boarded due to bad weather, but once the plane was cleared for takeoff, Jodi Smith-Wright says she noticed the family’s bags were still on the tarmac and informed a flight attendant.

The family says after discussions between Smith-Wright, her father Keith Wright and the flight attendant, the plane returned to the gate and the entire family was asked to disembark.

“Everybody saw what was going on, in disbelief, and (I was) completely deeply hurt as a human being that this was happening to me,” Wright said.

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What’s worse, the family says once they were outside the exit door of the plane, they were greeted by a slew of authorities.

“Two CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) agents, two other SPVM (Service de police de la Ville de Montréal) police officers and one tactical SWAT team member,” Wright said.

Wright says the seven other members of the family, ranging in age from five to 60, were also removed from the plane, despite having had no interactions with staff.

“It was a terrible experience. It was traumatic,” said Kelsey Smith-Wright, who was onboard the flight with her five-year-old daughter. “My daughter was crying the whole time and she didn’t understand why we were being taken off. She was asking me, ‘Why are we leaving? Is everyone else getting off?’”

Keith Wright, centre, is flanked by his daughters Kelsey Smith-Wright, left, and Jodi Smith-Wright at a press conference in Montreal, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. The family has filed a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission for racial profiling against Air Canada after the airline forced nine members of their family off a flight to Orlando on July 28, 2023.

Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press

The family says they ended up driving to Syracuse, N.Y., in the middle of the night to catch another flight to avoid missing their cruise.

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They believe the incident was a case of racial profiling.

With the help of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR), they will be filing complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

“We hope that this incident will compel not only Air Canada, but the airline industry, to come up with a clear policy against racial profiling in commercial air travel,” CRARR executive director Fo Niemi said.

In a statement to Global News, Air Canada confirmed that a group of passengers were deplaned from the July 28 flight from Montreal to Orlando.

“We deal with our customers directly and therefore will not discuss the details publicly of what led to this decision. However, these actions were taken only for the safety and well-being of our other customers and crew,” said Christophe Hennebelle, vice-president, corporate communications at Air Canada.

“Should a complaint on this matter be filed with the competent authorities, we will take the opportunity at that time to explain our decision.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Felecia Phillips Ollie DD (h.c.) is the inspiring leader and founder of The Equality Network LLC (TEN). With a background in coaching, travel, and a career in news, Felecia brings a unique perspective to promoting diversity and inclusion. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in English/Communications, she is passionate about creating a more inclusive future. From graduating from Mississippi Valley State University to leading initiatives like the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program, Felecia is dedicated to making a positive impact. Join her journey on our blog as she shares insights and leads the charge for equity through The Equality Network.

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