Government Response to the First Report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages
Application of the Official Languages Act to ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. following the restructuring of Air Canada
On June 15, 2006, the Standing Committee on Official Languages (LANG) tabled its first report regarding the application of
the Official Languages Act to ACE Aviation Holdings Inc, following the restructuring of Air Canada.
The LANG’s report resulted from analysis into various statements made by the Commissioner of Official Languages, the February
2002 report of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages, and the House of Commons debates at second reading of Bill
C-47 on November 3, 2005.
In its report, the LANG outlined five recommendations to address the changes in the scope of application of the Official
Languages Act at Air Canada since the airline’s corporate restructuring and emergence from bankruptcy protection under the
Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act in 2004.
The recommendations can be broadly summarized as a call to Government to reintroduce, in the shortest possible time, a bill
repeating the provisions of Bill C-47, which was introduced in 2005, to restore various linguistic obligations on a number of
entities within the Air Canada group of companies.
Air Canada was established by Parliament on April 10, 1937 as the national airline to provide essential air transportation,
cargo and mail services across Canada. The airline has been subject to the Official Languages Act since the legislation
came into effect in 1969. Although the airline was privatized in the late 1980s, language obligations were imposed on Air
Canada as a result of the carrier’s history as a federal Crown corporation and in order to protect language rights for the
Canadian public and Air Canada’s employees.
The Air Canada Public Participation Act, as currently enacted, requires Air Canada, the mainline carrier, to be fully subject
to the Official Languages Act, and to ensure that its airline subsidiaries, of which none currently exist, provide services
to the public in both official languages. Furthermore, the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public)
Regulations outline conditions specifying when Air Canada must provide bilingual services to the public on its flights.
However, other post-restructuring entities including Air Canada Jazz, Cargo, Technical Services and Ground Handling, and the
holding company itself, ACE, are no longer captured under the Air Canada Public Participation Act and therefore are not
covered under the provisions of the Official Languages Act.
Bill C-47 proposed a number of amendments to the Air Canada Public Participation Act that would have restored many of the
linguistic obligations at a number of these entities in the Air Canada family of companies to the same level that existed
prior to restructuring.
Furthermore, the Government stated in its policy platform that it would protect and promote Canada’s official languages, and
support the Official Languages Act to ensure that English and French have equality of status and equal rights and privileges
as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada.
The Government believes that the linguistic rights that have been acquired by Air Canada should continue to be preserved. As
a symbol of Canada around the world, the carrier should continue to be bound by the obligation to adhere to linguistic
obligations it agreed to when it became a private company in the late 1980s and as subsequently amended.
The Government accepts the recommendation to reintroduce legislation that would repeat the provisions of Bill C-47, and help
ensure that linguistic rights that existed for Canadians working or travelling with Air Canada prior to its restructuring
in 2004 are restored. The Government will move quickly to table legislation similar to the former Bill C-47 that will restore
service to the public obligations, and language of work rights, for federally regulated entities under the control of ACE and
Air Canada to the extent possible permitted by the Constitution. Amendments will be included to provide a mechanism for the
Government to clarify (if necessary) what entities will be subject to the legislation.