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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. LeBlanc, you have the floor.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I wish to endorse the comments of Mr. MacKinnon and Mr. Julian to support Ms. DeBellefeuille's suggestion. I am concerned by this as well.
It is a bit embarrassing that after two years some of our colleagues do not feel the obligation to be well equipped to participate in debates and committees for whatever reason. As Mr. Julian said, it is not only a vital issue for the safety and health of our interpreters, but it is also a vital issue of respect for our colleagues, who must understand the discussions. I think Mr. Calkins has just made that point.
Mr. Speaker, I therefore suggest that the Board of Internal Economy remain seized of this matter and that, when the time is right in your judgment and in the judgment of the clerk, you give us an update, as Ms. DeBellefeuille has suggested. I don't want us to discuss this today only to discover in four or eight weeks' time that is has not been resolved in a much more rigorous way.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Ms. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I thank my colleagues, who are willing to work together to help us improve.
I would like to put a brief question to Mr. McDonald.
Representatives of sign language interpreters have told us that for some meetings they do not have access to the written documents of witnesses or ministers that our interpreters have access to. Yet this would allow them to do their job more easily.
Is it for security reasons that they are not given the texts in question so that they can interpret in sign language?
I think that the Translation Bureau does not hire this kind of interpreter. So I would like to take advantage of Mr. MacDonald's presence to get an answer to this question.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. McDonald, the floor is yours.
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-02-17 12:13
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
That's a good question.
We don't have a lot of experience in this respect. However, I believe that sign language interpretation was provided for all meetings on the study of Bill C‑81 during the 42nd Parliament.
I don't believe that we had issues providing the documents at that time. We provide documents to the interpretation service, which is responsible for making them available to all interpreters, including sign language interpreters.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
What representatives of this group have told us is that they requested documents. Perhaps they didn't ask the right person. Should sign language interpreters who want the hearing impaired to have access to debates address their request to the translation bureau or the clerk's office?
Which is the better option?
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-02-17 12:14
We will take a look at the issue.
To my knowledge, we already provide documents to the interpretation service, which is responsible for all interpreters who support the work of committees.
Your next witnesses may have more information on the subject, and we will be able to provide you with additional information. We would be very glad to examine the issue to ensure that it is resolved. That being said, to my knowledge, we have always provided documents to the interpretation service.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you.
I think that I came through loud and clear. I have noted the solidarity of my colleagues around the table, who also seem to want the situation to improve.
Nevertheless, I would like to highlight that it's about not just allowing members to understand what is said, but also allowing witnesses to provide testimony. In this respect, each of the whips around the table has work to do, and I would say that the lion's share of the work falls on the government whip, since members of the government are usually the ones to chair meetings.
I know that Mr. MacKinnon will do everything necessary to raise the awareness of his members who chair committees so that they are more attentive, because it seems very clear today that we want things to improve, not just for members, but also for witnesses.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Brassard, please go ahead.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I note that the House has become even more responsive over the course of the pandemic, and the virtual hybrid sittings, in supplying different types of resources not just to members of Parliament consistently but also to witnesses. I have seen an improvement in that.
Through you, Chair, Mr. Calkins talked about March 2020, and the fact that we had started moving to a virtual hybrid system. We've seen a marked increase in interpreters suffering from hearing problems as a result of this.
In advance of 2020, how many cases would we have typically dealt with proportional to what we're seeing right now in terms of the number of interpreters being impacted and affected by the hybrid Parliament? I suspect that it certainly wasn't the same as in an in-person Parliament.
Do you have any idea of what those numbers are, for workplace injuries as they relate to pre- and post-hybrid?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. McDonald, would you be able to answer that, or would you be able to come back with an answer?
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-02-17 12:17
I believe the interpretation service representatives will be able to deal with that question momentarily for you.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
The reason I am asking is because it is relevant to the discussions we are having as they relate to this transitional plan of moving forward, restricting some of the measures that Mr. Calkins talked about, and eventually, I hope, returning to a normal Parliament.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
I'm not seeing any more questions.
I would just point out to all parties that perhaps they want to ask their members to check their emails. I sent out an email yesterday, it just so happens, on best practices when using virtual meetings. It's just to highlight that they would want to check that out and follow that, and make sure they're following that to a tee, because any deviation from that really makes it difficult for people.
Again, it comes down to this. I know we take things for granted sometimes. We say, “Oh well, I'm caught in my car. I'll just use my phone.” It will cause problems for someone who is interpreting, so please follow those guidelines for those best practices.
I realize that sometimes it can't be done. We just had one case where one of the members could not use the headset, and they made arrangements. What ended up happening was they got him a microphone and speakers, and everything worked well, but the microphone wasn't working well enough for the interpreters.
A simple solution would have been getting the speakers working other than in the headset, and he'd wear the headset and use the microphone on the headset. This was not working. The speakers were working, but the microphone wasn't, so sometimes something simple like that really covers that area.
If there are any problems, please contact our technical people, because they have been very diligent and trying their best. Believe me, they are bending over backwards. I have to compliment our technical team for trying to make it so the interpreters do well.
I know what it's like to try to translate. I've done some in the past, nothing to the extent of what they're doing, and they're keeping up with what they're doing.
It's not always easy to listen to what is being said and then interpret into another language. In fact, it's very difficult, and we really appreciate the efforts undertaken by interpreters to allow Parliament to continue its work.
We will now move on to the third item, entitled translation bureau - resources utilization for simultaneous interpretation.
Our witnesses today are Ms. Lucie Séguin and Mr. Matthew Ball.
We'll let them get set up.
Ms. Séguin will start.
You have the floor, Ms. Séguin.
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:20
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would like to thank the members of the Board of Internal Economy for this invitation. With me today is Matthew Ball, vice‑president, services to parliament and interpretation, translation bureau.
I would first like to acknowledge that I am speaking to you from the traditional unceded territory of the Anishnaabeg people in the beautiful city of Ottawa. It's a pleasure for us to be here today to provide an update on the interpretation services that the translation bureau provides to the House of Commons and its committees, not only in both official languages, but also in indigenous languages, foreign languages and sign languages.
Although interpreters work primarily behind the scenes, they play a crucial role, as mentioned earlier during this meeting. They ensure that parliamentarians and Canadians can follow the proceedings in Parliament and participate fully in the democratic life of our country. It is a job that interpreters do with a great deal of pride, and I want to really pay tribute to their dedication.
I would like to recognize Cécilia, Christine and Sharon, who are in the booth for today's meeting.
Honourable members, as you know, interpreting is a demanding and complex task, and you have mentioned this. It requires very precise technical conditions to be performed safely, particularly with regard to sound quality. As interpreters speak and listen at the same time, sound quality is very important to them. At the end of the day, interpreters cannot work if they cannot hear.
I would like to make it clear that the translation bureau, as you know, is not responsible for the technical aspects of providing interpretation services. That is the responsibility of our clients, including the House of Commons administration. That said, we collaborate closely with our clients to ensure that interpreters work in conditions that are safe and conducive to high‑quality interpretation.
However, these conditions are sometimes lacking when participants are remote—and you gave a number of examples of this today. Remote interpretation has become the norm, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic has led to the widespread use of virtual sessions and has completely redefined the working environment for interpreters, resulting in an increase in reports of health and safety incidents related to sound quality among interpreters. I can assure you that health and safety is a priority for the translation bureau and the Government of Canada, and I see today that this is also the case for the honourable members of Parliament.
Even before the pandemic began, the translation bureau had started taking steps to protect interpreters during meetings with remote participants. We have since strengthened these measures with the help of our partners, including the House administration and the associations representing interpreters. There is no quick fix for the challenges of virtual sessions. However, some measures have improved conditions since the spring of 2020.
For example, as you have mentioned, Parliament provides members of Parliament, senators and parliamentary committee witnesses with headsets that have one-way microphones. I sincerely thank you, on behalf of all interpreters, for diligently using this equipment. I can also see that you are taking health and safety very seriously, which is commendable.
Furthermore, since February 7, we have required that participants in virtual sessions hosted by Government of Canada departments and agencies use a proper microphone, as you do. We have instructed our interpreters not to interpret contributions from participants who do not meet this requirement. This directive applies to our clients in federal departments and agencies, because here, at Parliament, we can see that habits are changing for the better. This will therefore not apply to Parliament. However, we encourage parliamentarians to continue adopting the recommended practices.
Other successful measures include continuing to implement reduced work hours for virtual sessions without a reduction in pay. As well, we have increased staff scheduled for each virtual session to allow interpreters to take more frequent breaks. Of course, these measures increase the number of interpreters required for each session.
As is the case in many other professions, there is a shortage of interpreters around the world, including in Canada. The translation bureau is the largest employer of interpreters in Canada. It has 64 official languages interpreters on permanent staff.
We are also fortunate to be able to rely on freelance interpreters, but even in the private sector capacity is limited. Sixty freelance interpreters are currently helping us serve Parliament, but their availability varies depending on the demands of their other clients.
This means that we have to be very agile in matching our offers with the needs of Parliament and our other clients. Fortunately, we can count on the co-operation of the House of Commons as well as Senate administration to anticipate needs and allocate resources according to priorities.
Please rest assured that we are making every effort to improve our ability to continue to provide you with the quality language services that you deserve.
We are actively collaborating right now with the only two Canadian universities that offer the master's in interpretation program. We're also actively engaged in helping ensure a strong succession, loaning them our seasoned interpreters to teach courses and to help students prepare for our accreditation tests.
We are also constantly looking to expand our pool of freelancers. Furthermore, we are vigorously pursuing our research projects with top hearing specialists in Canada and abroad in order to make evidence-based decisions in the implementation of optimal protective measures for interpreters.
Among other things the National Research Council of Canada has confirmed that the interpreter consoles in the House of Commons and committee rooms provide excellent protection against acoustic shock. However, tests have revealed that the sound reaching interpreters in booths during virtual proceedings is of lower quality than that reaching remote participants. We are actively exploring possible solutions with the House of Commons administration.
Honourable members, I would like to thank you and all of your fellow members of Parliament for your co-operation and your concern for the health and safety of our interpreters, staff and freelance.
I would also like to extend a big thank you to the staff at the House of Commons for their constant support and active involvement in the search for solutions to make the work of our interpreters safe and easier.
My colleague Matthew and I are now ready and happy to take questions.
Thank you very much.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. MacKinnon, you have the floor.
Then it will be Mrs. DeBellefeuille's turn.
Then we'll go to Mr. Brassard and Mr. Julian.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I had the honour to work and collaborate with Ms. Séguin and Mr. Ball in a previous life, as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.
Having followed the evolution of this file and the status of the translation bureau, I am convinced of the great dedication of everyone, from Ms. Séguin to the deputy minister, by way of each and every employee of the translation bureau. The bureau, as an institution, has existed for 87 years now. In fact, it is one of the oldest government institutions in Canada. It is truly a centre of excellence, which employs some 1,600 people, if memory serves.
I am not here to sing the praises of its employees, but I know that they are very proud of the work they do. In my opinion, it's important to highlight that it is a great institution that serves all Canadians and shines around the world.
We have been politely reminded of the burden imposed on the translation bureau when it receives requests for documents that are not necessarily directed to the right place. However, that is not the subject of today's meeting.
I invite my colleagues to exercise greater care when developing and drafting requests for documents. Out of a desire to not miss anything, a large number of documents unrelated to the request are often included, which puts incredible pressure on the already limited resources of the translation bureau.
We knew it already, but Ms. Séguin just reminded us that needs are greatest and the demand is highest for interpreters, especially in this era of virtual work. I know that great efforts are being made to attract people to this profession. We have a duty to thank the interpreters, as we often do. In my opinion, it's obvious that more work needs to be done to attract people to this profession and to the translation bureau.
Ms. Séguin, you spoke about university partnerships. As we know, when there is a labour shortage, everything must be done to address it.
Could you tell us a bit more about what needs to be done to attract more people to the professions of interpretation and translation?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:33
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
As Mr. MacKinnon mentioned, the translation bureau is the largest employer of translators and interpreters in Canada. Furthermore, we take this responsibility very seriously. We work with all Canadian educational institutions that offer interpretation, translation and terminology programs.
In addition to our specific partnerships with York University, Glendon College and the University of Ottawa, which offer master's degrees in interpretation, we also have a partnership with the Canadian Association of Schools of Translation, which comprises 10 Canadian universities.
We therefore have collaborative training programs, both for interpretation and translation, where we offer young interpreters and young aspiring translators the opportunity to gain concrete experience. This experience counts as credits toward their bachelor's degree or diploma.
On the interpretation side of things, there are three to five graduates annually. With York University and the University of Ottawa, we have frequent discussions about ways of attracting young people to the profession of interpretation.
We hire basically all of the students who graduate, as long as they meet the translation bureau's very rigorous quality criteria. We offer them employment, and we are always seeking to collaborate with other educational institutions, in Canada and elsewhere, to increase staffing.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Do you wish to make any comments on the other subject that I touched on: translation?
I know that you will not want to comment on the necessity of requests or excessive requests for information. Making a request for information is the most inherent right of any parliamentarian.
To what degree have these requests increased and put pressure on your resources?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:35
Thank you for that follow‑up question.
The translation bureau is responsible for providing translation and interpretation services to both chambers of Parliament: the Senate and the House of Commons. However, it also offers its services to all departments; agencies; members of the judiciary, such as the Supreme Court of Canada; the Privy Council Office; and the Prime Minister's Office. Not to mention, the bureau provides services during press conferences and other such events.
In terms of translation volume, we are one of the largest translation shops in the world. On average, we translate 350 million words annually. We have experienced increases recently, over the past two years, and we support a larger number of committees.
Concerning the documentation sent to our interpreters, it's true that it's a good thing if our interpreters receive documents in advance, if possible. At least, they should receive the most relevant documents, so that they are better equipped to interpret using the most correct and consistent terminology.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
I will come back to the interpreters.
You mentioned that there were only three to five graduates a year, which isn't a lot. Are you able to keep up, despite resignations and retirements?
Are there enough graduates to replace the people who are leaving the field? Do you foresee an increase in this number?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:36
The number of new graduates is less than the number of retirements. In the last three years, we have hired nine new interpreters, while 12 interpreters have retired. However, we are fortunate in that a number of them become freelancers. Often, interpreters who have spent their careers at the Translation Bureau become freelancers for the Bureau.
However, we have also observed a drop in the number of freelance interpreters who are available or prepared to provide their services to Parliament. This is a constant challenge for us. For 30 years, we have been involved in training the next generation, and we will continue to do that. As I said, it is a challenge for us, as it is for a number of other professions.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
The services to parliamentarians now involve other requests, specifically interpretation with indigenous languages. The interpretation of indigenous languages is a service that parliamentarians are now entitled to receive.
Have initiatives such as that also added to your load?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:38
Yes, absolutely.
Since 2019, parliamentarians have had the right to address Parliament in the indigenous language of their choice.
We are able to count on a pool of approximately 100 freelancers, which allows us to interpret about 50 indigenous languages and dialects.
Yes, we have added responsibilities to provide services in indigenous languages. Moreover, since the new Accessible Canada Act was adopted, there are new requirements for accessibility. The Translation Bureau provides services in sign language, both American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language. We also provide captioning and other services for the deaf and hard of hearing, and those with problems with visual or auditory perception.
So we are providing a lot of new services, and we have the legislative mandate to provide all language services to Parliament, to the government and to its agencies. The Bureau's mandate remains unchanged but the workload is certainly increasing.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
I was talking to Ms. Séguin but I know that Mr. Ball also plays an important role in all this.
I know that we are asking a lot of the Translation Bureau. The demand is intense, especially because of the virtual sessions of Parliament and the other requests that we have made to the Translation Bureau. Labour shortages are everywhere, and I know that Ms. Séguin and her colleagues have to come to grips with it. However, I feel that it is important to tell them that we do acknowledge their work and that we are grateful to them for it.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would like a few points clarified.
You talked about 3 to 5 graduates annually. Is that in the Ottawa region or nationally?
Where do those graduates come from?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:41
I will ask my colleague Mr. Ball to answer that question.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-02-17 12:41
We are talking about 3 to 5 graduates nationally.
Canada has two Masters programs in conference interpreting, and the people we hire come from there. I myself was an interpreter trainee, having graduated from one of those two programs in 1999. We actually hire all the graduates as interpreter trainees, because, when they graduate, they don't really have the level of accreditation they need to be able to work with committees. We provide them with good training over two years, after which, they are ready to support you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much for that clarification.
We will now continue with Mrs. DeBellefeuille, followed by Mr. Brassard.
We will then go to Mr. Julian.
Madame DeBellefeuille, please go ahead.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I see that my colleague is as passionate as I am about the whole interpretation issue. He took 20 minutes to ask Ms. Séguin questions and we only have about 15 minutes left in the meeting.
That's not a criticism, Mr. MacKinnon, it's just an observation.
Ms. Séguin, I want to congratulate you for your clear, honest and transparent statement. It is not always easy for me to understand who has responsibility for what. From what you are telling me, you, as the manager, are responsible for hiring interpreters and for their health and safety, but the House administration is responsible for ensuring the quality of the equipment with which those interpreters work.
Did I understand correctly?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:43
Yes, exactly.
The Translation Bureau is responsible for providing the interpreters, the human resources, but everything to do with the technological resources is the responsibility of the clients, like the House of Commons, the Supreme Court, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and so on.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay, so I did understand correctly.
I came across a figure showing the number of interpreters who fall sick. You have identified about 300 work-related incidents or accidents, which is almost a record.
Your job is to tell your clients, in this case the House administration, that your interpreters are injured for reasons such as poor quality sound or equipment, am I right?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:43
Thank you for your question.
You are exactly right. We have seen an increase in incidents and we are working closely with our colleagues in Parliament who are responsible for all the technology here and in the Senate.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
As a manager, you seem to be attentive to the health and safety of your interpreters, the people who allow you to provide a service for your clients.
I know that you commissioned a study from the National Research Council Canada, a scientific organization. You asked the Council to conduct sound tests because, as a good manager, you saw that the increase in work-related accidents due to the quality of the sound did not make sense to you.
You wanted to validate that increase scientifically, so you asked the Council to conduct some tests. In a first series of tests, some problems were detected. Subsequently, other more in-depth tests were conducted around October 2021. Those tests revealed major problems that could explain the growing number of work-related accidents that your interpreters were suffering.
When I say that, am I on the right track?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:45
We retained the services of the National Research Council Canada, the NRC, as an impartial organization. Expert sound engineers conducted tests in basically two phases. First, they tested the volume of the sound, which contributes to acoustic shock. In that regard, the NRC study found that the consoles and the equipment used in the House of Commons provide exceptional protection. So the interpreters are protected against acoustic shock and problems related to the volume of the sound.
However, problems were found in the quality of the sound. That is what we are working on at the moment, to make sure that the quality of the sound that reaches the ears of the interpreters during virtual meetings is at least as good as, or better than, the quality that members of Parliament hear when they are participating in the virtual meetings.
One of those studies has been done and others will be done. As the interpreters' employer, our goal is to have firm data on the impact of exposure to a less than optimal sound quality. That data does not exist, either in Canada or internationally, because the phenomenon is very recent. Consequently, we are investing our resources so that we can obtain that firm data.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Those tests are being done on systems that do not belong to you; they belong to your clients.
The results of the first phase of the study are satisfactory, while those of the second phase are a concern and merit our attention. Moreover, the accidents continue to increase. Does that mean that your clients are not making corrections significant enough to curb the number of work-related accidents? Do you feel that your clients are not making the effort needed to correct the problems that the NRC study revealed?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:47
Quite the opposite. Our colleagues in the House of Commons are very conscientious and very concerned about the results of the NRC study.
As I mentioned, the NRC was chosen because it is an impartial organization. We have collaborated fully with our colleagues in the House administration who are responsible for the technology. We have worked hand-in-hand on the study and, because we regularly meet with our colleagues in the administration, I know that they have a very meticulous program and that they are investing a lot of resources in the quest for solutions.
I am not saying that the problem is completely solved, but we have found solutions to the problem of acoustic shock that was related to the volume of the sound. This was done because of investments in equipment purchases by both the House of Commons and the Translation Bureau.
However, some problems still need to be solved. They are with the quality of the sound, which is why our interpreters are reporting incidents. We have received about 230 incident reports since the start of the pandemic. The symptoms that the interpreters report are fatigue, tinnitus and headaches.
If members of the committee so wish, I can talk about the other study that we are conducting in order to gather firm data on the long-term effects of these symptoms.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Basically, you have no short-term objectives or timeframe. There is no solution.
If I understood correctly, you and your clients are looking for solutions to reduce the problem that causes the affliction.
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:49
I will let Mr. Ball answer that.
However, I can say that possible solutions have been clearly identified. We know that a lot of energy is being put into finding a solution as quickly as possible. What is happening in the Parliament of Canada is also happening in other institutions around the world, like the UN, NATO, the European Commission, and the European Parliament. Everyone is facing the same difficulties in terms of sound quality.
I am sure that Mr. Ball will be able to supplement my answer.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-02-17 12:49
Yes, actually, a lot of gains have been made. I can venture some optimism; a lot of progress has been made to date. Our work environment is very different from the one before the pandemic and before the virtual or hybrid meetings.
There are still challenges that we're facing, and we're realizing the complexity of the issue.
Sound quantity is easy to measure. It's easy to protect against and, like I said, we've had lots of success on that front.
When it comes to sound quality, it's quite complex. There's noise-to-sound ratio, artifacts and lag between the image and the sound. We're still learning a lot about that.
We've seen a lot of these hazardous occurrence incidence reports. You're right that they're growing, and they concern us. That's why we're trying to do more to learn about the phenomenon, to gauge the risk to the interpreters' health and safety. It's something we're still learning about, which is why we've sponsored research with the University of Geneva to learn more about the cognitive load problems or challenges in remote interpreting.
We've just published an advanced contract award notice for the University of Ottawa. We're working on doing a longer-term study with audiologists to look at the challenges that interpreters are facing with sound quality. There are specialists who specialize in speech perception in noise. We think that it's a really good fit and we will obtain lots of good data to help us do more to protect interpreters.
I hope that answers the question.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I would like to ask another question.
In your opening statement, you said that a directive…
I read in a media article that the interpreters' union had filed a complaint, because the problem had not been quickly solved and because the poor sound quality is bad for the interpreters' ears. You took that complaint seriously and you issued a directive. It surprised me to hear you say that the directive excluded work in Parliament.
We all know that the interpreters work with the committees and the House of Commons.
I have a copy of the directive issued by Ms. Bret, the Translation Bureau's director of interpretation and chief interpreter. The directive does not specify that interpreters can say that they are not able to interpret the words of members of Parliament in a committee or in the House. Personally, I see that as a problem. Actually, committee interpreters do tell us when they can't interpret because the sound is not good. So they are listening to the directive.
Ms. Séguin, you said earlier that Parliament was not included, but perhaps I misunderstood.
I am giving you some time to clarify that.
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:53
Thank you for that question.
The directive is in place specifically for departments and agencies. It's our observation that those who take part in remote events have shown behaviours that are a little less rigorous, and less immediate, than members of Parliament. We are actually very grateful to members of Parliament.
Basically, if interpreters do not hear what is being said, they do not interpret. From the start of the pandemic, management decided to give the interpreters the right to interrupt their interpretation. I personally am not a professional interpreter, but they remind me that it is very difficult for interpreters to interrupt the interpretation because that runs contrary to their code of ethics. Interpreters want to provide interpretation at all costs, even though it may expose them to problems with health and safety. It is clear to us that we must give the interpreters permission to not interpret. We will have their backs if there any complaints.
As for wearing appropriate equipment, we are working with the administrations in the House and the Senate. We are very grateful that more and more members of Parliament are participating. I see the problem arise when participants are not using suitable equipment. That can happen, but the interpreters have permission to not interpret what is being said.
The unique feature of the directive that went into effect on February 7 is that the interpreters do not need to say that they are going to stop interpreting. We don't want to put the responsibility onto the shoulders of the interpreters. As soon as they notice that the speakers do not have the right equipment, they can simply not interpret what is being said.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I have to jump in quickly, because we only have five minutes left. Do we want to extend the meeting, since this is a very important subject and we have other questions to ask?
It appears that we do not. I know that Mrs. DeBellefeuille scolded Mr. MacKinnon and it's perhaps something that we should discuss further. I know that this subject interests us greatly, so perhaps we should limit questions to 10 minutes, for example, and allow people to speak once more a little later.
However, I am going to let Mrs. DeBellefeuille finish her questions and then we will try to hear from the two other presenters.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Respectfully, since this appearance is so important, if there are members who can't stay longer, I propose that our witnesses be invited back so we can continue the discussion in another office. If our friends and colleagues agree, I would like to conclude the meeting with one question and save my other questions.
Ms. Séguin, you said that you weren't spared by the labour shortage, which affects you like everyone else. I noticed something quite important. I know that in terms of providing interpreters, your priority clients are Parliament, the House of Commons, the Senate, and parliamentary committees. I don't know what's going on, but since I arrived in 2019, I've noticed that in all the departmental technical briefings, there are no qualified interpreters accredited by your office.
There was a technical briefing this week by the Department of Justice on the important legislation we're debating, the Emergencies Act, and I must tell you sincerely, Ms. Séguin, that I have never seen such a pathetic briefing.
There was no interpreter. He was an anglophone who was doing his best to interpret his remarks into French, and I found this extremely serious. My reflex was to write to some of my government colleagues to ask them how it could be tolerated that such an important briefing on such an important piece of legislation be given without guaranteed interpretation services by accredited and qualified interpreters.
I would like to understand what happened. Were you asked? Did you refuse because of a lack of staff? I'm focusing on this event, Ms. Séguin, because it's a very important piece of legislation, but I've experienced the same situation in other technical briefings. A public servant who speaks a bit of French and can muddle through is asked to do their best. I know it's not because the departments don't want to provide quality interpretation, but because they don't have the resources.
So I'd like to know where you stand in terms of your ability to provide quality, accredited interpreters to the departments.
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 12:58
Thank you. I'll be happy to answer that question.
You've touched on a key point in today's meeting, and that's the pool of interpreters. According to the Translation Bureau's legislative mandate, priority must be given to Parliament, which includes the House of Commons, the Senate and the parliamentary partners. Given our limited staff, be it Translation Bureau employees or freelancers, since the advent of virtual meetings, which are much more frequent than usual, we have had to refuse service to the departments and agencies more frequently than in the past. We do our best to accommodate as many events as possible, but there are limits.
The other factor is that the departments aren't required to use the Translation Bureau's services. All services are optional. Parliament uses our services exclusively, but although we get the majority of their business, the departments and agencies have the right to use their own linguistic services or those directly from the private sector.
I think I'll stop there, since time is short.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's now 1:00 p.m. I'd like to ask the hon. members if they agree to invite Ms. Séguin and Mr. Ball back to the next meeting. Indeed, there is a great deal of interest in this subject and a lot of questions. I, myself, have questions to ask. We have about 30 seconds left, so I'm going to take advantage of the chair's privilege to ask a quick question.
There have apparently been 230 incidents here in Parliament. How many interpreters do we have? That seems like a lot for such a small team.
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 13:00
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Those 230 reported incidents didn't just take place in Parliament because, as I mentioned, we provide services to all departments and agencies, to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery and other clients.
This is serious, since 52 employees filed more than 200 incident reports. As I said earlier, there are reports of symptoms caused by the increased cognitive burden associated with remote interpretation. These include headaches and tinnitus. That's the type—
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
So there haven't been 230 incidents in Parliament. How many incidents took place in Parliament?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-02-17 13:00
Mr. Ball, do you have that data?
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-02-17 13:00
In 2021, 14 reports were filed.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
So we're talking about 14 incidents, not 230. I'm sorry if I sound surprised, but I am.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-02-17 13:01
There have been 236 incidents since the start of the pandemic. In other words, there have been 236 incidents between 2020 and now.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We can discuss this further at the next meeting.
I will adjourn the meeting, but first I want to thank the witnesses and the hon. members for their patience.
At the next meeting, we'll pick up the discussion where we left it. I'd like to make a suggestion to the hon. members, and I would ask them to think about it. I like to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.
As well, everybody can ask their questions, but perhaps we should look at having 10-minute sessions and maybe come back to it once we come back again. This way everybody gets a chance, and we can get things done that way.
Thank you for your patience.
The meeting is adjourned.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Good morning.
I want to welcome everyone to meeting number four of the Board of Internal Economy.
I want to welcome two gentlemen here—Mr. Calkins and Mr. Brassard—who are joining us as new members. Welcome. We look forward to working together.
I understand that Mr. Calkins will be joining Mr. MacKinnon as our official voice of this committee. It's a great responsibility. I'm sure the two of you will work well together and go from there.
Mr. Julian, before going to the minutes of the previous meeting, do you have a point of order or a request to make?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I move that, today only, we meet in camera before the public portion of the meeting, which will be televised and available to the public. I think that's the best way to structure our meeting today.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do I have unanimous consent for that?
Did you want to comment, Mrs. DeBellefeuille? Go ahead.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I'm not opposed to meeting in camera to discuss the two agenda items in question, but Mr. Chair, I have some important things to say about item No. 2, business arising from previous meeting, Specifically, I want to talk about interpretation quality and technical issues that arise during meetings. I want to make sure that we will indeed have a chance to discuss item 2. I want to give the honourable members a heads‑up that I have much to say about what is happening right now in committees. I understand that we urgently need to discuss the two in‑camera agenda items and I support the honourable member's motion. However, I would ask that you not exhaust the discussion so that I can speak to item No. 2.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That is duly noted.
Before the committee goes in camera, I want to deal with item No. 1, minutes of previous meeting. Is everyone okay with the minutes? Are there any changes that need to be made?
Seeing that no one has any, we will continue.
We'll take a quick break to move in camera.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
[Public proceedings resume]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I was asked to start with items 3, 4 and 5.
I think we can deal with item 5 quickly.
Are there any comments on item 5, the interim budget for the Special Committee on Afghanistan?
Is everyone in agreement?
Mr. Julian, are you okay with that?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Everyone agrees. Great.
Ratification of the two decisions that were already made—
Did you want to comment, Mr. MacKinnon?
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Is the cost of the rapid tests being added to the operating budget? Is it an eligible expense?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:53
Actually, it's coming out of the core budget for a certain number of rapid tests.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:53
The House is supplying them, and the rapid tests will be distributed to members and constituency office staff. The money for the tests will come out of the core budget, up to $1,200, if I'm not mistaken. It won't come out of your office budgets.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:53
You'll have two options. You can choose to have them sent to your Hill office so that you can bring them to your constituency office, or if you need help getting them to your constituency office, we can have them couriered.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
That will wipe out the entire budget from the get-go. You're going to spend $1,200 on rapid tests—
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:54
No, the budget won't be used up from the get-go.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:54
It will be done in stages. That way, the administration can adjust the amount, the budget cap.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
All we need to know now is when the tests will be distributed.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:54
It will be done soon. We already have a first batch of rapid tests to distribute.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Can you hear me, Mr. Chair?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, Mrs. DeBellefeuille. We can hear you.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Are we still in camera?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
No, we are no longer in camera.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
All right.
How will the information about the rapid tests go out? How will members be informed as to how and when the tests will be delivered? Will it be next week?
I'd like a bit of information on how exactly the rapid tests will be delivered to members' offices.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:55
We already have information ready to be sent out, provided that the Board of Internal Economy adopts the motion. That means it should be by the end of the day.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Great.
We will now move on to item No. 3.
Mr. Patrice will be speaking to that item. Go ahead.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:55
Actually, it was the decision to extend the COVID‑19 preventative measures to February 28, but I think the previous decision—
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:56
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-02-10 12:56
We have to approve the decision that was made.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do I need the committee's consent?
We have your consent for number three, even though we did pass something that overrules it. It was a little bit confusing there. I thought it was a moot point.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
You just have to say that the item is null and void. The committee can't agree to an item that is null and void, Mr. Chair.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's more about the procedure. We want to make sure we've ratified what we decided previously.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I have something to propose.
It's now 12:56. As I told you at the beginning of the meeting, I had a lot to say about item 2, business arising from previous meeting. However, since we have so little time remaining, I humbly move that I be allowed to speak to the matter at our next meeting. I have many questions I want to ask.
I have done my homework. I read the Liaison Committee's report carefully, I looked at the dashboard, and I have numerous questions to ask. Since we have just three minutes until the meeting ends, it would be a shame if I had to rush through everything and didn't have my fellow members' full attention. I move that we not discuss item 2 today, if possible.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think that's a good idea, because the interpreters will be here next week to give a presentation, and the two issues are related. Are you okay if we add them to the agenda for our next meeting?
I see we have agreement, so that's what we'll do. Great.
Thank you for your patience, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
Number two is business arising from the previous meetings. I think we've done that.
We have covered everything.
Thank you very much.
The meeting is adjourned.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Welcome to the third meeting of the 44th Parliament.
We will now go to the first item on the agenda, minutes of previous meetings.
Are there any questions?
There are no points to bring up.
Seeing none, we'll move on to the second item: business arising from the previous meetings.
Does anyone wish to comment on business arising from the previous meeting?
Since we have no comments, we will move on to the third item, the proposed 2022‑23 main estimates.
The floor is yours, Mr. St George.
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