SNC-Lavalin CEO postpones Montreal speech so he has time to add more French

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SNC-Lavalin’s president and CEO Ian Edwards was supposed to deliver a speech in Montreal on Monday, but he’s postponing it to next year to ensure it includes more of Quebec’s official language.

“I want to take the necessary time to better prepare my presentation and make sure that it contains more French,” said Edwards in a statement Thursday.

“The recent events surrounding the place given to the French language in Canadian and Quebec companies have led me to make this decision.”

Edwards was slated to give the speech to the Canadian Club, a business group. He was to discuss SNC-Lavalin’s transformation in modern times, according to the club’s website.

The speech’s postponement comes a week after Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau delivered a 26-minute speech at Montreal’s Palais des congrès that contained only about 20 seconds of French. 

Rousseau said his understanding of the language is “fair,” but he struggles to speak it despite living in Quebec for 14 years.

That prompted swift criticism from federal and provincial politicians and several Quebec commentators. Rousseau has since apologized and committed to improving his French.

Edwards says he fully understands “the Quebec reality and the importance for our employees, customers and partners of providing a respectful workplace for all.”

Edwards, who has lived in Quebec since 2014, says he started taking French classes as soon as he arrived but had mixed results. He is committed to continuing his language education to the best of his abilities.

He says the company has a “francization committee” that is working to improve “our ways of doing things in terms of the place and use of French.”

Edwards was appointed president and CEO of SNC-Lavalin in the fall of 2019, having joined the company in 2014.

SNC-Lavalin was founded in Montreal in 1911 and, in recent decades, has been implicated in a number of legal cases. 

Most recently, two former executives at SNC-Lavalin were charged in September with fraud and forgery by the RCMP as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the company.



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