Air Canada and CN CEOs will not be forced to

Air Canada and CN CEOs will not be forced to understand French

(Ottawa) The major chiefs of Air Canada, Canadian National (CN), Crown Corporations and other organizations subject to the Official Languages ​​Act, such as port and airport authorities, are not required to speak and clearly understand French as required by the government of Quebec.

Posted at 8:42pm


Michel Saba The Canadian Press

The elected Liberals and Conservatives, who sit on the Standing Committee on Official Languages, rejected the Bloc Québécois’ amendment to Bill C-13 on Tuesday. The New Democratic Party is the only other political group that spoke out in favor of it.

Such a change aims to “avoid things like what we’re seeing with CN, for example, which didn’t have a French-speaking administrator,” explained the Bloc Québécois official languages ​​spokesman Mario Beaulieu.

The fact that executives at Air Canada and CN – two Montreal-based companies – cannot speak French is “scandalous” and shows that “they have no interest in honoring their social contract with us,” NDP- MP Niki Ashton.

“The CEOs of these companies are the CEOs because the government has privatized these companies,” she added. One of the few remaining obligations is that of the Official Languages ​​Act. »

The Liberals did not comment directly on the amendment, preferring to put questions to the experts invited by the committee.

“That means, for example, the port authority in Port Alberni or Nanaimo or Halifax or the authorities that manage airports such as in Calgary or Vancouver […] All of these CEOs must be bilingual,” asked Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount MP Marc Garneau, who was answered in the affirmative.

If the amendment is passed and C-13 becomes law, that provision “represents an obligation that would limit the choices of directors of private companies,” said Department of Canadian Heritage Assistant Secretary Julie Boyer, in response to a Question from the Liberal MEP for Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel, Patricia Lattanzio.

Conservative spokesman for official languages, Joël Godin, also spoke out against the change, despite numerous examples where “French has been disregarded in certain companies, including Air Canada”.

However, Mr Godin judged that the change was “too general” and risked “limiting monolingual people to not having access to these administrative posts”. He said he prefers “to develop a bilingual culture.”

CN faced a language storm last year when it was revealed that it had retained no French-speaking candidates for its board following the resignation of former Quebec Prime Minister Jean Charest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even said he was “blown away” by the situation.

CN then said it intended to hire a French-speaking administrator. Finally, last autumn, Michel Letellier was appointed to the Board of Directors as the new French-speaking administrator.

Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau also sparked an outcry after a speech he gave mostly in English in Montreal. He was also happy to be able to work and live in Quebec for years without having to learn French.

Air Canada’s big boss had apologized and said in a press release that he “didn’t mean in any way to disrespect Quebeckers and Francophones across the country”. He also promised to improve his French.