Air Canada: Image credit: Twitter handle @AirCanada
Ottawa/CMEDIA: Francophone travellers are struggling to access services in their language whether travelling by plane, train or automobile, Canada’s official languages commissioner, Raymond Theberge reportedly said Tuesday.
It’s an ongoing struggle, Theberge said, that has worsened in the last decade.
“After more than two years of the (COVID-19) pandemic, Canadians have finally been able…resume activities that were put on hold due to pandemic-related health restrictions,” Theberge told reporters Tuesday after presenting his annual report.
Theberge’s report highlights that besides a lack of bilingual services and staff, there is also a lack of signage in English and French, and not having multilingual reservation systems.
A spokesperson for Air Canada said it takes every complaint brought forward seriously and is being reviewed by the company and will take every opportunity to improve.
“We are one of the few Canadian companies, and the only airline, to be subject to the Official Languages Act. We have maintained our commitment toward the act for the past 50 years…serving our customers in more than 20 languages in 51 countries in addition to Canada,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Between April 2022 and the end of March 2023, said Theberge of 495 complaints lodged against federally regulated travel institutions, 276 were lodged against out Air Canada.
According to Theberge’s report, airport authorities spoke about their challenges in recruiting bilingual staff, while some look to automated multilingual systems to address shortcomings.
Theberge said the government needs to develop tools and guidelines to be shared with airport authorities and asked federal officials to submit a plan on how official language obligations will be met.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra acknowledged there needs to be an overall culture change within the travel industry.
“We need to work together at further enhancing the culture…Canadians expect to be served in the (official) language of their choice and we need to ensure that the transport sector meets that obligation,” Alghabra said Tuesday.
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