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Canada’s Transport Minister is calling out the newly installed chairman of a global airline association for saying that his job as head of Qatar Airways would be too difficult for a woman to perform.

Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker made the controversial comments earlier this week after being selected as chairman of the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association, which has its head office in Montreal.

He subsequently backtracked and apologized for saying his company “has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position” — his original answer to a question about the lack of gender diversity in the airline industry.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is taking Al Baker to task in a letter to the CEO of the airline association.

Garneau says the comments work against efforts to increase the number of women not only as pilots, but also in senior management positions in an industry where they have been traditionally under-represented.

“Pursuing gender equality should be a given,” Garneau writes, calling Al Baker’s comments “unproductive and unacceptable.”

The letter doesn’t say whether Canada would take any further actions in response.

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