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«Karen Cohl and George Thomson December 2008 Connecting Across Language and Distance: Linguistic and Rural Access to Legal Information and Services ...»

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Daood Hamdani, in Canadian Council of Muslim Women, p. vii.

this, in locations convenient for the target community. A regular time for workshops or clinics makes outreach and publicity easier and helps to raise awareness in the community. Along with the language component, some clinics focus on specific groups, such as women experiencing abuse, elderly people, or agricultural workers.

Some workshops are offered through partnerships between settlement organizations and lawyers, pro bono organizations, or legal clinics. This enables the legal and non-legal partners to benefit from each other’s experience and expertise. Dixon Hall’s Legal Awareness Outreach Project for Toronto Downtown Mandarin-Speaking Newcomers involves workshops on 12 legal subjects, delivered in partnership with Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, Neighbourhood Legal Clinic, and Toronto Workers Health and Safety Legal Clinic. The South Asian Women’s Centre is developing workshops on legal rights in five Asian languages. The Centre will collaborate with South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario for legal advice, and lawyers, police, and social workers (using interpreters as needed) will facilitate the workshops.

Workshops or mini-clinics are often conducted through interpreters. In Toronto, for example, Parkdale Community Legal Services provides regular mini-clinics in Tamil, Polish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Spanish, and has received a Law Foundation grant for a Tibetan mini-clinic.

The clinics are held at set times each week when interpreters for the target language are available to clients. Working with the same interpreters over time enables the interpreters to become familiar with the legal clinic setting and the community and helps clients to become comfortable dealing with the interpreters.

Multilingual community media Many organizations have used community multilingual newspapers, radio, and television to connect with people who may not otherwise become aware of their legal rights or how the law might help them. OMNI television, for example, is an important source of information for many communities in Ontario. The most effective media format, and the most effective time of day in the case of broadcasts, varies by community.

Community radio public service announcements, and call-in programs in which a legal expert from a general or specialty community legal clinic answers questions, emerged as particularly important in our consultations. Through multilingual media, people can obtain information without visibly accessing legal services or without having to go out for it. This is especially important for women, people with disabilities, or people who are confined to the home or experiencing abuse. Some individuals are simply more comfortable calling a radio station with their questions anonymously, and they would hesitate to ask a worker in person. We also heard that it is vital to these outreach strategies to provide people with contact information so that they can follow up with a legal or community worker if they choose.

Second language and literacy programs Incorporating law-related materials into English or French as a second language classes can also be an effective outreach method. The teachers in these classes are in a good position to provide basic information because students often see them as a trusted and capable resource.

Program materials for the government-funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada Program include modules and links to reference materials on legal topics that instructors can build into their classes.

The Law Foundation has approved funding for a curriculum project based on the Six Languages project materials. Community Legal Education Ontario has hired an English as a second language instructor to develop the lesson plans and activities. Other jurisdictions are already running programs connected to English as a second language classes. The People’s Law School in BC, for example, produces lesson plans and provides a staff teacher to visit classrooms. They report that the staff teacher approach is often more effective than introducing lawyers to the classes.

Some consultation participants also suggested incorporating legal content into literacy classes as a way of reaching people (both Canadian-born and immigrants) who lack basic reading and writing skills.

Professional interpretation It is a common misconception that anyone proficient in two languages can interpret. In fact, interpreting requires a complex set of skills, all of which must be exercised simultaneously. The interpreter must listen, understand, store words and word order, search for the right concepts and words in the second language, reconstruct the message in the second language, and speak and monitor his or her own output, all while listening for the next chunk of dialogue to process. 31 Interpreter services Our consultations raised the idea of a centralized interpreter service (similar to a model in Australia) as a means of enhancing the supply and availability of interpreters. The Australian government, through Translating and Interpreting Service National, provides interpreting services on a fee-for-service basis for people who do not speak English and for Englishspeakers who need to communicate with them. Services are free for certain transactions, including communicating with a private medical practitioner. Services are also free to “nonprofit, non-government, community-based organizations for case work and emergency services where the organization does not receive funding to provide these services.” 32 Many organizations we consulted favoured continuing with the variety of interpreter services developed in Ontario over time, which have relationships with and knowledge of the communities they serve. They considered it preferable to concentrate on ensuring that all California Commission on Access to Justice, p. 19.

Translating and Interpreting Service.

interpreters working in legal settings abide by common standards, guidelines, and protocols, and on providing access to good training and critical resources such as legal glossaries.

Organizations have taken a range of approaches to acquiring interpreter services for their clients. Kensington Bellwoods Community Legal Services, Jane Finch Community Legal Services, and Parkdale Community Legal Services in Toronto have collaborated to share the services of a full-time Spanish interpreter. Many settlement and immigrant service agencies maintain their own rosters, and the Languages Bureau of COSTI Immigrant Services operates its own commercial interpreter service. Other agencies hire interpreters from commercial agencies for their clients as needed.

In addition to language interpretation, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal offers sign language interpretation, real-time captioning, interveners to interpret in-person communication, and audio recordings of its hearings.

Many legal clinics reported that they have difficulty paying for interpreters from their disbursement budgets. Legal clinics and community agencies both stressed the importance of ensuring that, at a minimum, telephone interpretation is readily available.

Some community agencies suggested asking Legal Aid Ontario to develop a centralized roster of approved interpreters to reduce the burden on individual agencies that must screen, train, and approve interpreters. Others thought that the Ministry of the Attorney General roster for court interpreters might be expanded to other legal functions, particularly in light of the efforts under way to improve the standards for court interpreters.

The 2005 Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement includes a significant commitment to helping newcomers to Ontario integrate successfully. Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s strategic plan acknowledged an increasing demand for spoken language interpreter services to enable newcomer access to justice, health, and social services. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has commissioned a study and report, expected shortly, that will recommend improvements and service delivery models for language interpretation and translation services in Ontario in the context of immigrant settlement.

Interpreter networks and standards In the health care field in Ontario, the network approach has been successful in bringing key partners together and setting standards for interpretation. Interpretation service providers developed the Healthcare Interpretation Network, mostly on a volunteer basis, with some early support from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. The network’s goals include education, research, and dissemination of information on language interpretation and translation services in the delivery of health care in Ontario. It provides resources for the education and training of qualified language interpreters and promotes common education and professional standards. Recent activities of the Healthcare Interpretation Network and Critical Link have included studies of the roles of community interpreters in health care and the development of a National Standard Guide for Community Interpreting Services.

The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration provides funds for community agencies under the Language Interpreter Services program and helped to develop the Language Interpreters Certificate Program now offered at several colleges. The program focuses on spoken language interpretation in the legal, health care, social service and domestic violence prevention sectors, although the content on interpreting in legal settings is limited. The funded agencies also often conduct their own training courses using the ministry’s curriculum.

In the case of court interpreters, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General is working with Vancouver Community College to develop new interpreter tests in the 25 spoken languages in highest demand, along with an English test, to evaluate the interpreting skills of all current and new court interpreters. In order to be on the Ministry registry of interpreters, individuals are required to pass an interpretation test and a training program. The Ministry has also produced rules of professional conduct for court interpreters, handbooks, and scheduling procedures.

Assessment for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada’s approximately 1,000 interpreters includes a hearing simulation test, a sight translation test, and an official language comprehension test. (Tests are available in 52 languages.) Interpreters receive a two-day orientation, followed by a post-orientation test to ensure that they have assimilated the key elements and terms. The first two hearings by a new interpreter are audited.

In the US, the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification, founded in 1995, is a multistate partnership dedicated to developing court interpreter proficiency tests, making tests available to member states, and regulating the use of the tests. Consortium resources achieve economies of scale across jurisdictional and organizational boundaries.

In addition to language interpretation, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal offers sign language interpretation, real-time captioning, interveners to interpret in-person communication, and audio recordings of its hearings.

Telephone and video interpretation Despite some of the drawbacks of telephone interpretation, it is more easily accessible than inperson interpretation and it is relatively cost-effective. For less-common languages, it is a necessity. Telephone interpretation can be particularly useful in the early stages of a person’s search for information, for simple tasks, and for quick or urgent consultations. The element of anonymity also appeals to some clients. The choice of telephone interpretation services is increasing, as is pressure for them to ensure quality control and reasonable prices.

Telephone interpreters are naturally suited to hotlines. The Findhelp 211 service, Justice Ontario, the Law Society’s complaints and referral lines, the Federation of Metro Tenant’s Association Tenant Hotline, and BC’s LawLine are examples of programs that provide multilingual service, either partly or entirely through contracts with commercial telephone interpreting services. On a pilot basis, Findhelp is providing a multilingual hotline to support Community Legal Education Ontario’s Six Languages project. The hotline offers basic legal information and referral based on the Six Languages materials.

Some commercial interpreter services are beginning to offer interpretation by videoconferencing, which better approximates in-person service and is essential for sign language interpretation. The Canadian Hearing Society has videoconferencing technology in each of its 26 offices. Increasing the use of videoconferencing appears to be a key strategy in helping to address sign language interpreter capacity, particularly in rural and northern communities.

Chapter 3: Rural and Remote Access to Justice Describing “rural” and “remote” Ontario While the rural poor look a lot like the urban poor – they too are disproportionately composed of single mothers, Aboriginal people, people with low educational attainment and elderly, disabled or unemployed individuals – they experience poverty very differently than their urban counterparts. This difference most often boils down to problems around transportation: rural Canadians have to travel further to see a doctor, apply for welfare, access education, buy fresh vegetables, or even just participate in community life. Ultimately, being poor in rural Canada means more than just not having enough. It also means having to travel long distances to get enough. 33 There is no single definition of “rural.” It is identified variously in terms of demography, economic activity, and social and cultural factors, alone or in combination. The definitions referred to here focus mainly on population factors.

Statistics Canada uses population size and density to define “Urban Areas” and “Rural Areas.” Urban areas are places with a minimum population of 1,000 and a minimum population density of 400 people per square kilometre. “Rural Areas” are places that are not “Urban Areas.” Other definitions measure the degree of economic and social integration of rural areas with urban cores, including high commuter flow into the urban core.

As a working definition, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs considers rural Ontario to be the area outside the cities of Hamilton, Ottawa, London, Windsor, Thunder Bay, and Greater Sudbury, the regions of Niagara and Waterloo, and the Greater Toronto Area.

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