Deputy PM Freeland writes to Air Canada's board about CEO's comments on French

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OTTAWA — Canada's deputy prime minister has written to Air Canada's board of directors, urging that its CEO improve his French and that his knowledge of the language be included in his annual performance review.

Chrystia Freeland is also asking that knowledge of French should become an important criterion for securing promotions at the airline, which is subject to the Official Languages Act.

Freeland sent the letter to Vagn Sorensen, chairman of the airline's board of directors, following controversy raised by CEO Michael Rousseau's mostly English speech to the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal last week.

Rousseau had told reporters after his speech he had been too busy to learn French and said he had not had trouble living in English in Quebec for 14 years.

Freeland expressed the federal government's "disappointment" with Rousseau's comments and argued it was "utterly inconsistent with the company’s commitment to both official languages that has been in place for decades."

She also said the board of directors should conduct a review of its policies and practices relating to the airline's use of French and should make those results public.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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