MONTREAL — A demonstration in defense of the French language is being organized this Saturday in front of Air Canada’s headquarters in Montreal.

Organizers say they want to put pressure on Air Canada’s board of directors, which, according to them, is not respecting its linguistic action plan when it comes to promoting Canada’s two official languages ​​within the company.

In an interview Tuesday, Marie-Anne Alepin, president of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, insisted the demonstration isn’t personally targeting Air Canada president Michael Rousseau, who gave a 26-minute speech almost exclusively in English at Montreal’s Chamber of Commerce last week.

Having lived in Montreal for the last 14 years, Rousseau had commented he was “able to live in Montreal without speaking French and I think that’s a testament to the City of Montreal.”

He also stated that he simply did not have time to learn the language.

Rousseau apologized one day later, expressing his desire to improve his French-language skills.

In a letter written in French to Air Canada employees, Rousseau confirmed he has hired a private tutor and his “French learning” has already begun.

“People who know me well know that these words do not reflect my values ​​and beliefs,” he wrote. “I take and accept personal criticism. However, criticism of our employees and our practices hurts me deeply when you work so hard to serve our customers.”

The demonstration, organized by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, will take place Saturday at 1 pm in front of Air Canada’s headquarters on Cte-Vertu Boulevard Ouest in Montreal.

Buses are also planned to depart from Société’s offices in downtown Montreal, as well as from Longueuil.

— This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 9, 2021.

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