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Results: 1 - 15 of 25
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members.
Thank you for inviting me. I’m pleased to be here today to discuss the government's response to the committee’s report on the Translation Bureau.
With me is Marie Lemay, the deputy minister, and Adam Gibson.
The Translation Bureau is a unique Canadian institution. Its founding in 1934 was an affirmation of Canada's reality and the rightful place of two languages. From the beginning, the work of the Bureau has been invaluable in fostering respect for our linguistic duality.
Generations of linguistic professionals have dedicated their special skills and talents to helping transform the federal government's capacity to serve Canadians in the language of their choice. This legacy of pride in their place and the quality of their work has been taken up by today's generation of employees, who are making a contribution that is much larger than simply words.
I’m committed to restoring pride and honour to the Translation Bureau.
This is an organization that actively contributes to supporting linguistic duality within the Government of Canada.
Mr. Chair, the mandate of the Bureau is as important as it has ever been. Even though the employees have made and continue to make an outstanding contribution, I think their work has not always been given the recognition it deserves. A new approach is long overdue.
As a champion of official languages, I am determined to lead by example by reinforcing the value of bilingualism to Canadians. I am committed to renewing the Translation Bureau as a centre of excellence ready to embrace innovation, adopt leading-edge practices, and recruit the best in class.
As home to one of the largest French-speaking populations in the world, Canada is a world leader in maintaining the highest standards in terminology, translation, and interpretation.
I am grateful to the committee for having undertaken this study and for formulating its recommendations. Your work has highlighted some of the key issues around the Official Languages Act and the role of the Translation Bureau in support of Canada's linguistic duality.
With respect to roles and responsibilities, the Official Languages Act, the cornerstone of federal language policy, recognizes English and French as equal languages in all federal institutions and obliges these institutions to do their part in promoting linguistic duality.
Further, the act clearly assigns specific responsibilities to Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Canadian Heritage. Minister Brison and Minister Joly have met with your committee to discuss those responsibilities as well as the commitments in their mandate letters regarding official languages.
In November, Ministers Brison and Joly announced a review of the official languages regulations related to communications with, and services to, the public. In her appearance before you, Minister Joly described the consultations with Canadians that she is leading in respect of this review. I work closely with both of my colleagues to support their efforts and ensure my department's actions are complementary.
The Translation Bureau gives meaning to the Official Languages Act by providing high-quality translation, revision, and interpretation services for Parliament, the judiciary, and federal departments and agencies. It is also the terminology authority within the federal government.
Since our response to your report was tabled, I have requested that officials at the Translation Bureau make progress in relation to your recommendations. Today I am announcing further measures that are consistent with the direction and spirit of your report.
One of those actions concerns the issue of optionality. The Translation Bureau manages, in terms of volume, 80% of the federal government's translation needs. The common services policy set by Treasury Board specifies that organizations such as the Translation Bureau must conduct periodic reviews to assess whether their services should be optional or mandatory. These reviews are done in collaboration with the Treasury Board Secretariat.
I have written to Minister Brison to request his support in considering reverting to a mandatory service delivery model for the Translation Bureau as a complement to other initiatives in support of official languages.
I now turn to other measures that I have instructed my department to take.
A hiring process is under way for a new chief executive officer, who should be in place by the end of March. The process was open to the public and promoted to the linguistic profession, and the selection committee will include an external expert from academia. The priorities of the CEO in the first few months on the job will focus on quality, hiring, and training, which align with the committee's concerns.
I will now take a few minutes to address each of these priorities.
With regard to quality, the Translation Bureau has a strong reputation for excellence, not only across the Government of Canada, but internationally. The Bureau has developed a quality framework that includes a quality-control system, a rigorous process to recruit world-class employees and freelancers, and world-class training programs for its linguistic experts. I support this process.
Therefore, to further guarantee the quality of its linguistic services, the Bureau is creating the new position of chief quality officer. This position will be held by a language professional who will report directly to the Bureau's CEO. The chief quality officer will oversee all Translation Bureau activities affecting quality and take part in decision-making on training, technology, staffing, and other issues.
In addition, the Bureau is setting up a service line that departments can call to obtain advice on linguistic services. Callers will be able to get information on things such as their obligations under the Official Languages Act and standard clauses they can use in their contracts.
In renewal and hiring, loss of staff through attrition in recent years has created the need to manage lost corporate knowledge and expertise. I assure all committee members that I take this matter seriously. Our mandate is to provide federal departments with access to high-quality linguistic services. Gaps in capacity put this mandate at risk, and we are taking action and monitoring the situation.
This year, the Bureau hired 19 new employees to provide linguistic services in specific domains such as parliamentary proceedings, national protection, and meteorology. Aligned with the Prime Minister's youth strategy, and as part of the Government of Canada's ongoing engagement with students and universities, the Bureau commits to hiring a minimum of 50 students per year in each of the next five years.
As well, ongoing projects are bringing experienced professionals together with the next generation of translators, interpreters, and terminologists. Initiatives are under way to increase the number of interpreter graduates from recognized universities to support additional hiring by both the Bureau and industry.
We are restoring a co-op program. Many Canadian universities, including the Université de Moncton, the Université de Montréal, and the University of Ottawa, have already indicated their interest in participating.
The Bureau's regional presence is important, providing key expertise to better understand the specialized needs of Canada's diverse regions. It will continue to operate its network of regional offices, which employ about one quarter of the Bureau's 1,300 employees. As well, there are staff on site at certain military bases, such as CFB Gagetown and CFB Borden.
Mr. Chair, the Translation Bureau's role in helping parliamentarians and the federal government to listen to and communicate with Canadians is critical. To increase awareness of the Bureau's role and in line with a committee recommendation, the Bureau is collaborating with the Canada School of Public Service to include this information in courses offered to all new public servants. The new curriculum will be rolled out this spring.
I now turn to the language comprehension tool.
With your study, the committee advanced an important conversation about how official languages and innovation intersect. The government agrees with your recommendations regarding the language comprehension tool and has acted on all your recommendations. A plan was developed to ensure the content in the tool is regularly reviewed by professional translators. The terms of use have also been modified.
As we embrace innovation, we must do so in a way that supports and advances our government's priorities related to official languages. The online Language Portal of Canada is an example of how technology can be used to provide accessible innovative tools to help Canadians from coast to coast to coast communicate in French and English.
I now turn to the Bureau's interpretation services and, in particular, efforts to put in place a request for standing offer for hiring freelance interpreters. Concerns have been expressed that the new approach does not respect official languages and, in particular, the quality of our services. Following careful consideration, I have cancelled the request for standing offer. I have asked officials to reset and to develop a new approach based on further consultations with representatives from across the interpretation industry.
Mr. Chair, any new endeavour in this area must reflect our commitment to official languages and the quality of our services. In the meantime, I assure you and committee members that all interpreters hired by the Bureau are fully accredited, based on a world-renowned, proven accreditation process.
We're the proud party of the two official languages, and we'll continue to promote, support and defend bilingualism in Canada.
As we mark Canada's 150th birthday and the things that make our country great, your report is a reminder of the Translation Bureau's contribution to linguistic duality in the public service and Parliament, and ultimately for all Canadians. The measures we are taking will enhance the Translation Bureau's ability to provide high-quality linguistic services, as it has done for over 80 years.
I am committed to work with this committee, my cabinet colleagues, and everyone who is interested in ensuring the Translation Bureau continues to deliver on its mandate effectively.
Thank you for your attention.
I am now happy to answer your questions.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Absolutely. If I may, I'll start by thanking our interpreters as well, because they're such an important part of everything we do in the Government of Canada.
Thank you so much to them.
We are intent on making sure that the quality needed to provide both official languages is made available through any process we enter into. That is why we have postponed the request.
It was supposed to be up within a matter of days...?
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Yes, March 9.
We want to make sure we get this right, so we want to consult with the various stakeholders across the spectrum. Again, because our focus as a government is to ensure that we provide quality services, we are committed to official bilingualism, so we are going to consult with all of the stakeholders to make sure we get this right.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Like you, I am concerned that such a policy existed. For the past year under this government we have been working really hard to change the face of the Translation Bureau. That is why we have cancelled the March 9 deadline in order to go back out and consult further with individuals to make sure they have a say in how we go forward, and that we go forward in a way that is acceptable to those who we work with, who we engage, and who are so important in making sure this process is one that is effective but is also based on quality, and not necessarily the lowest price.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
It was Donna.... I forget her last name.
What was Donna's last name?
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Donna is no longer is that position. She's gone on to an HR position. We're looking to hire someone of the calibre that we think needs to be there to head up the Translation Bureau.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Do you want to elaborate on that, Marie?
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
I agree with you. In fact, that should be part of our approach on a go-forward basis, but I think they do avail themselves now of—
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
—programs that are available to them.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you for the question.
In responding to the report, we could have elaborated a bit more than we did, certainly in recognizing all the work that had been done by the committee. I think that was a shortcoming on our part. It was really important to let you know what measures were ongoing in the Translation Bureau. I think the report itself, the response to the report, while it stated what things were happening in the Bureau, I don't think it went far enough. It wasn't thorough enough in terms of allowing you to understand the work that had been done.
Having said that, I really appreciated the feedback from the committee, because in reading your feedback and recognizing that, there are other things that can be done. Your efforts in conjunction with the ongoing efforts of the Bureau—but your efforts—and in being engaged as much as you were, enabled us to look at other opportunities and other things we could do. There was the idea, for instance, of writing to Minister Brison to ask that the use of the Translation Bureau be made mandatory. For the things that came out of your concerns, we were able to take positive measures as a result of them.
Thank you.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
I can certainly get Adam to elaborate on that, but let me say that this is a measure near and dear to my heart. I think it's really important, as someone who is learning the language, to make sure that we provide opportunities for students. For students who already know the language or are learning the language, I think it's really important that we engage them as well.
We are looking regionally. I've mentioned some of the universities that have expressed interest in the co-op program. There are others. We're working very closely with them, and in different areas of the country where we know that we have had representation from those areas. As well, of course, we have a couple of our bases where bilingualism is really important.
It's based on quality, and I'm going to allow Adam to elaborate in terms of how students who you know—who anyone on the committee may know—may be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
It is as you say. A quarter of the workforce was lost from the Translation Bureau, which is way too many. Obviously that is going to have an impact on those who remain. If you don't see an infusion of new talent and new people coming into your fold, that has an impact on morale as well, because you wonder if it will go by the wayside.
The reality is that we've hired 19 people this year. Contrary to what would have happened if we hadn't hired the 19 people this year, the plan was to lose another 30-odd positions, so we have reversed that trend. It is a trend that I'm happy to reverse given my commitment to bilingualism and this government's commitment to quality and to bilingualism.
We are looking at the needs and, as I said initially, one of the things I've done is to write to Minister Brison to ask that use of the Translation Bureau be mandatory. Quality is what's really important to us here, so we are focusing on that. We are working closely with the employees. I know that my deputy has reached out to the employees, and Adam has as well. Again, that's to make sure we understand what their concerns are, what their issues are, and how we can deal with those, because we want to have a happy, productive workforce, particularly in the Translation Bureau.
As you say, the demands are great, and we want to make sure that in responding to those they feel comfortable that they have the time to do what needs to be done to ensure that the work they do is quality work.
Thank you for the question.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
I'm going to ask my deputy to talk about the plan that we put in place with respect to that.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
I wrote to Minister Brison. I'm giving him some time, obviously. I have not heard back from him. The letter would have gone out only maybe a week ago. We need to give him some time.
Again, I would point out—and I don't need to to this to my colleague because he knows—that as a government we see it as our job to promote, protect, and defend bilingualism. We need to take whatever measures we can to do that.
What I am asking him would be one of many measures that we're implementing. In terms of a timeframe, I don't have that for you. I can tell you that we're all wedded to the same idea as a government and as cabinet ministers, which is that we need to do everything we can to ensure the quality of the services coming out of our government. Certainly, we have a role to promote and defend.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you.
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