December 9, 2021

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Michael Rousseau: Public outrage forces Air Canada president to learn French | International

Chairman and CEO of Air Canada It has faced criticism and accusations in recent days. Michael Rousseau has been in charge of the country’s leading airline since February. However, the chorus of protests began when he delivered a speech to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce on November 3; 26 minutes in English and only 20 seconds in French. At the end of the event, a group of journalists asked him why he did not speak French even though he had lived in the Quebec metropolis for 14 years. Rousseau pointed out that many of his professions prevented him from doing so – in other points and in English. Air Canada operates under federal regulations, which require Canadian bilingualism; At least, on paper.

The reactions were not delayed. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, Declared: “It seems to me that this is an unacceptable situation.” For his part, Quebec’s Prime Minister Franois LeCult said: “It’s a shame. Press, The Quebec government and the Commissioner for Official Languages ​​of Canada ignored the airline’s recommendations to deliver the speech in both languages. In Ottawa, the New Democrats and the Quebec constituency demanded Rousseau’s resignation.

Michael Rousseau was born in Cornwall, Ontario. He graduated with a degree in accounting from York University and began his career at Air Canada in 2007 after working for Hudson Bay. He said his mother and wife speak French. On November 5, Rousseau posted a message on Twitter stating that he did not want to insult Cubs and Francophones from other parts of the country at any time. In addition, he promised to “improve” the French language, which he defined as “common use” in Quebec. Quebec Minister Simon Jolin-Barrett immediately responded: “French is not the only common language in Quebec. It is the official language. ”The François Legault government put forward a few months ago a Parliamentary initiative to strengthen this language in shops and workplaces. Anglophone organizations in Quebec have criticized some points of the plan and insisted that they do not agree with Michael Rousseau’s behavior.

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Sends a letter to Canadian Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Christiaan Freeland Air Canada Board of Directors. In the letter, Freeland requested that Rousseau’s French skills be part of his annual performance appraisal. He added that the company should pay special attention to its policies and practices related to bilingualism. The Canadian government owns 6% of Air Canada; The company has a market capitalization of C $ 9.46 billion (approximately $ 7.6 billion).

Air Canada and Michael Rousseau issued statements on Tuesday in response to Freeland’s letter. The company agreed that the chairman and CEO should be subject to the said assessment; Took action to ensure further French application in organizational activities. The Commissioner for Official Languages ​​of Canada points out that the airline receives an average of 80 complaints a year, but has received more than 2,000 complaints in recent days due to the controversy surrounding Michael Rousseau. For his part, Rousseau said he was already taking “private” and “serious” French lessons. If Air Canada decides to drop its services, the administrator will have to pay $ 5.4 million (approximately $ 4.3 million) in compensation from the neighboring country.

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