Of our high esteem:

We are an organized group of court interpreters (CIs) requesting your urgent intervention to stop the Ministry of the Attorney General’s (MAG) improper and unethical practices against us. CIs are a vital – yet underappreciated – part of the Ontario Justice System. We give a voice and ears to non-official language speakers during their legal proceedings, as per s. 14 of the

By exposing this mistreatment we certainly face retaliation by MAG, which may range from being blacklisted to the revocation of our CI status. We are nonetheless prepared to scream our plight, against all odds, while seeking your protection from this sort of punishment.

A large number of Ontario CIs are currently organized in distinct groups taking differing paths in the pursuit of redress to our grievances. Coincidentally, we have all agreed that starting this month, we will demand equitable hourly fees as those paid to CIs in BC. and will not attend assignments until such time when our demands are met.

We expect MAG’s rejection to this initiative, reason why CIs will stop providing services at the current hourly rate. We also expect that courts will opt to – as they usually do – hire unaccredited agency interpreters, at twice the cost to taxpayers, undermining the delivery of justice while offering the excuse that no accredited CIs are available. This contravenes s. 14 of the Charter by the fact that a poor level of interpretation has been ruled akin to the defendant being absent from his/her legal proceedings, which has led to numerous mistrials.

After decades of painful silence, we wish to expose MAG’s legal breaches and unethical practices, which follow.

1. MAG contravenes the Employment Standards Act by not having a signed contract with CIs, thus creating a questionable category of employment. MAG calls CIs ‘freelancers’. The latter’s only right is to refuse assignments. MAG admitted to the lack of a contract with CIs to a legal team (Lorne Waldman and Associates) which represented them at a meeting with MAG
representatives on November 1, 2011. As well, that the CI’s current Supplier Number (not a Vendor of Record number) is a subterfuge. Unfortunately, CIs did not to pursue legal action due to an expected expensive and lengthy litigation process.

2. MAG defines CIs as ‘fee-for-service freelancers’ but treats them as employees who are to adhere to an “Interpreters’ Handbook”. This manual contains dispositions that change at MAG’s discretion and convenience. CIs often learn of these changes after the service has been provided and CIs end up short changed. Failure to follow those dispositions would result in the application of disciplinary measures on CIs. This IS an ‘employer to employee’ relationship.

3. CIs exist as a function of and depend on MAG for work assignments. Demonstrated, even alleged, poor behaviour or performance could cause the revocation of the CI’s accreditation. This is akin to being fired, only worse. CIs are actually ‘dependent contractors’ and their livelihoods would be seriously affected, unlike that of a trades person who gets fired from a job but
can always find work elsewhere. We therefore demand to be truly independent.

4. MAG ‘books’ CIs by means of a SharePoint platform accessible only to their Court Interpreter’s Unit (CIU) or court staff, which manage our time. CIs are deprived of the right to manage their schedules and update their availability status. This makes CIs dependent employees disguised as ‘freelancers’.

5. Further, trials expected to last more than 3-4 hours require the use of two interpreters as per MAG’s own disposition in their ‘handbook’, and by Justice Hill’s judgment (R. vs Dutt, Brampton SCJ, June 2011). This requirement is often deliberately ignored by the CIU and court staff, which frequently force a single unaware CI to perform in complex or lengthy trials on
his/her own, disregarding the legal precedent above. The courts’ staff attempts to save the expense on the CI’s backs.

6. MAG’s unfair – most recently updated – cancellation policy leaves interpreters in the lurch with a meager compensation of 9 hours, or less (3hrs x 3days maximum), for a vacated multi-day trial. CIs commit to and respect their fully booked days but when cancellations occur, or the presiding judge changes a trial’s schedule, CIs only get paid for actual hours of performed work. Further, CIs frequently remain in “assigned” status for the original trial’s duration since only staff can release the CI and frequently fail to do so in a timely manner. This negligence effectively blocks the CI’s availability and their ability of being booked for new assignments by another court.

7. Due to the current pandemic CIs provide remote interpretation. We incur additional costs of operation by using our own devices (computers, headsets, phones, etc.), contracting high-bandwidth Internet service and in some cases renting working spaces in order to avoid distractions, noise, etc. MAG has made no adjustment to our current hourly fee, which
remains stagnant since 2011 and is half of what CIs earn in BC.

8. In 2009-2010 MAG retested all Ontario CIs applying Vancouver Community College testing standards , used to confer professional certification status to BC interpreters, and continues using such testing. Since, MAG affirms vehemently in its pronouncements that Ontario CIs are as proficient or capable as BC’s. This begs the question: why are our hourly fees and
working conditions so different?

9. On several occasions, in depositions before judges where criminal cases have been jeopardized by poor interpretation, MAG’s representatives have admitted that their failure to attract, hire, and retain qualified language professionals lies in fees which are disproportionate to their qualifications. In fact, experienced and qualified practitioners are abandoning the profession for this very reason. Yet, MAG continues to ignore these most pressing issues: the shortage of qualified interpreters due to poor compensation and the lack of a consistent method of testing and assessing aspirant interpreters.

10. The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) is an existing organization charged by our provincial government with the governance and certification of both Translators and Interpreters in Ontario. Since MAG currently manages us, the former has failed to fulfill its mandate regarding court interpreters under MAG’s knowing approval.
It’s a convenient Status Quo that works against CIs because it makes us captive to MAG’s tyrannical ways.

11. CIs also serve provincial courts in municipalities across Ontario and have never signed a contract with the latter.
Unfortunately, MAG has given municipalities free reign to interpret their ‘handbook’. This means they are to use it only as a reference but allows them to implement their own policies which frequently results in double the mistreatment.

12. We strongly believe that MAG takes advantage of CIs because it knows it has the upper hand. Current legislation precludes us from becoming unionized. CIs feel discriminated against because we are, as a whole, from visible minorities and can simply be dismissed. Sadly, regulatory organizations have been unaware and unsuspecting of MAG’s unethical behaviour. Now that these regulators and major justice stakeholders are aware, we trust our yoke will be removed.


A. STIBC (the Society of Translators and Interpreters of BC) isOntario’s ATIO sister organization, with identical mandates.
Its existence came about in 1981 upon BC interpreter’s demands – same as ours – for the regulation of their profession.

B. A solution to prevent an impasse that would affect court operations would be for ATIO to offer an interim certification to current CIs by grandfathering them now, until such time when the proper mechanisms are in place for a smooth transition.

C. MAG must be relieved of the task of accrediting new interpreters. Any future interpreter intake would be underATIO’s purview.

D. MAG may continue to contract with CIs but only within the context of an actual two-way contractual agreement.

E. This contract must be formulated with the participation of MAG, ATIO, and CIs with the guidance of an independent legal advisor and/or mediator.

F. MAG’s SharePoint platform must be updated to allow CIs to view and/or update their ‘booked’ status.
The implementation of the above will be a win-win for both CIs and the administration of justice. Only with your intervention and support will Ontario CIs finally attain an independent professional certification similar to that of BC interpreters, along with a comparable compensation.

We are reaching out to organizations such as the Labour Relations Board, the Ontario Ombudsman, the Ministry of Government Services, the Law Society, the Judiciary, the lawyer and paralegal associations, all members of the Provincial Legislature, and the Commissioner of Human Rights of Ontario, hoping that their combined support and denouncements would force MAG to cease its unbridled exploitation of CIs.

We place our trust and hopes in your hands. We are asking for the regulation of our profession in order to ensure a fair treatment and compensation commensurate with our value and contribution to the justice system.

Truly yours,
Genaro Hernandez
Claudia Lambert
Cecilia Arce-Conover
Jorge van Schouwen