In response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Parliament rapidly moved its meetings online. The lack of proper technical infrastructure and poor practice caused several interpreters, CAPE TR members, to be injured on the job. This also affected their ability to effectively champion Canada’s two official languages.
On March 13, 2020, the federal government mobilized its entire workforce to quickly transition to a virtual workspace. A decision was also made for Parliament to hold its meetings and hearings on virtual platforms to ensure business continuity. However, the decision overlooked constraints and challenges that would impact the government’s ability to offer interpretation services to parliamentarians and other Canadians, and to guarantee a safe work environment for federal interpreters.
In early May, CAPE TR members reached out to CAPE to report several problems linked to their new work environment since the early days of sheltering in place. More injuries, fewer interpreters available to perform their duties, lack of compliance with interpretation rules by meeting participants, inadequate equipment and technology, all led to a dramatic increase in cases of interrupted interpretation services and in the risk of suspended services. For CAPE, health and safety in the workplace is paramount. CAPE is also a fervent champion of Canada’s two official languages. On May 4, 2020, CAPE urged members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) to urgently adopt corrective measures.
- June 15, 2020 – CAPE’s brief entitled Addressing the Challenges Faced by Interpreters During Virtual Parliamentary Meetings and Hearings/COVID-19 was published on PROC’s website
- May 15, 2020 – PROC tables its report to Parliament, includes CAPE’s recommendations
- May 4, 2020 – CAPE testifies before PROC and makes several recommendations to improve the situation the interpreters are facing
- April 29, 2020 – CAPE request for the PROC to look at offering better protection for federal interpreters