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Air Canada Boss Forced to Apologize For Not Speaking French

Air Canada Boss Forced to Apologize For Not Speaking French

Air Canada chief executive Michael Rousseau has been forced to make an embarrassing apology for his inability to speak French. Air Canada is headquartered in French-speaking Quebec and is subject to Canada’s Official Languages Act which means the carrier must serve customers in both English and French.

Around 20% of the Canadian population are native French speakers and since 1969 both English and French have been given equal status in Canadian law.

“I want to make it clear that in no way did I mean to show disrespect for Quebecers and francophones across the country,” Rousseau said in a statement on Thursday.

The public apology came after public and media outrage at comments the Air Canada boss made during a media interview in which a journalist asked Rousseau why he couldn’t speak French despite having lived in Quebec for more than 14-years.

Rousseau justified his lack of multi-lingual abilities by replying that he had managed to live in Montreal without speaking French and that this was a “testament to the city of Montreal”.

Although he claims to have been too busy to learn French up until now, Rousseau said in Thursday’s grovelling apology: “I pledge today to improve my French, an official language of Canada and the common language of Québec, while tackling the serious commercial challenges facing Air Canada as we move from surviving the pandemic to rebuilding to normalcy.”

“The fact that this iconic company is headquartered in Montreal is a source of pride for me and our entire executive team. I reiterate Air Canada’s commitment to show respect for French and, as a leader, I will set the tone,” the statement continued.

In 2019, Air Canada was forced to pay $21,000 CAD ($15,700 USD) in damages to a French-speaking passenger who filed a complaint with a federal court because the airline didn’t engrave the word ‘LIFT’ in French on seatbelts.

The passenger successfully argued that the airline was in breach of the Official Languages Act. Another complaint centred on the fact that the French text on the emergency exits signs on some Air Canada planes was smaller than the English text.

Air Canada said it was working with the Language Commissioner to replace the offending signage.

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  • They never asked québécois why they can’t speak English, québécois is extremely racist when come down one way to protect their own interests, they have no tolerance, no respect others, that is why I left Ottawa 20 years ago

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