Air Canada staff removed Jeanne Lehman, a black Canadian woman, from one of their flights in April. They say Lehman was removed over concerns of a contagious disease. She says it was over "systemic racism."
What are the details?
Lehman said that the airline humiliated her when they booted her from an Air Canada flight after mistaking her shingles rash as a contagious disease.
Lehman said that her doctor diagnosed her with shingles days before her flight from Halifax to Edmonton, but reportedly told her that she was not contagious despite a spreading and worsening rash on her face, which left one of her eyes nearly swollen shut.
Despite her protests, flight attendants reportedly insisted that Lehman leave the aircraft.
"[A flight attendant] said to me, 'You're contagious.' She was practically screaming it in front of everyone," Lehman told Business Insider. "I told her, 'But I am not contagious! And even if I was, this is not the way to say it. Please don't say this in front of everyone.'"
She added, "I was treated like an animal. When I asked the flight attendant why she was pulling me out of the plane, she didn't answer me. She didn't even look at me."
According to the outlet, "The pilot announced over the PA system that the flight would no longer be departing that night because a contagious woman had been on the plane. Then the crew removed all of the passengers from the plane, provided them with overnight accommodation, and told them that they would fly out the next day."
She was taken to the hospital, where a physician declared her fit to fly after an examination, despite a second diagnosis of shingles.
The airline reportedly provided Lehman with a free hotel room, food vouchers, and an upgraded business class flight for the following day.
How was her flight the next day?
However, her next-day flight was apparently not without its problems.
Lehman said that her Halifax to Edmonton flight had a stop in Toronto.
When she arrived in Toronto, Lehman said that she ran into the very same roadblock for a second day in a row when she approached the gate to board the flight from Toronto to Edmonton.
An Air Canada representative reportedly told her that she would be unable to board the plane until she proved that she was not contagious.
"I didn't even have the strength to talk," Lehman told Business Insider. "I told him, 'It's in your records. In Halifax you were wrong. Are you seriously asking me this again?'"
Lehman was able to board the plane after presenting the doctor's note from the previous day's visit.
Lehman, who is an activist as well as an officer with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, according to The Star, is reportedly seeing a psychologist for mental distress she endured as a result of the incident on the plane.
What did the woman say?
"The flight attendant wouldn't have done this to a white woman," she said. "She wouldn't have said it so loudly in front of everyone. There is something about a woman like me that makes them think they can say that without consequence."
"I feel sure that this is a case of systemic racism," Lehman added, noting that the "trauma" of the incident has even prevented her from sleep.
"I still have flashbacks," she admitted.
During her interview, Lehman gave Business Insider a message for those who don't believe the incident had anything to do with her being black.
"People will always say things like, 'Oh, you just like to complain,' or 'You just want to bring race into everything,'" Lehman said, "but the truth is there. We live it. I live it."
She added, "It's not enough to say, 'I can't be racist, I have friends who are black.' No, we need to recognize that racism is everywhere. We need to educate people. I love Canada, and I know that systemic racism is not one of our values. We need to fix this if we don't want our country to be spoiled."
Did the airline respond?
A representative from Air Canada told CBC that their decision to remove Lehman from the plane until she received a fit-to-fly designation was made after consulting medical experts, and the decision to remove the rest of the passengers was simply a precautionary action to protect them.
"Out of an abundance of caution passengers on board were also asked to disembark and a different aircraft will transport them later [Sunday]," the spokesperson said. "We regret the inconvenience but this was deemed a necessary precaution taken after consultation with doctors and we will follow up with customers directly if they have any concerns."