Air Canada's CEO Is Getting Roasted For Saying He's Lived In MTL Without Speaking French

Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau said at a conference Wednesday that he's lived in Montreal without French and ça passe pas auprès many elected officials.

"I've been able to live in Montreal without speaking French and I think that's a testament to the City of Montreal," Rousseau said in response to a journalist's question. The comment triggered swift criticism.

"The big boss of Air Canada expresses everything we rejected decades ago: contempt for our language and culture here in Quebec," provincial Minister of the French language and Bill 96 sponsor Simon Jolin-Barrette tweeted.

"These words are unworthy of the position he holds."

Premier Francois Legault called Rousseau's decision to give a speech at the Montreal Chamber of Commerce in English despite a majority francophone audience "insulting."

The CEO's statement bridged the political divide. Quebec Liberal party leader Dominique Anglade said the comment was "appalling and disrespectful."

"Air Canada frankly has a habit of not understanding the impact of its decisions," she said.

Québec Solidaire spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois called it a "contemptuous affair worthy of the 1950s."

"If I was able to go to a debate in English, I don't see why a CEO couldn't make an effort in French," co-spokesperson Manon Massé wrote in her own post.

Federal Minister of Official Languages Ginette Petitpas Taylor also took to Twitter to call on the company and its CEO to do better.

"Air Canada offers an important service to Canadians," she wrote. "It must do so in both Official Languages — and its leaders must be an example."