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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call to order the sixth meeting of the Board of Internal Economy of the 44th Parliament.
We'll start off with the minutes of the previous meeting.
Is everything okay, or do we have any comments on the minutes?
Everything seems okay, so I will continue.
Next is business arising from previous meetings.
Are there any questions?
Go ahead, Mr. Holland.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2022-03-03 11:01
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I've had a lot of conversations with the member for Ottawa Centre, who has been very strong on this point. Obviously, we also have a lot of concerns with the area immediately outside of this building on Wellington Street, and have had conversations about its future. I understand, or at least it's my understanding now, that Ottawa police will have Wellington blocked off until November.
I'm wondering if it would be appropriate for a report with respect to the future of the parliamentary precinct and Wellington and any other areas. Would that be coming to PROC? Would that be coming to BOIE? I just want to make sure there is a report forthcoming and to understand where that report will be coming.
In my view, it's absolutely essential that the area of Wellington Street in front of Parliament not be open to vehicular traffic that is not related to Parliament.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll let Monsieur Patrice answer that question.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-03-03 11:02
Yes, as you pointed out, there are many discussions, and in the public domain also, in terms of the future of Wellington. It's something on which I hope we would come to this committee to give a report and have a discussion, potentially in camera.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2022-03-03 11:03
Thank you very much.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
I now give the floor to Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
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 Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I had intended for this to be discussed under the item related to the Translation Bureau.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
However, if you wish to talk about it now, you may do so.
I feel it would be easier to keep all the subjects together that—
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 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)
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 Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
For now, you are the only one who wants to speak.
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 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 Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
With your permission, we'll go to Mr. Julian, and then to Mr. Brassard. You'll be able to continue afterwards.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Julian, you have the floor.
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)
Okay.
Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Julian, may I interrupt you for a second?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I just want to remind you that other members want to ask questions. I didn't mean to interrupt you, but the time allotted to each speaker is roughly five minutes.
You can choose to let someone else speak or continue with your questions.
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.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Aubé, you have the floor.
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 Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We're going to continue.
We'll go to Mr. Brassard, followed by Mr. MacKinnon.
Then we'll go to Mrs. DeBellefeuille, and Mr. Julian can ask more questions if he wants. I know this is a very important topic for everyone, and we want to give everyone a chance to ask questions.
Thank you for your co‑operation.
Go ahead, Mr. Brassard.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Before I begin my line of questioning, on an unrelated matter, Mr. Julian brought up a claim of permanent hearing loss for residents of the city of Ottawa as a result of the recent protests. I'm just wondering—and I don't know whether this is normal—if Mr. Julian could table with this committee the reports that he's referencing and where that claim comes from. I haven't seen any and in order for us to make informed decisions around this place, I would like to see precisely where that report comes from.
Could you table that, Mr. Julian?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Chair, I'm delighted to answer this question, because this is fundamentally important. Something that I think people often try to simply brush aside is the issue of permanent hearing loss that comes from excessive levels of noise that is unprotected—
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Is there a report that justifies that?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
—and that's certainly what we saw over the last three weeks.
I'm answering your question, Mr. Brassard.
What we would need to do is see each of the individual residents of Ottawa who have gone in and seen their audiologist and those who have yet to see their audiologist to see the tracing of their hearing previous to the occupation and then post-occupation.
There is no doubt that the levels of sound reached over 100 decibels, sometimes as high as 120 decibels. That is enough to cause permanent hearing loss within minutes. To me, this is something that was profoundly disturbing, and it surprised me that certain members of Parliament didn't understand the importance of actually acting and that the hearing loss the people of Ottawa were experiencing was doubted.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
The claim was made, but there's no basis for the claim at this point anyway.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
If I can interrupt—
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Quite the contrary, Mr. Brassard, quite the contrary.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Order. If I can have your attention, please, we have some people who are being very patient with us here—
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
All right. I do have questions for the interpreter.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
—so maybe we can take this and have a separate item altogether.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
I would love that.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That might be something we want to look at, but right now, Madame Séguin and Matthew Ball are here to answer our questions. We'll concentrate on them and then come back to this one. We can have our own discussions later.
Mr. Brassard, please continue.
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.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
I'm sorry, Mr. Aubé. Do you have anything to add?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
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 John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
Thank you, Chair.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Now we'll go to Mr. MacKinnon.
He will be followed by Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
Then we'll go to Mr. Julian, and then back to Mr. Brassard.
Oh, we have Mr. Calkins after Mr. MacKinnon.
Go ahead, Mr. MacKinnon.
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.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Aubé, do you want to add anything on this?
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
May I add something, Mr. Chair?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, Mr. Aubé.
I will then give the floor to the next questioner, so that everyone can ask questions.
Go ahead, Mr. Aubé.
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 Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll continue with Mr. Calkins, followed by Madame DeBellefeuille and Mr. Julian, and then we'll go back to Mr. Brassard.
Go ahead, Mr. Calkins.
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
Would you like me to respond right now?
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
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
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
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?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:47
Ian, do you want to answer?
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