The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the appeal of a couple who sued Air Canada when they weren’t able to order a 7Up in French.
Michel and Lynda Thibodeau filed eight complaints with the official languages commissioner over the English-only services they say they received from Air Canada during trips taken between January and May, 2009.
The Federal Court awarded the couple $12,000 in compensation for the times Air Canada did not serve them in French.
Air Canada was also ordered to apologize to the Thibodeaus.
But the Federal Court of Appeal set aside the lower court’s judgment and reduced the amount of money awarded to the couple.
As is its custom, the Supreme Court did not provide reasons for its decision.
In 2000, Thibodeau was refused service in French when he tried to order a 7Up in Fench from a unilingual English flight attendant on an Air Ontario flight from Montreal to Ottawa and was served a Sprite.
Thibodeau filed suit in Federal Court for $525,000 in damages. The court upheld his complaint, ordered the airline to make a formal apology and pay him $5,375.95. Thibodeau was later honoured by the French-language rights group, Imperatif Francais.
In 2007, he filed a complaint against the City of Ottawa, accusing it of not providing sufficient bilingual services on its buses.
In the latest case, the Thibodeaus initially complained of eight instances in 2009 in which they did not receive services in French at airports in Atlanta, Toronto and Ottawa and aboard three related Air Canada Jazz flights between Canada and the United States.
The Official Languages Act requires Air Canada to communicate and provide services in both official languages in the National Capital Region and elsewhere in Canada, “where there is significant demand for those services in the minority language and where it is warranted by the nature of the office or facility.”
The Federal Court’s Judgment on July 13, 2011:
DECLARES that Air Canada breached its duties under Part IV of the Official Languages Act. More specifically, Air Canada breached its duties by
• failing to offer services in French on board (Jazz-operated) flight AC8627, a flight on which there is significant demand for services in French, on January 23, 2009;
• failing to translate into French an announcement made in English by the pilot who was the captain of (Jazz-operated) flight AC8622 on February 1, 2009;
• failing to offer service in French on board (Jazz-operated) flight AC7923, a flight on which there is significant demand for services in French, on May 12, 2009;
• making a passenger announcement regarding baggage collection at the Toronto airport on May 12, 2009, in English only.
ORDERS Air Canada to
• give the applicants a letter of apology containing the text appearing in Schedule “A” to this order, which is the text of the draft apology letter filed by Air Canada;
• make every reasonable effort to comply with all of its duties under Part IV of the Official Languages Act;
• introduce, within six months of this judgment, a proper monitoring system and procedures to quickly identify, document and quantify potential violations of its language duties, as set out at Part IV of the OLA and at section 10 of the ACPPA, particularly by introducing a procedure to identify and document occasions on which Jazz does not assign flight attendants able to provide services in French on board flights on which there is significant demand for services in French;
• Pay the amount of $6,000 in damages to each of the applicants.
• Pay the applicants the total amount of $6,982.19 in costs, including the disbursements.