The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has received more than 1,000 complaints of alleged monolingualism from Air Canada President Michael Russo. According to Commissioner Raymond Tyberg, “That’s a lot.”
The sheer number of complaints shows how it affects a chord,” the latter explained in an interview with QMI.
Ironically, Mr. Tyberg noted that someone at the police station had sensed the repercussions that Mr. Rousseau’s monolingual speech at the Chamber of Commerce at Metropolitan Montreal could evoke, and thus reported him directly to Air Canada.
“We were worried about the reaction [de la population]. […] In my opinion, it is unfortunate that our concerns were not accepted.”
Many of the complaints received came from outside Quebec, Mr. Tieberg notes, which meant that the entirety of Canadian Francophonie was affected, Air Canada was the country’s largest airline, and directly subject to the Official Languages Act.
Citing what he called the “secondary characterization” of French in federal institutions, the commissioner lamented that Molière’s language often fell into the rank of “the language of translation”.
“In a larger context, I think it’s important to realize that there is always tragedy surrounding French in the Canadian context, given that we are mired in an English-speaking sea in North America.”
Mr. Tyberg did not want to move forward with the “political” debate surrounding the application of Law 101 to federally leased companies on Quebec territory.
- Listen the interview With Simone Julien Barrett, Minister of Justice and Minister in charge of the French Language, at Benoit Dutrezac’s microphone on QUB Radio:
Despite his apologies and a promise to learn French on Thursday, Air Canada CEO Michael Russo remains out of the turmoil. On the contrary: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added a layer on Friday morning.
“This is an unacceptable situation and I am happy that the Minister of Official Languages is following up on this,” Mr Trudeau responded during a dialogue session as he walked out of a pharmacy in Ottawa where he received his seasonal flu shot.
Mr Trudeau echoed the view of the new Minister of Official Languages, Jennette Pettibas Taylor, who also called Michael Russo’s comments “unacceptable” in a statement sent to QMI on Friday.
“I noticed his apologies, but it should be followed by concrete action to show that he takes his commitments seriously. It’s a matter of respect,” she added.
At the Secretary’s office, we confirm that we have contacted Air Canada and the Department of Transportation to discuss the situation.
NSI Petitbass Taylor wants to adopt within 100 days of Parliament the amendment to the Official Languages Act, which was introduced earlier this year. It plans to give more “bite” to the current law and give more powers to the official languages commissioner, including the power to issue harsher penalties.
If the liberal government appears to be taking the issue seriously, others do not hesitate to call for Mr. Rousseau’s resignation. These include, in Ottawa, the National Democratic Party and the Quebec Caucus, and in Quebec, the Liberal Party and Quebec Solidere.
All of these parties demand that Law 101 be applied to federally chartered businesses located on Quebec land.
Remember that on Wednesday, Michael Russo gave a speech only in English, after a very short opening note in French. Then, during a scrum meeting, he explained that he had been able to live in Montreal without speaking French since moving there in 2007.
Much more than the speech in English, it was his responses to reporters that ignited the powder.
It should be noted that Air Canada has been alerted by the office of the Prime Minister of Quebec as well as by the Commissioner of Official Languages regarding problems that could arise from monolingual speech in Montreal, the capital of Quebec.
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