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Results: 1 - 82 of 82
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have a point of order and also a request.
I move to reverse items 6 and 7, and to take item 9 following item 4.
The idea is to concentrate all the decisions concerning members and administrative rules affecting members so that we can review them today. That is my first proposal.
I would like to know if my colleagues agree with that.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I don't object to this, but I still want to warn my colleagues. We may have one more meeting to go. I really want to make sure that, before we leave at the end of June, we have made decisions on all the things that have to do with constituency offices, MPs' budgets, and so on. I would like to make sure that we deal with all of those items today or, perhaps, next week.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to submit a brief point of order about next week's business.
You are aware of the security event that occurred on Parliament Hill. All MPs received alerts to inform them of the emergency situation. As you know, the French alert message arrived eight minutes after the English alert message. The form and colour of the message was different from the messages we usually receive. There are even members of my caucus who thought that hackers had sent the message.
I have spoken with the Sergeant‑at‑Arms about this, and he is well informed about the situation. However, we would like to see a report so that we can find out the cause of this discrepancy. If an event with serious consequences were to occur, it would be problematic for the French-speaking people to receive the alert message eight minutes after the English-speaking people.
I would like clarification on this. If you could add this to the agenda for next week's meeting, I would be very grateful.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I'm not sure. I understand the argument being made, but does it keep us from adopting these recommendations?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I will be brief.
I want to thank the House Administration staff for doing an analysis based on documented data in record time. They listened to the staff in the members' offices, our staff and our teams. I support all the recommendations before us.
I agree with Mr. MacKinnon when he says that perhaps we should be doing more in-depth analysis of the supplements based on number of constituents and riding size.
It's more expensive for rural MPs to travel to their ridings. For example, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean said yesterday that it takes him an hour and a half from his constituency office to get to Normandin to attend a dinner, and that doesn't include the time it takes to get back. That's a total of three hours' driving time. It's a lot of time and mileage.
I agree with Mr. MacKinnon that these supplements must be reviewed at some point. I think it's important, particularly for ridings that cover a lot of area and include many municipalities, which translates into a lot of travel and driving to meet with constituents.
Thank you very much. I urge you to close the debate so that this passes.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
The interpreter is indicating to me that the sound quality is very poor, which is making her job difficult.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that I am fully support the recommendation.
I recall a certain meeting during which Mr. Holland convinced us to approve this pilot project with the support of the entire Board of Internal Economy.
As a member of Parliament, I have used this budget. In the context of a pandemic, it is very demanding for our staff to work and serve the public. Our staff need resourcing, additional training, and support. I can tell you that this budget is very well spent and very useful for our human resources.
We also have very good support from your organization, Ms. Daigle. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, as I've learned through the grapevine that you have to leave us, because you've been promoted. I'm very proud of you, and I'm sure that the people you'll be working for are very lucky to have your expertise.
Personally, as whip, I have enjoyed working with you and your team. I salute your professionalism and take advantage of the fact that this part of the meeting is public to thank you for your dedication and your professional rigour. I wanted to put that on the record.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
You know how much I like to have this item on the agenda of Board of Internal Economy meetings.
I'll try not to take too much time. These dashboards and reports reflect all the work done in committee by members. As we read the report, we can see that this represents a lot of work for the administration, the clerks, the analysts and the researchers, but also for all members and their staff.
Mr. McDonald, you have written this to us, but I would like to hear you to say it publicly. At my request, as a member of the Board of Internal Economy, you have produced an appendix in our documents on the number of witnesses who testify entirely in French or in English.
Could you tell us what percentages you mentioned in your letter?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I can save my questions for item 11, if you like. It's still the report, but the dashboard is appended.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
You know that I do my reading, Mr. Speaker.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I saw that the dashboard was in the appendix of the report tabled in the House.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Does my question stand, Mr. Speaker?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
So the witnesses spoke in French 17% of the time. The others spoke in English.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
All right.
I feel it's important that we take a look at those percentages.
Mr. McDonald, it's been two years since our last update, and the situation seems to be unchanged. Since Parliament resumed in 2019, the ratio has been fairly consistent, with 80% of witnesses choosing to speak English instead of French.
That explains why francophone members become annoyed from time to time. Interpretation and technical issues take a much greater toll on members who speak French or who are unilingual francophones, so I want you to know that.
You also talk about technical issues in your report. We have noticed a definite improvement in the number of interruptions, even though February was a challenging month, from what I gather. We felt it, and we alerted you to numerous issues at that time. The dashboard figures illustrate that, in fact.
I think headsets are one of the key issues. You bought better-quality headsets at a cost of $120 each. As I understand it, all 338 members of the House each received three headsets.
Have you noticed that few members wear the headsets, which aren't all that popular?
I was at Friday's Liaison Committee meeting, and I noticed that more than half of the chairs weren't wearing their prescribed headsets, which were purchased at great expense to improve sound quality for the interpreters.
How do you plan to improve compliance with the headset rule? How much of the responsibility falls on the clerks?
It's a real problem.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Who is responsible for letting members know that they aren't wearing the proper headset and that not wearing it could cause hearing loss for the interpreters?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Very well.
My next question has to do with the number of interpreters. You don't specify in your report whether the number of interpreters is sufficient or not. In the hybrid Parliament, a number of committee meetings have been cancelled because there weren't enough staff or technical personnel to accommodate parliamentary committees and the legislative agenda at the same time. The part about the interpreters isn't very thorough.
I will focus on item 11, unless the chair would prefer that I discuss the matter of the interpreters. I am actually very worried about committee travel. The Liaison Committee oversees that funding. Interpreters are going to accompany many committees on international trips.
Let's say all those committees travel so they can conduct their studies and take parliamentary interpreters with them on those trips. Will Parliament—which may or may not be hybrid—have enough interpreters left so that parliamentarians, in Parliament and on committees, can carry out their duties?
Are you able to answer that question?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
From what I've read and heard on the board, only one committee will be hiring interpreters locally, the Standing Committee on International Trade, I believe. Interpreters will be accompanying the other committees.
I'm not asking you to say for sure that we won't have enough interpreters. Would you agree, however, that the situation poses risks given the shortage of interpreters and the fact that Parliament will probably continue to sit in a hybrid format?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
You're quite good at answering the questions, so my hats off to you, Mr. McDonald. Nevertheless, you aren't making me feel any better about the possibility of finding ourselves in a tight spot as far as having enough interpreters for the next session of Parliament is concerned.
Over the past two weeks, some chairs have got into a bad habit. They are convening informal meetings, arranged by the clerk, without interpreters, because none are available, since a number of committees have been cancelled as a result of the hybrid model.
You can't tell me for sure, but what you are saying isn't all that reassuring since the decision has yet to be made as to whether the hybrid Parliament will continue. We don't know how Parliament is going to work in the fall.
I know enough at this point to conclude that it's not necessarily the best time for committees to travel outside the country.
I greatly appreciate your answers, and I commend you on your report.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I have a question for Mr. Aubé about item 11.
Mr. Aubé, my question is fairly straightforward. You have appeared before the board throughout the year to update us on the improvements you had made to the audio system, to meet audio quality standards for the interpreters.
The last time you were here, you told us that a study was under way.
Will you be sharing the findings of that study soon, or will we have to wait until the fall?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, I have read the entire report. It was so interesting that I thought I would show excerpts to the students we sometimes meet, because it is very concise and well done, and includes Internet links.
Congratulations, Mr. Robert, for the accessibility of this report. In many cases, reports are produced, but are not meant to be read. They are meant to be stored in a library.
Your report was very interesting this year, Mr. Robert.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Just the part about the whips I thought you had not provided a lot of information.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Congratulations on your report. It is a good report that deserves to be read.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I think it would be best not to start on another topic today. If you wish, we may adjourn, if the members of the committee agree.
After the meeting, I would like to talk with my colleagues about the interpreters and committee travel.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
First, I want to thank the House of Commons administration for listening to the requests we made. The reality has changed and we need to adapt our policies accordingly. So I want to thank the members of the administration for their continued rigorous analysis.
I would like to ask a question about advertising costs. These costs were limited to 10% and have temporarily increased to 20%. Since we are going to amend regulations, why did you choose not to increase the percentage permanently, at this point?
To me, it would have been more appropriate to take the opportunity to increase the percentage from 10% to 20% in order to align the regulation with the advertising needs. Can you explain to me the reasons for this decision?
If you do not convince me, I may propose an amendment to your proposal.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
All right.
So you are suggesting I be patient. There will be another proposal next week, and I can debate and discuss it.
I find that compelling enough for me to withdraw my amendment.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I have only one question.
I have been involved in employment equity analysis processes before, and I know that we rely a lot on job descriptions [Technical difficulty—Editor] because, in order to compare, you need benchmarks.
But we know that, in politics—
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I was saying that, when you do a job analysis as part of a pay equity process, you start with the job description, so you can compare job tasks.
But we know that, in politics, there are no pay grades, no levels, and sometimes not even job descriptions.
How will you go about analyzing the differences in duties and responsibilities? How will you determine if there is pay equity between a woman's position and a man's position in the same apparent position? This seems like a rather complex exercise to me.
Is this a first for you? Have you ever had such an experience?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Ms. Laframboise.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'd like a specific answer to my question. All members have taken the training, which is mandatory, and that's a good thing. I find this to be an advantage, and I commend the human resources team for incorporating it into orientation. In the last Parliament, several new MPs were able to take this training.
I think the act requires employees of MPs' offices to take training three months after they've been hired.
Am I wrong?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay.
I'm a little surprised. I see that there were 535 participants in the training sessions.
How does the House of Commons administration follow up with all 338 MP offices?
In fact, there is a lot of staff movement in our offices, both on the Hill and in our ridings.
How do you ensure that all the new employees complete the training and, ultimately, comply with the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Commons?
Is there a way to support members' offices to remind them that there are mandatory training sessions for their new employees.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Each whip's office follows up to ensure that employees hired less than three months ago can register for training and meet obligations.
Is that right?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
It is my turn to officially welcome you, Mr. Speaker. I am very happy to have you with us. You have a big smile on your face and you seem to be back in shape, so we are happy.
I would like to begin by congratulating the House of Commons administration team for its rigour in maintaining and completing the dashboard on interpretation and technology issues, especially in committee. I know it is a lot of work. It gives us a good idea of how our committees work and how the administration adapts to technology or interpretation issues. However, I would like to ask a couple of questions about these dashboards.
At some point, we were provided with data showing that there were over 2,000 witnesses, 86% of whom communicated primarily or solely in English. In the next dashboard, could we get an update on that? If you already know the percentage, I would appreciate it if you could provide it now. If not, you could include it in the dashboard at the next board meeting, to see if the 86% of witnesses who communicate only in English is maintained.
Can you also tell me if many witnesses decide to testify in person, given that it is now possible in committee?
That is my first question, but I will have others for you.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, we know that every member of Parliament has received three new headsets, which seem to improve the sound quality for our interpreters. Have you received any feedback on the use of these headsets from the interpreters or the translation bureau? Have you been told that the change has really had a positive effect?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
This is not documented or scientific, but I sense some resistance to the adoption of these new headsets, perhaps because they have two earpieces. Maybe that bothers some MPs who like to have a free ear. I tell the members of my caucus that they have to use them. In any case, we in the Bloc Québécois try as much as possible to attend meetings in person rather than virtually, to relieve our interpreters. However, I know that this can be uncomfortable. I don't know if people have talked to you about this, but I have heard members from other political parties say that they wouldn't really use it because it was too uncomfortable.
Before acquiring these new headsets, did you run a pilot project to see if there was guaranteed buy‑in or if there would be resistance?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
You will not only need my support; you will need the support of whips from all parties.
Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to ask two more questions.
I saw that you note in the dashboard the percentage of problems that occur on the technology side, such as headset or connectivity issues. You document them, but we don't see the problems that you can't fix.
We have noticed that, when attempts to resolve a problem are not successful, some chairpersons let the witnesses speak, even though all members know there are problems.
We have some issues with that, but it's not documented in your dashboard. I wonder if this is exceptional or if it is just a courtesy for chairs to let the witness testify even though the connectivity, headset or channel issue has not been resolved.
In future dashboards, could you indicate whether the witness was allowed to testify even if the problem was not resolved? I think that would be an important piece of data to determine whether both official languages are respected by all committee chairs.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Would it be abuse if I asked more questions? You know, this is my passion.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay. I don't want to take up too much of the board's valuable time, since we haven't had a meeting in a long time, but these are issues that I think are pretty important.
I will address the issue of preliminary testing.
There has been a lot of improvement in that respect. I have seen your statistics, and I want to congratulate you. I know it's challenging for both Mr. Aubé's team and yours. When invitations are issued at the last minute, how do you proceed? Are preliminary tests done on the spot? Usually, chairs should announce it, as per the routine motions. However, few chairpersons follow the routine motion to announce that preliminary tests have been done for all witnesses.
However, you, the clerks, know if witnesses are testifying without a preliminary test being done before the meeting or on the spot.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay, thank you.
Mr. Speaker, my last question is for Mr. Aubé.
I went over the National Research Council's study on sound quality. The council did some testing. I have a little binder here with information that has improved my knowledge of acoustics.
I also reread your testimony, so I could understand all of this, but one question remains for me. There seems to be some suspicion that you doubted the results of the study, since you started a parallel study. Between the National Research Council's study and yours, which I believe is not complete, since we have not had the results, there is something of a gap.
I would like to understand that better. We have to be transparent, Mr. Aubé. I read the study. We had submissions from interpreters associations. You have testified several times. Yet I still do not have an answer.
What happened between this study and your current one? Why haven't we heard anything? Why do interpreters keep telling us they don't know what happened after the National Research Council's study and yours?
Can you clarify this for me, so that I can finally understand what is going on?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for clearing that up, Mr. Aubé. That explains some of the information that we've read.
I also thank you for doing your entire presentation in French. It meant that my anglophone colleagues had to listen to a bit of interpretation, which is not a bad thing.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I have no strong preference for any of the three options. However, I do agree with one of the decisions made, and that is keeping the 30‑70 ratio. I think that this should be kept. Now we have to ask ourselves about the options and I think we are leaning towards the second option. Am I right?
Honestly, I do not feel the need to have an hour-long debate on the composition of the Joint Interparliamentary Council. I will accept any option that garners a consensus.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the minutes refer to a lot of discussions on the issue of interpreters. As Chair, you have received letters from a union and documentation. This is under the business arising from the previous meeting.
Would you prefer that we deal with all of this under the third item, the one related to the Translation Bureau, or can we ask questions while we are dealing with business arising from the previous meeting?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I agree that it would be easier to ask our questions when we talk about the Translation Bureau.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, because I'm attending the meeting virtually, I cannot see my colleagues. Therefore, I don't know if other colleagues raised their hand before I did.
Can you please let me know if any of them would like to have the floor?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
All right.
I was asking because I want to give my speaking time to Mr. Julian. He didn't get to ask his questions at the last meeting, so I gave him the opportunity.
Basically, my questions are pretty simple.
Ms. Séguin, when you made your presentation, which was fascinating, we learned a lot about how the Translation Bureau works, what your responsibilities are, and what the responsibilities of the House Administration are. We had to end our meeting abruptly, and that's why you came back to testify today.
You stated that 14 incidents were identified in the House of Commons, but I believe you did not finish the breakdown into incident categories.
Can you tell us how many incidents were identified by interpreters working in committee rooms?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
As you know, Ms. Séguin, our discussions are public and the interpreters' union is listening carefully to your comments. The Board of Internal Economy has no mandate to manage labour relations, far from it. However, we want to validate the figures we've received from the two unions representing the interpreters, be they Translation Bureau interpreters or other interpreters working within the House Administration, including freelancers, because we don't have the same breakdown. How can you explain that?
The tables that were sent to the chair and that we have all been copied on indicate that there have been 107 incidents in committee rooms. I imagine that includes both Senate and House of Commons committees. We know that there are fewer incidents in the House of Commons than in committee rooms.
Why don't you arrive at the number in the tables that were sent to the chair?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, since I don't have an overview, are there other members who have raised their hands to speak?
I imagine my five minutes is up. Do you want me to stop? If not, I'll ask more questions.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will be pretty quick, as a number of the aspects I wanted to cover have been raised by my colleague, the whip of the official opposition.
At the Board of Internal Economy, we have dedicated a lot of time to analyzing this issue and to worrying about our interpreters' fate. As you know, interpreters are essential to the proper operation of our democracy and to our participation, as parliamentarians, in the House of Commons and its committees. Sincerely, interpreters are indispensable, especially to unilingual members, be they francophones or anglophones.
I am adding my voice to the voice of my colleague from the official opposition. We will soon have decisions to make on whether to continue with or stop parliamentary work in a hybrid format. It should be pointed out that the pandemic has had a number of victims. In Parliament, the victims who have suffered permanent collateral damage are our interpreters. They have been going through hard times, and I think the figures are conclusive on this.
So I encourage my colleagues to take this into account in their discussions. As whip of the Bloc Québécois, I know that members of all parties like the hybrid model, but we have to remember that it was put in place temporarily to enable us to meet during the exceptional situation caused by the pandemic. The plan was for it to come to an end.
In a few minutes, we will probably have an opportunity to discuss our plan for reopening the parliamentary precinct. This reminds us that all the parties in the House of Commons will have to make decisions over the coming weeks. We must never forget everything we learned today. If we continue to sit in a hybrid format, the short-term situation will not be improved by studies whose conclusions will be known in two years or technological efforts by the IT team, and the number of accidents will continue to increase. Normally, work would have to be redone.
I am adding my voice to that of my colleague to say that, once we have to make decisions, we mustn't forget the following: if someone expresses the desire for Parliament to continue its work in hybrid format, that will send the interpreters a message that their health is of little importance to us.
In closing, Mr. Chair, rest assured that the health and safety of interpreters, who are very dear to us, will always be at the heart of the Bloc Québécois' concerns.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that the House administration is open to changing the advertising spending limit. There have been changes in advertising practices.
Members can now promote their services on all social media or through print media. We can post our services, telephone numbers and contact information in a variety of new places so that everyone can reach us as quickly as possible.
However, I still have some concerns about the administration's recommendation. Personally, I always plan my media placements. Like any good administrator or manager, we budget for the period from April 1 to March 31.
Your proposal seems like an odd practice for managers who must run everything responsibly. I don't really know what kind of commitments or arrangements you could propose if we were to commit more than our 10% at the start of the fiscal year.
I'm asking for the support of the board members. I think that we're prepared to change the advertising spending limit from 10% to 20%.
I want to tell the people tuning in that this doesn't affect our budgets. We aren't asking for an additional budget. We're asking for some flexibility, depending on our territory or province, that would help us use good management and adapt to our world.
I stand by my first request, which is a permanent increase in the advertising spending limit from 10% to 20%.
Since I'm participating in the meeting virtually, I can't interpret the body language of my colleagues. If my colleagues don't want to do this, could we at least ensure that the pilot project continues until March 31 rather than June? I think that ending the pilot project in June is a bad idea for managers who want to plan all their activities and media placements as of April 1.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, should I answer it?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
To answer my colleague's question, my proposed rule change concerns only the percentage. The current rule is sufficient and it meets our needs. I would just like to see the advertising percentage increased from 10% to 20%, since this doesn't affect our total budgets.
The exceptions allowed during the pandemic should likely be repealed, since the reopening process has begun in earnest throughout the provinces. In particular, there's talk of stopping the use of masks in Ontario and Quebec. These measures were adapted to the pandemic.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I'll make two suggestions that we can discuss before making a decision. I can see that the House administration isn't suggesting that we make a decision.
Since the fiscal year ends on March 31, I'm proposing that the advertising percentage be increased from 10% to 20% effective April 1 and that the $500 limit per event be increased. I'll let my colleagues propose the amount of this increase. Personally, I would suggest that the current amount of $500 be increased to a maximum of $1,000. However, I would be more than willing to negotiate this.
I don't want a big discussion about rewriting the rules. I just want to ensure that we have some breathing room and a little more flexibility as we manage our upcoming advertising budget.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
The administration's recommendation had several components, and I disagreed with them. I actually agreed with some components, but disagreed with others.
I want to know whether the Speaker and all members agree that, from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, the advertising spending limit should be increased from 10% to 20%.
I'm willing to make that compromise so that the House can conduct its analysis during the year. By April 1, 2023, we can decide whether to change the rule permanently or go back to the old rule. That's my first proposal.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I'll make a proposal.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
The House administration's proposal contains several components. One component relates to my request to increase the advertising spending limit from 10% to 20% of the budget. I would have liked this change to be permanent. However, I'm willing to accept the extension of the limit for consideration until March 31, 2023.
I also agree that the Internet fee measures and the other measures in the proposal should continue until June. Basically, the change concerns the advertising spending measure.
I think that Mr. Julian meant that he would support my proposal if I phrased it that way.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am happy to speak to this, particularly on the issue of interpreters and the dashboard that was in the Liaison Committee report.
I would like to thank all the clerks for preparing this dashboard for us. It allows us to follow the progress of the efforts made by the House administration to reduce as much as possible the technological problems, the sound problems and the problems that our interpreters have.
One of the problems with virtual work are the issues arising from connectivity and technical errors. This has an impact on the quality of the interpretation.
I'd like to thank the staff for keeping this dashboard; I know it's a lot of work, and it's in addition to their daily tasks. They did a good job.
I have looked at the dashboard, and I have found that there are still problems; the performance rate has not yet reached 100%. Improvements have been made, but there are still a lot of problems.
The fact that the committee meets through the Zoom application has implications for francophone MPs, primarily, but also for anglophone MPs. The latter need to hear the interpretation well when an MP speaks in French.
I am therefore asking that the dashboard be maintained. As I said, it allows us to follow the progress of the administration's efforts to correct the problems, in order to improve the quality of the sound, and therefore, the quality of the interpretation.
For two weeks, my team monitored the progress of all the committees. On the whole, I must say that we were surprised to see the many problems that there have been since the work resumed in January. I don't want to generalize, but this has happened in several committees.
One of the problems is that many members are still not using the equipment provided by the House.
For example, this morning at the meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, one member attended the meeting using her iPhone headphones. I will not name the MP or her party — it was not mine.
So the interpreters are complaining about the sound quality.
In committee, there are also problems because the chair does not always respect routine motions.
According to a routine motion which has been adopted by all committees, the chair must say, before the meeting begins, that the tests have been carried out for all the witnesses. Few do so. The fact that the tests have not been carried out, or have been carried out too shortly before the start of the meeting, is a problem.
I know it is not your responsibility, but the chief clerk is with us today. Perhaps he could be asked to make the chair of the Liaison Committee, Ms. Sgro, aware of the importance of routine motions. It is the duty of a committee chair to respect routine motions.
As this is a new motion, the clerks should endeavour to remind the chair that they must ensure that the tests have been done.
At the meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs two weeks ago, I learned, by chance, that members are no longer being tested. It is taken for granted that members are aware, after two years, that they should not come to the meeting without the right equipment.
As my colleagues know, repeating yourself is part of a whip's job.
In some committees, members were not using the equipment provided by the House, which made the job of the interpreters more difficult, as the sound quality is not the same.
Sometimes it also sounds like the sound is reverberating. I will report on some of those incidents.
As I am generous, I will give my notes on this to Mr. McDonald or Mr. Aubé. Sometimes the interpreters have difficulty working, because there the sound reverberates. Also, at the February 1 meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, there was a lot of interference, which caused problems for the interpreters.
Also, on two occasions, the chair allowed witnesses to testify even though their cameras were not working. In my view, it is part of the rules of the game to see the faces of witnesses, unless they have made an agreement or the committee is meeting in camera for reasons of confidentiality or even security. However, in the instances I mention, this was not the case.
There is even one committee chair who let the meeting continue, even though there had been points of order because the interpretation was not working. At a meeting of the Standing Committee on National Defence, there was an anglophone witness whose interpretation channel was not working. So when the Bloc member asked him a question in French, she could not hear or understand his answers. As a result, this prevented active participation by the Bloc member, because the chair allowed the session to continue.
You will understand, then, that the struggle I am waging today in the Board of Internal Economy is important. It is about maximizing the participation of members, whether they speak French or English, and making sure that they have access to good services, but also reminding the clerks to be very supportive of chairs that do not respect the housekeeping motions and do not seem to be very sensitive to the participation of French-speaking members.
I consider that the clerk can do some of the work with the clerks and the Liaison Committee, but, as I am fortunate enough to be in the presence of my colleagues the whips of all the parties, I would say that there is some work for them as well. They could remind us of some of the rules that we have set together to maximize participation. It is a question of having adequate equipment, but also of having the concern that the sessions take place entirely in both official languages.
I have to tell you that I'm somewhat impressed. There have been changes, because we don't wait for the Board of Internal Economy to try to find solutions, obviously. Recently, the clerks decided to start doing technical trials with members again, because there was a lack of discipline, and this was among members from all parties.
In fact, at the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, several witnesses did not have headsets with microphones. When witnesses do not have proper equipment, it causes health problems for our interpreters. In light of the complaint filed by the interpreters' union, I am surprised that we still allow witnesses or members of Parliament to participate in meetings without the necessary equipment, when we know that a large proportion of work-related accidents affecting interpreters are linked to the quality of the equipment, among other things. I think we have a responsibility in this regard, and we should have zero tolerance.
We have been working virtually for two years. Normally, we should be a little bit better than this. I think everybody is making an effort, but it's not acceptable that witnesses don't have the necessary equipment and that we tolerate it. It's not acceptable that when the interpretation doesn't work and an English-speaking witness speaks, we don't care. I don't understand why I'm still reporting such cases.
I will be happy to provide this document to your team.
Mr. Speaker, I ask three things of you: that you ask the clerk to convene the Liaison Committee, to really raise awareness and provide guidance, and to have each party whip make important reminders to their caucus about the use of equipment, and maybe be a little bit stricter: if you don't have the proper equipment, you don't have the floor. That's the rule we had given ourselves.
On the other hand, if there is no interpretation, there is no testimony. If there is no interpretation, we cannot speak. If we continue to give the impression that it is not so serious, we trivialize the effects on the health and safety of our interpreters. I don't know if my colleagues agree with me.
So I will summarize my proposal: that the dashboard be maintained; that the Liaison Committee be seized of the difficulties we have talked about today; and that we be able to have answers, following the analysis that I will table of all the events with the dates and the names of the committees, in order to see if, indeed, we in the Bloc Québécois have the same analysis as your team regarding technology.
This must be an important point for the Board of Internal Economy because we care about both the health and safety of our interpreters, and the ability to participate in debates in both official languages, which is essential.
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 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?
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 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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Can you hear me, Mr. Chair?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Are we still 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.
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 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 Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I don't really agree with what my fellow member just suggested. I think the explanations provided in the documents we received leading up to today's meeting are quite clear, and even quite specific. Top of mind for me are all the staffing considerations. Any organization attempting to modernize itself has to deal with the issue. We have had the benefit of witnesses and evidence demonstrating that the House Administration has done everything in its power to optimize the use of human resources in order to deliver pre-pandemic-level support in accommodating members' needs.
What I take from the documents is that, even before the pandemic, the House Administration was operating at full capacity to keep up the pace, level and quality of support members need in fulfilling their duties. That requires not just analysts, researchers and clerks, but also IT staff. All of those resources are needed to support this level of activity.
At the last meeting of the Board of Internal Economy, my fellow member asked, and rightfully so, for additional information. In my view, that information has been provided to us and is sufficiently clear.
It's not normal for the House Administration to have to rely on its employees doing an unreasonable amount of overtime just so that it can provide the level of support that parliamentarians as a whole require. It's fine for a little while. The pandemic exacerbated the reliance on overtime. That is my understanding after reading the information provided. To keep up its performance, an organization cannot rely on making its staff work overtime or pulling people from one section in order to prop up a busier section.
I gather that the additional resources being requested would allow the House Administration to continue providing high-quality service, while allowing employees to work a reasonable schedule without always having to be ready to do overtime. What's more, the House Administration had already conducted an assessment and was going to submit this request regardless. As we have been told, even without the pandemic, we would have probably received more or less the same request for new resources.
As far as the modernization of IT services is concerned, some good practices may be here to stay. I'm glad to see that parliamentarians are returning to Parliament in person, because, as we all know, hybrid sittings not only require more resources, but are also more demanding for interpreters and other categories of personnel. The fact remains, the level of activity and the desire of parliamentarians to create committees and to study pressing issues demand agility, proficiency and a high level of performance from the House Administration. That means the level of service must be steady and balanced.
I want my fellow members here today to know that, when you have a stable organization, you can also look after your employees and manage operations on a more personal level. In light of everything that has happened, we need to give the House Administration the ability to look after its staff while delivering high-quality service to parliamentarians.
For those reasons, I don't quite agree with my fellow member, Blake Richards. We often have the same concerns, but I think not giving the House Administration what it needs to better support us in our work is akin to clipping its wings.
I am in favour, then, of this recommendation.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
At the last meeting in June, I asked about the staff we have available to interpret the meetings we hold. Having read the note that was prepared for us, we know that a hybrid Parliament requires more resources for interpretation, because the interpreters have to work for shorter periods of time, given that, in this situation, their job is more physically demanding.
As I read the documentation, I gather that, currently, at the beginning of the Parliament, we have a staff of 64 permanent interpreters and 60 freelance interpreters. We are therefore starting this Parliament with 124 interpreters. I have a number of questions about that.
So 124 interpreters have to meet the combined needs of the standing committees, the special committees, the House of Commons, and the government apparatus. Do we feel that a staff of that size puts us at risk, or is it sufficient to allow a hybrid Parliament to operate until June 23, 2022?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Let me turn the question back to you, Mr. Speaker; could we ask the Translation Bureau?
I would like to ask a related question. The Standing Committee on Official Languages has studied the interpreters' situation. We were made aware of a report by the International Association of Conference Interpreters; it states that, for optimal interpretation of a speaker of French into English, for example, it is important for the interpreter to have French as the native language.
So I would like to add a dimension to my question. Of the 124 interpreters that the documentation says are available, is the number of interpreters whose native language is French enough to support members who speak in French, in the House of Commons or at standing or special committees? Is that number sufficient for us to have optimal interpretation, meaning that our words will be translated by an interpreter who has the same native language as we do?
I would like to make the one last comment. We have debated the hybrid Parliament a great deal and we have seen that it has certain limits. This is clear in the documentation submitted to the Board of Internal Economy today stating that we have a maximum of 54 time slots available for all the meetings required. Of course, we need to think about disinfecting the rooms, about breaks for the employees and about other changes. There are all kinds of obstacles that do not exist in Parliament in normal times.
As you know, I have been concerned about the interpreters right from the start. We will be in a better position to monitor the interpreters' situation, with the answers that we will be given at the next meeting of the BOIE.
I have one last request. When the standing committees start their work, will it be possible to make another dashboard so that we can closely monitor the number of testimonies that are given in English only? Then we can see whether the interpreters, and the francophones, are experiencing the same situation as they did at standing committees last year. We did that exercise last year and we saw that the great majority of the testimonies, 86% of them, were given in English. It's good to make that comparison each year to see if the trend is continuing. It will help us to understand any shortcomings in terms of interpretation, or in terms of the availability of interpreters working from their native language. This concerns me greatly. So I would like us to monitor the situation for our coming year.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
One thing concerns me.
We adopted a motion that allows Parliament to sit on a hybrid basis until June 23, 2022. Fingers crossed that, by then, the pandemic will really be behind us, Parliament can go back to normal, committees can meet in person and the hybrid Parliament will have been but a temporary episode.
The House of Commons Administration did an excellent job of getting a hybrid Parliament up and running quickly so that we could safely carry out our parliamentary duties. That said, the hybrid model is slated to end on June 23.
Is the request for additional resources due to the fact that it takes more resources to hold hybrid meetings? Will the extra resources still be needed after June 23, once things go back to normal?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you for clarifying all that, especially since the people following the proceedings at home don't have our notes.
Mr. Chair, I support the request. Adding a committee means more meetings. In light of that, to do our job, we have to have adequate administrative and management support, whether it's analysts or clerks. That is especially important when it comes to information technology. There are tools that, as a member, I cannot do without in order to carry out my parliamentary duties. When one of them isn't working properly, it's extremely important to be able to access IT support quickly and to not have to wait two or three days to get the issue resolved.
As I understand it, every organization builds its organizational capacity so that it can provide the same calibre and level of support to employees in the course of their work. Here, we've added a committee, and the computer technicians should have the freedom to pull back from the hybrid Parliament a bit in order to serve offices on the Hill, even provide more support to constituency office staff. I think that's a normal progression, so I support the request.
I would still like to follow up on what Mr. Julian was saying. Increasing our workload is a good thing because it shows those who pay attention to Parliament that we are working hard and want to do our jobs as parliamentarians. However, we all have to be able to do so in a fair manner and in both official languages. It goes hand in hand with the limits on the interpretation services available to us. The Board of Internal Economy should pay close attention to the whole issue of interpretation, to ensure that members, no matter which language is their mother tongue, can do their jobs properly with the support they need from interpreters.
That is why I support this request, and I hope all of my fellow members will be able to rely on Mr. McDonald's team for the support they need. We need more resources to do our jobs properly, in terms of both IT support and clerks.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for your presentation, Ms. Laframboise.
I took a keen interest, both personally and professionally, in the review of the policy. Having a robust policy, coupled with an impartial and robust process, is extremely important. I spent hours upon hours reading and reviewing the policy before us now, the one currently in place. I think it really is representative of our desire to show zero tolerance for violence, be it physical, psychological or otherwise, to ensure employees and members have a safe and respectful workplace.
I want to commend your office for taking the time to consult every party in the House of Commons when the new policy was being adopted. Neither a party nor a whip can claim that they aren't familiar with the policy.
For that matter, it is the party's responsibility to ensure that all of its employees take the training. I can attest to the diligence of Ms. Laframboise's office, which ensures compliance with the law. Indeed, all new employees must take the training within three months of being hired. Similarly, each party is subject to rigorous follow‑up to make sure members are complying with the law and taking the training.
It is clear that the House Administration is making significant efforts to ensure that all parliamentarians and employees have the necessary tools and understand the process should a situation arise.
Members are also responsible for making the policy known and ensuring it remains an active consideration. The policy's implementation is not over and done with just because someone took a three-hour training session after being hired. People tend to forget that. Members have a responsibility to remain mindful of the process and the concepts learned. I agree with Mr. Holland that we should conduct annual assessments within our teams. I want to state publicly how impressed I am by Ms. Laframboise's office and its rigorous follow‑up with each member's office and each party. It shows that the issue is being taken seriously.
I am a social worker and a family mediator accredited by the Quebec department of justice, and I've been in management positions my entire life. Perhaps my work experience is the reason I'm telling you this, Ms. Laframboise, but I have tremendous confidence in the process and in the policy, because it is impartial. If anything at all happens to anyone, that person has all the tools they need to speak up, access support, be heard and be guided through the process. I wanted you to know that.
Drafting policies is no easy task. It's not easy to make sure people understand the process and procedures. I think we managed to do that. I say “we” because every single one of us did our part in coming up with this policy. We managed to build a policy that truly lives up to the high expectations, in other words, zero tolerance for workplace violence in any form. My hats off to you.
Like Mr. Holland, I look forward to moving in camera to examine the issues that have been brought to our attention. They are complex because they are human. Anything human is complex. Nevertheless, I repeat, I have full confidence in this policy, a policy that was adopted only recently. As whips, we simply need to remember that we are responsible for making sure those in our respective parties remain mindful of it.
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