MCIS in response to the Globe and Mail article: Lack of interpreters in Ontario courts becoming intolerable

Cuffed Defendant before criminal court (Transp...
Cuffed Defendant before criminal court (Transportation Security Administration image) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
May 21, 2013;By KIRK MAKIN – Posted with permission from The Globe and Mail: “An Ontario judge has blasted the province for failing to remedy a long-standing shortage of qualified interpreters in the courts. Ontario Court Justice Peter Tetley said the number of cases being adversely affected is at an intolerable level. “It is unfair to the public,” Justice Tetley said. “It is unfair to the defendant who hires counsel … Hopefully, someone with authority will do something, or they – and I suppose it’s the government of the day – will have to face the unpalatable consequences of circumstances like this.” The defendant in the case, Singh Chohan, allegedly had three times the allowable level of alcohol in his bloodstream when he was arrested…. Mr. Chohan’s lawyer, Peter Lindsay, said the right to a fair trial guarantees that defendants be capable of comprehending the case against them. “In a multicultural society like Canada, it is completely unacceptable that there is such a shortage of proper interpreters in major languages, such us Punjabi and Mandarin,” Mr. Lindsay said.”  More

Our comments:
Zewdi Gselassie, MCIS Interpretation Services Coordinator:  This is a very good opportunity for our trained and tested interpreters who are comfortable to take court assignments. Yes, the justice system is failing just because interpreters are not MAG certified though they have been working with the courts for many years. It is true that some of the interpreters are not qualified to be court interpreters and they specifically say that they are not comfortable to go for court assignments. Hopefully our interpreters will have better chance now to be accepted by the courts, especially those who have already participated in the Court Interpreter Training Program

Alexander Leonov, MCIS Recruitment Coordinator:  From what I understand, court interpretation is a highly specialized task plus the MAG sets really high barriers of entry (sometime unreasonably so), while providing little benefits in return. Think about it: an interpreter who wishes to work in courts needs to spend countless hours of training for the exam; needs to wait for examining slot to opens up (I heard in most cases more than a year to get the test date); needs to get security clearance and provide a lot of additional documentation just to sit in for the exam. At the end, there is no guarantee for a full-time position. True, the pay is little bit better but being a freelancer and having an on-call position has no advantage over a regular 9-5 job. Only a very few people, I believe not more than 26, are actually hired as a full-time staff in Ontario. To add to the complexity the work itself requires to deal with distressing or deplorable situations or people, to be exposed to swear language, to be sensitive and aware of dealings with vulnerable populations, to have irregular shifts but no benefits and no vacation, and, most importantly, to be often either disregarded or criticized by legal professionals as inaccurate in dealings (or even having an intention to deliberately disrupt the justice system) which potentially leads  into the risk of becoming a defendant. And there you have it – no real incentive for a language interpreter to have desire to do this job. In my view it is clear that the problem is primarily systemic. However, the systemic issues are also an opportunity for professional organizations to step up to the plate and not only to provide the [CITP] training but also to continue their work on driving the policy change.

Jhonattan Bonilla-Ramirez, MCIS Technical & Promotions Assistant:  If there’s a shortage of interpreters language training organizations should be focusing on increasing training efforts in top- desired languages. However, to provide interpretation for domestic violence issues or in a shelter is sometimes less difficult than to stand before a judge… the courts are intimidating. For example,  last week I went to fight a traffic ticket, asked for a Spanish interpreter out of curiosity, and  found that not only the speed of the counsel but also everything else related to my interpretation was largely substandard. In my opinion, any interpreter who wants to  be involved with court interpreting must learn the protocols first and make sure he or she also get tons of additional training such as mock-up face to face role-playing trials or an access to interactive trial simulations learning modules with real samples of  traffic ticket trials, domestic violence trials and so on. Practice will make an important difference in improving interpreters confidence and general competency.




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