The Rousseau case continues to haunt Air Canada. The Commissioner of Official Languages blames the carrier for the events of last November and determines that 2,680 complaints were established in an initial report consulted by Le Journal.
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In a 17-page document sent to the complainants and to Air Canada, Raymond Tyberg wrote that the company did not respect the law during a speech by its president, Michael Russo, to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce (CCMM).
“Air Canada has not fulfilled its obligations as it has not taken the necessary measures to ensure that attendees during the events of November 3, 2021 can communicate and receive information in the official language of their choice, when required to do so by law,” Commissioner Raymond Tepberg wrote.
“Thus, the complaints prove to be well-founded in view of the obligations set forth in this part of the law,” he continues.
The origin of the fiasco
In his report, Mr. Tyberg outlines the sequence of events that paved the way for the failure of 3 November.
In February 2021, Michael Russo became president of the carrier. Then I told the company Newspaper He speaks “functional French which he constantly strives to improve”.
On November 1, Le Journal reported that the CEO had decided to give his first speech in Quebec in English.
Upon hearing this news, several stakeholders, including the Commissioner’s office and the office of the Prime Minister of Quebec, informed Air Canada of their language obligations and the risks associated with this letter. But the company decided to ignore the warnings.
Then the commander gave his speech in English, to which he replied that he had no time to learn French and that he had been able to live in the language of Shakespeare for 14 years in Montreal,” and it was an honor for the city.
The commissioner asserts that “many of the complainants said that the CEO’s comments were disdain, disrespectful, insulting, hurtful, unjustified, and shameful, and that they lacked sensitivity to the French language.”
CCMM was aware
In its defense, Air Canada maintains that the CCMM was advised that the CEO’s letter would be in English and did not consider it beneficial to provide an interpretation to the participants.
Air Canada also considers that while dealing with journalists, especially representatives of Newspaper And TVA, Mr. Rousseau did not have to respect the two official languages.
The commissioner did not accept Air Canada’s arguments, but noted that the company “undertaken to take certain measures to demonstrate its commitment to the two official languages.”
The Commissioner for Official Languages, Raymond Tyberg, in his report, does not fail to recall the importance of the Rousseau case for Francophone speakers, and made many recommendations.
“I also see that the events of November 3, 2021 had a real impact on the situation of the French in Canada,” he wrote in the document.
The latter also recommends that Air Canada take “concrete and effective measures to sensitize members of senior management” to the fact that all communications directed to the public “should always take place in the two official languages, and of equal quality.”
The commissioner also suggests adding a specific performance objective related to formal languages to the performance appraisal of each member of senior management, “a goal that will be linked to tangible and measurable performance indicators”.
Air Canada should also provide a biannual update on the progress of its initiatives, concludes Mr. Tyberg.
I asked for resignation
The Impératif français organization, many of whose members lodged complaints with the commissioner after the November events, denounced the “softness and language of wood” of the report as well as the Canadian government’s reaction to the file.
“This problem is needed at the upper levels of Parliament in order to advance the English language, support the decline of the French language and subordinate Quebec to the Canadian vision,” said President Jean-Paul Perrault.
According to him, the report is however another element that should prompt Mr. Rousseau to leave. “Since this Air Canada CEO is bilingual in English and therefore can’t speak French, or very little, he shouldn’t be hired at all,” he said.
Air Canada said it was aware of the report and had commented.
“Air Canada recently announced new procedures for official languages that will further and solidify its commitment to bilingualism in its corporate culture,” an email was sent to us.