Organizations defending the French language condemn the Montreal Canadiens’ decision to wear the Air Canada logo on their white sweater, while the airline is regularly and seriously accused of failing to respect the rights of French speakers.
• Also read: Air Canada will sponsor the Canadiens’ white jersey
“This agreement is an affront. “This is a slap in the face for Quebec and the French-speaking world,” criticizes Jean-Paul Perreault, president of Impératif français.
On Wednesday, the Habs and Air Canada jointly announced in a press release that the airline’s logo will be embroidered on the white jerseys players wear on the road as part of a “multi-year” partnership.
Last year, at the start of the 2022-2023 season, CH caused controversy by displaying the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) crest on their red home uniform.
It was the first time in history that the Glorieux jersey featured a sponsor. The sweaters worn abroad have been spared to this day.
“The mere fact of putting logos of major corporate sponsors on the Sainte Flanelle uniform is in itself a sacrilege,” laments Maxime Laporte, president of the Mouvement Québec français.
“Given Air Canada’s dismal record on respecting the status of the French language, including Air Canada’s is even worse,” he adds.
Especially since the ice hockey club, founded in 1909, had the goal of offering a team that consisted predominantly, if not entirely, of French-speaking players.
Air Canada is notorious for not being able to offer bilingual service in the country, even if the law requires it. The company hit a 10-year high last year with 276 complaints filed with the Office of the Commissioner for Official Languages.
The Office of the Commissioner for Official Languages also said in 2021 that the “vast majority” of complaints against Air Canada concerned the lack of service in French.
French-speaking defense groups also recall the scandal surrounding Air Canada’s appointment of its CEO Michael Rousseau. In November 2021, he bragged that he was able to live in Montreal for almost 15 years without learning French.
“Canadians cannot pretend not to know that Air Canada is one of the companies most frequently the subject of complaints from many Quebecers who cannot be served in French,” protests Mr. Perreault. Your decision deserves a quick review.”
This announcement also comes in the week in which Alouettes player Marc-Antoine Dequoy attracted attention for his fiery statement denouncing the French’s absence from the Gray Cup, which the Montreal soccer team won on Sunday.
“I can see that the Alouettes are cooperating with Quebec, especially from the statement made [par Dequoy]. A close relationship has been formed and we see that the Alouettes are a team from Quebec. Seeing the Canadian take a completely different direction [me déçoit]», claims Mr Perreault.
“A privilege” for the CH
The Canadian organization did not respond to questions from Newspaper Wednesday evening.
The press release emphasizes that the agreement strengthens a “more than 40-year partnership” between the Canadian and Air Canada.
“It is a privilege for us to have a long-standing relationship with the country’s national airline, Air Canada,” said France Margaret Bélanger, president of sports and entertainment at Groupe CH.
“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. This is not the case with any other airline,” replied Christophe Hennebelle, Vice President of Communications at Air Canada.
For his part, Mr. Laporte believes that this announcement reflects a separation between Maurice Richard’s team and Quebec.
“It’s not new, but the Canadiens organization has lost sight of that deep and rich connection that it had with the people of Quebec.”
“The Montreal Canadiens are the national team of Quebec and to see them behave like that is really navigating difficult waters,” Mr. Perreault added.
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