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The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) recognizes the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Aboriginal people in Canada. The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat (the ‘Adjudication Secretariat’) is entrusted with selecting qualified interpreters to assist at hearings for claimants who continue to use their language and require interpretation to English or French. The legal environment and the sensitive subject matter covered in IAP hearings present unique complexities to interpretation. For example, some of the technical words and terms do not have equivalents in the Aboriginal languages and require an explanation in the Aboriginal languages. The Adjudication Secretariat has prepared this handbook, which includes guidelines and procedures for interpreting at hearings, to help Aboriginal language and sign language interpreters carry out their roles and responsibilities as interpreters at IAP hearings.


The Independent Assessment Process (IAP)

The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) is one element of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The IAP is an out of court alternative dispute resolution process that resolves claims of abuse suffered at an Indian Residential School (IRS).

Former students of IRS who experienced sexual or serious physical abuse or other wrongful acts which caused serious psychological consequences, may be eligible for compensation through the IAP in a claimant centered environment. Hearings are held in a manner that is culturally sensitive and safe for claimants. For further information about the IAP process in general, please visit or review Schedule ‘D’ of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement Independent Assessment Process (IAP) for Continuing Indian Residential Schools Abuse Claims which is included in your package. The deadline for applying for the Independent Assessment Process was September 19, 2012. In accordance with the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, applications will not be accepted after this date.

What to Expect at an IAP Hearing

Identifying and Confirming Interpreters in Advance of Hearings

The Adjudication Secretariat will identify and confirm interpreters for hearings early in the process to maintain a well managed system for providing interpreters for hearings. The interpreter will be contacted well in advance of the hearing date to confirm their availability and suitability as the interpreter for a hearing. Claimants will be asked to confirm that the proposed interpreter speaks their dialect, to ensure confidence that the claimant and interpreter will be able to communicate fluently at the hearing. The interpreter will inform the Adjudication Secretariat about any potential conflicts that may exist, including any previous contact with the claimant. The interpreter will also be contacted six weeks before the hearing to confirm the location and travel to the hearing. Interpreters should be prepared to attend the hearing for a full day with the possibility that the hearing could extend into two full days.

The Hearing

Hearings are conducted by adjudicators and are attended by the claimant, the claimant’s lawyer, representatives of the defendant parties and supports to the claimant including elder supports, health supports and friends or family members that the claimant has included. Claimants can choose to have a lawyer represent them, or they can choose to represent themselves in the IAP. The hearing is private and all participants including the interpreter sign confidentiality agreements. By signing the confidentiality agreement, an interpreter agrees to keep the information they receive at the hearing confidential.

Claimants can have their hearing at home, in their community, or at a location that is outside their community such as a hotel or other meeting centre. Some hearings are held in health care or home care facilities. Hearings are also held in penitentiaries, which require security clearance for interpreters. A very small percentage of hearings are held by videoconferencing. Hearings that require interpreters may take up to two full days and require an overnight stay. Pre-hearing teleconference calls may also require the assistance of interpreters.

The purpose of the hearing is to collect oral evidence from the claimant in a question and answer format. Sometimes other witnesses requiring interpreter assistance also testify in IAP hearings. The hearing is a formal search for the truth and the adjudicator uses the ‘inquisitional’ (lines of questioning) method to get oral evidence from the claimant about the abuse they experienced at residential school. The adjudicator asks the claimant questions in order to get a clear understanding of the nature and extent of the claimed abuse and its impact on the claimant’s life. No one else may question the claimant. The lawyer for the claimant does not provide any testimony on behalf of the claimant. The interpreter interprets questions and answers when the claimant needs interpreter assistance. The claimant or the adjudicator may indicate when that assistance is needed.

The adjudicator’s questions are based on the information contained in the claimant’s IAP application form, witness statements, school history, alleged abuser statements, and other records relating to the claimant’s health, education, and employment history (referred to as ‘mandatory documents’). The interpreter should be familiar with the tables for the compensable act and harm and loss levels (pages 3 to 5 in Schedule ‘D’), aggravating factors (page 5 of Schedule ‘D’ ) , and the Interpreters’ Code of Conduct (Appendix A). They should also be familiar with the Glossary for Interpreters (Appendix B), including the meaning of the technical words that may be used to refer to a claimant’s health, social and economic history.

The interpreter should inform the adjudicator about any new potential conflicts that have become apparent, including previous contact with other hearing participants or other barriers that may impact their role as an impartial interpreter. This enables the adjudicator to address those issues before the hearing begins.

Care and Safety of Claimants

The care and safety of the claimant is a primary concern of the adjudicator in the hearing room. The adjudicator relies on the interpreter to faithfully assist the claimant to understand questions and interpret their answers during the hearing. The information in the Interpreter Handbook may be provided to claimants who request interpreter assistance to inform them how interpretation will be conducted at their hearing.

Claimants can become emotionally stressed or traumatized during the hearing. Having an interpreter interpret words and terms the claimant does not understand reduces stress and anxiety for the claimant. It is important for the interpreter to inform the adjudicator when the claimant is experiencing anxiety and stress. It is also important for the interpreter to advise the adjudicator if the claimant is having difficulty understanding or responding to questions, or having difficulty hearing. Interpreters may themselves become distressed by the content of the information presented at the hearing. The interpreter must notify the adjudicator if the interpreter experiences trauma while performing their interpretation duties.

Expectations of Interpreters in the IAP

Role of the Interpreter at the Hearing

There are twelve major Aboriginal language groups with many different dialects in Canada. Many claimants use their languages as their first language on a daily basis. Interpreters are requested by claimants who speak only their own language, or who communicate more accurately or comfortably in their own language, especially when under stress. Sign language interpreters assist claimants who have a hearing disability. Interpreters assist claimants to provide testimony about abuse, and the impact of abuse, at hearings. While sign language interpreters interpret throughout the hearing, interpreters for the Aboriginal languages provide interpretation on an ‘as needed’ basis.

The role of the interpreter is to provide impartial, accurate, and complete interpretation. The claimant is asked by the adjudicator to indicate when they need interpreter assistance. The interpreter relays information back and forth between the adjudicator and the claimant without rephrasing questions or changing their meaning.

Although the adjudicator is the only person that asks questions, hearing participants can suggest additional questions for the adjudicator to ask the claimant. This part of the hearing is handled in caucus and off the record. If the claimant is self-represented, the interpreter may be asked to assist with this portion of the hearing.

It is important for the claimant to understand that:

  • The interpreter is there to perform a service for hearing participants, under the direction of the adjudicator;
  • The interpreter is impartial and cannot influence the outcome of the hearing;
  • The interpreter is not an advocate for the claimant.

All interpreters in the IAP are expected to follow the “Interpreters Code of Conduct”.

Briefing the Interpreter

Before the hearing begins, the adjudicator takes 10-15 minutes to meet the claimant and brief the interpreter. The adjudicator will:

  1. Confirm that the interpreter speaks the same language/dialect as the claimant;
  2. Confirm that the interpreter will follow the adjudicator’s instructions and direction;
  3. Confirm that the interpreter knows the guidelines, procedures, glossary, Code of Conduct, etc.;
  4. Confirm that the interpreter does not have any conflict of interest as the interpreter;
  5. Advise the interpreter about questions or terms that may need specific attention in the hearing;
  6. Request that the interpreter provide feedback after the hearing.

Oath for the Interpreter

The taking of an interpreter oath is done on the record, along with a statement that the interpreter’s competence has been explored and confirmation that specific instructions or directions have been given. The interpreter should take the interpreter oath before assisting the claimant with their oath and confidentiality agreement. The interpreter will be asked to confirm that they have met the requirements for interpreting at the hearing and that they will follow the adjudicator’s directions.

Interpreter Oath (Affirmation):

“Do you solemnly swear (affirm) that you have working knowledge of both the (Aboriginal or sign language) and the English/French language and that you will faithfully, and to the best of your knowledge and ability, interpret the oath (affirmation) of the witness and all the questions asked and answers given (so help you God).”

Interpretation at the Hearing

The objective is to provide quality interpretation to ensure that communication is clear and accurate, and understood by all hearing participants. The consecutive method of interpreting is used at hearings in which the interpreter relays information back and forth between the adjudicator and the claimant in a question and answer format. Hearings with interpreters will take longer because of the time involved in relaying information back and forth in two languages. All hearings are recorded to keep a permanent record of the hearing.

At hearings that use interpreters, adjudicators have been asked to:

  • Create a comfort level with the claimant before the hearing begins;
  • Face the claimant (not the interpreter);
  • Speak at a moderate pace and pause to allow for interpretation;
  • Avoid technical and legalistic terminology;
  • Avoid long and complex sentences;
  • Be clear and direct;
  • Pause after two or three sentences to allow for interpretation;
  • Provide time to allow for clarification of words or questions;
  • Be mindful of speaking tone, facial expression and body language.

Best Practices at the Hearing

The following tips will help interpreters provide the best possible interpretation at a hearing.

  • The interpreter sits next to the claimant and across from the adjudicator;
  • Interpret when requested by the adjudicator or claimant;
  • Speak clearly to maximize the quality of the audio recording;
  • Take notes if note-taking is helpful. Notes must be turned over to the adjudicator when the hearing is over. Interpreter notes will not be part of the hearing file;
  • Ask for clarification if a word or question is not completely understood;
  • Interrupt when necessary by raising a hand or verbally requesting time to relay information;
  • Use the Glossary for Interpreters to explain words or terms;
  • Interpret as faithfully as possible every detail of what is said between the adjudicator and the claimant.
  • Interpret in the same person as the speaker using the term “I” when the speaker refers to themselves;
  • Ask for a break if a break is needed by the claimant or the interpreter;
  • Inform the adjudicator when the claimant fails to understand a word or question;
  • Inform the adjudicator about cultural issues, gestures, or words used by the claimant;
  • Inform the adjudicator when the claimant shows signs of stress, fatigue, or trauma;
  • Inform the adjudicator when the interpreter experiences stress, fatigue, or trauma;
  • The interpreter does not leave the hearing room without consulting the adjudicator;
  • Establish an agreed-upon signal with the claimant (such as a hand gesture) to allow them to let you know when they do not understand.

After the Hearing

After the hearing, the adjudicator will confirm that the interpreter attended, and may provide comments on the interpreter’s competence in their hearing report. If there is a concern about your performance at a hearing, the Adjudication Secretariat may contact you.

Contacting the Secretariat

For any questions or concerns, please contact the Interpreter Liaison at:


Phone: 1-877-635-2648 and ask for the Interpreter Liaison

Appendix A -- Interpreters Code of Conduct

Interpreters play a vital role in the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) by ensuring adjudicators fully understand what claimants are saying during a hearing. The Interpreters Code of Conduct (the Code) outlines the standards of practice for interpreters in the IAP. The Code will help interpreters understand their role and requirements at IAP hearings.

Conveying Information Accurately

Interpreters will interpret all dialogue accurately and completely. Interpreters provide a two way communication between hearing participants who speak French or English and an Aboriginal language. The interpreter must be fluent in both the claimant’s Aboriginal language as well as the language of the hearing (English or French). Interpreters will interpret each spoken word accurately without elaborating on, summarizing, or changing the meaning of the words. Information is provided to interpreters in a glossary to help them understand and explain words, terms, and concepts to claimants in their language. To convey information accurately, best practices for interpreters include:

  • Taking the time necessary to provide the most accurate interpretation possible;
  • Confirming an understanding of the information when necessary before relaying it;
  • Consulting the hearing glossary to prepare for interpretation at a hearing by identifying equivalent wording in the claimant’s language;
  • Informing the adjudicator if unclear about a word or technical term to allow the adjudicator to explain the word or re-phrase the question;
  • Requesting time to clarify a concept or term when the claimant does not understand;
  • Interpreting what is said without addition, omission, alteration or distortion of meaning. The interpreter should relay everything that is said, no more or less, and include even the smallest words or expressions made by the claimant;
  • If there are cultural elements that affect the interpretation, explaining these to the adjudicator;
  • Informing the adjudicator immediately if:
    • There is a misunderstanding or a mistake in the interpretation;
    • The word does not have an equivalent and may take additional interpretation to explain;
    • You or the claimant are experiencing stress or trauma that could affect the claimant’s ability to convey their testimony.


The interpreter is an impartial support to the IAP hearing process. Interpreters are not advocates for claimants and are impartial in all interactions with hearing participants including claimants. Although the claimant and interpreter may share a common language and cultural history, it should not affect the interpreter’s role as an impartial support to claimants. The Code of Conduct adopted by interpreters provides that interpreters will act in an impartial manner at all times. Interpreters must be seen to be free of bias and cannot offer an opinion or advice to the claimant or any other hearing participant before, during, or after the hearing. The interpreter should never coach a claimant.


The privacy of claimants is protected in the IAP and by the Privacy Act. All persons handling personal information must uphold the Privacy Act which protects the personal information of individuals. Interpreters may not reveal the name of the claimant or the hearing participants, or information about the claim, at any time before, during, or after the hearing. At the hearing, interpreters sign a confidentiality agreement to keep information about the hearing private and confidential.

Avoiding Conflict of Interest

It is important that interpreters do not have a conflict of interest relating to their role in the IAP hearing. A conflict of interest is any condition that interferes with the real or perceived objectivity or impartiality of the interpreter. For instance, a conflict of interest may exist:

  1. if the interpreter is related to the claimant or any other person involved in the hearing or the claim; or
  2. if the interpreter has a personal interest in the outcome of the hearing.

In advance of the hearing, the Adjudication Secretariat will ask the interpreter to declare any pre-existing relationship or conflict of interest with the claimant. If, in the course of a hearing, the interpreter identifies a possible conflict of interest, he/she should advise the adjudicator as soon as possible.

Conveying Cultural Factors Related to Interpretation

Interpreters may need to provide cultural interpretation during the hearing. If a claimant makes a gesture based on cultural customs, this gesture must be explained to the adjudicator. If there are certain cultural customs that are observed by the claimant at a hearing, these should be explained to the adjudicator as well. For example, some Aboriginal cultures do not allow for speaking about deceased persons. This may affect the claimant’s ability to respond to questions about witnesses or alleged abusers who are deceased.


The interpreter must maintain professional conduct throughout their assignment. Basics include:

  • Ensuring you are available for the full day of the hearing;
  • Arriving on time;
  • Taking direction from an adjudicator at all times;
  • Demonstrating respect toward all parties involved in the hearing.

Interpreters must strive to perform their professional duties within their prescribed role and refrain from personal involvement. Interpreters should not enter into the discussion, give advice or express personal opinions about claimant’s story or about the IAP.

The interpreter should not perform any services other than interpretation for any party in the IAP.

Interpreters are responsible for the quality of interpretation provided and are accountable to the Adjudication Secretariat. It is imperative that the interpreter decline assignments that are beyond his or her skills.

Self Care and Care for Claimants

The IAP claims of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Interpreters may experience stress or anxiety from hearing about the abuse and assisting the claimant in telling their story. Interpreters may experience ‘vicarious trauma’ where they find themselves taking on the hurt and pain that claimants have experienced. While interpreters might be affected by a single hearing, vicarious trauma often has a cumulative effect from hearing many stories.

If you are reacting strongly to a claimant’s statements at a hearing, you may wish to disclose this to the adjudicator and request a break. The Adjudication Secretariat can provide information on additional resources and supports available to interpreters.

Prepared by the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, April 2014

Appendix B -- Glossary for Interpreters at IAP Hearings

The following list contains terms and words that are commonly used at an IAP hearing. Interpreters should be prepared to interpret all terms and words on this list.

Words that appear in the application form:

  • Abuse (physical/sexual)
  • Intimidation
  • Levels of abuse
  • Witnessing another student being abused
  • Aggravating factors
  • Humiliation
  • Verbal abuse
  • Degradation
  • Racism/racist acts
  • Use of religious doctrine to facilitate abuse
  • Threats
  • Betrayal of trust in an adult
  • Physical violence accompanying sexual abuse
  • Emotional, mental or psychological effects
  • Failure to provide care after abuse
  • Harm levels
  • Inability to complain
  • Suicidal behaviors or thoughts
  • Loss of Opportunity*
  • Actual income loss
  • Lawyers Legal fees

*Note: Claimants need to understand that the loss of opportunity is the result of not getting an education to earn a livelihood as they don’t understand what loss of opportunity means.

Words relating to physical and sexual abuse, and the impact of abuse, that may be used at hearings:

  • Alleged perpetrator
  • Person of interest
  • Supervisor
  • School Employee
  • Clergy (Priest, Nun, Brother, Sister)
  • Unconscious (knocked out)
  • Physical abuse
  • Hearing loss
  • Verbal abuse
  • Helplessness
  • Memory loss/memory suppression
  • Spousal abuse
  • Isolation/disconnection
  • Intergenerational abuse
  • Family violence
  • Hitting/slapping
  • Family life or family relationships
  • Beating or assault
  • Strapping
  • Being afraid
  • Truth
  • Trust
  • Emotional health
  • Mental health
  • Coping/coping mechanisms
  • Fear or terror
  • Trauma
  • Shame
  • Anxiety
  • Anger/rage
  • Depression
  • Dysfunctional behaviour
  • Self-esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Despair
  • Substance (drug/alcohol abuse) including frequency of substance abuse
  • Nightmares
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Rape
  • Rubbing
  • Penetration
  • Genitals
  • Vagina
  • Rectum
  • Erection
  • Fondling
  • Intercourse
  • Sexual relations
  • Sexual relationship
  • Touching
  • Relationships – family or friends
  • Sense of not belonging
  • Rejection by parents or family
  • Abandoned or ‘thrown away’
  • Life prior to going to the IRS – was it happy, sad, stable?
  • Person wishes to get well mentally and emotionally