Air Canada Just Paid An Ontario Couple $21,000 For Violating Their Language Rights
They have filed similar complaints against the airline before.
Michel Thibodeau and Lynda Thibodeau filed 22 complaints against Air Canada in 2016 for violations of the Official Languages Act. The pair said the Emergency Exit signs were either only in English, or if there was French, it was in a smaller font than English, and other similar complaints. The Federal Court ruled today that the two will collectively be awarded $21,000 for the Air Canada language rights violations.
Other complaints made were that the seatbelts had the word “lift” in English but with no French-language translation.
Air Canada responded that it was the manufacturer's wording, not theirs. The airline said that there is a bilingual instructional message at the beginning of every flight to show passengers how to use the seatbelts.
The Ottawa couple also said that a French-language boarding announcement that was made in a Fredericton airport was less detailed than the English announcement, CBC reports.
The airline argued that the Official Languages Act was being interpreted too intensely and that there are no laws requiring the identical use of two languages, but opts for using them both in a substantial way.
Federal Court Justice Martine St-Louis ordered Air Canada to write the Thibodeaus a written apology to go along with the payment.
CBC points out that the pair filed other language rights complaints in court in 2014, but they lost the case. They complained they were not served in French on Air Canada international flights between January and May 2009, for which the airline apologized.
The Supreme Court agreed that the couple's French-language rights were violated, CBC reported, but they did not qualify for damages. It was ruled that compensation is only provided in cases of death, injury, delays or baggage-related incidents.
This year, the couple's persistence has paid off in their $21,000 victory. They argued that Air Canada systemically violated the language rights of Francophones.