Michael Rousseau's lack of French doesn't justify Bill 96
Michael Rousseau's lack of French doesn't justify the discriminatory, unconstitutional Bill 96. Air Canada CEO Rousseau's flippant statements about his lack of French are in no way indicative of English-speaking Quebecers' willingness to learn and use la langue de Molière.
The Task Force regrets that the Legault government is using the Rousseau incident to stir up antiquated stereotypes of English-speakers in Quebec. Their purpose seems to be to shield the omnibus Bill 96.
The Task Force is left asking a number of questions:
1. Why did Air Canada's Board of Directors approve Mr. Rousseau's appointment in February 2021, knowing the furor that hiring a unilingual English-speaker for the position could cause in Quebec? Especially with revamped language legislation being considered at both the federal and provincial levels?
2. Why are Quebec nationalists and Bill 96 supporters only expressing outrage now, nine months after Rousseau's appointment?
3. Air Canada - a national employer with a bilingual mandate in a federally regulated industry - making misguided comments on language is regrettable. However, is the idea of English-speakers living their lives in English in Quebec really so repugnant?
Mr. Rousseau is solely responsible for the public relations nightmare that has engulfed Air Canada. His unilingual speech at the Chambre de Commerce de Montréal, lack of basic French after 14 years in Montreal, and his inability to answer a simple media question in French, have all unleashed a firestorm Bill 96 opponents did not need.
I ask, “As a 9th generation English-speaking Quebecer, why can’t people live their lives in English in Quebec? Is the dream of a nationally bilingual Canada really predicated on extinguishing the English language in Quebec? It appears that the federal and Quebec governments’ answer in Bills C-32 and 96 is 'yes'.”
Michael Rousseau is but one English-speaking Quebecer in a 1.2-million-person linguistic community, at least two-thirds of whom are functional or better in the French language.
The Task Force also reminds Quebecers that Bill 96 won't increase the percentage of francophones in the province. Only a higher francophone birth rate, better immigration retention policies, and a reimagining of Quebec's public school system, with greater emphasis on quality French instruction and core literacy skills (reading, writing, listening comprehension), will do that.
Colin Standish, Task Force on Linguistic Policy