Despite all possible interventions by the commissioners of official languages for 45 years, French services continue to falter at Air Canada says Commissioner Fraser.
In a special report tabled on Tuesday in the Commons, Commissioner Fraser asks Parliament to intervene directly with the carrier to force it to respect its linguistic obligations, starting with the imposition of heavy fines.
“My predecessors and I have used all the tools at our disposal to try to help Air Canada improve its compliance with the Official Languages Act. However, it is clear that after 45 years, the same problems are repeated, “says Commissioner Fraser, who recalled hearing” for the first time ‘I do not speak french’ to board a flight to air Canada “.
“Air Canada was built at public expense and, as the national air carrier, it must reflect the bilingual nature of the country. Today it is not enough to make recommendations at the end of investigations and audits or to report the degree of compliance of Air Canada in the annual reports to Parliament, “said Commissioner Fraser, which filed last report before its planned departure in October.
Air Canada is the only institution subject to the law against which each Commissioner has appealed to the courts.
Special Report to Parliament offers different tracks to force the carrier to meet its linguistic obligations including binding agreements, statutory damages, fines and administrative monetary penalties.
Over the years, Commissioner Fraser says that “Air Canada has never hesitated to challenge the application of the law and to make every means available to defend themselves in court.” Despite the law, the legal remedy has until now not really used to improve the compliance of the company.
Since 2005, four bills have attempted to maintain the language rights of Air Canada employees and travelers, but they all died on the order paper without ever crossing the first reading.
This time, the Commissioner hopes that the government will take seriously his proposals. He recommended to entrust the study, “an urgent and priority basis” to one of the two parliamentary committees on official languages.
Air Canada does not agree
In a letter dated May 18, Air Canada provided a preliminary response to assert that there was “no legal basis” for the presentation of a “special report” by the Official Languages Commissioner, stressing that he had the opportunity to integrate his observations in his latest annual report. The carrier also indicated that its assessment of bilingual services reflects an “exaggeration of the problem” that ignores the genuine commitment and considerable efforts to improve the delivery of services in both official languages.