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Results: 1 - 30 of 1518
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call the meeting to order.
First on the agenda we have the minutes of the previous meeting.
Are there any questions or comments on item number one? No.
On item number two, business arising from previous meetings, are there any questions? No.
Item number three concerns the translation bureau and resource utilization for simultaneous interpretation.
Presenting on that topic are Nathalie Laliberté and Matthew Ball.
I'll let you do your presentation, and I'm sure we'll have a few questions once you've finished.
Thank you.
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:09
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As the acting chief executive officer of the translation bureau, I am happy to be here along with Matthew Ball, vice-president of service to Parliament and interpretation.
Please note that the new CEO will be appointed in the coming weeks.
Honourable members of the board, I would like to begin by assuring you that we fully understand how important the availability of quality interpretation is for Parliament to run smoothly, and how the shortage of interpreters not only impedes your meetings but makes it difficult to respect language rights.
The bureau is proud to have been able to provide essential services since the beginning of the pandemic. Our on-site interpreters responded to a 20% increase in demand for interpretation services in the House of Commons despite a 25% reduction in capacity due to a decrease in the number of suppliers.
That said, we're making every effort to cover more events. We're looking at every possible option to address the labour shortage, and we're continuing to take decisive action to ensure that we will have more interpreters available by the beginning of the next parliamentary session.
Given the varying availability and the services they must also provide to the Senate, the Privy Council Office and other clients such as the Public Order Emergency Commission, our complement of approximately 70 staff and 60 freelance interpreters assigned to Parliament concurrently cover 57 House committee meetings per week.
We will know the results of our recent accreditation exam by the holidays and will offer a job or a contract to all successful candidates. We are currently in discussions with procurement and security screening authorities to expedite the onboarding process, so that these new interpreters can begin serving the House as soon as the new session begins on January 30.
In addition, we are working with the House administration to enable interpreters located outside parliamentary facilities to provide interpretation. As this is a new service, there are contractual and operational details to be ironed out, but by the next session, we expect that we'll be able to provide off-site interpretation for two events per day, as requested by the House administration.
While increasing our capacity, we continue to improve occupational health and safety for our interpreters, which remains our priority. Still, the best way to protect interpreters is to ensure that all meeting participants use proper microphones, a precaution that also reduces service interruptions. To this end, we request your co‑operation in making the use of proper microphones mandatory.
Working conditions for interpreters are difficult, as incident reports from the last two years show. The more we improve conditions together, the better interpreters will be able to meet the needs of Parliament by providing the quality interpretation services that you have come to expect, and that you and the Canadian public deserve.
Thank you again for your support, your understanding and your patience.
Thank you, as well, to the interpreters providing today's interpretation services, Claire, Sharon and Tara.
Mr. Ball and I are now available to answer your questions.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Are there questions or comments?
Go ahead, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, Ms. Laliberté. Welcome to the Board of Internal Economy.
I have a few questions for you.
Can you refresh my memory as to when you sent your last letter to the board? I don't have it in front of me.
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:13
The letter was signed on November 30, 2022.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I actually wanted to point out that you didn't date the letter you sent us. I don't know whether that's something you usually do.
You're saying that November 30 was the date of the letter.
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:13
We use an electronic signature, so the letter is date-stamped when it's signed. We usually add the date as well, so it was really an oversight in this case. I take full responsibility. It's not standard practice, I assure you.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
All right.
My fellow Board of Internal Economy members know what I'm like, and they know me to be a pretty candid person. I must tell you how disappointed I was that it took you as long as it did to reply to the letter we sent the translation bureau in late September. The Board of Internal Economy has been discussing this issue for months and months. The issue is a top priority for us, one that requires urgent attention, so it's hard to understand why it took you so long to reply and, above all, to provide answers.
To this day, the interpretation capacity needed to serve a hybrid Parliament—with more than 57 events per week—is a big question mark, because we don't have a needs analysis. We wanted to understand how you go about your human resource planning, but I, personally, am still not satisfied with your answers.
Now, having heard your opening remarks, I am optimistic that you will be able to shed more light on the issue for us.
According to your written statement, you expect to have enough interpretation capacity to provide services for 59 events, up from 57, by January 30, thanks to new interpreters who will have passed the accreditation exam. Is that correct?
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:15
You asked about a number of things.
In terms of how long it took us to reply to the Board's letter, I will say that we took the time to examine the situation carefully and provide adequate answers.
Keep in mind that the translation bureau has a number of priorities. As we speak, our top two priorities are service continuity, so continuing to provide the interpretation and translation services you are entitled to, and, of course, the health and safety of our interpreters.
At the same time, we are working on other initiatives, including increasing the number of new interpreters and carrying out research to enhance interpreter health and safety.
In light of that, we replied to the board's letter as soon as we could.
Sorry, but I forgot the rest of your question.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
In your speaking notes, it says that you are confident you will be able to provide services for two additional events per day, as requested by the House of Commons, taking into account the results of the accreditation exam, security checks for the new interpreters and so forth. That's something you commit to. Currently, you provide services for 57 events, and you are pledging that you will have interpretation capacity to cover 59 events as of January 30.
Is that correct?
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:17
Our ability to cover two more events is actually thanks to the fact that interpreters outside the parliamentary precinct will be able to provide services.
With respect to the accreditation process, we will have additional resources available to serve Parliament beginning on January 30. We will have the capacity to cover at least 59 events, but we are talking about 57 committees. We will be sharing our service availability with the House and Senate administrations, and they will determine what the priorities are, committee meetings, caucus meetings or whatever else. We will be providing our service availability to you at that time.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I'm not sure I understand.
Are you committing to providing coverage for 59 events thanks to new interpreters? You don't know the results of the exam yet and you don't know whether those new interpreters will choose to work at the House of Commons, committees or elsewhere. You are nevertheless committing to covering two additional events per day. Is that right?
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:18
I'd like to clarify something, if I may.
Coverage for the two additional events will be provided by interpreters who already have bureau accreditation but do not currently work at Parliament, because they live outside the national capital region and don't want to travel to Ottawa. Those interpreters are already accredited.
Coverage for the 59 events does not include interpreters whose exams are currently being marked and who are working towards accreditation.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I see. That clears things up a bit.
The Board of Internal Economy asked for a pilot project back in the spring. In your November 30 letter, however, you say this: “Should the House decide to go forward”. I take that to mean you didn't understand the House administration's request and you are just starting to set up the pilot project. We approved the pilot project for off-site interpretation back in May, to allow accredited interpreters to provide services remotely. Your November letter makes it sound as though you are still waiting for the request. There seems to be some confusion. We have been waiting a long time to have off-site interpreters provide coverage for more events.
Why isn't it already in place? We instructed the House administration in the spring to work with the translation bureau to set that up.
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:19
We worked with the House administration to set up the pilot. We had to conduct testing.
To your point about the confusion or miscommunication, if I can call it that, I would say that the administration wanted to know how many interpreters we could provide and we were waiting for the administration to tell us how many interpreters it needed. All of that has been clarified.
We put out a call for interest, and we have started to receive responses from interested freelancers. I can confirm that we will be able to meet the House's needs. We were asked to provide coverage for two additional events per day, from Monday to Thursday, once Parliament returns until it rises in June.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
That's great.
I have one last question.
When committees meet informally, for example, when we host international delegations, the committee clerks or chairs are often unable to get interpretation coverage, but the meetings usually take place anyways.
With your additional resources—whether off-site interpreters or new interpreters—will you have enough capacity to meet all the needs of the House and committees, including informal meetings?
Besides the two additional events you will be covering, how much extra interpretation capacity do you expect to have? I'm talking about the new interpreters who passed the exam and are in the process of being hired.
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:21
To answer your question about how many more interpreters we will have, I would say that we are almost finished marking the accreditation exams. We should be done by the end of next week.
The accreditation exam is a pretty complex test. It's a 30‑minute recording for each candidate, and we have to assess the candidate's fluency and vocabulary, the clarity of the message and other factors.
It's important to manage expectations. A total of 69 candidates took the exam—21 of them are from other countries and eight are already working for the translation bureau as interns. That means 40 new Canadian candidates took the accreditation exam, and those exams have been marked. I wouldn't want to give you any numbers today, because I want to wait until we've finished all the marking and grading. I will say, though, that we will have more interpreters who will be able to provide coverage by the time Parliament resumes.
Successful candidates who obtain their accreditation will be offered a contract and will hopefully want to work for us. As I said in my opening remarks, we are conducting the necessary security checks and following the contracting process, but we are confident that it's going to happen. We are also planning onboarding sessions for new employees, to show them the parliamentary facilities where they will be working.
Basically, those efforts are under way, and we expect to welcome more interpreters. That said, it will be up to the House and Senate administrations to decide on the types of events to which those new interpreters will be assigned.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Excellent. Thank you.
I'll follow up during my next turn, if need be, Mr. Chair.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Go ahead, Mr. Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Ms. Laliberté. The work you're doing is extremely important. The dedication and professionalism of the interpreters who work at the House of Commons is quite impressive. Of course, we want to ensure that their health and safety is always protected. We also want to figure out a way to address the lack of interpretation capacity we are currently facing. The fact that interpreters are being overworked is something else we are concerned about.
I want to follow up on the exam candidates. You said that 21 of them were from other countries. Did you seek out those candidates? Did you encourage them to take the exam?
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:24
We did a lot of advertising leading up to the accreditation exam, namely through the associations and on social media. The answer to your question is yes, we did seek out the candidates.
Their exams will be marked. We are working with our colleagues in other departments to figure out how we can hire or contract people who are outside the country. As you probably know, it's an arduous process. We have to go through a lot of steps before those successful candidates can come here, so the process won't be done before Parliament resumes. It can take up to a year to hire or contract people who are abroad. That's why we marked the exams of the other candidates first.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
How many of your current interpreters are from other countries?
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:25
I'm going to ask Mr. Ball whether he knows the answer.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-12-07 16:25
I couldn't say with any accuracy. I'd have to look at our personnel files to know how many exactly.
Do you mean staff interpreters?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I assume you have to go through the same process as any other business. If the candidate is successful, you request a labour market impact assessment. Then, an immigration application is duly filed. You have to go through the same steps as any other business or organization dealing with a lack of skilled labour. That's why it takes at least a year before those successful candidates can start working here. Do I have that right?
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-12-07 16:26
Yes, it's a complex process. Hiring people who are outside the country is a complex endeavour, and many of the factors are not within the translation bureau's mandate or control. As Ms. Laliberté just said, we are working with other departments, but the fact remains, it's a long and complicated process.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
If I understand correctly, 40 of the candidates do not work for the translation bureau currently but are in Canada, and 33 of them passed the exam.
Nathalie Laliberté
View Nathalie Laliberté Profile
Nathalie Laliberté
2022-12-07 16:27
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
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