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French may be enforced on all flights to Canada

Ben McPartland · 24 Apr 2015, 15:05

Published: 24 Apr 2015 15:05 GMT+02:00

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What started as a row over lemonade could end up with international airlines being forced to employ French speakers on all flights that serve Canada, a country where French and English are classed as official languages.

An MP in Canada, Stephane Dion, has lodged a bill with parliament that if passed would oblige all flights to and from Canada to have a French speaker on board and for all passenger announcements to be made in both English and French.

The inspiration for his bill lies in an argument over a lemonade on an AirCanada flight between Toronto and North Carolina in the US.

A Francophone Canadian couple had ordered a 7Up and the air hostess, who did not speak French, brought them a Sprite, reports say.

An argument ensued and the two passengers are said to have become furious not with the fact they couldn't get any 7Up but because no member of staff on the plane was capable of speaking or understanding French.

They later sued the company but their case was dismissed by the Supreme Court last year.

The court acknowledged that while Air Canada failed to fulfill its obligations imposed by the law on official languages, it was powerless to punish the company because the law demanding both languages are spoken on board only applies to internal flights within Canada.  

The MP Dion decided that the law needed changing.

“Being able to order 7Up in French on a plane is a fundamental right in Canada and all Canadians should be able to sue the airlines if this is not the case," Dion said this week.

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He lodged his bill with the House of Commons that under the Official Languages Act proposes to extend the rules to all international flights serving Canada.

In Canada the Official Languages ​​Act aims to ensure "compliance with French and English as official languages ​​of Canada and ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions."

This means that any service must be provided in both French and English and that could soon apply when it comes to selling lemonade.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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