Air Canada ordered to pay $21,000 to French-speaking couple for violating language laws

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by Air Canada lands Wednesday, March 27, 2019, at Boeing Field in Seattle. The Federal Aviation Administration plans to revamp oversight of airplane development after the two deadly crashes of 737 Max 8 airplanes, according to testimony prepared for a Capitol Hill hearing on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Air Canada was ordered to pay 21 thousand Canadian dollars to the couple who claimed that the airline violated Canada's language laws. (AP)

Air Canada have been ordered to pay 21,000 Canadian dollars ($15,700; £12,900) to a French-speaking couple who claimed the airline breached the country's bilingualism laws.

Michel and Lynda Thibodeau filed 22 complaints in 2016 for offences under the Official Languages Act because the air line failed to provide the same instructions in French as it did in English.

The Ontario couple complained that some signs on a domestic flight to Montreal were only in English, while French translations of words such as "exit" were written in smaller characters.

They argued that the seatbelt had the instruction to "lift" the buckle, without a French translation.

The couple also claimed that the English-language boarding announcement for their flight was more thorough than the French version.

Justice Martine St-Louis at Canada's Federal Court ruled that that the airline had "not upheld its linguistic obligations".

Flight attendant indicating exits in airplane
The couple claimed that the English-language boarding announcement for their flight was more thorough than the French version. (Stock image)

Air Canada is subject to the country's Official Languages Act, which seeks to ensure that English and French are given equal status.

The airline was ordered to write the Thibodeaus a letter of apology and told the court that it would work to replace the signs.

According to court documents, Air Canada argues that the couple were "interpreting the act too strictly" and claimed the law doesn't require it to treat the two languages identically but in a substantially similar way, according to Canadian broadcaster CBC.

They also argued that it was the manufacturer's decision to mark the word "lift" and that a fully bilingual message on how to use a seatbelt is delivered before takeoff.


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Mr Thibodeau said he was satisfied with the ruling but hoped to see signs on Air Canada flights improve.

"Signage must be of equal quality," he said.

The law is very clear that in Canada [for] francophones and anglophones, the language rights are protected by the Charter. And signage must be of equal quality," he said.

"My expectation is that within a couple of months, we will be able to fly on any Air Canada plane, and finally signage will be in both official languages."

This is not the first time the couple accused Air Canada for violating the Official Languages Act.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that they could not sue the air liner on an international flight and would have to settle for an apology.

In this instance, the couple ordered a 7-Up in French from a flight attendant and instead received a Sprite.

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