Freeland makes several recommendations to Air Canada’s board over CEO’s comments on French

Click to play video: 'Air Canada’s CEO apologizes after admitting he doesn’t need to speak French' Air Canada’s CEO apologizes after admitting he doesn’t need to speak French
WATCH: There is widespread outrage across the country over comments made by Air Canada's CEO that he doesn't need to speak French. This, despite leading a company head-quartered in Montreal where he has lived for the past 14 years. As Raquel Fletcher reports, other leaders are now calling for Michael Rousseau's resignation – Nov 4, 2021

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.

In her letter, Chrystia Freeland asked that knowledge of French become an important criterion for securing promotions at the airline, which is subject to the Official Languages Act.

Read more: Air Canada CEO debut a PR disaster following comments on French, say experts

Freeland sent the letter to Vagn Sorensen, chairman of the airline’s board of directors, following controversy started 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 that he had been too busy to learn French and said he had no trouble living in English in Quebec for 14 years. The comments sparked backlash across the province.

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“I’ve been able to live in Montreal without speaking French, and I think that’s a testament to the city of Montreal,” he said. Asked why he hadn’t learned the language, Rousseau replied: “If you look at my work schedule, you’d understand why.”

Read more: Air Canada CEO apologizes to Quebecers, pledges to improve his French

The next day, Rousseau released a statement offering an apology in both languages.

“I want to make it clear that in no way did I mean to show disrespect for Quebecers and Francophones across the country,” Rousseau’s statement read. “I apologize to those who were offended by my remarks.”

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.

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