OTTAWA -- Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has written a letter to Air Canada's board of directors asking that the improvement of CEO Michael Rousseau's French-language skills be one of the determining factors in his annual performance evaluation.

She is also asking that French language skills be made an "important criterion" for job promotions.

Freeland sent the missive to Vagn Sørensen, chairman of the board of Air Canada, following controversy over an English-only speech by Rousseau to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM). Rousseau explained to reporters afterwards that his schedule was too busy to learn French and that he had not had to communicate in French even though he has lived in Quebec for 14 years.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Canada again expressed the Canadian government's "disappointment" with Rousseau's "recent actions" and said that "his comments regarding the use of the French language are completely inconsistent with the corporation's commitment to both official languages from the very first days of the privatization of Air Canada.

In her view, Rousseau's comments are also "contrary to the expectations of many Canadians — Air Canada's customers andcustomers of Air Canada — with respect to their national airline."

That is why she has submitted, after discussions with the Ministers of Transport, Omar Alghabra, and Official Languages, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, measures that should be taken as soon as possible to ensure the improvement of his French and the knowledge of French in Air Canada's management positions.

Freeland also believes that "the board of directors should review the policies and practices relating to the use of French" at Air Canada, and that "the results of this review should be made public."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 8, 2021.