CGI's head office is located in Montreal. (File photo)
Pointed out in the past for the English unilingualism of its boss George D. Schindler, the Quebec giant CGI could disclose from next year the languages spoken within its board of directors, if the latter approves the process. .
This decision comes following a proposal by the Movement for the education and defense of shareholders (MEDAC) to this effect, which was to be put to the vote during company meeting this week.
In the circular sent a few weeks ago, CGI asked shareholders to vote against the proposal.
The board of directors does not believe that it is necessary or useful to disclose the language skills of directors in the skills and expertise grid of our management circular, the company pointed out.
However, questioned by the MEDAC during the meeting, the co-founder and executive chairman of the board of directors, Serge Godin, agreed to comply, but from next year.
“In consultation with our shareholders, in particular with the Caisse de depot et placement, and with others of course, we will recommend to members of our board of directors to include in our circular for next year a disclosure regarding the languages spoken by our directors. »
— Serge Godin, co-founder and executive chairman of the board of directors of CGI
It is however the board of directors that will make the final decision, said to specify Mr. Godin, during an interview with Radio-Canada.
Currently, of the fifteen members of the board of the company, nine reside in Canada, including six in Quebec, three in the United States, one in the United Kingdom, one in Germany and one in Sweden.
We have people who are specialized in all the sectors of activity in which we are, we also wanted to ensure that these people had a combined experience in the regions of the world where we are, explained Mr. Godin .
The latter affirms that, despite everything, French is widely used at the head office in Montreal and in the context of the company's activities. Of the 90,000 employees, 16,000 come from France, 7,500 from Quebec and 1,000 from Morocco.
We speak a lot of French at CGI and we all have an accent, joked the leader, originally from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.
During the In recent years, several controversies concerning the French language have shaken Quebec.
In November 2021, a statement by Air Canada boss Michael Rousseau notably caused an outcry. Unable to speak French at an event, he candidly claimed to have been able to live in Quebec in English only for 14 years.
Other businesses have also been singled out, including Canadian National (CN), which had also been criticized for the absence of Francophones on its board of directors.
At last year's meeting, the boss of CGI, George D. Schindler, had to defend the fact that he doesn't speak French even though he runs one of the biggest companies in Quebec.
We always conduct our business in the local language and we are very proud to be able to do so, he said.
He also underlined the fact that several French speakers are present in the of the company, in particular the founder Serge Godin and his daughter, Julie Godin. Other Quebecers also sit on the Board, including Gilles Labbé, Paule Doré and CGI co-founder André Imbeau.
For MEDAC, CGI's decision is a step in the right direction and could pave the way for other companies.
We are pleased to see that CGI has gone to the reason, albeit very belatedly, said MEDAC Director Willie Gagnon in a written statement.
This comes at a time when several companies have new disclosure obligations of diversity, under the Canada Business Corporations Act. However, according to the MEDAC, language is an element that must also be part of it.
“It's in the spirit of the law.” It is a question of corporate social responsibility, relating, in particular, to the attributes of diversity inscribed at the very heart of our democratic institutions. »
— Willie Gagnon, Director at MEDAC
Due to the sensitive linguistic context, the organization believes that it is high time for companies to be more transparent about the languages spoken by their directors.
For its part, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, shareholder of CGI, says it agrees with the process initiated by MEDAC.
The CDPQ is in favor of disclosing the languages spoken by directors. It is up to each company to decide how to make this disclosure. CGI and its team have our full confidence.
Following MEDAC's proposal, Cogeco also agreed to disclose the languages spoken within its C. A. The firm of SNC-Lavalin engineering has been doing this since 2021.
MEDAC has recently submitted a proposal to this effect to the seven major Canadian banks in view of the annual general meetings of the shareholders that will take place in 2023.