Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to give you a number of facts this morning.
The first is that translation plays a vital role in applying the Official Languages Act. It's what allows Canadians to exercise their constitutional right not to speak the other official language. It's at the heart of the social contract, the social fabric of Canada.
The second fact is that a user‑pay concept for translation was put in place in the federal public service in 1995. In effect, departments, which were entitled to free translation from 1841 to 1995, now have to pay for it.
The third fact is that the user‑pay concept has led to major and unforeseen shifts. Departments have stopped translating certain texts, are only doing so on request or are using machine translation or unqualified resources to do so. At the same time, this prevents the Translation Bureau from properly serving Canadians and the federal government.
The fourth fact is that the lack of free funding has resulted in the dispersion of translation budgets across departments. The Government of Canada and Canada are the largest purchasers of translation in the world, proportionately. The dispersion of translation budgets has led to the weakening and fragmentation of the Canadian translation industry, which plays a key role in the application of Canada's official languages policy.
The fifth fact is that the Treasury Board recognizes that the Translation Bureau is no longer able to play its essential stewardship role with respect to the security of the provision of linguistic services to Parliament, courts and the federal government.
The sixth fact is that the Translation Bureau's services are optional and not free of charge, contrary to the Translation Bureau Act, passed in 1934. I will quote the English text of the act because it is clearer.
It says, “The Bureau shall” act for all government departments, agencies, boards and commissions in both Houses of Parliament “in all matters relating to the making and revising of translations”. As well, all the departments, agencies, boards and commissions “shall collaborate with the Bureau”.
The seventh fact is that the Translation Bureau was created in 1934 to put an end to the anarchy that existed within the federal government regarding the management of translation. Unfortunately, this anarchy has returned, and the situation must absolutely be corrected.
The eighth fact is an anomaly, because the private sector does not often speak in favour of government institutions. In this case, the private sector, both in translation and interpretation, is very much in favour of strengthening the Translation Bureau and making better use of the federal government's purchasing power in translation.
The ninth and final fact concerns the former minister of Public Service and Procurement Canada, Judy Foote, who, in February 2017, made a commitment on behalf of the Government of Canada: “It's a new day for the Translation Bureau. We are restoring this institution's reputation. We are turning things around. We have a plan for new management, for succession and ... for making the Translation Bureau mandatory again.”
I'd now like to make four recommendations to the committee.
My first recommendation is to apply what is in the White Paper released by Canadian Heritage in 2021, namely, “to strengthen the role of the translation and interpretation functions within the federal administrative apparatus, notably the Translation Bureau”. That would mean truly enforcing the Translation Bureau Act by making the use of the bureau mandatory again, rather than optional, and by making its services free to departments.
My second recommendation is to give the bureau the same mandate as NASA, which has two mandates: to send Americans to space—a mandate that everyone knows—and to use its purchasing power to help develop the American aerospace industry.
The federal government's purchasing power in translation is the greatest in the world, proportionally speaking, and—