Protesters Demand More Than An Apology From Air Canada For The CEO’s Inability To Speak French – Montreal | The Canadian News

A small but passionate group of protesters gathered outside Air Canada headquarters in Saint-Laurent on Saturday afternoon to send a message: “Excuses are not enough.”

They refer to Air Canada President and CEO Michael Rousseau, who recently came under fire for a 26-minute speech almost exclusively in English at the Montreal Chamber of Commerce last week.

Though Rousseau has since apologized, critics say the problem isn’t just his inability to speak French, it’s the condescending tone he took when asked why he didn’t.


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In French, the organizer of Saturday’s rally and president of the Saint-Jean Baptiste Society, Marie-Anne Alepin, says Rousseau and Air Canada must take responsibility.

“Please respect our language laws, French is the official language here. Air Canada doesn’t even respect their own language laws, so we ask them to do what they should do, ”says Alepin.

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“As a unilingual English speaker, he can no longer assume the role of president and CEO.”

But many protesters say they don’t believe Rousseau should resign, at least not now.

“You have the opportunity to live in Quebec, it is a good place to learn French,” says Jordan Craig Larouche, president of Jeunes Bloquist des Laurentides. “But if he’s incapable, well, eventually he should quit.”

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Many of the younger protesters say they understand the importance of bilingualism, but Rousseau’s inability to even try to learn French is insulting.

“As CEO, you want to be able to interact with people on the street in French, but also with people internationally in English,” says Marie-Laurence Desgagané, president of the Parti-Québécois youth wing. “It is important to show respect.”

Rousseau doesn’t look like he’s going to resign, but his comments left Desgagné wondering why he’s able to get away with being a unilingual English speaker.

“Even if the law says that companies under federal jurisdiction must be bilingual and governed bilingual, in fact, everything happens in English in those companies,” he adds.

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Over the past week, Rousseau’s comments sparked thousands of complaints to the language police, while international news organizations such as the Washington Post and The Guardian reported on the matter.

Since then, Rousseau has hired a private French teacher.

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