CAPE issues complaint against the Translation Bureau for the failure to meet its obligation to protect interpreters’ health and safety


For immediate release

OTTAWA, February 2, 2022
- The Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) issued a complaint against the Translation Bureau to the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada on the grounds that it had failed to provide CAPE members with a safe work environment.

CAPE’s complaint issued on behalf of the federal interpreters it represents, alleging a violation of the Translation Bureau’s obligation to “ensure that the health and safety at work of every person employed by the employer is protected,” under section 124 of the Canada Labour Code, RSC, 1985, c L-2. 

In particular, the complaint alleges that the Translation Bureau has not taken the appropriate steps to protect interpreters from the harms and injuries caused by poor sound quality during remote interpretation, a situation they have endured over the last two years, since the Parliament moved its meetings online. 

The lack of proper technical infrastructure and of compliance with guidelines exposed interpreters to significant risk of injuries that are unique to their professions such as acoustic shocks, severe headaches, nausea, and tinnitus, which overtime can lead to permanent hearing loss. Several interpreters had to take sick leaves. An unusually high number of reports of incidents were collected over the last two years, as a result.

“Despite two years of back and forth with the Translation Bureau and the House of Commons, our members continue to deal with those risks and could face irreversible impacts on their health.” said CAPE President Greg Phillips. “Enough is enough, which is why we made the decision to file this complaint; the Translation Bureau needs to be held accountable and they need to fix this.”

Learn more about the health and safety risks interpreters have been facing since the beginning of the pandemic.

Chronology of events

In May 2020, CAPE sounded the alarm at the House of Commons on injuries sustained by interpreters. CAPE’s recommendations were later included in the May 2021 report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

On May 26, 2021, CAPE released the preliminary results of a survey to assess the health and safety risks in the context of their current virtual work arrangement.

Over 60% of the interpreters represented by CAPE responded to the survey. The preliminary results released revealed a dire situation:

  • 92% are concerned about job-related hearing loss in the future
  • 79% have been in a situation that they perceived to be dangerous according to the Canada Labour Code while performing remote simultaneous Interpretation
  • 79% indicated having filed at least one hazardous occurrence report for sound issues since March 2020

About the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE)
CAPE represents over 21,000 federal public service employees across Canada and is the third-largest federal public service union in the country. CAPE represents economists, policy analysts, researchers in the Library of Parliament, analysts in the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, statisticians, translators, interpreters, and terminologists.

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For more information, please contact:

Katia Thériault  
Director of Communications and Public Affairs   
Cell: 819-431-1015