While Air Canada is governed by the Official Languages Act, the new president, Michael Rousseau, has decided to give his first major speech in Quebec in English only, and he has learned Newspaper.
On Wednesday, November 3, he will speak to businessmen at the invitation of the Chamber of Commerce of Montreal (CCMM) at the Palais des Congrès, during an event announced with great fanfare, everywhere on social media.
The conference, presented in collaboration with Bombardier, which sold 45 aircraft from the defunct CSeries to Air Canada, is titled Rebuilding Confidence and will focus on the carrier’s efforts to revive its activities. However, the public on the website is cautioned that the conference will be in English.
“As it has been publicly indicated, he will be giving his speech in English,” a company spokesman, Pascal Deere, confirmed.
Last year, the latter had confirmed in magazine That Mr. Rousseau has stayed in Quebec since 2007 and “speaks functional French which he is constantly improving”.
This is a change for Air Canada, as Mr. Rousseau’s predecessor, Calin Ruvenescu, spoke impeccable French and delivered numerous speeches in the capital.
“I see it as a setback,” François Larroque, professor at the University of Ottawa School of Law and holder of the Research Chair for Canadian Francophones in Language Rights and Issues emphasized during an interview with Newspaper.
Official Languages Law
Air Canada, whose main office is in Montreal, is governed by the Official Languages Act, which means that it must maintain all of its official language obligations, particularly to its customers.
“Without contravening the letter of the law, a letter in English by a corporate director in a commercial context in Montreal, it is inconsistent with the spirit of the law and the public face of Air Canada,” notes Mr. Larocque.
If the senior manager chooses English to express himself, then this is also the case for some employees of the carrier. In recent years, Air Canada has been the subject of approximately 85 complaints annually to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, nearly all of which relate to a lack of French in customer service.
In 2016, former Commissioner Graham Fraser also filed a debt report regarding Air Canada.
“Like my predecessors, I have used, to no avail, many of the powers granted to me by law in an effort to compel Air Canada to better meet its language obligations. […]. Air Canada has always been – and remains – one of the areas subject to the highest number of complaints.”
When the appointment of Mr. Rousseau was announced, Newspaper He contacted the new commissioner Raymond Tyberg who stressed that “bilingualism is a critical skill for any leader, whether in politics, in the public service or even in private companies, and especially for those subject to the Official Languages Act.”
Meetings in French
To avoid this shutdown of Quebec corporations, the Shareholder Education and Defense Movement (MÉDAC) wants to move forward with the shareholder proposal.
We want the French to appear in the articles of association of companies that are headquartered here, such as the state. These principles will be enshrined in existing laws, in particular the Charter of the French Language, assures Willy Gagnon, Director of MÉDAC.
We will provide them with a list of large foreign companies that hold their meetings in the language of the country in which the head office is located. This is the case of Volkswagen, L’Oreal, Danone … Nissan does it in Japanese, Foxconn in Mandarin and Heineken in Dutch. Here, it should be done in French,” concludes Willy Gagnon.
These presidents from Quebec only speak English
Although the only official language in Quebec is French, many companies nevertheless decided to appoint chiefs who only spoke English.
This is the case of Laurentian Bank, which is headquartered in Montreal. The appointment of President Rania Llewellyn, who is bilingual in English, caused quite a stir.
During the last shareholder meeting of a banking institution in Quebec, only English was used except for a few sentences in Molière’s language.
This was also the case at SNC-Lavalin during last spring’s meeting. For 20 minutes, the French-speaking contributors had no translation into their language.
“We also saw this at Couche-Tard when CEO Brian Hannasch was appointed. We were promised founder Alain Bouchard that he would learn French, but the following year we were told he had other priorities. We were told the goal was given up,” Willie Gagnon recalls. , from the Shareholder Education and Defense Movement (MÉDAC).
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