Two Bearskin Airlines pilots touched off a furor when they inadvertently announced their views about Native people while the intercom was on, according to a report in Wawatay News.

“All we do is haul a bunch of Indians back and forth all day,” one of the pilots allegedly said as the plane taxied down the runway. “Native people are always being flown around for no reason at night. I’m glad this day is almost over,” the pilot reportedly said. During the usual in-flight announcement about not smoking, one of the pilots added, “Oh, and no chewing snuff.”

But the news story itself became news when Bearskin Airlines stopped delivery of that issue of Wawatay News. The airline’s owner, Harvey Friesen, told his cargo staff not to put the papers on Bearskin planes going to northwestern Ontario, according to a Wawatay press release.

Friesen was quoted in the story saying he doubted the comments were heard by the passengers, since the old plane has a poor intercom. He didn’t return our call.

The airline’s actions left Wawatay staff fuming. The newspaper switched airlines and will now be carried by Native-owned Wasaya Airline and its affiliates. “I figured we’re not going to sit still. We’re not going to allow someone to think we’re at their mercy,” said Fort Albany Chief Mike Metatawabin, president of the non-profit company that publishes the twice-weekly newspaper. Wawatay News serves 48 First Nations across northern Ontario.