Translation Bureau: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—March 4, 2022

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Virtual interpretation capacity

Key messages

Key data points


Health and safety

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Translation Bureau has worked closely with the House Administration on the implementation of virtual parliamentary meetings. The Translation Bureau’s operations have been adjusted to respond to the changing working conditions. These conditions have improved over time and the Translation Bureau continues to work with its partners to find sustainable solutions to reduce the risk of health and safety incidents and interruptions in service due to technical problems related to remote participation in meetings.

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

The Translation Bureau requires its clients to respect technical requirements that protect the health of its interpreters and provide for high-quality interpretation. These include having a qualified audiovisual technician present at all times, requiring that remote participants use unidirectional microphones, have a stable broadband internet connection, and provide documents to interpreters before or at the start of meetings. In 2020, the House of Commons installed new interpretation consoles, which respect the latest International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards and include sound limiters that prevent acoustic shock.


Demand for interpretation services fluctuates greatly. To better meet demand, the Translation Bureau collaborates with its clients to plan and prioritize their needs in advance, and retains the services of freelancers as required.

The Translation Bureau serves parliament in priority and works closely with the House Administration, which determines where resources are allocated based on House priorities. When demand exceeds capacity for a given time slot, the House Administration consults party whips to obtain direction on which meetings will obtain the resources required.

The Translation Bureau has seen a significant increase in distance interpretation since the beginning of the pandemic. A new open contract for interpretation was developed in consultation with the interpreter community and came into effect on July 1, 2021.

These procurement processes are important for the Translation Bureau’s capacity to deliver services in collaboration with the freelance interpreter community. That said, freelance interpreters are also solicited by the private sector, and the Translation Bureau has to work with the availability they provide, which is why the number of resources available varies on a daily basis.

The conference interpretation profession is a shortage group, not only in Canada, but around the world. Since the advent of simultaneous interpretation in the Parliament of Canada, the Translation Bureau has worked to increase the number of qualified staff and freelance interpreters it can rely on.

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