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Back to school: CEOs brush up on French after Quebec language uproar

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A language furor rattling corporate Quebec has left some companies scrambling to improve the French-speaking skills of their C-suite executives to avoid the kind of public relations nightmare that engulfed Air Canada earlier this month.

Language remains a sensitive issue in Quebec, the only Canadian province whose sole official language is French and where the dominance of English in the 1970s sparked the rise of the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ).

The Air Canada incident cast a spotlight on how some top executives of prominent companies got away without speaking the language, driving calls for improving French, and raising questions about Quebec’s ability to attract talent.

“There are a number of entities that have spoken to us about that consideration being heightened in light of these comments that have been put forth by Air Canada,” said Adam Dean, founding partner at Dean Executive Search over the need for French.

Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau caused an uproar with comments suggesting that he did not need to speak French, which along with English is one of Canada‘s two official languages, even though the Montreal-based airline is officially bilingual. Rousseau later apologized and pledged to improve his French.

“It’s important that the presidents of Quebec companies speak French,” Quebec Premier François Legault said on Friday.

Air Canada, which took federal government aid during the pandemic, faced criticism from both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The backlash could complicate the search for a new head of Montreal-headquartered Canadian National Railway Co, whose current CEO is bilingual but has hired uni-lingual English-executives in the past.

‘POLITICAL AGENDA’

CN shareholder TCI Fund Management Ltd has proposed Jim Vena, a former operations specialist at both CN and Union Pacific, to head the railway.

One rail source said Vena, when at CN, could understand and speak some French. Reuters could not immediately reach Vena for comment.

French was not part of TCI’s early criteria for a new CEO and the Air Canada incident would not impact those views, a source familiar with TCI’s thinking said.

TCI did not respond to a request for comment.

CN ensures that its customers, employees and the public can receive services and communications in both official languages, a CN spokesman said when asked whether the new CEO would need to speak French.

Representatives for Freeland and Legault declined comment on CN’s CEO hiring process.

But some CEOs are brushing up their French.

The English-speaking CEO of Laurentian Bank, Rania Llewellyn, is “committed to improving her French,” a bank spokesman said. The U.K.-born head of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Group postponed a speech in English speech scheduled for Monday in order to improve his French skills.

The uproar is raising questions over Quebec’s ability to attract talent. The province is separately weighing language legislation that companies say would it make it more cumbersome to hire employees who speak English, in addition to French.

“It is more difficult by virtue of the fact there are parts of the country where French is not spoken, so if that is the requirement for the role, it can be challenging,” Dean said.

About 75% of Canada‘s population speaks English and about 23% speaks French, some of whom are bilingual, according to the country’s 2016 census https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/official-languages-bilingualism/publications/statistics.html, its most recent.

Shareholders say they care more about performance.

“As a shareholder you want the best CEO you can find,” said one Air Canada shareholder who nevertheless said that Rousseau had erred in his comments. And a portfolio manager who holds CN stock dismissed the kerfuffle as political. Both declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“As a stockholder I don’t have a political agenda,” said the fund manager. “I have an agenda on whether they are run well.”

 

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Denny Thomas and Leslie Adler)

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First cases of COVID-19 discovered in Canadian wildlife – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The first cases of COVID-19 in Canadian wildlife have been discovered in three white-tailed deer, a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada reports.

The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the detections on Nov. 29 but the deer were sampled between Nov. 6 to 8 in the Estrie region of Quebec. The deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease and were “all apparently healthy.”

“As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited,” the press release states.

“The finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health was notified about the discovery on Dec. 1.

The department is urging added precaution – like wearing a well-fitted mask – when exposed to “respiratory tissues and fluids from deer.”

The virus has been found in multiple animal species globally including farmed mink, cats, dogs, ferrets, and zoo animals such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters and others.

“Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time,” the release reads.

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U.N. seeks record $41 billion for aid to hotspots led by Afghanistan, Ethiopia

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The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.

Famine remains a “terrifying prospect” for 45 million people living in 43 countries, as extreme weather caused by climate change shrinks food supplies, the U.N. said in the annual appeal, which reflected a 17% rise in annual funding needs.

“The drivers of needs are ones which are familiar to all of us. Tragically, it includes protracted conflicts, political instability, failing economies … the climate crisis, not a new crisis, but one which urges more attention and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.

In a report to donors, the world body said: “Without sustained and immediate action, 2022 could be catastrophic.”

Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five major crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5 billion sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, it said.

In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, repeated economic shocks, and severe food insecurity caused by the worst drought in 27 years.

“We are in the business in the U.N. of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the U.N. system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy,” Griffiths said.

“The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services,” he said. “I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month.”

In Ethiopia, where a year-old conflict between government and Tigrayan forces has spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, thousands have been displaced, while fighting, drought and locusts push more to the brink, the U.N. said.

Nearly 26 million Ethiopians require aid, including more than 9 million who depend on food rations, including 5 million in Tigray, amid rising malnutrition rates, it said.

“Ethiopia is the most alarming probably almost certainly in terms of immediate emergency need,” Griffiths said, adding that 400,000 people had been deemed at risk of famine already in May.

Noting that heavy fighting continued, with government forces battling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front forces who have moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa, he added: “But capacity to respond to an imploded Ethiopia is almost impossible to imagine.”

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Doug Ford applauds new COVID-19 travel restrictions, says more discussions with feds to be held – Globalnews.ca

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked the federal government for implementing new travel restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and said more discussions will be held about possibly expanding new testing rules to travellers from the United States.

Ford made the remarks at an unrelated press conference in Mississauga Wednesday morning.

Several Omicron variant cases have already been confirmed in Ontario, and Ford said while it is a “cause for concern” it is “not cause for panic.”

“Every day we hold off more cases entering our country, the more time we have to learn and prepare,” Ford said.

Read more:

Canada expands travel ban, seeks booster guidance

“So the best thing we can do right now is fortify our borders. Our best defence is keeping the variant out of our country. We welcome the actions from the federal government and I want to thank the feds for taking action to date.

“We implored them last week to act quickly and be decisive on the borders and they did.”

In a statement last Friday, Ford called on the federal government to enact travel bans on “countries of concern” and the feds followed through just hours later.

On Tuesday, they expanded that ban to three additional countries.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries over the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. This added to the seven other African countries barred by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.


Click to play video: 'Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions'



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Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions


Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions

Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries over the past two weeks, will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport, and await their test results before exiting quarantine, Duclos said.

It was also announced that all air travellers entering Canada — excluding those coming from the United States — would have to get tested when they arrive and isolate until they receive a negative result. That measure applies to all travellers, regardless of vaccination status.

Duclos said Wednesday that it will take time to implement the new measure.

In his statement last week, Ford also called for point-of-arrival testing to be put in place.

He also said he advised the province’s chief medical officer and Public Health Ontario to “immediately implement expanded surveillance” and update planning to “ensure we are ready for any outcome.”

The Omicron variant has now been detected in many countries around the world, including, as of Wednesday, the United States.

Ford was asked if he would support expanding the new testing rules to those arriving from the States.

“I would always support anything that can be cautious to prevent this variant coming into our country. So, again we’ll have a discussion with the federal government. That’s their jurisdiction, it’s not ours,” Ford said.

“They work collaboratively with all the provinces and territories and I’m always for going the cautious route as I think people have seen over the last 20 months.”

The premier added that “it doesn’t take much to get a test at the airport.”

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday that it’s too early to say whether Canada’s latest requirement to test arriving air travellers will be extended to include those coming from the United States.

“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travellers from the U.S. We haven’t made that decision yet,” he said.

Read more:

Feds, provinces considering expanding COVID-19 tests for U.S. travellers amid Omicron

When asked what provincial measures are being considered in response to the Omicron variant, Ford said they will make sure there is expanded testing capacity and contact tracing.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there is still much that isn’t known about the variant, including how effective vaccines are against it.

She said the province is “continuing with all of our precautions” and said it’s important to keep border restrictions in place until more is known about the variant.

Elliott also said more information will be released in the coming days “with respect to age categories” on booster shots.

— With files from Saba Aziz and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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