EDITORIAL: You’ll have to pardon his French
Put your trays in an upright position and buckle up. We’re in for a bumpy ride.
It’s utterly bizarre and uniquely Canadian that in the slow and difficult recovery from a devastating pandemic, apparently the biggest problem Air Canada faces is the fact that its CEO isn’t fluent in French.
We have an airline industry staggering under a massive loss of business and the news that makes it to the front page is the admission by Michael Rousseau that he’s survived in Montreal, where Air Canada is headquartered, without the ability to function in French.
Have we reached such a level of insecurity in this country that the person who gets to run our biggest airline is the person who came top in French and not the guy who excelled in, say, running an airline?
Quebec language minister Simon Jolin-Barette said on Twitter that Rousseau had expressed, “contempt for our language and our culture at home in Quebec.” What nonsense.
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said, “The big boss at Air Canada owes explanations to Quebecers and Francophones across the country. This is a lack of respect for our language.” Quebec Premier Francois Legault called Rousseau’s comments, “insulting.”
Get a grip, guys. And quit meddling.
The skills that are needed to run a corporation are not necessarily the skills required to learn a language. If we’re going to force billion dollar companies to hire only executives who speak both official languages, we’ll consign our major industries to mediocrity. It’s a very small pool of talent.
Air Canada is a private company operating in a highly competitive global economy in a pandemic. We can’t have politicians calling the shots.
In politics, an ability to speak French is an essential path to success. The business world has different priorities.