A Montreal subway station.
Credits: JOEL LEMAY/QMI AGENCY
MONTREAL - An appointed minister has filed a complaint with the city's transit authority because he claims two subway employees told him they "don't serve English people."
Michael Dunning told QMI Agency that when he asked, in English, for an all-day pass at a Montreal subway station on Monday, the two employees behind the glass laughed and cursed him.
"They didn't say: 'We don't have to speak English,'" Dunning, 55, told QMI Agency on Friday. "They told me: 'We don't serve English people.'"
Moreover, Dunning said he was dismissed on the phone when he called to register a formal complaint two days later. He said it was only when Montreal's English-language media reported on the story that he received a call from the transit authority's legal department.
Monday's alleged incident came a few weeks after two of the city's Major League Soccer players filed similar complaints.
The Montreal Impact's Columbian midfielder Miguel Montano, claims two subway agents refused to sell him a ticket because he couldn't speak French. Montano then took to Twitter and called the city "racist." He later recanted and apologized for the comment. Montano, and another Impact player who with him, filed official complaints.
Marianne Rouette, spokeswoman for the city's transit department, said it received Dunning's complaint and "an investigation is underway."
Rouette said the investigation into the two soccer players' complaints had been concluded, and the transit authority wasn't going to publicize the results, nor say if any employee had been reprimanded.
She said she couldn't speak to the specifics of either case, but said by Quebec law, the city cannot force its employees to speak another language other than French.
Article 45 and 46 of Quebec's French-language law stipulate that an employer cannot reproach an employee for not being able to speak a language other than French. Nor can employers force an employee to speak anything other than French on the job, unless their specific duties necessitate them knowing another language.
"However, (the law) doesn't impede us from demanding that our employees are respectful when they respond to clients and that they use all the means at their disposal to answer respectfully," Rouette said.
The transit authority's ethical code states that one of the department's goals is to "serve clients with respect and dignity" and that employees must be "sensitive to the reality that the population (of Montreal) is diverse and multicultural."
Rouette said the transit department is taking Dunning's complaint seriously.
Dunning, who said he was born and raised in Montreal, said Monday's situation was the first time he's ever had trouble with a transit employee for speaking English.
However, for his alleged troubles, Dunning said he wants a public apology and a year's worth of free metro passes - or the cash equivalent.
"My neighbour, who is (French-speaking) said I should get a lifetime pass," he said.