Quebec politicians condemned the comment.
Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau has issued a statement of apology to Quebecers and other francophone Canadians who were offended by his remarks about not speaking the language of Molière despite living in Montreal for over a decade.
"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."
D\u00e9claration de Michael Rousseau, pr\u00e9sident et chef de la direction d\u2019Air Canada :pic.twitter.com/MvG16PLFfi— Air Canada (@Air Canada) 1636036613
In response to a journalist's question at a conference on Wednesday, Rousseau said that he's "been able to live in Montreal without speaking French." He called that ability "a testament to the City of Montreal."
Unsurprisingly, the comment drew swift and fiery reactions from pretty much every name-brand politician in the National Assembly, from Premier François Legault to Liberal leader Dominique Anglade.
In his apology, Rousseau pledged "to improve [his] 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," he concluded. "I reiterate Air Canada's commitment to show respect for French and, as a leader, I will set the tone."
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