Interpreters, who have been the voice of politicians and top doctors for the public during the pandemic, say a federal department has told them that if they fall ill, they don’t have benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Interpreters, who have been the voice of politicians and top doctors for the public during the pandemic, say a federal department has told them that if they fall ill, they don’t have benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

‘People were upset’: Parliament’s language interpreters told no sick pay during COVID

There are 80 or so interpreters qualified to work on Parliament Hill, who have to do their job in person

Interpreters who have been the French or English voice of politicians and top doctors for the public during the COVID-19 pandemic say a federal department has told them that if they fall ill, they don’t have benefits.

The Canadian chapter of the International Association of Conference Interpreters recently penned a letter to Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand asking for her help.

Association advocate Nicole Gagnon says they were recently informed by the department that should anyone fall ill, they wouldn’t be entitled to coverage because they are freelancers, not employees, and the same goes if they need to quarantine or isolate.

“We know we’re freelancers. We know we’re not employees. We know we’re not entitled to sick benefits. But we felt some consideration was warranted given the circumstances,” she said.

Public Services and Procurement Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gagnon said the department told interpreters they were not eligible for sick pay after the Ontario-Quebec boundary was closed to non-essential travel to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

She said it has been bringing in interpreters from places such as Montreal due to a shortage.

As Canada has two official languages, Parliament cannot sit without parliamentarians being provided translation services for English to French or vice versa under the Official Languages Act, she added.

Their services are also used for news conferences, such as when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his ministers, and top health officials provide biweekly updates on the government’s handling of the pandemic.

“You would think that in the midst of controversy surrounding the issue of making sure people don’t go to work sick … it seems to us, as a community, that it’s a bit tone-deaf on the part of government,” said Gagnon.

“People were upset.”

There are 80 or so interpreters qualified to work on Parliament Hill, who have to do so in person, she said, exposing themselves to the possibility of getting the virus.

In its letter, the association adds workers have also faced increased injury from the sound quality of platforms used for virtual parliamentary meetings. And recently, it says at least 16 interpreters worked double shifts one day to staff committee proceedings.

“I think it’s being mean-spirited,” said NDP labour critic Scott Duvall.

“Here we have a government that’s saying they want to help the people, but yet when it comes down to supplying their own people that they’re hiring under a contract, they don’t want to give them that type of benefit. I just think it’s absurd.”

Gagnon hopes by appealing to Anand — who she acknowledges has her hands full leading Canada’s fight to get precious COVID-19 vaccines — the situation is remedied.

“We feel it’s disrespectful, especially in light of the fact we have been reporting for duty.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusfederal government

Just Posted

According to Langley’s Larry Worledge, Brydon Park is a hidden gem in downtown Langley City. It offers a short walking trail, and is home to many birds and even turtles, like this on spotted sunbathing on a log in the lagoon. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Sun worshipping in Brydon Lagoon

Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, and it could be featured in a future edition

Aldergrove Business Association member Karen Long shops at the Aldergrove Save-On-Foods in May as part of a shop local challenge. (File photo)
Save-On-Foods annual campaign for Langley food bank starts Thursday

50 per cent of net proceeds from Western Family brand to be donated

Hearts for Hospice fundraiser happens Sunday, June 20, 2021 at Fort Langley Community Hall from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Langley Hospice/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Sunday: Hearts for Hospice fundraiser at Fort Langley Community Hall

Society is hosting event in support of new 15-bed residence project

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley’s John Kromhoff has more than 1,000 birthday cards and letters – so far

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Homicide investigators say the disappearance of a 33-year-old Burnaby man is linked to ongoing gang warfare in the Lower Mainland. (IHIT)
Disappearance of Burnaby man no accident, foul play suspected: IHIT

Parminder Paul Rai, 33, is known to police for his connection to drug and gang activity, says Sgt. Frank Jang

Stock photo by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay
Drop-in vaccination clinics slated for construction workers in Lower Mainland

Sites in Abbosford, Burnaby and Vancouver holding no-appointment clinics in June and July

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Screenshot from Sebastian Sajda YouTube video)
VIDEO: Surrey mayor unceremoniously cuts off 22 speakers during public hearing

Speakers plead with Doug McCallum not to be disconnected but mayor reminds them to stay on topic

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits to failing to supervise his staff and find, report the shortage

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Most Read