A Quebec resident was outraged after he was unable to get service in French on a Florida-bound Air Canada flight departing from Jean-Lesage International Airport.
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Jean-Pierre Beaudoin, a businessman, boarded flight AC1688 on March 21 with his wife. They had booked seats in business class.
“I sit down and the senior flight attendant comes to see me. She speaks to me in English. I tell him: “I speak French”. She replied that she did not speak French. I repeat to him that I want to serve in French,” said Mr. Beaudoin said.
After some exchanges, a non-lingual official finds a francophone colleague and goes to Mr Beaudoin to explain the situation in French, which he already understands very well as he is bilingual.
In English or nothing
Faced with the passenger’s insistence, the two women talk together and return after a few seconds.
“The agent said to me in English: ‘Sir, this is my section. You have the right to leave the plane or I will serve you. The other translates for me. I said again that I want to serve in French. I said: “You speak French, don’t you? I don’t want to serve in English,” said Mr Beaudoin.
According to him, this English-speaking employee was going to serve him, otherwise he would have to leave the plane after a man entered the plane. Mr. Beaudoin could not say whether it was an Air Canada employee or an airport security guard.
“I was boiling inside. I said to myself, ‘We’re in Quebec. The flight starts from Quebec. I’m sure I don’t want to leave the plane.’ A staff member who didn’t know the language added: ‘You’ll be on the next flight with a French-speaking flight attendant,'” he said.
A matter of principle
He decided to stay on the plane. All services during the flight were in English and he responded in French.
“To me, it’s a matter of policy,” said Mr. Beaudoin said he still couldn’t believe the treatment he received.
He reported that other passengers who witnessed the scene would have appreciated his insistence on being served in French, but no one spoke up.
Mr. Beaudoin says he filed a complaint with the Quebecois de la Longue franchise office within hours of the theft.
He did not do so with Air Canada, saying he did not trust their complaints handling process.
“I didn’t expect anything. I want people to know that. I’m trying to say to the world: “Wake up a little”. These are completely unacceptable things. It will not happen,” he said.
Neither the agency nor Air Canada responded to questions Register At the time of going to press.
Complaints for violations of French
- Air Canada is subject to the Official Languages Act, which requires the carrier to maintain its language obligations since privatization in 1988.
- Every year, complaints are filed against the carrier for failing to provide services in French to its customers.
- Canada’s Federal Court has already granted remedies by ordering Air Canada to pay damages to citizens whose rights were violated.
- In 2017, Air Canada confirmed that it was “able” to hire bilingual staff on all direct-operated flights.
- The collective agreement provides for a minimum number of bilingual staff on all flights, depending on the type of flight.
Air Canada has a problem
November 3, 2021
Air Canada’s newly appointed CEO, Michel Rousseau, gave a speech in English to the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal that drew the ire of many in the audience.
Since his arrival in 2007, Mr. Rousseau said in a press scrum following his speech.
February 28, 2022
OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGES OF CANADA MR. It says it received more than 2,680 complaints about Rousseau’s speech.
This is the highest number of complaints received for a single event in the organization’s history.
March 21, 2022
Air Canada’s boss apologizes for rough French before the Standing Committee on Official Languages, saying he takes intensive French courses every day.
He says French wants to advance within Air Canada.
March 23, 2022
Quebec’s elected officials unanimously voted to subject institutions to federal jurisdiction under Bill 101.
April 8, 2022
In a 17-page report, Official Languages Commissioner Raymond Theberge said the complaints were founded after an investigation and that Air Canada did not respect the law during Mr. Rousseau’s speech.
– Jeremy Bernier, Le Journal de Quebec
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