While the Department of Education’s quest to find 450 Inuktut teachers has received much publicity, the Department of Justice is also striving to keep up with demand for fluent speakers of the Inuit language in courtrooms.
“The number of available interpreters has decreased and court services have significant challenges booking contractors, but the current Interpreter/Translator Program at Nunavut Arctic College helps to build capacity of interpreters,” Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said in the legislative assembly on Thursday, “but the demand for interpreters continues to be so high.”
Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main raised the issue.
“When the court comes to town, one of the most important functions for my constituents is provided by the interpreters. It’s my understanding that you require a very high calibre of interpreter. You can’t just pull anybody off the street to interpret court proceedings,” he said. “It is very important that people can communicate freely in the court.”
Ehaloak agreed that interpreters are fundamental to ensure access to justice.
“Nunavut Arctic College is the only entity which is training interpreters in Nunavut. Unfortunately the number of graduating students will not meet the current demands,” said Ehaloak.
Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, asked whether the Department of Justice has any Inuktitut-speaking lawyers.
Ehaloak said there are currently none.
“But we do encourage the lawyers that we do have to take Inuktitut training,” she said.
Main encouraged Ehaloak to have discussions with Nunavut Arctic College to determine what more can be done.