SNC-Lavalin CEO delays speech planned mostly in English

Ian Edwards told the Canadian Club of Montreal he wants to delay his speech so he can add more French content.

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The CEO of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin has put off a speech he planned to deliver to the Canadian Club of Montreal in the wake of news reports he planned to give a mostly English speech.

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Ian Edwards, who has lived in Montreal for seven years, sent a letter Thursday to the organization representing business leaders in the country, saying he wishes to spend more time to practise his presentation and to assure that there is more French content.

Edwards, who was named to the top job in October 2019, was due to speak this coming Monday. He had taken flak from several commentators after reports surfaced that he planned to deliver a speech to the Canadian Club of Montreal that did not have much, if any, French content.

“After my arrival in Quebec in 2014, I followed French courses, with mixed results,” the letter writes. “More recently, during a meeting of our board of directors at the end of October, I had already committed to make the necessary efforts to follow language training to the best of my abilities.”

The report came to light after Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau delivered an English-only speech last week to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce and later said he was able to live 14 years in the city without speaking French and had no time to learn the language.

Rousseau apologized, but the incident ignited a firestorm of backlash from political circles.

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