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Implementation of 911 to include bilingual dispatchers


People of the NWT can rejoice as 911 moves one step closer to completion. But not everyone was happy about the languages aspect of the implementation.

During a public discussion of Bill 31 on April 10, MLAs had the opportunity to question the 911 management team about the implementation plan where they heard that translators were to provide service to the most possible languages. The calls using translators could potentially take 80 seconds.

The Federation franco-tenoise (FFT) stated in a news release on April 12 that French language calls could take up to 80 seconds to process as compared to the 30 seconds for English calls and would be in direct violation of the Northwest Territories Official Languages Act.

But despite the concerns, Eleanor Young, deputy minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), said the perceived extra time for French calls was a misunderstanding.
"Part of the misunderstanding is that FFT info is based on a preliminary implementation plan and we're still working on in all aspects," said Young. "At this stage all job posting for dispatch will be bilingual."

The 80 second time-frame comes from how long it would take for a dispatcher to connect a caller to a translator, which would apply for non-English and non-French languages.

Young noted there may be times in an overflow situation where extra dispatchers could be called in and might be required to use translators but it is highly unlikely.

"If for some reason dispatchers are overwhelmed and relief workers are called in, they may not have the same requirements in which we would sent to a translator," said Young. "Though we don't anticipate that will be an occurrence."

Xavier Lord-Giroux, communications officer for FFT said they are glad to have opened a dialogue and their concerns have been addressed.

"We are pleased that this essential service will be coming to the territory and that dispatchers will be bilingual," said Lord-Giroux. "Initially we had seen in some news reports that French calls would take longer and we did not hear back from the MACA office after reaching out (so) we sent out our press release."

Lord-Grioux said the FFT is also pleased that the emergency dispatch services will be accommodating as many Indigenous languages as they can.

Though the implementation date for 911 is still delayed Young said their team will continue to work on finalizing a completion date.

"We do not have a firm date yet," said Young. "We're just trying to determine the timeline for different pieces of the project trying to understand how long those elements will take. In the next few weeks we are hoping to have this information for the public."