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Graham Fraser says more power is needed to make Air Canada comply withe Official Languages Act, which obligates the airline to provide French-language services.

AARON HARRIS/REUTERS

Canada's official languages commissioner is asking Parliament for powers to force Air Canada to offer more French services.

Graham Fraser tabled a special report in the House of Commons today specifically about the airline, which under federal law is obligated to provide French-language services.

Mr. Fraser says Air Canada consistently fails to uphold its legal obligations and nothing in his power is enough to force the airline to comply with the Official Languages Act.

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"My predecessors and I have used all of the tools at our disposal in order to help Air Canada improve its compliance to the act. However, after 45 years, the same issues continue to repeat themselves," Mr. Fraser said.

"Air Canada was built with public funds, and as our national airline, its activities should reflect Canada's bilingual nature. Today, it is no longer enough to make recommendations following investigations or audits, nor is it enough to report on Air Canada's compliance in annual reports to Parliament."

His report outlines four ways Parliament can help him pressure Air Canada, including giving him the power to levy fines for non-compliance.

Mr. Fraser says another option is to modify the law to allow a court to force the airline to pay damages and interest when it is found to have broken the rules.

Air Canada contends that Mr. Fraser's report is unjustified as the number of complaints against the company has remained stable at around 50 a year.

Mr. Fraser said in the report that, since 1988, Air Canada is the only institution subject to the Official Languages Act that has been taken to court by all of the commissioners of official languages. "It is now up to Parliament to define what is needed to compel Air Canada to meet its official languages obligations – the status quo is simply not working," Mr. Fraser said.

With files from staff

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