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Results: 1 - 100 of 177
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?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-06-16 12:42
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, the consultants actually submitted their report last week.
The first step was to meet with the people at the translation bureau. We sent them the full report as well as the summary. We are in talks with them about possibly sharing the report with the NRC to identify where the report differs from what our records show. We will be sending the report to the Board of Internal Economy and presenting the findings to you.
As we thought, our in-person systems comply with ISO standards. Our virtual systems were shown to be of excellent quality. The report contains recommendations on standardized headsets and microphones. You asked earlier whether it was important to standardize the use of microphones for all users participating virtually. The answer is yes. All the tools that were recommended are the ones we are currently using.
All the board members will receive a copy of the report. We don't want to make it widely available because we need to meet with the stakeholders first, the interpreters and the translation bureau.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Aubé, when will the report go out to the members of the Board of Internal Economy?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-06-16 12:43
We can send it to you soon, Mr. Julian.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-06-16 12:44
That's what we would like to do.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-06-16 12:44
We will check with the translation bureau to see whether we can get the translated report as soon as possible.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mrs. DeBellefeuille asked some important questions. As you know, we have been discussing the issue for weeks. A pilot project will be conducted in the next few months.
The interpreters are performing a colossal task, one of tremendous value. Every effort needs to be made to ensure their health and safety in the workplace. All of us on the Board of Internal Economy believe that. This information could be crucial. If next Thursday is our last official meeting for a while, we need to be able to discuss this issue.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
What I've heard is that the report will be shared with members once it has been translated.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, the only thing that I noticed was on the decision on remote interpretation services. You may want to note that the minutes are missing a reference to the board's preference for the use of the translation bureau employees and freelancers. After your proposal that only bureau staff be used, Mr. Holland had suggested that the board could express a preference as a compromise, and we did. Otherwise, I have nothing else to raise on the minutes.
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.
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-05-12 11:06
Yes, we will be able to provide you with those statistics at the next meeting. However, I must stress that we only take note of the language spoken by the witnesses. We do not have statistics on their mother tongue or their preferred language.
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?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-05-12 11:06
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, we are in the process of collecting data to validate this information. However, I can tell you that we made the choice not only with the translation bureau, but also with the interpreters, to ensure that the sound quality was different. Informally, since we don't have all the data yet, I can tell you that we noticed a difference when these headsets were used. The sound quality is different for the people who participate, so we want to encourage them to use them.
So far, few people have been using the new headset, and some are still using the old system. We will be conducting an awareness campaign with members to ensure that the new headsets are used more widely.
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?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-05-12 11:08
We carried out pilot projects with the headset that focused on its technical components. One of the things we wanted to try to do was to standardize the headphones, and we wanted to make sure that their quality would increase the sound quality for the interpreters.
We also assessed the usability, the ergonomics of the headset. Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you are right, we have had feedback from some members who find it difficult. However, we have different options for them.
We can provide a microphone that is not connected to a headset. That solution is also approved by the interpreters and the translation bureau. We will be working with all members of Parliament, and we will be in touch with them to get feedback. We will see what we can do to help them in this context. That said, we will need your support, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
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.
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-05-12 11:11
We are prepared to look closely at this issue. We have improved the way we collect system and witness information. We will see if that is already included. If not, we will see what the possibilities are.
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.
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-05-12 11:12
Yes, it does happen. It always depends on how much time we have between the time the committee in question decides to hear from a witness and the time when the witness is available. According to our statistics, about 4% of witnesses are in this situation. We try as much as possible to deal with this in advance, but we know that sometimes it is impossible. We always try to do preliminary tests as much as possible.
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?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-05-12 11:14
Thank you for your question, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
There are two parts. I can assure you that we meet with the Translation Bureau on a weekly basis, sometimes daily even, to discuss the status of the committee rooms. We developed a five-part action plan with the bureau last fall. Our representatives have been meeting with the union over the past few months, as well as with the interpreters and the bureau. We're keeping them up to speed.
With respect to the report, I would like to provide a bit of background so that everyone understands the dynamics. To do that, I'm going to take a step back, because I want everyone to understand.
When we talk about the hybrid system in the House of Commons, we're talking about three things. First, there's the in-person conferencing system, which is the system you're using right now, in the committee rooms and in the House. This system was developed over the years by international experts and it's been tested to ensure that it meets the ISO standard for in-person conferencing systems similar to the one you're using right now. The latest ISO standard came out in 2020.
I can assure you that our systems meet the ISO standard, in both the committee rooms and the House. In most cases, they even exceed the standard in some respects, because the standard takes several things into account, such as interpreting booths, consoles, microphones and sound quality, which involves several criteria. As we know, we checked these systems in 2019, which was before the pandemic, and you've been using them ever since. We received very few complaints prior to the pandemic, and we haven't made any changes to them since the hybrid system was implemented in these systems. Two years ago, to allow witnesses or MPs to attend remotely, we chose a videoconferencing technology platform, Zoom. So we have two standalone systems: the in-person conferencing system and the videoconferencing system.
Then we have a third system that acts as a bridge between those two systems to transmit information from one side to the other. So that's how I would explain the hybrid system in the simplest of terms. It's much more complex than that, but it relies on those three systems.
As for the second part, the videoconferencing system, there is no ISO standard right now, Mrs. DeBellefeuille. We're trying to apply the ISO standard for in-person conferencing systems to a virtual environment. Many of the environmental factors of these systems are completely different. That's why the National Research Council report doesn't apply to some things. I will go over each of them with you, without going into too much detail.
The NRC regularly produces reports for us. When we set up complex systems like the ones we use here in the committee rooms, we always bring in third parties to evaluate them and ensure that they meet our quality objective and standards. We did that when we set up the systems in the House in 2019 and when we set them up in the committee rooms. We also do it for hybrid meetings. This was the second time we used the NRC to check the performance of our systems.
The NRC report was commissioned by the Translation Bureau, not the House of Commons, and that's to be expected, because the bureau wanted to protect its interpreters and make sure we provide them with quality tools. This is common practice, as I mentioned earlier, and we supported the bureau throughout the process. People from the NRC were therefore hired by the Translation Bureau, they came to the House of Commons and we gave them the technical information about the configuration of our systems. Then they tested the House systems, including the Zoom videoconferencing system to determine if the sound quality was suitable for the interpreters. Five things came out of the report.
First, they wanted to confirm that the significant investments we had made in early 2022 to protect the interpreters from acoustic shock had paid off. The answer was yes, they had.
Second, they wanted to know if the House's in-person conferencing systems were ISO compliant. The answer was no. We completely disagreed, as we've done tests in the past and we know that the systems were ISO compliant. We met with the NRC and gave them our comments. However, I didn't go there to influence their report. I explained the facts and we looked into it. They found things that raised questions in our minds about how the data was gathered. There may have been errors, but we just want to check that information, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
We've hired people in the past to test our in-person conferencing systems and ensure that they met the ISO standard. They did, and we assume they still do. So, we figured we needed to have the AA rating confirmed by a third party. If people tell me the system isn't up to par, I want to know for sure. We therefore hired a firm to make sure our systems are ISO compliant.
At first glance, based on the information they gathered, our systems meet the ISO standard. There's a difference of opinion between the two organizations. Given that, the next step is to get our experts and their experts together to discuss why they have different opinions and different data, because we're unable to replicate some of the data provided to us in the NRC report.
Third, some said there were notches in the audio system. I don't want to get into too many technical terms, but essentially, notches are sound distortion that the interpreters hear. We're unable to reproduce these notches in the tests conducted with our experts. We have to talk to the NRC and ask them about it. However, I can't do that until I have that checked.
Fourth, they evaluated the headphones for us. We asked them to do that, because we didn't want to just make a recommendation. You asked me if there was any testing. The NRC looked into that, as did the Translation Bureau, and we chose the headphones together. That was one of the recommendations to move forward.
The fifth thing that led us to hire an outside firm was that the NRC identified in their data a loss of frequency in the virtual system. As I said earlier, there are three systems. Zoom does not provide all the auditory frequencies that the ISO standard requires for in-person conferencing systems. We said we agreed with that. We worked with Zoom to resolve it, and Zoom corrected the issue in January.
On the other hand, the report also pointed out issues with sound intelligibility. That would mean that people in the room right now, for example, should have trouble understanding what we're saying to each other. We didn't agree, so we asked outside experts to check the intelligibility of the sound emitted by our systems. We asked the chair of the international committee, who is interested in sound intelligibility, to check the quality of our systems, and according to him, our systems meet and exceed the standard in terms of sound intelligibility.
So we need to have a discussion with the Translation Bureau, because first of all, we also want to share our results with them. As always, we'll be forthcoming with the interpreters, so we will share the results with them as well. I also want to talk to the NRC to reconcile these differing opinions. I'm not going to tell you who's right and who's wrong. As you know, in situations like this, we must take care not to damage anyone's credibility. We want to do the right thing for the interpreters and for Parliament. I want to make sure that everything is based on facts, not opinions. If mistakes were made, we'll find them and discuss them, and then we'll come back here and present the outcome of discussions we've had with them, so we can all agree on everything.
We've already shared this information with the Translation Bureau, Mrs. DeBellefeuille. We have nothing to hide. We take the comments and criticism that some have of our systems very seriously, and I can assure you that we do disagree on some aspects.
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 Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Perfect. Thank you.
We now move to the third item, “Translation Bureau – Resources Utilisation for Simultaneous Interpretation”.
Right now I'll hand it over to Lucie Séguin.
After that, Matthew Ball will have the floor.
I don't know if any others would like to present or if they are just going to answer questions.
At the last meeting, members had a lot of questions. So I'm wondering, would it be possible to limit question time to five or six minutes. I don't want to limit questions, but I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to ask questions.
Please be as concise as possible when you're asking your questions. Try to keep to five or six minutes. Then we'll let the next person go, loop around again, and start over, if that's okay. Again, I'll let everyone be their own police officer and control their timing.
We begin with Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
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?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:06
Thank you very much.
First, I would like to inform the members of the Board of Internal Economy that my colleague Matthew Ball, vice-president of interpretation services, is joining us from Winnipeg. I would also like to take a quick moment to thank our interpreters in the booth today: Cecilia, Carol and Bryce.
I thank the member for her question. Things ended a little abruptly last time. We cited the number of incident reports that were filed with the Translation Bureau. I'd like to give you the breakdown by year.
In 2019, 23 incident reports were filed. In 2020, 125 were filed, and in 2021, there were 99. The number 14 was mentioned, so we checked the information concerning Parliament. By the way, I wish to remind the members of the Board of Internal Economy that the Translation Bureau provides services not only to the House and its committees, but also the Senate, the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery and the Cabinet, among others.
Of the 99 incidents reported in 2021, 73 involved Parliament, including the Parliamentary Precinct. Next, of the 125 incidents reported in 2020, 110 were related to the clients I just mentioned, including the Senate, the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery and the Privy Council Office. In 2019, of 23 reports, 21 were related to Parliament.
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?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:09
Thank you very much for your question.
I'd like to say that since the pandemic began, we've been meeting regularly with our union partners at the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, or CAPE, the union that represents all translators, interpreters and terminologists at the Translation Bureau. We sit with them on a health and safety committee, so we all have access to the same incident reports. The data that I gave you are the raw data. I don't have access to the methodology used by our CAPE colleagues, who may have done a more in‑depth analysis than we have.
As you know, today there are three interpreters in the booth here. We have about 50 interpreters on Parliament Hill, and with the pandemic, there are committee rooms all over the place. So I can't comment on the methodology that our colleagues at CAPE have used, but the raw data that I've provided you on the total number of incident reports should be consistent with those of our union partners because we actually share the same source of information.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Séguin, thank you for your presentation.
My first question has to do with workplace injuries. How many cases of auditory injury have been reported by the interpreters?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:11
Thank you very much for your question.
I'll turn to my colleague Matthew Ball, but first I can tell you that incident reports are filed by the employees and that the most common symptoms reported include headache, fatigue and tinnitus. The numbers I gave you are the number of incident reports.
There are currently no Translation Bureau interpreters on sick leave due to a sound‑related incident. However, about 10 of our interpreters are interpreting part time and are assigned to other related duties because of medical recommendations that they should be given rest.
I can take pause and turn it over to my colleague Mr. Ball, if he has anything to add.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-03-03 11:12
Thank you, Ms. Séguin.
Our reports indicate three types of injuries. Disabling injuries refer to cases where the interpreter consults a doctor and obtains a medical certificate for one day or more of leave. There are also minor injuries.
Near misses is the third type. A near miss is when no medical care has been given and there has been no time off work. For example, if an interpreter goes home, has a headache and hears a ringing in the ears, it is called a near miss because there was no medical consultation.
Last year, in 2021, out of 99 injuries, 36 injuries were disabling and 63 were near misses. There were no minor injuries. Does that answer your question?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Yes, thank you. It answers the question, but the numbers are different from the ones the union provided.
The union indicated that 68 injuries resulted in time off work. I would like to touch on that for a moment, because it's extremely important and I know you take it seriously as well.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Before I became an MP, I worked with deaf and hard‑of‑hearing people. During the recent occupation in Ottawa, an entire downtown population were exposed to a noise level that must have caused permanent injury.
It's the same thing here when we talk about injuries requiring interpreters to take sick leave to recuperate. Often, these injuries can cause permanent hearing loss. For that reason, I'd like to know whether the number of interpreters who have suffered permanent hearing loss is recorded.
In addition, do they undergo periodic hearing tests, as is usually done in workplaces with variable or high noise levels? Has that process already been put in place on Parliament Hill?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:15
Your question is very important. I'd first like to reiterate that the entire Translation Bureau management team is very concerned and aware of this issue. We are doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of interpreters.
A few studies have been undertaken by the bureau to help us understand the long‑term effects of exposure to less than optimal noise. In the first, the National Research Council of Canada, or NRC, helped us conduct an analysis in collaboration with our colleagues in the House of Commons. This analysis concluded that interpreters are protected in terms of sound quantity, such as acoustic shock, but that there are still some noise quality issues that need to be addressed.
Just to add to that, because there is no evidence‑based studies in Canada or internationally on long‑term effects on hearing, we have invested in two other studies. I'll turn it over to Matthew to talk about what we're doing with the University of Geneva and the University of Ottawa to get more evidence on this.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-03-03 11:16
Thank you, Ms. Séguin.
As the committee has just heard, we lack data and information on the effects of sound quality on interpreters' hearing. At the bureau's request, the NRC has already analyzed the sound quality that suitable for the interpreters' ears in the booth. The analysis revealed that the sound quantity was safe, but that the sound quality still needed to be improved.
The Translation Bureau is therefore finalizing a contract for audiologists from the University of Ottawa to conduct a longitudinal study of reference levels for interpreters' hearing, to follow up on time and to provide care in case of hearing damage. We are currently negotiating the terms of the contract and hope that the study can begin this spring.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Okay.
Another problem that has already been raised by the union is acoustic trauma. I understand what you're saying, but I think it would be important for the committee to hear from union representatives, to ensure that that we're on the same wavelength. Reducing acoustic trauma is extremely important, since it will help prevent injuries.
That said, I'm concerned about the number of injuries at work. We all know that the interpreters work hard and are essential to our work. I'm concerned about the number of injuries. I have enough experience to know that this can contribute to permanent injuries.
Some people have indicated that it's the sound system used by the interpreters that is causing these injuries. Do you agree with that? Are you looking for other ways of conveying the information so that interpreters can do their job without getting injured?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:19
Thank you, Mr. Julian.
I'd like to give some additional information on the previous point.
We immediately put measures in place to change the working conditions of interpreters, right from the start of work in virtual mode. We've reduced the hours of our employees and freelancers, without affecting their pay. We've also increased the number of interpreters per team. Finally, we've been working with the House Administration to ensure, among other things, that testing is done.
The Translation Bureau is responsible for providing interpreters, but it isn't responsible for the technological environment.
I believe my colleagues in the House Administration will be better able to answer questions about the technological means.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd just like to ask one last question. I didn't mean to filibuster, but the health and safety of House employees are an important issue.
Did you recommend that the House Administration change the House audiovisual system? Is the House Administration looking at alternatives to the audiovisual system?
The union had said that this problem was the source of the workplace injuries.
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:21
That's an excellent question.
We work constantly with the House Administration on everything relating to technical requirements. We want to protect the health of the interpreters, while ensuring that we provide a quality service and minimize interruptions.
We convey what the interpreters need to provide good interpretation services. We have a good understanding of the human aspect. As I mentioned, we communicate on a daily basis the current requirements that allow us to work in optimal technological conditions.
I'm not in a position to give you any answers as to what is within the system. So I'll ask the House Administration to answer those questions. In my opinion, they are in a better position to do so than I am.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:22
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Julian, following all the incidents that have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic, we've put in place a continuous improvement process with the Translation Bureau. You asked whether the problems that occurred were caused by the system. I would answer that this is not the case.
Several factors contribute to the sound incidents and poor sound quality. The audio system consists of several components such as the microphone, the computer, the quality of the Internet connection, the videoconferencing system and the system used internally in the House. We consider that all these elements to be part of the audio system, and we are working on each of them to improve the interpreters' working conditions.
However, replacing one part of the system isn't enough to solve the problem. This is a problem that exists around the world right now, and if there were a solution, we would have already implemented it, I can assure you, Mr. Julian.
We're working on all of these things to try to improve the situation, and it's constantly improving. I can tell you that it's because of these improvements that we've seen a reduction in the number of incidents involving interpreters over the past two years.
For example, in the first year we replaced all the interpreting consoles to ensure we put an end to incidents among interpreters. We're in the process of replacing the headsets with a microphone to improve the situation. We're evaluating the system to see how we can improve it and changing the configuration to improve the sound quality. We're constantly testing with the National Research Centre Canada and with global experts to ensure that our systems are performing at their best. I have to tell you that the systems we use to solve these problems are very good, if not the best in the world.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, sir.
My question relates to parliamentary functions of interpreters and the function as it relates to the cabinet and the Prime Minister. We've obviously seen the parliamentary functions, and we understand where that comes from, whether it's through committee work or work in the House, but there's also when the cabinet and the Prime Minister have their press conference on almost a daily basis as it relates to COVID and other issues.
Can you differentiate between the number of injuries related to the parliamentary function and the function of the cabinet and the Prime Minister? Is there a way to quantify how that's played out?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:28
That's a very good question, Mr. Brassard.
Right now we are looking at the number of incidents and those that occur in the parliamentary precinct. We have not done the analysis to determine where each incident is occurring. We're working actively with our House administration partners as well as our other clients to put in place a rigorous monitoring process to understand where incidents are happening and what the sources of the issues are, and then to put corrective measures in place immediately.
I would say that interpreters are reporting incidents from all over the place right now, including in conference interpretation for departments and agencies as well as the Supreme Court of Canada and the CRTC. We don't have a breakdown of where incidents are happening right now.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Can you speak, then, to the differences between the services provided to parliamentary resources and those provided to the cabinet and Prime Minister? My understanding is that there is a difference between the two. Is that correct?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:29
The interpreters of the Translation Bureau are able to offer their services to all types of clients, whether those be in the precinct, the Privy Council Office or government departments or agencies.
I would say that the type of event is different. Right now we're having a meeting with a hybrid setting. Currently, most of our meetings have a hybrid setting component, but our interpreters are always performing their work on site. From that perspective, it is the same.
Participants in meetings have different, I would say, levels of adherence to our recommended practices. The wearing of headsets and making sure that people have a very stable Internet connection tends to vary depending on where a meeting is occurring.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
When do you expect the data collection distinguishing where these injuries are occurring to be complete? When will you be able to provide the committee with any information to show that distinguishing line with respect to what's happening with the parliamentary resources and what's happening with the Prime Minister and the cabinet?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:30
If this is something that is requested of us, we could—
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
If I could interrupt, I believe Monsieur Patrice would like to add something on that. Maybe he has more of the technical side of it.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-03-03 11:30
Through you, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Brassard, your question is very relevant to us. While the pool of interpreters is offering the service to the cabinet, Privy Council and the press conferences of the Prime Minister, from a technical standpoint it's not the House that's providing that service to cabinet and the press conferences and so on. It's a different system altogether. Those incidents would not be related, for example, to the technical system that the House uses.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Through you, Chair, to Mr. Patrice, if the system is not similar, does that mean that the risk of injury would be greater? We've applied a pretty consistent system within our parliamentary resources. Is there anything being used outside of those parliamentary resources, such as in the example that you gave, that would cause the interpreters to be at any greater risk?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-03-03 11:31
I could not comment necessarily on the system that the Privy Council, press conferences or cabinet uses. Maybe Stéphan has more information about that.
Obviously our greatest concern is the health and safety of our interpreters. That's why we continually improve, but we can only improve the system for which we have overall responsibility. For us, the details you are asking for with respect to the incidents and the nature of the incidents are very germane to our ability to try to find a solution and fix the problem.
Stéphan Aubé
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Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:32
All I can say, Mr. Brassard, through you, Mr. Speaker, is that at the beginning of the pandemic, most of the press conferences weren't using the same technology as the participants are using. You saw a larger rate of incidents happening at that stage.
We are working to provide advice and solutions in order to minimize the risk. We don't want the interpreters to be sick because they're participating in other types of events. We are providing guidance in that fashion, sir, in order to limit them.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, I do have one more question, and then I'll cede the floor. I may come back to others as well.
An unsafe workplace complaint has been launched against the Translation Bureau because of interpretation arrangements. Can you speak to that just to provide the committee with some insight as to the basis of the complaint?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:33
What I can say about that, Mr. Brassard, is that we are aware that there is a complaint that has been filed. It will be assigned to health and safety professionals.
I want to remind everyone that we're making every effort to mitigate the risks while we are trying to find solutions actively with our House administration partners and other clients, and we are fully co-operating while the complaint resolution process gets under way. That really is the extent to which I can comment.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This is obviously a concern for us, as it involves injuries. Occupational health and safety are non-negotiable.
What was the workplace injury frequency for interpreters before technologies we use today, such as Zoom, were implemented?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:34
Thank you, Mr. MacKinnon.
I provided a breakdown of incident reports filed by interpreters as of 2019. There were 23 total incidents in 2019, four incidents in 2018, 10 incidents in 2017 and five incidents in 2016.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
So there seems to be a strong correlation with the arrival and the use of technology for House and committee meetings.
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:35
Yes, definitely. We can say that, since remote meetings began, where interpretation services are required for participants who are not all attending in person, an increase in incident reports has been noted.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
I would like to put a question to you for my information, but don't hesitate to let me know if you think it should rather be addressed to Mr. Aubé.
As parliamentarians, we sometimes spend entire days on Zoom, not only as part of our duties in the House and in committee, but in other circumstances, as well. I don't think that, like us, our interpreter friends are using $2.50 headphones or even headsets like the ones provided and tested by the House.
I don't want to complain about anything, but isn't it true that we are exposing ourselves to the same risks as the interpreters, whether we are talking about compressed audio or other factors that constitute a hearing hazard?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:37
That is a very good question. People often talk about the “Zoom effect”. That is exactly what we are trying to understand. As the employer of the largest number of interpreters in Canada, the Translation Bureau team is trying to answer those questions.
Unfortunately, there have been no conclusive studies on the impact of exposure to poor sound quality. We are familiar with problems related to the amount of sound. I don't want to use too many technical terms, but I can tell you that, what has helped us a lot and has also helped our colleagues from the House administration, was the study by the National Research Council of Canada, the NRC. That study included specific tests and involved acoustical engineers and audiologists. That is currently an emerging field.
We are still looking for partners, be it in Canada or abroad, to help us fund more studies, but that is exactly what we are trying to understand right now.
This is purely speculative, but I could tell you that, yes, technically, everyone who uses technology to participate in meetings is exposed to risks. However, I can tell you that the NRC study indicates that interpreters in the booth don't have access to the same sound quality as participants in virtual meetings, who have a much better sound quality than our interpreters in booths because of the devices in place to protect interpreters' hearing. That is our understanding of the NRC study.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
If I have understood correctly, the equipment for protecting our interpreters contributes to the risk of injury. Is that right?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:38
To avoid acoustic bursts, we regulate the amount of sound that goes into the interpreter's ear. That said, the process is much more complex than that. I don't claim to be an expert in acoustical engineering, but I know that a host of other factors must be taken into account. When the sound goes through computers, through the Internet, it is subjected to very sophisticated processing. There is a lot of manipulation that enables the sound to go from my mouth to my microphone, and then to the interpreter's year.
I think that my colleagues from the House would be in a better position than me to talk about the technological environment. Acoustical experts also help us understand this entire phenomenon.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:39
Mr. MacKinnon, according to the data from our analyses, sound is different depending on whether it is coming from the Internet to the room or from the room to the Internet.
Does this lead to a difference in quality? Does the perceived difference have an impact on people's hearing? I cannot answer this, but we have definitely determined that there is a difference between the two.
The work we are currently doing with world experts, experts on sound quality, consists in improving elements that will help us have a similar quality on both sides. That is what we are currently trying to do.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Which risks interpreters face differ from the risks faced by people using similar technology throughout the whole day? We may be talking about technology related to interpretation or not, of course. What are the risks for people who participate in Zoom meetings or hybrid meetings?
This is clearly a major societal issue if the risks are the same. I have no doubt that the House administration and the Translation Bureau have worked hard to buy the right equipment, to carry out the best possible research and to decrease the risks to interpreters.
In theory, the average person who uses Zoom to participate in a meeting is exposed to the same risks, but the situation is not quite the same.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:42
Mr. Chair, I will raise only a few elements.
The interpreter's role is clearly completely different from the role of those listening to them. The cognitive aspect requires a much greater effort from interpreters than from those participating in the meeting who are only listening to what is being said. A connection can be established between sound and this, but it is different.
We must analyze various elements, and that is what we are currently doing, with the help of experts. That is actually what Ms. Séguin has asked experts who are doing research in this area. She wanted to understand why interpreters are feeling it more than others. She also wanted to understand the connection between the two.
All those participating in the committee's meeting are currently hearing the same thing. The sound is the same for the interpreters. However, the interpreters who are listening to Mrs. DeBellefeuille, whose sound is coming from outside the room, seem to perceive a difference in terms of sound quality. When Mrs. DeBellefeuille is listening to Mr. Ball, the sound seems to be better. Those are the current perceptions. We are studying them to try to understand where that difference comes from.
We have implemented certain things to protect interpreters' hearing. But we currently don't know where their fatigue and headaches are coming from. Ms. Séguin and her team are working with experts. We, on our end, are working on our audio systems to continue to improve the situation, to make the sound steady across the two platforms.
That is where we are at right now. You said this was a societal issue, but the problem is global; it is not a problem we are experiencing only in the House or in Parliament.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Chair.
Following up on the line of questioning I had the last time we had this conversation, just as a quick reminder, Madame Séguin, the rate of injury prior to going to a hybrid or virtual Parliament was significantly less than it is after we adopted the virtual and hybrid Parliament. Is that correct?
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Could you give us a reminder? Could you remind us of what the ratio is? Is it five times as many injuries? Is it 10 times as many injuries?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:44
Okay, no problem.
With regard to the rate of reported incidents, there is a distinction to be made between reporting an incident and an injury. This is exactly what we're trying to determine.
In terms of reported incidents, yes, they have gone up. As I said before, in 2017 there were 10 reported incidents. In 2018 there were four. In 2019 there were 23. Then it goes to 125 in 2020 and 99 in 2021.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
Mr. Aubé, the equipment that's sitting in front of me right now is the equipment that was sitting here in 2017. The device that I'm listening to is the same as in 2017. The issue isn't the actual technology within the confines of the House of Commons, because the technology doesn't appear to have changed at all.
I know I'm stating the obvious when I say we have a requirement for a virtual Parliament. I'm not questioning whether those things needed to happen or not; we all agreed to them. It seems to me it's the inability to control things, as you've said, over the Internet, whether it's feedback or whether it's the quality of the bandwidth or the connection. In your opinion—and you've done the best you can to get the best equipment possible for everybody involved—there are still so many wild cards involved that this is as good as it's going to get going forward if we continue to maintain a hybrid Parliament or a virtual Parliament.
Is that a fair statement? Would you agree with my statement?
Stéphan Aubé
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Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:46
I would agree, Mr. Calkins, that there are multiple variables that we can't control, such as the Internet, to your point, and they do have an effect on the audio quality when people are coming in, but I would also say we're striving, sir, to continuously make improvements in order to mitigate these.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
The issue we have is not necessarily with members who have devices that are provided to them to participate virtually, whether it's in the House of Commons, at committees or elsewhere, but it is noticeable that sometimes the equipment of participants or witnesses who are asked to appear before committees might not be at the same standard as the equipment that's provided to members of the House. Is that correct?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:47
That is a correct statement, sir.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Is it a cost issue that we can't get these witnesses the right equipment? Is it a time constraint? What is preventing us from having a standard that witnesses are able to meet?
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-03-03 11:47
Sure. Thank you.
Through you, Mr. Speaker, there are some of those variables. It's not, generally speaking, a cost issue. We have a process whereby we automatically issue approved headsets to any witnesses who are appearing before committee. We get them out as soon as the clerks are advised that someone is going to be appearing before our committee. Generally speaking, it takes two days to get a headset to someone anywhere in Canada. It's a pretty efficient process, but sometimes witnesses are asked to appear at the last minute. There are other considerations as well. Those are all variables that come into it.
We don't provide other equipment, in terms of computers and their Internet connections and stuff. It's—
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
We're blessed, as members, to have a tech-savvy department backing us up. Witnesses might not have that same level of tech savviness supporting them. That's all understandable. Is that correct?
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-03-03 11:48
—we do offer quite a bit of support, though. Stéphan's team, the IT ambassadors, do pretest the onboarding of witnesses—
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-03-03 11:48
—to make sure they are able to participate. We do that in advance of the meeting, and then at the meeting we do our best to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
My last question is for both Mr. Aubé and Ms. Séguin.
If we were to do away with, as soon as possible.... I think we're slated to go until June 23, unless we change our minds to do it sooner. The best way to ensure the safety and security of the people who are employed here at the House, particularly our interpreters, who seem to be shrinking pool of talent, would be to resume the normal practice and go back to a normal Parliament and forgo the video conferencing and teleconferencing that we're currently relying on heavily.
Would both of you agree with that statement?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:49
If I may, through the Speaker, the working conditions are much preferable in person right now in terms of both quality of sound and quantity of sound, for sure. In terms of ensuring the health and safety of interpreters as well as minimizing interruptions and maintaining the quality of the service, as things stand right now, when meetings occur in person, we have a better chance of—
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Well, obviously; I mean, the numbers support that 100%, right?
Mr. Aubé. do you agree?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:50
Yes, definitely, Mr. Calkins. As more participants take part in person, you should see a reduction. I wouldn't want to say that we have to remove it all, because you'll always have a case of a witness who has to participate remotely—
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Even prior to COVID, sir, if I may, we did have teleconferencing and sometimes video conferencing, but they weren't primary. They were a secondary use, when it was just not possible for witnesses to travel or they were from New Zealand or some other place like that.
I'm not suggesting that those things should not happen anymore; it's just to not rely on those as a primary mode of appearing before the House or a committee.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:50
Recognizing the existing technologies that are out there, sir, it's a fair statement that you'll see a reduction. The more that participants appear in person, the more the reduction you'll see in incidents. You should see that, sir.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Well, I would hope that everybody here at this board would take that under advisement. It looks like we have no choice but to do what's right for our interpreters and return as quickly as possible to a non-hybrid parliamentary session.
Thank you to the witnesses.
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 Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have always seen the Board of Internal Economy as a non-partisan forum, where we are not repeating debates we have already held in the House and where we should always focus on the House administration and the best way to apply the decisions made by the House of Commons. So I disagree with certain comments, which seem more appropriate in the House then at the Board of Internal Economy, which is non-partisan.
That said, could you confirm that a study has indeed been carried out by the National Research Council of Canada on the issue of interpreters and sound quality in the House of Commons?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:55
Yes, the Translation Bureau did contract the NRC's services for a study on the amount and quality of sound, which we discussed a bit. That study was done with the full cooperation of House administration employees. The board is actually responsible for the health and safety of individuals, but it was important for us to involve partners in charge of technological infrastructure.
Mr. Ball could perhaps provide more details on this important study.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-03-03 11:56
We did contract the NRC to assess the quality and amount of sound reaching the interpreters in the facilities of the House.
Concerning the amount of sound, the report indicates that interpreters are indeed protected by the installed safety devices. The simultaneous interpretation consoles, which were replaced by the House of Commons, control in half a second any sound that exceeds 84 decibels. So the NRC confirmed that interpreters were protected when it comes to the amount of sound.
As for sound quality, it is different than it would be in person. As was said earlier, this is due to sound processing, its transformation and its compression by filters and the Internet. We want to better understand the impact of that sound processing on interpreters' health and hearing. We don't know that yet.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-03-03 11:58
Yes. I think it was previously sent to the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
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