Translation Bureau: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—June 16, 2020

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Response to COVID-19

The Translation Bureau (TB) is committed to supporting its employees and has implemented a number of safety measures to ensure their health and safety while continuing to provide translation, interpretation and terminology services. Translation and terminology lend themselves particularly well to telework, and the TB has been able to maintain its services while translators and terminologists work from home. Only employees who have to provide critical services that cannot be provided remotely can go to the office, and the TB will continue to do everything it can to ensure employee safety:

Special measures have been taken to protect the safety of interpreters who must be present in the parliamentary precinct:

Sound quality issues

Since the beginning of COVID-19 measures and the rise of the use of videoconferences, the TB has seen an increase in injury and fatigue incidents as interpreters are experiencing headaches, earaches and fatigue due to poor sound quality. No acoustic shock or other injury requiring hospitalization have been reported.

Between March 16 and May 30, 2020, there were 56 hazardous occurrences reported. Seventeen of those hazardous occurrences involved teleconferences, 38 were related to videoconferences and one was related to an external signal (fire alarm).

The TB provides headsets with sound limiters to its interpreters to protect against acoustic shock. In addition, the TB requires its clients to take technical measures that ensure the health of its interpreters and enable high-quality interpretation. These include having a qualified audiovisual technician present at all times, remote participants’ use of good quality headsets with built-in microphones and good quality internet connections, and the provision of documents to interpreters in advance of meetings.

The Translation Bureau’s approach aligns very closely to international best practices, including the International Association of Conference Interpreters principles, guidance for institutions and best practices.

Supporting parliament

TB focuses on helping parliament continue to meet its responsibility concerning the interpretation of proceedings and the translation of documents.

TB’s operations have been altered to respond to parliamentary needs, especially for committee meetings via teleconference or videoconference and the possibility of a virtual return of parliament. The TB has been:

Supporting the Government of Canada

The TB continues to provide its usual level of service to the Parliament of Canada, the federal government and its other clients. All translation, interpretation and terminology services in official, foreign and Indigenous languages, as well as sign language interpretation and captioning services remain available according to the usual procedures.

The glossary on the COVID-19 pandemic

The current global situation requires highly effective communication. The vocabulary used must be understood by everyone, and it is important that all documents have consistent terminology. The Translation Bureau’s Terminology Standardization Division has developed a standardized bilingual glossary to define the basic concepts related to COVID-19 and to promote clarity in communications. The glossary on the COVID-19 pandemic was developed based on the scanning of scientific articles and newspapers as well as Canadian government and World Health Organization documents.

This glossary is designed as a tool for language professionals as well as those responsible for disseminating information in the context of this pandemic. It is a living document that will be updated and improved on a regular basis. In it, you will find terms from the fields of medicine, sociology and politics, among others.

The glossary on the COVID-19 pandemic is available on-line, and its terminology has also been added to TERMIUM Plus®, the Government of Canada’s terminology and linguistic data bank. The terminologists will be monitoring the media and updating the glossary as the terminology evolves.

Looking forward post COVID-19

The Translation Bureau will continue to provide its usual level of service to the Parliament of Canada, the Government of Canada and its other clients. The health and safety of employees will remain a priority, and the evolving guidelines set by the government and public health authorities will be strictly adhered to.

Translation Bureau at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs

On April 29, 2020, the Translation Bureau appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs (PROC) regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and of virtual committees on interpreters. During its appearance, the Translation Bureau offered to provide to the committee information regarding an increase in injury or fatigue incident reports during the past months since the beginning of the virtual meetings. The response was submitted to the committee on May 11, 2020.

On May 4, 2020, after the Translation Bureau’s appearance, the Canadian Association of Professional Employees and the International Association of Conference Interpreters appeared before PROC to discuss the challenges faced by interpreters since the beginning of virtual parliament. Both associations disclosed inaccurate numbers regarding reported injuries of interpreters. They have also committed to providing additional details and numbers on reported injuries. Both associations are currently working closely with the Translation Bureau to develop their more detailed responses to the committee.

On June 9, 2020, PROC invited the Translation Bureau to provide a written submission to give an update on challenges and improvements. In addition, the Translation Bureau has been invited to accompany the principal clerk of the Senate to the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (CIBA) on June 18, 2020.

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