Politics

Air Canada, CBSA top list of bilingualism complaints

Canada's official languages commissioner is painting a generally positive picture of bilingualism in Canada, but is expressing concerns that certain institutions continue to violate the law year after year.

51 complaints received about airline and border agency, official languages commissioner reports

Official Languages commissioner Graham Fraser releases findings from his 2013-14 annual report at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canada's official languages commissioner is painting a generally positive picture of bilingualism in Canada, but is expressing concerns that certain institutions continue to violate the law year after year.

Graham Fraser is singling out Air Canada, which shares the top spot in the number of complaints filed against it in 2013-2014 along with the Canada Border Services Agency.

He told a news conference today that his office received 51 complaints about each of the two.

Next comes National Defence with 31, Canada Post with 30 and the Canada Revenue Agency with 20.

Fraser is expressing dismay that Air Canada does not seem to consider bilingualism a competitive advantage.

He also said he is mystified by Air Canada's attitude toward bilingualism, saying it's constantly reminded of ongoing investigations.

"Instead of looking at the question of offering services in the two official languages as a marketing asset, it appears to treat it as a burden," Fraser said.

Air Canada said Tuesday it was surprised by Fraser's comments, saying it takes its linguistic commitments very seriously.

Fraser also said problems exist with institutions that have direct contact with the public.

"We see that the use of the words 'Hello-Bonjour' are not part of the culture in the public service," he noted.

In Montreal, employees in many retail stores will greet their customers with that phrase, indicating they can get served in either language.

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