Air Canada Sued for Lack of Bilingual Service

On wednesday, a federal judge ordered Air Canada to pay Michel Thibodeau, a French-language rights activist, $12,000 plus court fees, for failing to provide French service on a series of flights he took in 2009. As former Crown corporations, Air Canada must comply with the Official Languages Act and provide service in both official languages.

"It's a rights issue," Michel Thibodeau said. In one case, he requested a 7Up in French and was served a Sprite. "It is my right that is not being respected."

Thibodeau, who is fluently bilingual, has taken Air Canada to court in 2002 over the same issue and won.

The Federal Official Languages office in 2008 gave Air Canada a D grade for its bilingualism, with only 41% of the customer service employees speaking both French and English. A follow-up audit of the company will come in September.

This case inspired online discussion over whether enforced bilingualism is a good government policy. According to a 2009 Fraser Institute report, the federal government and other bodies under the Official Languages Act spend about $1.8 billion each year on bilingualism requirements.

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