Interpreters concerned about the quality of bilingualism in the Ottawa Parliament

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Interpreters concerned about the quality of bilingualism in the Ottawa Parliament

The quality of bilingualism in Parliament could be affected, according to CNA Canada (archives).

The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC Canada) denounces a pilot project to recruit unaccredited freelance interpreters which, according to it, threatens the quality of bilingualism in the federal Parliament.

Behind closed doors, a select group of parliamentarians who oversee the operations of the House of Commons decided, for the first time, to recruit non-accredited freelance official language interpreters to carry out parliamentary work with a "pilot project" of six months that will continue throughout the next fall semester ending in December, worries CNA Canada in a press release released Tuesday morning.

According to organization, this decision was made two months ago to address the shortage of federally accredited interpreters. This lack of manpower has disrupted parliamentary work in recent months, but its origins date back several years.

For decades, the Translation Bureau has provided certified official language interpreters according to the highest quality standards, says AICC Canada.

La Decision by Board of Internal Economy Opens Door to Weakening or Eliminating These Standards, Says Organization

There is no doubt that the quality of bilingual speech in the House of Commons will suffer if unaccredited interpreters are assigned to parliamentary events during or after the pilot project ends in December, assumes Nicole Gagnon, interpreter accredited for several years and member of AIIC Canada, in the organization's press release.

Nicole Gagnon, freelance interpreter and member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters of Canada (archives)

AIIC Canada adds that sessions with accredited and non-accredited interpreters begin as soon as today to test technology that could allow them to work on parliamentary events from home or any other remote location.

This measure is also questioned by AIIC Canada, while the interpreters have always worked on site because, as the President and CEO of the Translation Bureau [Lucie Séguin] says, the interpretation opposite to face is always of better quality, can we read in the press release.

An evaluation of this project is expected by the end of August.

According to CNA Canada, many details of the pilot project remain unknown. House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota reportedly refused to provide details, the organization says.

The current shortage in the interpreting field is not new, according to CNA Canada. It is due to a woefully inadequate system for recruiting, training and retaining accredited professional interpreters, it is believed.

Only two universities in Canada offer a master's program in conference interpreting. The number of graduates is too low to replace the number of interpreters who retire or leave the profession each year, says AIIC Canada.

In February 2017, during his appearance before the Standing Committee on Official Languages ​​of the House of Commons and that of the Senate, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement at the time, Judy Foote, had recognized some problems.

At the time, she announced several measures to strengthen the Translation Bureau. But these announcements are called into question by the decision of the Board of Internal Economy, judges CNA Canada.

Rather than address the shortage with meaningful measures to build capacity to train new interpreters who can meet current standards, the Board of Internal Economy seems willing to sacrifice quality by bringing in recruits who are not in able to meet today's rigorous standards, says Nicole Gagnon, who worries about the possibility of a complete elimination of current quality standards.

CNA Canada considers this decision to be contradictory given that the project to modernize the Official Languages ​​Act is currently being studied. This reaffirms the federal government's desire to communicate with Canadians in both official ways, respecting equal quality.

We hope that the Board of Internal Economy will realize that his plans risk inevitably undermining language discourse within our democracy's highest institution, and that he should instead be concerned with the training and education of interpreters, Gagnon said.

She also suggests tackling the poor sound quality in the House of Commons, which has been causing hearing injuries among interpreters since the start of the pandemic.

At the time of publishing this article, the government of Justin Trudeau has not yet reacted to the exit of CNA Canada.

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