Canadian Citizen | Francophones excluded from the CA table

An “unacceptable” situation for the CDPQ

Posted at 5:00 am

Julian Arsenal

Julian Arsenal
The press

The country’s largest railway company is closing the doors of its board of directors to Francophones, despite its headquarters being in Montreal and the Official Languages ​​Act. The situation is described as “unacceptable” by Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (CDPQ) – a major shareholder of Canadian National Railway Company (CN).

Despite a language warning from the Legault government that was launched a few months ago and their The press revealed that the Montreal railroad has not retained a local candidate as part of its team of 11 directors, which must add three new directors: two Americans and one Albertan.

“This lack of francophone representation […] is simply unacceptable, says CDPQ spokesman Maxime Chagnon. We are very disappointed that CN does not consider this important aspect in the composition of its board. »

CN’s intentions will be disclosed in the circular sent to its shareholders ahead of the May 20 annual meeting. We also learn that total compensation for the company’s top five executives hit $29 million in 2021 — a 19% annual increase.

The issue of proficiency in Canada’s two official languages ​​among business leaders has returned to the public eye since Air Canada President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Rousseau’s outcry last fall.

Barring a turnaround, Tracy Robinson, who is enrolled in French classes, will join a team where there is virtually no fluency in French. The former TC Énergie executive will be Quebec’s sole representative on the board when she is officially installed in the metropolis. His predecessor Jean-Jacques Ruest, who has just retired, was perfectly bilingual. CN declined to say which of the candidates for a seat on the board was fluent in French.


PHOTO FROM CN WEBSITE

Tracy Robinson is President and CEO of CN

This signals to French-speaking managers and workers that they are second-class citizens. One third of the members should be from Quebec.

Richard Leblanc, expert in governance, law and ethics at York University in Toronto

Exodus of the Francophones

Former Quebec Prime Minister Jean Charest, who was recruited as director last January, has already resigned to run for leadership of Canada’s Conservative Party. Mr. Ruest and Julie Godin, Senior Executive of CGI, have been the Francophone representatives on the Board for the last several years. Mme Godin left the board last fall.

“It is surprising, to say the least, that they could not find qualified French-speaking candidates residing in Quebec,” lamented the CDPQ spokesman. However, we had spoken to them on several occasions and encouraged them to better represent their stakeholders. »


The Quebecers’ wool socks rank tenth among CN’s major shareholders with a stake of around 1.7%, according to financial data company Refinitiv.

In an email, the railway said the three new members would bring directors “hands-on experience” of the railway industry. On the question of French, the company limited itself to highlighting the commitments of its new leader, adding that its “employees”, its “customers” and the “communities” through which it passes “in the language of their choice”. could communicate.

Ivan Tchotourian, a professor specializing in governance at Université Laval, is surprised that CN emphasizes specific diversity goals, such as:

We put diversity in all sauces, but not in language. It’s a pretty clumsy signal. We don’t even see the language problem in the lists praising the administrators’ qualities.

Ivan Tchotourian, professor at Laval University specializing in governance

On the Ottawa side, the response was more nuanced, but CN’s official language commitments were repeated. The Office of Transport Minister Omar Alghabra anticipates ” [les] officers, including board members, [montrent] The example “.

Similarly, the Legault government said it was “a mark of respect to address Quebec’s business community in their official language, French.”

A bonus to start with

Although she was promoted by accepting the position of President and CEO of CN, Ms.me Robinson was still entitled to a “compensation bonus” of around 1.7 million when he was hired. CN justified this payment by saying that its new president had waived this sum from her ex-employer.

The company has set its new boss’s total compensation for 2022 at 11.5 million.

CN in brief:

  • The headquarters : Montreal
  • Employees : 22,600
  • Income: 14.5 billion
  • Net profit: 4.2 billion
  • Network : 31,500 km in Canada and the United States

(Source: CN Annual Report 2021)

call everyone

Can a public company incorporated in Montreal like CN have an English-only board of directors?

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    Tracy Robinson knows the rail industry well, having spent 27 years at Canadian Pacific, CN’s arch-rival.

    Source: CANADIAN NATIONAL

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