Changes to the BC Court Interpreter Program

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Reposted replacing earlier version (24/07/2018) with updates from Court Services Branch

There are approximately 7,300 court appearances a year in BC that require a spoken or visual interpreter, or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) transcriber (who provides live transcription of speech to text). On July 1, 2018, the Court Services Branch of the BC Ministry of the Attorney General implemented significant changes to the Court Interpreter Program responsible for providing competent interpreters for each of these proceedings.

After a two year review, the Branch has changed its system for classifying interpreters, restructured the way it supplies them, and undertaken technological improvements to streamline the process. In this eNews, Helen Lui, Court Interpreter Program (CIP) Lead, describes these changes.

Program Structure
"In 2017 a new position was created - the CIP Lead is responsible for day-to-day management of the program, including:

• processing interpreter applications and recruiting new interpreters
• administering contracts
• maintaining a Directory of Court Interpreters
• identifying interpreters when there are none available on the directory
• investigating interpreter-related incidents
• responding to enquiries from staff, court interpreters, lawyers, and the judiciary (enquiries can be sent to

The Branch has updated its court interpreter policies and developed operational support material, including:

• an updated Court Interpreter Program Policy and Procedures Manual for court staff
• improvements to the Court Interpreter Request and Record form
• a Handbook for Court Interpreters

Use of technology
The Branch is also working on technological solutions to implement changes in interpreter qualifications, improve business information, and create greater efficiencies. We plan to roll these out over the next two years.

For example, the new Directory of Court Interpreters will provide court registry clerks with a ‘real-time’ list of available interpreters, their languages and qualifications. Real-time updates will be phased in with a target release by the end of the 2018.

In addition, development of a province-wide shared interpreter scheduling system will show where and when interpreters are scheduled and contribute to more efficient booking.

Finally, a multi-year project is underway to develop a Remote Video Conferencing Suite that will allow interpreters to appear in court by video conferencing from a centralized location. The Branch will consult with the judiciary and reach out to interpreters for input on this project in the coming months. Although 96% of the court appearances requiring interpreters take place in the lower mainland, using video technology will be essential to provide qualified interpreters to people throughout BC, no matter how remote they may be from population centres.

Interpreter Qualifications
In the past, the Court Services Branch maintained a list of “accredited” interpreters who would be called first when a spoken or visual interpreter was required to provide translation services in a court proceeding. But the concept of accreditation was problematic. The Branch is not an accrediting body and it plays no role in certifying or accrediting interpreters – it merely contracts with interpreters for their services and recruits and schedules them.

As a result, the Branch has now adopted a system of classifying spoken language interpreters by four “levels” based on their qualifications.. This table shows a description of the four levels. When a spoken language interpreter applies to the Branch to be listed in its Directory of Court Interpreters their qualifications will be assessed and they will be assigned a level.

Visual language interpreters are also classified into levels based on qualifications. They will be either Level 1 (if they have a Certificate of Interpretation from the Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada) or Level 2.

Level 1
Certified Court Interpreters comprise Level 1. In BC a Certified Court Interpreter is a protected occupational title under the BC Society Act, which grants title protection to different occupations as a way of protecting consumers and assuring them a professional has the knowledge and ability to provide a specific service. Only people who have passed the nationally developed Canadian Translators, Terminologist and Interpreters Council (CTTIC) exam, or who have been certified via dossier, and are members in good standing of the Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia (STIBC) may legally use the title Certified Court Interpreter.

Level 2
A level 2 interpreter has graduated from a university, college, or comparable program in court interpreting. Like level 1, they have been examined in the key skills of consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, and sight translation. They also have studied courtroom procedures, legal terminology, and ethics.

Levels 1 and 2 are equally competent to work at all levels of court and for all matters, but those in level 1 are paid a higher hourly rate in recognition of their achievement in passing a national examination, and to encourage the continuing professional development that contributes to quality interpretation and access to justice.

Level 3
An interpreter who is neither Certified nor qualified for level 2 but does have experience and/or training in court interpretation, interpreting in a quasi-judicial setting, or community interpreting will be placed in level 3.

Level 4
A level 4 interpreter is a person who is bilingual but has no training in interpreting.

Scheduling an interpreter for a court appearance
Level 1 and 2 interpreters will be used unless neither can be scheduled, with Level 1 being given preference. If there is no level 1 or level 2 interpreter in the Directory for a language, the CIP Lead may, depending on the matter, schedule a level 3 or make efforts to find an interpreter elsewhere. This most often happens for a ‘rare’ language.

When a level 1 or 2 interpreter cannot be scheduled for a trial or an appellate matter, the CIP Lead will send a memo to counsel and the court indicating the steps taken to find a level 1 or 2. If a level 3 or 4 interpreter has been identified, the CIP Lead will outline their qualifications and experience.

If a level 4 interpreter must be scheduled on short notice, the CIP Lead will send a brief note to the parties or their lawyers, and the scheduling office of the court, informing them of the level of the interpreter and any suggestions regarding how the interpreter may be supported, e.g. more frequent breaks, slower speech, adjusted vocabulary.

All current spoken and visual language interpreters have been sent a request to resubmit their qualifications using a new template. Interpreters will be transferred from accredited to level 1 or 2; and from non-accredited to level 3 or level 4. Each interpreter will be notified of their level.

If there is a concern about an interpreter
A judge, lawyer, party, or the court registry itself may have a concern about an interpreter. These concerns are to be reported to the CIP Lead through the new incident reporting policy. The CIP Lead will review and track all incidents, and take appropriate action.

Anyone who observes, or becomes aware of, an incident should report it to the interpreter clerk in the court registry. If this is done verbally, the interpreter clerk will ask for a written follow-up (e.g. email) so there is a record of the complaint. The interpreter clerk will then prepare an incident report and submit it to the CIP Lead. When a judge or justice identifies an incident a legal officer from their court will communicate the facts to the CIP Lead.

However, if an incident needs to be addressed immediately a court registry, judge, justice, legal officer or Crown may contact the CIP Lead directly at"