Grothman used part of his half-hour speech to discuss "why nations fail," saying, "I never felt Canada was quite as successful as America [...] because to a degree their elections pitted the French speakers against the English speakers."
Cue the Québecois fury in 3...2...1.
"In these countries that fail, the elections are a contest of one ethnic group against another," continued the congressman.
In one fell swoop, Grothman dissed Canadians AND Quebecers which is quite an impressive feat — regardless of whether or not you agree with the Wisconsin Republican.
The language debate was one of the hot-button issues in the recent Canadian federal election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who declared himself as a "proud Quebecer" on several occasions and who is fluently bilingual, might take exception to Grothman's comments.
Then again, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet didn't help ease those assumptions about Canada when tweeting about how "examples of contempt against the French language continue to multiply," on Thursday.
But, hey, while there is indeed a polarizing language debate in this country, at least no one's attempted to storm Parliament over an ideological cause.
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."
Le grand patron d\u2019Air Canada exprime tout ce que nous avons rejet\u00e9 il y a des d\u00e9cennies: le m\u00e9pris pour notre langue et notre culture chez nous au Qu\u00e9bec. Ces propos sont indignes des fonctions qu\u2019il occupe. #polqc #assnathttps://twitter.com/pozappatva/status/1455966795668627458\u00a0\u2026
— Simon Jolin-Barrette (@Simon Jolin-Barrette)
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."
Quebec Premier François Legault directed some pointed words at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) at a press conference on Tuesday after the organization insisted that the government withdraw its language reform legislation — the controversial Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec.
"I think they are disconnected," said the premier, "it's as if they've become a radical group."
The EMSB's suggestion that the government should withdraw from Bill 96 was met with anger from both the provincial government and the Bloc Québécois.
In a document, the EMSB asserted that Bill 96 would lead to a "further decline of enrollment at English schools" and that it "discourages bilingualism by restricting Francophones and allophones from accessing English CEGEPs," among other things.
Jon G. Bradley, a former professor who added his voice to the document, insisted that "Quebec is not a nation. It never has been."
"Even the federal government recognizes that Quebec is a nation," Legault said at his press conference.
This controversy has made its way into the Montreal mayoral race as well. Ensemble Montréal leader Denis Coderre removed EMSB chairman Joe Ortona as one of his candidates in the Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough.
Legault praised Coderre's move.
"I was happy to see Denis Coderre remove his candidate that came from the EMSB," he said.