December 22, 2022 - OTTAWA – Interpreters’ auditory health and safety was front and centre in a recent meeting between the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) and the Honourable Michèle Audette, Senator.
On Wednesday, December 14, CAPE President Greg Phillips met with Senator Audette, to talk about interpreters’ auditory health and safety concerns and discuss recommendations.
This meeting stemmed from an October workplace incident during a senate standing committee meeting which resulted in a freelance interpreter being transported by ambulance to the hospital. Senator Audette shared her experience assisting the injured interpreter.
Following this October incident, CAPE wrote to the Honourable Lucie Moncion, Senator, in her capacity as chair of the senate standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (CIBA) with recommendations the senate should take to address interpreters’ ongoing health and safety concerns. In her response, Senator Moncion stated that following the incident, the senate had sent out a message to all Senate committee chairs to “reinforce the protocols already in place with respect to the use of a recommended headset by virtual participants.”
Against this backdrop, Mr. Phillips shared interpreters’ experiences and the impacts of the hybrid model on their health and safety. He also talked about several recommendations CAPE has made to various parliamentary standing committees and MPs, including the fact that in-person meetings should be encouraged as much as possible since these are less detrimental for interpreters because the sound is better.
Despite some measures now in place which had been a long time coming – such as the use of House-approved headsets for remote meetings – Mr. Phillips emphasized the need to not lose momentum or ease up efforts to protect interpreters as they are still at risk of workplace auditory injuries.
Senator Audette sympathized with interpreters whose role she said is very critical in Parliament. The lack of interpreters or simultaneous interpretation “is the beginning of the collapse of democracy,” she added.
Senator Audette shared the need for senate standing committee chairs to be reminded about the need to ensure interpreters’ auditory health and to never hesitate to stop a meeting should witnesses not be wearing a House-approved headset. She committed to continue standing up for interpreters and will never hesitate to call out any issues that may be a risk to them.
She also emphasized the need to highlight the important work interpreters do on International Translation Day.
CAPE will continue to identify allies and champions for interpreters in the Senate. We cannot lose sight of the fact that while there are fewer reported issues coming from work at the Senate, in part because of less reliance on remote meetings, challenges remain. There is also the need for constant reminders even in areas where advancements have been made such as the wearing of House-approved headsets during parliamentary sessions and committee meetings.
Virtual parliament and interpreters: what CAPE is doing
Honourable Michèle Audette
Member, Senate Standing Committee Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV)
Participants from CAPE
Senior Advocacy and Public Affairs Advisor