I'd like to make some points of information here to clarify some misconceptions that exist about bilingualism at Air Canada.
a) The AIR CANADA ACT
was repealed in 1988.
b) The current law that places various restrictions on Air Canada is the AIR CANADA PUBLIC PARTICIPATION ACT
that was passed in 1988 as a condition of transfering regulation of Air Canada from the auspicies of the Air Canada Act (as a state-owned entity) to the Canada Business Corporations Act (as a private entity).
c) There are no specific provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act that REQUIRE Air Canada to maintain French speaking flight attendants on every flight. The relevant area is actually located in Part IV
and Part V of the OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT
which, with the sole exception
of Air Canada out of the millions of private companies registered in Canada, applies ONLY to "federal departments, boards, commissions and Crown corporations".
d) The Official Languages Act applies to other private businesses engaged in public sector transportation ONLY when there is a specific proportion of their local clientele (with a threshold ranging between 5% to 30% depending on the specific location) who REQUIRE service in the language of the linguistic minority.
e) A clearer picture actually emerges from Section 10, Subsection 10, Parts (a), (b), (c) and (d) of the Air Canada Public Participation Act that requires that Air Canada (but no other airline
) must provide any "passenger, shipper or consignee using or intending to use an air service, including incidental services... can obtain (the following) services... in either official language - ticketing and reservation services, information, including notices and announcements, that it publishes or causes to be published to inform its customers in respect of its routes or tariffs, services provided or made available to customers at an airport, including the control of passengers embarking and disembarking aircraft, announcements directed at customers and counter services; and services related to baggage or freight claims and client relations"
f) Pursuant to points (c) and (e) above, the interpretation has been made by courts that it extends to Air Canada (but no other airline
) having at least one bilingual (bilingual in Canada is defined solely as proficiency in both English and French - no other languages are recognized as Official Languages for the purpose of bilingualism so a speaker of English and even ten other languages is considered unilingual under law) Flight Attendant aboard every single flight worldwide, having at least one bilingual Airport Agent at every airport served worldwide, having at least one bilingual sales agent at every sales office (including contracted GSAs) worldwide and having every document, manual, communique or memorandum, whether for external or internal use, be available in both Official Languages, regardless of the demand.
g) Furthermore, the Air Canada Public Participation Act has other provisions too that REQUIRE Air Canada (but no other airline
) to "maintain operational and overhaul centres in the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba; the Montreal Urban Community; and the City of Mississauga, Ontario".
h) Furthermore, the Air Canada Public Participation Act has other provisions too that REQUIRE Air Canada (but no other airline
) maintain "that the head office of the Corporation is to be situated in the Montreal Urban Community".
In view of the above, it is very clear that Air Canada is subjected to restrictions that are NOT consistent with the intention of the Canada Transportation Act to provide a level playing field for all competitors in the transportation marketplace.
Air Canada, by virtue of its status as the largest carrier to the French speaking regions of the country, will always maintain a large enough workforce who will NEED to be proficient in the language simply to provide marketplace competitive services there, as well as to remain in compliance with those parts of the Official Languages Act that apply equally to all common carriers.
Air Canada no longer receives any special favors from the Federal Government. This has been made painfully obvious for the carrier over the last few years as it has been subjected first to business constraining restrictions imposed by the Federal Government as a result of the CP
merger and later received no grants, loans or loan guarantees from the Federal Government during its restructuring process. This is in contrast to their competitors such as Canada3000 who were offered financial bailout packages by the Federal Government during their financial difficulties.
Hence, Air Canada should no longer be constrained by the provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act which specify specific exemptions for Air Canada and no other carrier from the Canada Transportation Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act.
If Air Canada chooses to maintain these same provisions as a result of an internal policy decision to pursue that line of action in commercial interest, then so be it their prerogative to do so. However, the Government has ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS specifying special conditions for Air Canada when it provides no quid pro quo in return.