Update: See previous page.
Section 14 of the Charter – A party or witness in any proceedings who does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an interpreter.
This right under the Charter, means that you have the right to a qualified and competent court interpreter or translator, if you are in the need of assistance during a hearing in the court. If you are denied this right, the courts may provide you with a “stay of proceedings” as a remedy for this Charter breach.
Court Interpreters are “officers of the court” in Ontario and must provide competent and objective assistance.
Two years ago, the Star reported that in 2005, when the issue of court reporters not properly fulfilling their duties, came before Justice Casey Hill of the Superior Court of Justice in Brampton, the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario’s Court Services own records showed that 10 unaccredited interpreters – who failed the government’s testing program – spent a total of 2,670 days in court translating evidence, with judges and lawyers oblivious to their lack of qualifications.
Justice Casey Hill was presiding over an appeal brought by Mr. Avtar Sidhu, who was appealing his conviction of three counts of assault causing bodily harm. Justice Casey Hill provided a “Stay of Proceeding”, ruling that the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario’s Court Services had shown a “reckless indifference” to Sidhu’s constitutional right to a competent interpreter (as guaranteed by section 14 of the Charter).
The Punjabi language court interpreter assigned to his case, stopped the proceedings 27 times in a 36-page transcript to say he didn’t understand or couldn’t hear the questions.
As a result of Mr. Sidhu’s appeal, Mr. Sidhu decided to bring an action against the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General. He sued the Ministry for thirty-five (35) million (see the Statement of Claim). To date this lawsuit remains unresolved.
The Star reported that as of Monday, April 12, 2010 the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario introduced two registries of court interpreters, classifying them, based on their scores in a new mandatory language test: those who are fully or conditionally “accredited”, and others who fail the thirty (30) minute test.
Both the old and new language tests, for court interpreters, include three (3) separate components:
A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Ministry said 34 per cent of the 225 interpreters who took the test last summer failed to meet the 50 passing mark. Forty-six were fully accredited; the rest got a conditional pass. Those who scored between 51 and 70 points on the test and received a conditional pass can still work in courts, but must take it again and pass the test within two (2) years.
Those court interpreters who fail the half hour test, can still be called to interpret in court in “extreme and urgent” cases as long as they, like their qualified colleagues, disclose their status to the court before a proceeding. As of this week, all Ontario court interpreters are required to declare their language competency to judges, crown attorneys and defence lawyers.
More than 110 languages were represented in the old registry of court interpreters, but only 25 languages in highest demand are part of the testing program. The first group tested last year included speakers in Cantonese, Farsi/Persian, French, Greek, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu and Vietnamese.
Currently, there is only one “fully accredited” Mandarin language court interpreter and only one “fully accredited” Tamil language court interpreter in the Greater Toronto Area, based on the fact that these two interpreters were able to pass the examinations that were recently administered by the The Ministry of Attorney General in Ontario.
The Ministry of Attorney General Court Services Division, Courtroom co-ordinators have strict instructions to use court interpreters from the accredited list first, then those with conditional credentials.
Through the Province’s Ministry of the Attorney General’s Court Services Division, over 800 accredited freelance court interpreters provide interpretation in over 100 spoken languages, which include:
* American Sign Language
* Chiu Chow
* Cree (West Coast Swampy)
* Creole (Haiti)
* Fijian Hindi
* Jamaican English
* Kurdish (Kurmanji)
* Kurdish (Sorani)
* Low German
* Nigerian English
* Ojibway (Kenora)
* Ojibway (Manitoulin)
* Ojibway (Sioux Lookout)
* Quebec Sign Language
* Sudanese Arabic
The Court Interpreters Association of Ontario (located at 17 Wycombe Road in Toronto) only provides interpretation in 41 languages, out of the necessary 100 spoken languages that the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Court Services Division offers in the Courts. According to the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Court Services Division, there are eight hundred (800) freelance court interpreters. The Court Interpreters Association of Ontario lists 67 members on its website (not by surname, but by first name) and only 66 of those members provide court interpretation in 41 spoken languages. This website claims that the 66 interpreters and one (1) translator (in American Sign Language or ASL) are all “accredited”.
This is the list of forty one (41) spoken languages that the members of the Court Interpreters Association of Ontario provide (as seen on their official website):
OUR MEMBERS PROVIDE INTERPRETATION AND TRANSLATION SERVICES IN THE FOLLOWING LANGUAGES :