Translation Bureau: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—March 24, 2021

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Translation Bureau virtual interpretation capacity


The Translation Bureau (TB) continues to work with the house administration and all partners to support Parliament’s virtual sittings while ensuring the health and safety of its interpreters.

Suggested response

If pressed on the next generation of interpreters:

If pressed on freelance contracts:

If pressed on interpreter health and safety:

If pressed on interpretation capacity:

If pressed on contracting tools:


Since the beginning of the pandemic, TB has worked closely with the house administration in the implementation of virtual committee sittings.

TB’s operations have been altered to respond to parliamentary needs. Conditions have improved over time and the collaboration continues in order to find a sustainable solution to reduce the risk of interpretation service interruptions due to the technology used by remote participants.

Certain criteria must be met in order for remote interpretation to work. These include:

These criteria are needed to establish optimal conditions so that interpreters can provide high-quality service in a safe environment. Abiding by these criteria will not completely eliminate the risk of interpretation service interruptions due to the technology used by remote participants, but it will greatly reduce this risk and help ensure the best possible interpretation.

Contracts with freelance interpreters

TB has seen a significant increase in remote interpretation since the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, in December 2020, a contract amendment was issued to include remote interpretation working conditions retroactive to May 2020.

A new open contract for interpretation is being developed in consultation with the interpreter community and will come into effect on July 1, 2021. PSPC Procurement Branch is leading a request for information (RFI) process posted on buy and sell on February 5, 2021.

Over the months prior to the posting of the RFI, the TB hosted a number of consultation meetings with freelance interpreters to hear their views, share information and answer questions related to the amendment to the current contract, and the development of the open contract that will come into effect on July 1, 2021.

These procurement processes are important for the TB’s capacity to deliver services due to its reliance on the freelancer community.

Translation Bureau health and safety

With the increased use of videoconferences, there has been an increase in incident reports from interpreters, including headaches, earaches and fatigue due to poor sound quality.

On September 28, 2020, the Hill Times reported that a new international study places Canada among the countries with the highest rate of acoustic shock incidents suffered by language interpreters.

TB has provided its interpreters with headsets with sound limiters to protect against acoustic shock and implemented a series of hygiene and physical distancing measures. In addition, the TB requires its clients to take technical measures that promote not only the health of its interpreters but also 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, using a stable broadband internet connection, and providing documents to interpreters before or at the start of meetings.

TB’s approach is aligned with international best practices, including the International Association of Conference Interpreters principles, guidance for institutions and best practices. TB is seen as a leader in the field.

Research studies

TB currently has 3 studies underway to look at technology, sound quality and interpreters’ auditory health:

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