Freelance court interpreters in Brampton, Ontario, started the year with a rally, calling for a long overdue wage increase and other benefits to improve working conditions.
The interpreters joined members of the Professional Court Interpreters of Ontario (PCIO) outside the Brampton Provincial Offences Court armed with signs reading “skilled profession = skilled rate” and “justice for all except for interpreters.”
“Our wages were raised in 2010, but we have not had an increase since then. It’s been 12 years now,” said PCIO President Jaswinder Bedi, who has worked as a freelance Punjabi interpreter since 2010.
Freelance interpreters are paid $30 per hour and are not considered government employees. As such, they do not qualify for benefits like health coverage or pensions. Interpreters say the current rate does not reflect the importance or depth of their work and have written to the Ministry of the Attorney General expressing their concerns.
“The Ministry does not give us anything, no benefits. They keep us as independent contractors,” said Dave Duhre, a court interpreter. “Right now, it’s one-sided.”
A letter sent to the Ministry from PCIO in December read: “It’s unfortunate that while Canada is growing and its standard of living is improving, and while income in most sectors is rising, court interpreter compensation has sadly not kept pace.”
Bedi said the wages offered do not take into consideration that freelance interpreters are accredited and must pass an exam before gaining partial or full accreditation. “We are professionals, highly qualified people, and must be very proficient in two, three, or four languages. It’s not an easy task,” he said.
In a letter to PCIO members, the Ministry stated that it is researching current policies but has not decided on wages.
“The Ministry is in the process of analyzing the information collected from a variety of sources, as well as input received from court interpreters and other justice stakeholders,” the letter read. “Once this analysis is complete, the Ministry will determine next steps.”
Michelle Johal, a defense lawyer who often works at the Brampton courthouse, said she would be “unable” to do her job if clients or witnesses couldn’t access interpreters.
“The right to the assistance of an interpreter is not merely an administrative requirement. It is a constitutionally guaranteed right found in Section 14 of the Charter. Courts have an obligation to ensure that this right is accorded to any person who requires it,” she said.
Read Full Article from Brampton Guardian (Ontario, Canada) (01/21/22)
Author: Gamrot, Sabrina
News summaries © copyright 2022 SmithBucklin