Canada couple gets $12,000 for lack of French service

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In a ruling that has riled Anglophone Canada, a court awarded $12,000 to a couple who sued after they were not served in French aboard Air Canada flights on two trips to the United States.

Michel Thibodeau and his partner Lynda sued Air Canada for half a million dollars in punitive damages for not complying with a Canadian law requires the airline to provide services in both of Canada's official languages -- French and English -- on flights where routinely at least five percent of the passengers are Francophone.

A Canadian court ruled in favor of the couple this week and ordered Air Canada to pay the couple $12,000 and apologize.

A former state-owned business, Air Canada was privatized in 1988 and is the country's largest airline.

According to the Toronto Sun newspaper, Thibodeau is a fluently bilingual federal government employee.

"Linguistic zealots like Thibodeau do not help unify the cultural divide, but instead exacerbate the chasm," wrote Peter Worthington, a columnist for the newspaper.

Other media offered similar comments.

The National Post's Barbara Kay called Thibodeau "equivalent of the compulsive coupon clipper," saying that "instead of haunting supermarkets, he haunts bus companies and airlines, forever on the lookout for an abrogation of his right to hear the station stop, the weather, the time and the altitude in French."

The daily added: "Next time Mr. Thibodeau tries his little trick, the airlines should offer him a discounted ticket or maybe a case of 7 UP, and if that isn't good enough and he persists in filing yet another suit, the Federal Court should inform him -- in both official languages -- that he is wasting their time."

© 2011 AFP

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