MONTREAL — Roughly 100 demonstrators are demanding the departure of Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau, enduring the November rain to stage a protest in front of the company’s head office in Montreal this afternoon.
The protesters are urging the board of directors at the country’s biggest airline to live up to its linguistic plan and turf the unilingual chief executive over his lack of French.
Marie-Anne Alepin, president of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste which organized the protest, says the fact a unilingual anglophone can reach the highest echelons of a large, Quebec-based company “defies comprehension.”
Rousseau set off an uproar a week-and-a-half ago over his inability to speak Quebec’s common tongue and official language.
Following a speech almost entirely in English to the Montreal chamber of commerce on Nov. 3, the CEO told reporters he did not need to learn French to get by in Montreal.
His words sparked widespread backlash and prompted Rousseau to apologize the next day, later adding that he has hired a private tutor.
The linguistic plan for Air Canada — a former Crown corporation that falls under the Official Languages Act — states that the carrier is “proud to offer services in both official languages and demonstrate true leadership among major Canadian companies in promoting bilingualism.”