SCC Says Couple’s Language Rights Violated, But No Damages Awarded

Posted on: January 26th, 2015 by Suzanne Deliscar Add A Comment

A Supreme Court decision that ruled Air Canada isn’t obligated to pay damages to an Ottawa couple whose language rights were violated highlights a conflict in the protections offered under the Official Languages Act and a treaty that restricts the awarding damages against international airlines, says Brampton lawyer-linguist Suzanne Deliscar.

“I think the Montreal Convention is more of a technicality in this situation as it doesn’t go to the heart of the issue,” she tells “This couple felt that the Official Languages Act should have protected them and it didn’t. Having said that, I think it’s good that the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that their rights were violated.”

In Thibodeau v. Air Canada, the high court said in a 5-2 ruling that while “there is no dispute that the airline breached its obligations to supply services in French” under s. 22 of the Official Languages Act, it agreed with an earlier Federal Court of Appeal ruling that there is no requirement that the airline compensate them because the incidents occurred on an international flight.

This case, involving Michel and Lynda Thibodeau, goes back to three flights the couple made in 2009 between Ottawa and the U.S., aboard Air Canada Jazz.

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