I'd like to welcome Bob Zimmer, and I want to abuse my authority as chair to ask everyone to join the outdoor caucus, which Bob chairs.
This morning, we pursue our study of use of indigenous languages in proceedings of the House of Commons.
We are pleased to be joined by Malcolm Williams, co-chair, board of examiners from the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council.
By video conference from Edinburgh we are happy to have the following officials from the Scottish Parliament: Ruth Connelly, head of broadcasting; Linda Orton, head of public information and resources; and Bronwyn Brady, sub-editor, Official Report.
We're also receiving a written submission from the U.K. Parliament about the use of Welsh. They didn't want to come on video; they're going to send it in.
Next Tuesday we're studying e-petitions in the first hour; and in the second hour, we are drafting instructions on indigenous languages to the House. We may have the subcommittee's report on sexual conduct between members.
We'll turn it over to our witnesses now.
We'll start with Ms. Brady from the Scottish Parliament. Thank you for taking the time to appear before us today.
You're very welcome. Thank you for asking us to talk to you.
I thought we would start just by giving you a bit of social and political context for Gaelic in the Scottish Parliament. It all starts with the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. That's an act that establishes a body that has “functions exercisable with a view to securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language”. The functions of that body include preparing a national Gaelic language plan, requiring public authorities to prepare and publish Gaelic language plans in connection with the exercise of their functions and to maintain and implement such plans, and issuing guidance in relation to Gaelic education.
That body is known as Bòrd na Gàidhlig, and it takes the lead in identifying actions that it believes are likely to support the use, the learning, and the promotion of Gaelic.
The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, which is our legal identity, is the named public authority in the Gaelic language act, which means that we have a duty to prepare a Gaelic language plan. We've just submitted the latest version of that to Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Its main aims are stated as setting out how we will use Gaelic in community outreach, how we will support MSPs and staff to develop confidence in using Gaelic, and how we will integrate Gaelic into the fabric of the Parliament's thinking.
The main responsibility for facilitating the implementation of that plan sits with the head of our outreach services. In addition, we've got two Gaelic officers who provide support for Gaelic in the Parliament and in parliamentary outreach.
You can see that we're in an environment that is very supportive of the use of Gaelic. However, it's not new. It's not only since the 2005 act. When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, the standing orders were written to say that the Parliament shall normally conduct its business in English but members may speak in Scots Gaelic or in any other language with the agreement of the presiding officer.
Those bare bones of the standing orders are filled out by the Parliament's language policy, and that provides the detail for how we will implement our ambitions to support the use of Gaelic in parliamentary business. More recently, the Parliament took a further step and passed the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, which places similar obligations on us to support the use of BSL.
Linda Orton, who is the head of public information and resources, can talk about the language policy and the interpretation contract. Ruth Connelly, who's our head of broadcasting, can talk about the services we need to provide, including technical facilities, to support multilingual parliamentary business. If you have any questions about the Official Report, which is what we call our Hansard, and it includes Gaelic, I'd be happy to answer those.
That's essentially what I'm going to do.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As was already stated, I am the co-chair of the Board of Examiners of the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council. That would indicate to you that we have an examination process. Our main job is to certify language professionals.
CTTIC, our organization, is a national umbrella organization, representing professional associations in seven provinces—B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador do not have a professional translators and interpreters association, nor do the territories. There was a professional association in Nunavut up to a few years ago, but to our knowledge that organization is no longer in existence. We have had discussions with representatives of the Nunavut government regarding certification of Inuktitut translators and interpreters, but those discussions are in the very, very early stage.
Regulation of occupations is within provincial jurisdiction, so it is our seven provincial affiliates that are responsible for certifying individuals. We certify individual language professionals, not companies. We certify them as professional translators, for written interlingual communication; interpreters, for spoken interlingual communication; and terminologists, in the interest of protecting the public. Interpreters can be certified as conference, community, medical, or court interpreters. Certification provides a reasonable insurance that the language professional will produce reliable work.
In the case of four provincial associations—those in B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick—provincial legislation confers upon certified members reserved title, meaning that only members in good standing of those associations can call themselves “certified” professionals. Under a reciprocity agreement, certification is portable from province to province, so I, as a certified member of ATIO, can apply to become a member of the B.C. association without having to re-sit any exams. Note, however, that the provincial associations do not have exclusive jurisdiction. Any individual or group in Canada can set up shop as a translation or interpretation service provider. As a result, many translators and interpreters may not see the benefits of certification. Note also that a number of other agencies across the country claim to accredit or certify language professionals and that many employers administer their own recruitment tests.
Now I'm going to talk about conference interpreting in the broad frame. Conference interpreters typically work in soundproof booths—there they are right there—providing simultaneous interpretation, with very little lag time between the delivery of the speech and the actual interpretation. They work primarily for conferences and legislative assemblies, with the Canadian Parliament, New Brunswick, and Manitoba being current examples of that. The work involves interpreting from language A, that of the speaker, to language B, that of some or all participants in the assembly, meeting, or conference.
The interpreters working for Parliament, our colleagues over here, are highly trained. A master's degree in conference interpreting from the University of Ottawa, York University, or a recognized university program in another country is now required. Most graduates also have first degrees in translation. Conference interpreters working at the Manitoba legislature are all certified by the Manitoba professional association.
I'll talk a little bit about our master's degree in conference interpreting. The University of Ottawa's master's program is an intensive full-time one, lasting 10 months. It is designed to train interpreters working in the two official languages. The program does not provide instruction in foreign language or indigenous language interpreting. The program is a demanding one for good reason. First, the clients—you, Parliament, and other federal institutions—are high-profile, so the consequences of error can be significant. Second, what the interpreter delivers is the finished product. There is no opportunity to revise, edit, or otherwise refine the product before the listener receives the message.
Now I'll talk about community and medical interpreting, which is a different type of occupation. Community interpreters ensure communication understanding among the speakers of different languages, often by interpreting from language A to language B, and vice versa, within the same dialogue. The context may be social services, education, health care, or interaction with the legal system. Typical situations include medical appointments for immigrant families, meetings of school staff with immigrant children and their parents, visits by social workers, health professionals speaking to seniors and persons with disabilities, meetings at community centres regarding housing for families and services for immigrant women, and meetings between attorneys and refugee claimants. Listening to the client or service provider and then relaying the information or question to the other party is the community and medical interpreter's role.
Unlike the conference interpreter, the community interpreter is observable and participates in the dialogue. As noted earlier, interpreters can become officially specialized as provincially certified community or medical interpreters. However, as the aforementioned list of typical assignments illustrates, community interpreters in any case require knowledge of concepts and a vocabulary of specialized fields.
In Ontario, many take courses in legal and medical terminology offered by community colleges and by a dozen agencies making up the Ontario network of language interpreter services, and these agencies are authorized by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship. In B.C., Simon Fraser University offers medical interpreting training in several Asian languages, and some private interpretation companies offer training to help people obtain certification. Regarding academic qualification for community and medical interpreters, a university degree is not a requirement, but most interpreters in the medical field community do have one.
There are other accreditation and certification bodies. The Ontario Council on Community Interpreting accredits community interpreters. Cultural Interpretation Services for Our Communities, an organization based in Ottawa, certifies health interpreters in over 60 languages, but not indigenous languages; and community colleges such as Humber College, in Toronto, offer a language interpreter training certificate.
Finally, on court interpreting, our provincial affiliates provide testing and certification in all these different kinds of interpreting. Court interpreters are typically located beside the judges' bench, interpret questions, answers, testimony, and other statements in court cases at the provincial level. CTTIC and its affiliates offer court interpreter certification. The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General runs exams to accredit court interpreters for their purposes. In B.C., however, the Ministry of the Attorney General encourages court interpreters to become certified through our provincial affiliate.
Court interpretive training in Ontario is provided by a number of agencies. In B.C, Simon Fraser, again, offers legal interpreting courses, as does our provincial affiliate.
Finally, I have a few words on our actual certification procedures. To be eligible to apply for certification in translation or interpreting from a provincial association—one of our affiliates—candidates must demonstrate an acceptable combination of academic qualifications, in most cases, a degree in translation or modern languages, along with two years of professional experience, or five years of professional experience.
There are two main routes to certification: by examination, and by what we call “on dossier”. In the interest of uniformity and efficiency, the national body, CTTIC, organizes annual certification exams in translation, community interpreting, medical interpreting, and court interpreting. Translation exams are offered in many language combinations, from and to English and French. Community, medical, and court interpreting exams are offered in about 10 language combinations. No exams have been run for a language combination including an indigenous language.
For on dossier certification, you don't have to go through the exams; you can go through this other process. Candidates must provide proof of experience, the number of words translated, or years of interpreting, samples of their work, and references. In the case of conference interpreters in New Brunswick, for example, five years of full-time conference interpreting, or a master's degree in conference interpreting, plus two years of full-time experience are the eligibility requirements. Conference interpreters can obtain certification by another route, by passing the federal government translation bureau's freelance interpreter accreditation exam.
I want to turn to our friends from Scotland.
First of all, welcome, and thank you for staying up late.
I don't know if they have our riding names listed here, but I represent a district called Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston. As you can tell from the Lanark part, it's an area of Scottish settlement. I live in the town of Perth, so I have a deep affection for our ancestral language.
I want to ask you a question, as a starting point, to get a sense of how many people have a need and an ability. If we compare Scotland to its nearest counterpart, to Ireland, we see that there are about 57,000 native Gaelic speakers in Scotland and about 75,000 in Ireland. However, in Ireland, because of their education program, there are also—at least in principle, according to census data—about 1.8 million people who can speak it as a second language.
Is there something parallel in Scotland, or is the number of second-language speakers much lower?