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Language interpretation hearings – Tip Sheet

1. In a nutshell

The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) provides that participants and other witnesses shall give evidence under oath, by affirmation or another way that binds their conscience, and that the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat (IRSAS) shall recruit and approve a panel of interpreters (IAP Paras. III(i)(i) and (t)(iii), pp. 13, 17).

The following applies to any claimant or witness at an IAP hearing.

Interpreter assistance ensures that claimants understand and are understood linguistically in hearings, in an envelope of sensitivity to the devastating impact of residential schools on aboriginal languages. Interpreter assistance may be requested by the claimant or by their counsel, or if it becomes apparent that the claimant is having difficulty expressing themselves or understanding for linguistic reasons.

The extent of interpreter assistance varies with the extent of the claimant’s understanding of the language of the hearing. A claimant with some facility in the language of the hearing, who even functions quite well for general purposes, may still require interpreter assistance with some words or phrases, especially language not used in everyday social intercourse. The standard for adequate interpreter assistance is the opportunity to understand and be understood as if conversant in the language of the hearing.

Interpreter assistance at IAP hearings is delivered through short, consecutive sentence-level interpretation. Interpreters must be fluent in both the source and the target language. They must be competent (have knowledge and capability about their role). They must take an interpreter oath (or affirmation). They must be impartial; supporting and facilitating the hearing through linguistic interpreter assistance, and not through advocacy or personal relationships with the claimant or other hearing participants. (See the IAP Interpreters Code of Conduct.)

Interpreters must be arranged through the Secretariat. The claimant or counsel may not bring a self-selected interpreter and family or friends may not provide interpreter assistance in the hearing.

2. Tips

  • Expect an interpreter assisted hearing to take longer because of the time required to relay information through the interpreter.
  • Before the hearing begins, take the time to create a comfort level with the claimant. Spend 10-15 minutes informally speaking with the claimant, using interpreter assistance if necessary, explaining the hearing process and the role of the interpreter. Confirm that the claimant and interpreter speak the same language (and dialect where applicable).
  • Before the hearing begins, also speak with the interpreter. Confirm they understand their role, including that there is no relationship or previous contact respecting the claimant or other hearing participants that creates a conflict of interest or appearance of partiality for the interpreter. They are to interpret as faithfully as possible every detail of what is said between the adjudicator and the claimant, speaking in the same person as the speaker using the term “I” when the speaker refers to themselves (direct speech interpreting). They are to provide interpretive assistance at the request of the claimant or the adjudicator. They are to take direction from the adjudicator. They are to ask for clarification, repetition, rephrasing, or more time to relay information when needed, interrupting by raising a hand or by verbal request.
  • When the hearing begins, the interpreter sits next to the claimant. The adjudicator faces the claimant (not the interpreter).
  • Administer the interpreter oath on the record before the interpreter assists the claimant with their oath and confidentiality agreement. Include a statement on the record that the interpreter’s competence has been explored and confirm any specific instructions or directions that have been given.

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).

  • 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 (blunt) in your questions.
  • Pause every 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.
  • Expect the interpreter to inform you:
    • if the claimant is experiencing distress, trauma or fatigue, having difficulty understanding or responding, or having difficulty hearing;
    • if interpreter is experiencing distress or trauma about the evidence being heard that is interfering with the interpreter’s ability to continue;
    • about cultural issues, gestures, or words used by the claimant;
    • of actions the interpreter takes in the hearing, including speaking for him- or herself, that are outside of direct speech interpreting.
  • Expect that the interpreter may take notes to help retain and relay information. These should be turned over to the adjudicator at the end of the hearing for destruction; they do not form part of the claim file.