We thank you for inviting the International Association of Conference Interpreters Canada, or AIIC Canada, to present our thoughts on hybrid proceedings.
Good afternoon, everyone.
I want to thank my colleagues, the interpreters.
We belong to a global organization that operates wherever conference interpretation is provided.
AIIC Canada understands that new technologies are here to stay and is interested in working with the translation bureau—the TB, as we call it—to ensure that it remains a centre of linguistic excellence, offering the best working conditions to its suppliers so as to provide the highest-quality services while safeguarding interpreters' health and well-being over the course of their careers.
At the beginning of the pandemic, to its credit, the TB took steps to ensure quality and interpreter safety by reducing the number of hours of work in virtual settings. It's widely understood that in-person settings, where interpreters are in the same room as active speakers, offer the best conditions for quality interpretation. It's also widely understood that interpreting remote participants over the Internet increases cognitive load and has caused auditory disorders and injuries amongst interpreters the world over.
Despite what you heard from the House of Commons administration on Tuesday, the National Research Council's testing has proven that the House of Commons AV system distorts Zoom, so the sound delivered from remote participants to interpreters becomes both unintelligible and a serious health hazard. This is a key point.
The House administration testified to your committee on Tuesday this week that the House of Commons audio system meets ISO standards. Omitted from their testimony is that this is true only for in-person sound. Audio from remote participants continues to be dangerous and frequently unintelligible, placing quality interpretation and the health and safety of interpreters at risk.
Interpreting remote interventions is what has generated many problems. The science is not sufficiently advanced to have definite answers to the causes, but empirically, given the number of injuries we've witnessed since virtual Parliament in Canada, we know that there is a serious problem.
AIIC Canada believes the special conditions of work instituted for virtual settings need to remain unchanged for hybrid meetings. Canada would be following the lead of the pan-European human rights organization and the Council of Europe, which have decided on conditions applicable to hybrid meetings.
For instance, should the total number of remote interventions amount to less than 25 minutes over the course of an interpreter's entire working day, the meeting will be classified as in-person.
Should the total number of remote interventions last between 25 and 50 minutes, the meeting will be classified as hybrid, with no changes in working hours but with extra financial compensation. I would like to discuss financial compensation, if you're interested, during question period.
Should the total number of remote interventions exceed 50 minutes over the course of an entire day, the meeting will be classified as full remote, with increased team strength or shorter working hours, plus financial compensation.
In Canada, the TB intends to go in the opposite direction. It's already offering assignments under prepandemic hours of work for virtual hybrid meetings. They are not waiting for verification of the House audio system, saying it's fine for in-person meetings. This misses the point entirely anyway. The TB is requiring that a majority of participants need to be remote before special conditions kick in to protect quality and interpreter health. This is what makes no sense. What matters is this: Who is doing the most talking? Is it those in the room or those connecting remotely? A hybrid policy to protect quality and our safety should be based on this consideration.
We know that most airtime of committee meetings is occupied by witnesses, many of whom will continue to connect remotely to save money, time and the planet—and because some are pregnant, as we heard earlier today. Your colleagues on LANG, in a unanimous motion to the House, have expressed concern about interpreters' auditory health. If hybrid meetings are to be a fixture of the House in the future, we urge you to weigh in too in order to protect quality and our health.
Let me be clear, AIIC Canada does not oppose new technologies that enable a hybrid Parliament and allow members of Parliament and other stakeholders to participate remotely. It goes without saying that it's up to you to decide how the House wishes to conduct its proceedings.
We ask that you provide conditions that are conducive to the high-quality services that all parliamentarians and Canadians are entitled to receive while protecting the health and welfare of interpreters.
Thank you very much.