Statement from Public Services and Procurement Canada's Translation Bureau on interpretation services
March 4, 2022
The mandate of Public Services and Procurement Canada's Translation Bureau is to provide quality linguistic services in support of Parliament and federal departments and agencies, including interpretation services. In collaboration with session organizers, who are responsible for the technical aspects of interpretation, the Bureau ensures that interpreters work in conditions that are safe and conducive to quality interpretation.
These conditions are sometimes lacking when participants are joining a session remotely. The pandemic has led to the widespread use of virtual sessions, which has resulted in an increase in reports of health and safety incidents related to sound quality among interpreters.
Health and safety is a priority for the Translation Bureau. Even before the start of the pandemic, the Bureau had begun to take measures to protect interpreters. Over the past 2 years, it has strengthened these measures with the help of its partners, including Parliament and associations representing interpreters. These measures include:
- consoles conforming to the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which include sound limiters that prevent acoustic shock, are used in Parliament to deliver sound to interpreters
- a technician is present at all times in the room where interpreters are located
- working hours are reduced during virtual sessions, and interpreters assigned to these sessions work an average of 3 hours per day without any reduction in remuneration
- during virtual government sessions, participants must use a headset or an appropriate tabletop microphone, otherwise their interventions will not be interpreted
- during virtual sittings, Parliament provides a suitable headset for members of Parliament and senators, as well as for witnesses
- at all times, interpreters have the directive to interrupt the service if the working conditions endanger their health
The Translation Bureau also uses experts to base its decisions on evidence, for example:
- it is conducting an empirical research project with the University of Geneva on fatigue and cognitive load during remote interpretation
- researchers from the University of Ottawa will conduct hearing health assessments for interpreters on behalf of the Bureau to establish baseline data and a recommended course of action for acoustic incidents
- a study by the National Research Council of Canada has confirmed that the interpretation consoles in the House of Commons and committee rooms provide adequate protection against acoustic shock (the National Research Council of Canada continues to perform tests and compile data on sound transmitted to interpreters)
The Translation Bureau actively monitors the situation in Canada and elsewhere in the world and draws on international best practices to implement optimal protection measures. The Bureau also makes its clients aware of the measures to be taken to ensure the health and safety of interpreters and the quality of interpretation. It is committed to continuing these efforts in collaboration with all stakeholders.
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