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Looks Like The Air Canada CEO Is In Hot Water For That Cringey English-Only Speech

Canada's Official Languages Commissioner says complaints were "founded."

Senior Editor
Air Canada logo on a hangar near its Montreal headquarters.

Air Canada logo on a hangar near its Montreal headquarters.

The Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Raymond Théberge, released details of a preliminary report on Friday, April 8, saying complaints about an all-English speech by Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau were "founded."

The now-infamous incident occurred at the Montreal Chamber of Commerce on November 3, 2021. Rousseau only delivered remarks in English despite Air Canada's corporate bilingualism.

For reasons unknown, he doubled down following the speech, telling reporters that he's "been able to live in Montreal without speaking French." He called that ability "a testament to the city of Montreal."

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages told MTL Blog it received over 2,500 complaints about the speech — a record for a single event.

Rousseau apologized the next day and committed to taking French classes.

"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. "I apologize to those who were offended by my remarks."

In March, Air Canada released a plan, including a new "official languages branch" and additional training for service employees, that it says "strengthens" its commitment to both official languages.

The Commissioner noted in the April 8 report summary that Air Canada still has a chance to respond before the release of a final report on the November 2021 incident.

Théberge added an additional note stressing "that bilingualism is a crucial skill for any leader, particularly those in institutions subject to the Official Languages Act."

    Thomas MacDonald
    Senior Editor
    Thomas MacDonald is a Senior Editor for MTL Blog focused on Montreal public transit and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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