Air Canada was recently penalized for not speaking in French to a French-speaking couple on a flight. The couple, Michel and Lynda Thibodeau, won over $12,500 in a payout.
Air Canada was deemed guilty because they had not respected the couple’s “right to be served in their native language” on a flight from Ottawa, even though the couple speaks perfect English. According to Mr. Thibodeau, he was not greeted in French when they reached the boarding gate, and said the airline was “malicious, oppressive and reprehensible” for not answering his questions in his preferred language. When ordering a 7Up on a plane, the English-speaking hostess brought them a Sprite instead.
Image: Mr Moss/Flickr
Ye gods, the unspeakable horror. Malicious isn’t the word! Perhaps “inconvenient” is.
Mr. Thibodeau is right, of course. Canada is a bilingual country, and the Official Languages Act states that Air Canada must communicate and provide services in both English and French. For Mr. Thibodeau, not being addressed in French means a direct insult on his rights (hence the large Separatist movement in Quebec).
We can’t help but feel this is a money-mongering ploy, however. First of all, Mr. Thibodeau apparently originally asked for $500,000. Secondly, he tried suing an Ottawa bus company a few years ago because he was greeted with “hello” rather than “bonjour.”
We get the necessity of having bilingual employees working with a big company, seriously. But not everybody has the privilege of growing up learning two languages. For those of us with just one language, oftentimes it’s not by choice, but merely a lack of education. O, Canada!