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Air Canada CEO apologizes, commits to learning French as backlash in Quebec grows – CBC.ca

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Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau has apologized and committed to improving his French amid heavy backlash by federal and Quebec officials who called his recent comments about not needing to speak French despite having lived in Montreal for 14 years shocking and disrespectful.

“I want to clarify that I did not want in any way to disrespect [Quebecers] and francophones across the country. I apologize to those who were offended by my words,” Rousseau said in a statement Thursday, following fiery criticism from officials hours earlier. 

He noted that he told journalists he would, in fact, like to be able to speak French. 

“Today, I am committed to improving my French, the official language of Canada and the language used in Quebec,” he said. 

“The head office of this emblematic company is located in Montreal and it is a source of pride for me as for my entire management team. I reiterate Air Canada’s commitment to show respect for French and, as a leader, I will set the tone.”

On Wednesday, the CEO delivered a 26-minute speech at the Palais des congrès in Montreal, during which he spoke French for only about 20 seconds. After the speech, Rousseau was asked in French by a journalist for Quebec TV news channel LCN how he’s managed to live in Montreal for so long despite speaking little French.

He was unable to answer the question and asked that it be posed in English. When pressed, he said despite living in Quebec for 14 years, he’s too busy running a company to learn French.

“I’ve been able to live in Montreal without speaking French, and I think that’s a testament to the city of Montreal,” Rousseau said. 

WATCH | Air Canada CEO struggles to answer questions in French:

​Air Canada CEO ​struggles to answer questions in French in Montreal

7 hours ago

Michael Rousseau was asked in French by a journalist for Quebec TV news channel LCN how he’s managed to live in Montreal for so long despite speaking little French. 1:38

‘It’s insulting,’ premier says

Several elected officials in Quebec and Ottawa, including Canada’s minister of official languages, have criticized Rousseau’s initial comments.

On Thursday, Premier François Legault became the latest public figure to denounce Rousseau’s attitude about the French language.

“It’s insulting. It makes me angry, because [of] his attitude to say ‘I have been in Quebec 14 years and I did not have to learn French,’ ” said Legault on the sidelines of the COP26 environmental summit in Scotland.

Quebec’s minister for the French Language, Simon Jolin-Barrette, had said Rousseau showed “contempt for our language and our culture in Quebec.”

He doubled down on that Thursday, saying Rousseau had demonstrated that he is “not worthy of his duties.”

Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec’s minister for the French Language, said Thursday that Rousseau’s attitude toward French was unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for Quebec and Quebecers. (Dany Pilote/Radio-Canada)

A spokesperson for the Office of the Official Languages Commissioner of Canada said Thursday it has so far received 60 complaints related to Rousseau’s almost exclusively English speech. 

“In the past five years, we have received an average of more than 80 complaints per year against Air Canada in relation to the official languages as a whole,” the spokesperson, Jadrino Huot, said in an email to Radio-Canada. 

‘He needs to learn French’

Jolin-Barrette later said he welcomed Rousseau’s clarification, but took issue with some of the wording used in the statement and said the apology is not enough. 

“He says the ‘[the language used] in Quebec is French’ — it’s not only the language used, the official language of Quebec is French,” the minister said. 

“It’s not enough to make some apologies to Quebecers; he needs to learn French.” 

Jolin-Barrette is the minister responsible for Bill 96, Quebec’s bill to overhaul its law to protect the French language in the province.

The bill has raised controversy among minority rights groups, who say if it becomes law, it could undermine the independence of the judiciary by requiring judges to be bilingual, and that it could exclude job candidates and harm small businesses.

Jolin-Barrette said he believes the bill could prevent situations like Rousseau’s speech by extending its provisions to include companies under federal jurisdiction, such as Air Canada.

Jolin-Barrette had describe the reform as a reasonable response to studies by Quebec’s French-language office that indicate French is on the decline in the province, particularly in Montreal.

All three opposition parties in Quebec have also condemned Rousseau’s remarks, with the Liberals and Québec Solidaire calling for his resignation.

“What we are asking today […] is that Mr. Rousseau apologize for his remarks toward francophones and Quebecers, that he resign from his post and that companies under federal jurisdiction be subject to the French language,” said André Fortin, of the Liberal Party of Quebec.

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Designer Virgil Abloh remembered at Fashion Awards

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Designers and celebrities paid tribute to Virgil Abloh at the Fashion Awards in London on Monday, where the late Louis Vuitton and Off-White creative force was honoured as a leader of change within the industry.

Abloh, the American-born son of Ghanaian immigrants, who became fashion’s highest-profile Black designer, died on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/louis-vuitton-designer-virgil-abloh-dies-2021-11-28 following a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.

The 41-year-old, who also worked as a DJ and visual artist, had been menswear artistic director at luxury label Louis Vuitton since March 2018.

“Genius, disruptor … (he) will be missed tremendously by all,” veteran designer Tommy Hilfiger said on the red carpet. “He inspired designers as well as the public.”

Designer and television personality Tan France called Abloh “incredible and a visionary … (who) has done the most beautiful work.”

Abloh, who founded label Off-White, was known for mixing streetwear with high-end suits and gowns while at Vuitton. His influences included graffiti art and hip hop.

“Everyone here is going to be talking about Virgil, everyone here has been impacted by his brilliance,” actor Gabrielle Union said.

At the awards, where Abloh’s photo was projected on stage, the designer was among 15 individuals and brands named leaders of change for their actions in the past year helping the environment, people and creativity.

Others on the list included Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, and Kim Jones, artistic director for Fendi womenswear and couture as well as menswear designer at Dior. Jones was also named designer of the year at the awards.

Michele also won the trailblazer award, while Hilfiger received the outstanding achievement award.

“I’m absolutely grateful, appreciative, humbled by it, but happy to be here and happy to still keep the business rolling,” Hilfiger, 70, said.

Demi Moore, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Dua Lipa were among the celebrity guests attending the event, a fundraiser for British Fashion Council charities.

 

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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Economy

Bank of Canada to work with Indigenous groups on reconciliation

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The Bank of Canada will work with Indigenous groups to understand the wounds caused by decades of discrimination and determine how reconciliation can create a more inclusive and prosperous economy for all, Governor Tiff Macklem said on Monday.

Macklem, opening a symposium on Indigenous economies, said Canadians could work to correct some of the consequences of those “ugly periods.”

Ottawa forcibly removed thousands of Indigenous children from their communities and put them in residential schools in an effort to strip them of their language and culture, a practice that continues to scar families and individuals.

“The Bank of Canada will be working with a broad spectrum of Indigenous groups to set out what reconciliation means for what we do,” Macklem said.

“Together, we’ll define what reconciliation means for the work of the Bank of Canada — toward a more inclusive and prosperous economy for everyone,” he said.

Canada‘s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called the residential school system “cultural genocide” in 2015, as it set out 94 “calls to action” to try to restore Canada‘s relationship with its Indigenous people, including economic reconciliation.

“We can’t go back and change what’s happened. But we can try to correct some of the consequences,” said Macklem, adding that it is the central bank’s job to create conditions for opportunity for all Canadians.

“Taking concrete steps toward economic reconciliation is our responsibility too. And it’s incumbent upon us to take the time to do this well,” said Macklem.

 

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Canada’s Trans Mountain still ‘days away’ from restarting pipeline

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Canada‘s Trans Mountain said on Monday it was “still days away” from restarting the key oil pipeline at a reduced capacity as heavy rains continue to impede restoration efforts.

The pipeline, owned by the Canadian government, ships 300,000 barrels a day of crude and refined products from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. It was temporarily shut down as heavy rains and flooding caused widespread disruption in parts of British Columbia.

The operator said assessments of the impacts from the latest storm are being undertaken with a focus on the Coldwater and Coquihalla regions.

Work was interrupted at some sites on Sunday due to high water accumulation or lack of access, the company added.

The company on Friday had said it was working toward restarting the oil pipeline at a reduced capacity this week.

 

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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