Aboriginal embarrasses minister at airport

By Scott Upchuk

Unretouched photo of ScottGANDER.  (NP) The true story of what happened at the Gander International Airport involving the Heritage Minster, her husband and an aboriginal passenger has been obtained by this Notional Pest reporter under The Access to Information Act. 

Contrary to what at first seemed to reflect badly on her, the true story has put the self-effacing, soft-spoken minister in a more kindly light.

It had been reported in The Globe and Mail that Sheila Copps had been "bad-mouthed" by a fellow passenger at Gander's International Airport. The female passenger, who was arrested at pre boarding by airport security, allegedly jostled Ms Copps while the latter was having her taxpayer paid ticket upgraded to Supreme Class. (Supreme Class means everyone else in the front of the airplane has to move to the rear (steerage class) regardless of ticket held.)

The offending passenger, claiming to be the only surviving Beoteck aboriginal, was eight months pregnant at the time of her arrest. The woman suffers from cerebral palsy as well as a club foot that makes walking a straight line difficult. After allegedly jostling the minister, the woman had subsequently been ‘stepped upon’ by the minister before being thrown across the terminal by Ms Copps’ seven bodyguards. During the mêlée, other passengers were aghast at the reaction of the crippled woman. "She lay there moaning unsavory remarks obviously directed at the minister," said an elderly man,

The elderly man and his wife were members of a large group of supporters who had come to the airport to see Ms. Copps off. The man's wife, obviously shaken by the incident, said, "It's outrageous that a member of the cabinet could be humiliated in public by someone showing total disregard for her safety. "Club foot or not," another said, "the woman should have stayed out of the terminal until Ms Copps had been placed safely aboard the aircraft."

Ms Copps’ husband (who refused to give his last name since it is not Copps) asked: "How was the Minister to know that the woman was pregnant and crippled? The woman just stumbles in here and rudely jars her. How was Sheila to know the woman was not demented, maybe even someone from Reform trying to provoke an incident?"

The woman was charged with causing a public nuisance and endangering a minister of the Crown. A prison doctor, who said the woman's baby was aborted during the incident, said it wouldn't have lived anyway since, "The Beoteck are extinct." She is being held in the Gander lockup until her preliminary hearing scheduled for early 2002. Notional Pest, 18 January, 2000, with files from The St. John's Daily Bugle.  supchuk@notionalpest.ca