Air Canada Fined For Not Using French Language

Back to Forum

Tagged: ,

This topic contains 59 replies, has 20 voices, and was last updated by  IanFromHKG 24 Dec 2019
at 04:44

Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 60 total)

  • canucklad

    Quebec is the only official language in Quebec. It therefore seems quite logical that this language should be used on board aircraft departing from or arriving in Quebec. I understand that even at the federal level, the use of French in addition to English is mandatory. Rules are rules, aren’t they? And security is security.

    Christophel You’re points are indeed all valid, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cedric_Statherby’s post above, fascinating stuff.

    Living in Scotland, I fully get the ability to understand forgiving English in its many forms, and never mind Australian or American English, try understanding the English that comes out of a Glaswegian on a Saturday night : )

    If it wasn’t for the fact that we live in the 21st Century with easy access to so many other cultures / languages and dialects I’d have bet my house that in the same way that Dutch transitioned into Afrikaans , Glaswegian would have been given its rightful place as a language all by itself !

    Anyway, back on topic regarding AC’s dilemma. The couple in question IMO definitely fall into the “find / seek something to complain about “ rather than accept the bilingualism shown across the country,, with the exception of Quebec where the mantra seems to be “French only” sil vous plait . And becoming very anti rather than pro something.

    In my eyes hypocrisy should immediately discount you from pursuing your own self centred agenda. Considering that after General Wolfe’s victory and the Quebec Act that followed that allowed the defeated ( correctly) French colonists to maintain their French culture within the complex beginnings of the confederation of Canada that this ongoing anti English sentiment from some of my fellow Canadians is becoming tiresome.

    Give them an inch an they’ll take a mile comes to mind .

    The French language as an official language of Canada will become under threat if this attack on English within a province of Canada continues . Other provinces , especially the Western ones will question why they need to spend money on maintaining a 2nd language that hardly nobody speaks . My own province (BC) has hardly any French speakers yet have a sizeable minority of Chinese immigrants that talk Cantonese/Mandarin as the mother tongue,
    You could argue that the BC government should drop French from its signage and replace it with Cantonese ?

    And when there’s an AC YVR bound flight from HKG the cabin crew don’t yak at an audience that just isn’t listening because their not there , because it’s the law !!

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    I thought not post any comment on this subject due to sensitivity, but now posting due my recent experience.

    I had to take a short connecting flight from Seattle to Vancouver by Air Canada. This was after a long flight, so was very tired.

    After boarding all the announcements were in two languages and it was so irritating.
    Now I understand the safety part and have respect for all languages, but overdoing it helps no one.

    On the same flight, there were at least 2 passengers and they didn’t speak good English, one of them couldn’t read properly as she asked me (I was at front row) about the seat number and location even after crew member directed her.

    Now how their safety is taking care off?
    In any airplane there are many nationalities and many of them don’t understand English very well, French will too much!

    Are airlines going to explain safety briefing in all languages of the passengers? Obviously no.

    So this drama over multilingual announcement is overdone.

    Real helpful idea will be like Emirates who indicate on a particular flight crew can speak how many languages. Of course that is announced in English but help is always available.

    Multilingual announcement is good idea, but when someone makes an issue about it, they shall be chastised.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    Dear ChristopheL, I have read your comment with great interest. Before I reply to your comments on my earlier posts, could I ask one question – are you a Francophone?


    Quebec is the only official language in Quebec

    A question. I assume this is meant to read “French is the only official language in Quebec”. But if so, how is Quebec, uniquely, not subject to Canada’s general bilingual laws which in English-majority provinces protect the Francophones?

    1 user thanked author for this post.



    Of course Quebec is subject to Canada’s bilingual law.
    The problem is not about Quebec not respective this bilingual law. It is about Air Canada not respecting it.

    I have no doubt that people living in English-speaking provinces of Canada do not see the value in retaining French as one of Canada’s official languages.

    I just think that when a country is made up of several communities that have been established there for several centuries, respect for the culture of these communities is vital for the preservation of the unity of the country.

    French has been dominant in Canada for more than 100 years before the Peace of Utrecht when the French Canadian territories were ceded to Britain and Gibraltar was ceded by Spain to the same Britain).

    This is the origin of the French Canadians who are ultra dominant in Quebec even if they only represent 25% of the Canadian population (56% for English Canadians if Wikipedia is Right)

    @ Ian

    I’m a Francophone from France, not from Canada which I never visited.

    @ Canucklad

    The  « attack against English » you are referring to relates to people who live in a Canadian Province where less than 10% of the population speaks English and almost 80% speak French and where French is the unique official language.

    In such a context is it such a non sense to make security announcements in French when a flight departs from or land in Quebec ?

    On board my commuting flights between Paris and London all announcement are made in both English and French. The wording used is always the same in both languages even if English spoken by French CC and French spoken by English CC are not always very understandable 🙂


    ChristopheL, your information is wrong, English or bilingual speakers make up much more than 10% of Quebec’s population and Montreal is a truly bilingual city despite what many Quebecers claim. As for the 25% figure it’s wrong. French speakers make up 20% of the Canadian population only.English speakers 57% and 23% have other languages as their mother tongue. However from the 23% whose mother language is neither English nor French, 90% speak English and only 10% speak French so basically 77% of Canadians speak English against 23% who can speak French.


    I was going to say something like thank goodness William 1 (aka William the B*****d) Duke of Normandy did not manage to inflict the French Language on the populace of England. Although Diplomatic French is still spoken in Court circles. But I thought better of it in case it stirred up passions. 🙂

    2 users thanked author for this post.


    Sami, you know what they say about statistics (84.276% stats are false) but your assessment of bilingual or English speakers in Quebec is more or less intact – the only Quebec based non-English speakers (as opposed to anglophones) who really dont understand English probably dont get on too many planes.

    But back to the couple who filed 22 complaints against Air Canada and scored USD21,000 for such linguistic abuse. I hark back to when I was 23 years old travelling on Japan Airlines from Tokyo to Los Angeles. As we taxied, just after the safety briefing in (understandably) Japanese, there followed the commencement of the English version; after 3 or 4 words in quite-accented English (understandable), there was a curt pause, then a giggle, and then silence. She just… gave up. I looked round to share the amusement, only to see row upon row of passive-faced passengers, not one of them English speaking.

    So I understand that English is the international language for international air safety, air traffic control etc, but if only I knew back then about the money-chasing Canadian couple, I could have funded a large part of my university extra curriculars from the proceeds (possibly). Big shame. Instead, I have spent the last 30 years revelling in the fact that we live in a multi-cultural and multi-linguistic world (even among those who speak the same language), and I dont think that any set of government imposed rules is going to change that soon. Poor Air Canada, I for one promise not to sue you the next time I fly to Montreal and you fail to wish me a BON VOYAGE in bigger letters or louder speech than my “have a nice flight”….

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    @basslines66 – Have you flown on domestic flights in China? It seems to me that on board there is one cc member who can actually read the english safety briefing (what strange lettering we westerners use).


    Alainboy56, yes I have had that pleasure too, a long time ago (Szenhen to Chengdu among my regulars) and I would say that language was the least of my concerns back then…..


    It’s clear there are two distinct questions here.

    One is whether Air Canada broke the law – yes, the court decided it had. Canada’s language laws are probably unique in the extent of their enforcement of language usage.

    Air Canada even has an internal award to encourage use of the right language – “The Dialogue Award” – which the airline says is “to recognize and highlight our employees’ commitment to and efforts in offering service in our customers’ preferred official language”. I’ve always wondered what that would look like in practice!

    So, the couple may have had a political axe to grind and/or financial motive – but if Air Canada is breaking the law then that’s clearly no defence. Legal challenge with threat of financial sanction can be a last resort to ensure many laws are adhered to.

    The second question is clearly the interesting one and as to whether these laws are justified. I do appreciate the particular vulnerability felt by French-speaking Canadians in a country (and, indeed, continent) dominated by English speakers and whose biggest city, Montréal, can at times appear more English than French speaking. I think they manage nonetheless – and it’s one of the reasons Montréal is probably my favourite North American city.

    I recognise that these language laws – which largely date from the seventies – were a response to growing Québécois nationalism and there was a keenness to keep them in the Canadian fold. In general, I think it can be a very positive signal when a majority group accepts concessions towards a well-established minority – the equal language status of Swedish in Finland (that has been mentioned), despite Swedish speakers constituting less than ten per cent of the population, is a particularly creditable example.

    But I agree with most that the laws in Canada went too far and a more measured response would have been more effective. Arguably, the main loser has been Québec and particularly Montréal which over time lost its role as the commercial centre of Canada.

    2 users thanked author for this post.


    In such a context is it such a non sense to make security announcements in French when a flight departs from or land in Quebec ?

    Salut ChristopheL
    Je 100 % approuve que votre dicton. Mon point est que la loi de langue devrait être appliquée dans la mesure égale à travers tout le Canada, en incluant Québec.
    Le fait que le ‘Bureau Quebecoise de la langue francaise’ existe du tout doit simplement apaiser les disciples PQ, plutôt que le majoroty des francophones qui vivent Québec qui ont dans plus qu’une occasion ont sans doute été embarressed par les mesures prises dans leur nom.

    Apologies if my bilingual skills have deteriorated , but I’ve tried to demonstrate a British Columbian respect for my francophone friends : )


    @ Canucklad

    I fully with you as well regarding your comment that the official languages act has to be implemented in the same way throughout Canada.

    In Quebec and New Brunswick (25% of Canadian population) of course, but also is all other provinces (75% of Canadian population)!

    I have no clue which provinces respect the Official Language Act the most or which provinced respect it the least.

    I just know that this law was made with a specific purpose and I assume that letting people not respecting it wherever they leave in Canada may lead to a desire for separatism among populations belonging to the linguistic minority which in the same time is the ultra dominant linguistic majority in Quebec


    I’m quite certain this Ontario ( bilingual province) couple have no issue with Quebec (Canadian province) being pro anti English and allowed to be singly linguistic ( French)

    The double standards around Quebec’s demands have been a continual irritant to most open-minded Canadians for years.

    Yes. When driving around Ottawa, you know when you have strayed into Quebec; all the road signs have become uni-lingual … French only. Changing every sign along any highway in ‘English speaking’ Canada from “401 North” to “401 North/Nord”, for example, was a bit much. Nothing better to do with the money? Of course, nobody could have envisioned that this would have had to happen. Yes, yes. We all want Quebec to stay in confederation … but, actually, I don’t remember anyone agreeing to absurdities. But, of course, it doesn’t matter if a uni-lingual french speaker could or could not divine that ‘North’ meant ‘Nord’, … no doubt that it is the ‘principle.’

    …but then again it’s the law and English-speaking Canada agreed to that law!

    Sami … to say that “… and English-speaking Canada agreed to that law!” is a bit naive. Do you mean that, since one collection of politicians formed a government that everyone must have agreed with them? I doubt that you believe that.

    Possibly all Canadians also believe, and “agreed,” that immigrant women should be forced to wax male junk? After all, some complain that “it is the law” …

    Rex Murphy: B.C. groin waxing case is a mockery of human rights

    Here is another litigious individual taking advantage of what Canadians “agreed to.” From the comments following the article, you might arrive at a different opinion.


    I was going to say something like thank goodness William 1 (aka William the B*****d) Duke of Normandy did not manage to inflict the French Language on the populace of England. Although Diplomatic French is still spoken in Court circles. But I thought better of it in case it stirred up passions. 🙂

    Junior Offspring has just started at uni, reading English Literature and French (at the world’s best university, but that’s by the by). I amused her enormously a little earlier this year by telling her about “Law French” which was used in the courts of England, Wales and Ireland for several centuries after the Norman Conquest. Quite a few terms from Law French are still used as legal terms today (either in original or Anglicised form) such as bailiff, chattel, estoppel, force majeure, tort and voir dire. It gradually diverged from “normal” French and adopted a bit of Franglais itself. Here is a wonderful example from 1688 (which adds a bit of Latin just for extra colour):

    “Richardson Chief Justice de Common Banc al assises de Salisbury in Summer 1631 fuit assault per prisoner la condemne pur felony, que puis son condemnation ject un brickbat a le dit justice, que narrowly mist, et pur ceo immediately fuit indictment drawn per Noy envers le prisoner et son dexter manus ampute et fix al gibbet, sur que luy mesme immediatement hange in presence de Court.”

    (“Richardson, Chief Justice of the Common Bench at the Assizes at Salisbury in Summer 1631 was assaulted by a prisoner there condemned for felony, who, following his condemnation, threw a brickbat at the said justice that narrowly missed, and for this, an indictment was immediately drawn by Noy against the prisoner and his right hand was cut off and fastened to the gibbet, on which he himself was immediately hanged in the presence of the Court.”)

Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 60 total)
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Business Traveller December 2019 / January 2020 edition
Business Traveller December 2019 / January 2020 edition
Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription
To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below