Parliamentary interpreters say the quality of the translation and the health of bilingual debate in the House of Commons could suffer if the Canadian Translation Office goes ahead with plans to bring in non-accredited interpreters.
The federal agency plans to bring in freelance interpreters, who are not credentialed by the Translation Office, through the end of the fall session as part of a pilot project to help meet the demand for translators amid an apparent shortage.
A new survey of 92 interpreters who are qualified to work for the federal government’s Office of Translation shows that nearly three-quarters of them have not been asked to take the job.
Hill’s interpreters are tasked with translating live parliamentary business, including debates in the House of Commons and committee meetings, as well as translating all documentation, including bills, minutes, correspondence and the reports.
And the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) claims that a plan by the House of Commons to hire freelance interpreters without Translation Bureau accreditation to meet the needs will reduce the quality of service and thus put at risk risk the level of bilingual debate.
“The House of Commons is creating a ‘B’ team of interpreters who have not proven to meet the high-quality standards required so far in Parliament,” AIIC-Canada spokeswoman Nicole Gagnon said in a statement to the House. organization on Wednesday.
Gagnon called the House administration’s decision “misguided” and said there are several “inefficiencies” that need to be addressed.
He added that no credible institution, including the United Nations and the European Parliament, would bring in freelance interpreters who have not submitted an exam, as the Canadian government’s pilot project would allow.
AIIC’s survey shows that despite an apparent challenge by the Translation Office to meet interpretation needs, very few accredited interpreters have been offered parliamentary assignments in the last six months.
“There are plenty of credentialed freelancers who are ready, willing and better able to serve in Parliament,” Gagnon said. “The House of Commons is unnecessarily jeopardizing the bilingual speech quality of its proceedings by bringing in providers who are not qualified by the Translation Office’s standards.”
The Translation Office was not immediately available for comment.
The House, meanwhile, voted in June to continue its hybrid model, which allows MPs to virtually participate in House debates and committee meetings, and vote from anywhere in Canada, but parliamentary interpreters say the system causes problems.
Many have raised concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic that the sound quality while working on a hybrid model has affected their work and caused workplace injuries.
AIIC’s survey shows that more than two-thirds of respondents rated working conditions in the virtual Parliament as average or below average, specifically when it comes to quality of service.
And while half of the interpreters surveyed who have worked in Parliament in the past say they are unlikely to take a job that doesn’t involve working in person on Capitol Hill, three-quarters of them say they are concerned about the quality of sound on Capitol Hill. the Hill. More than half of those surveyed say they have reduced the number of assignments they accept at Hill for that reason.