Organizations defending the French language are condemning the Montreal Canadiens’ decision to put the Air Canada logo on their white sweater, while the airline is regularly and seriously accused of disrespecting the rights of French speakers..
“This agreement is an insult. “It is a slap in the face to Quebec and the French-speaking region,” criticizes Jean-Paul Perreault, president of the French imperative.
On Wednesday, the Habs and Air Canada jointly announced via press release that the airline’s logo will be embroidered on the white jerseys worn by players on the road, as part of a “multi-year” partnership.
Last year, at the dawn of the 2022-2023 season, CH sowed controversy by adding the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) crest to its red home uniform.
It was the first time in history that a sponsor appeared on the Glorieux jersey. Sweaters worn abroad have been spared until today.
“The very fact of putting the logos of major corporate sponsors on the Sainte-Flanelle uniform is sacrilegious in itself,” condemned Maxime Laporte, president of the Mouvement Québec français.
“The inclusion of Air Canada is adding insult to injury, given Air Canada’s dismal record in terms of respecting the status of the French language,” he adds.
Especially since the hockey club was founded in 1909 with the goal of fielding a team mostly, if not entirely, made up of French-speaking players.
Air Canada is notorious for not being able to offer bilingual service domestically, even if required by law. The company hit a 10-year record of 276 complaints against it to the Office of the Commissioner for Official Languages last year.
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages also announced in 2021 that the “vast majority” of complaints against Air Canada related to the lack of French-language services.
French language defense groups are also recalling the scandal surrounding Air Canada’s appointment of Chief Executive Officer Michael Rousseau. In November 2021, he boasted that he could live almost 15 years in Montreal without learning French.
“Canadians can’t pretend they don’t know that Air Canada is one of the companies most often complained about by many Quebecers who can’t be served in French,” protests Mr. Perreault. Their decision deserves a speedy review.”
The announcement also comes in a week when Alouettes player Marc-Antoine Dequoy stood out with a fiery statement decrying the Frenchman’s absence from the Gray Cup, which Montreal won on Sunday.
“I can clearly see the Alouettes teaming up with Quebec, especially with the statement (Dequoy) made. There is an intimate relationship that has been created and we see that the Alouettes are a Quebec team. To see the Canadian going in a completely different direction (disappointed me),” claimed Mr. Perreault.
“Privilege” for CH
The Canadian organization did not respond to the Journal’s questions on Wednesday evening.
The statement emphasized that the agreement strengthens the partnership of “more than 40 years” between Canadian and Air Canada.
“It is a privilege for us to maintain a long-standing relationship with the country’s national carrier, Air Canada,” said France Margaret Bélanger, president of Groupe CH’s sports and entertainment division.
“We are the most bilingual airline in Canada, one of the most bilingual companies in the country and one of the few private companies in Canada subject to the Official Languages Act. No other airline has,” replied Christophe Hennebelle, vice president of communications at Air Canada.
For his part, Mr. Laporte believes the announcement reflects a disconnect between Maurice Richard’s team and Quebec.
“It’s not new, but the Canadiens organization has lost sight of this deep and rich connection it had with the people of Quebec.”
“The Montreal Canadiens are Quebec’s national team and to see them behave like this is to really want to navigate through rough waters,” adds Mr. Perreault.