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Chiefs decry 'racist' Air Canada memo

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/10/2011 (3277 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Air Canada has apologized for what the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called a racist internal memo that suggests First Nations residents displaced by floods are making downtown Winnipeg dangerous.

In a widely circulating memo, Air Canada said it's pulling flight crews on Winnipeg layovers from downtown's Radisson hotel to the Sandman hotel near the airport because "several downtown locations" are "susceptible to crimes of violence and opportunity.

The memo connects the safety situation to the presence of "approximately 1,000 displaced people from rural Manitoba" in hotels near the Radisson.

The memo has already been criticized by Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, the downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone and Air Canada's pilots association. The mayor has requested Air Canada reverse its decision.

On Monday, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs blasted the memo as racist requested clarification and an apology. Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said the victims of flooding at Lake St. Martin First Nation and other Interlake communities have suffered enough without being blamed for downtown Winnipeg's woes.

"It's entirely inappropriate for one of Canada's largest corporations to link the presence of our people in the downtown core with any security risk," Nepinak told reporters, calling the memo racist.

Approximately 700 displaced First Nations residents remain in hotels and another 1,000 are being billeted in homes or apartments, the AMC estimates. Nepinak said many displaced families currently living in hotels would like to leave downtown Winnipeg because it's not safe for young children.

He said he is aware of a handful of individual displaced people causing problems, but they are no longer in hotels.

Nepinak said an apology from Air Canada would go a long way. He said the AMC is exploring legal options but is not calling for a boycott or any other action until Air Canada clarifies its position.

Two hours after Nepinak met with reporters, Air Canada offered an apology.

"It appears that certain inferences are being drawn from the contents of a recent internal bulletin relating to accommodation for flight crews on overnight layover in Winnipeg," spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said via email.

"Air Canada wishes to state categorically it had no intent to cause offence to any individual or group and apologizes if it inadvertently did so."

Read the Bulletin

Date: September 23, 2011

Subject: Winnipeg Layover Accommodation Revision Vancouver Winnipeg Toronto Montreal

Ladies and Gentlemen, In response to several reports indicating questionable safety in the area surrounding the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg a Security Assessment was conducted, in conjunction with the Winnipeg Police Service, by Air Canada Corporate Security. Recent environmental issues have forced approximately 1,000 displaced people from rural Manitoba to numerous hotels in the downtown area.

Instances of public intoxication, resulting in several downtown locations being susceptible to crimes of violence and opportunity, have been observed by local Police.

Based on concern generated by Crew Reports, Corporate Security, and keeping in mind our obligation, to the extent possible, for ensuring the safety of layover locations, a decision has been made to relocate.

Alternative downtown layover options were investigated, and while The Inn at the Forks is considered secure, as a boutique hotel they were not able to accommodate our crews. We considered locations available outside the downtown core and while our preference was the Clarion at Polo Park they, as well, were not interested in accommodating our crews.

For now, we have arranged through API, to have Crews layover at the Sandman Hotel and Suites. Information on the Sandman Hotel and Suites is found at

We will certainly revisit the downtown area once the present situation improves. Authorities anticipate displaced people to be an issue for another 12 months.


Best Regards,

Captain Jeff Dennis Manager, Flying Operations


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Updated on Monday, October 3, 2011 at 2:50 PM CDT: Adds text of memo.

4:16 PM: Adds Air Canada apology.

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