Speaking publicly for the first time since he lashed out at his monolingualism, Air Canada’s top executive said Monday that French is a “priority” for the Montreal-based airline and pledged to “do better.”
“I’m sorry. I apologize here again,” Speaker and CEO Michael Rousseau said in broken French during video conference testimony before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.
Rousseau, who spoke English in Montreal in November and said he had managed to live in the city for 14 years without speaking French, which is “a credit to the city”, acknowledged that his remarks were “insensitive”. Was.
“I admit I made a mistake in not learning to speak French when I joined Air Canada, and I am correcting that mistake at this time,” he said.
Responding to Mario Beaulieu, the Block’s vice president, who asked about his progress in learning French, Rousseau said he takes lessons every morning from tutors from reputable firms.
“And they give me assignments … which I complete the next day or so for the next session,” he said. “The routine is (lessons) every morning and homework almost every night.”
The CEO argued that the airline, which is subject to the Official Languages Act, understands its obligation to communicate with its customers in the official language of their choice.
a moment please
He explained that monolingual English-speaking employees, who are unable to serve a French-speaking customer at the airport and on board the aircraft, are instructed to say ‘Un Moment sill vous Platt’ to connect with a French-speaking one. Staff.
The committee’s vice-chairman, conservative Joel Godin, told them that “for 45 years” most official language commissioners have been pointing to “a systemic problem” at Air Canada.
When Rousseau replied that the language spoken on the board of directors was English, the MP asked him how the importance of respecting the French language could be reflected throughout the organization.
The company talks to its employees in both official languages and half of its employees are bilingual, they were told.
– This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 21, 2022