This section is not a complete guide to all certification matters in Canada or the United States. It sets forth our understanding of what pertains in areas where many of our clients practice – with particular focus on British Columbia.
The terms ‘certified,’ ‘accredited,’ ‘professional,’ ‘legal’ and a few others are bandied about by individuals and agencies with somewhat loose definition. Always ask, “By whom are you certified?” If the answer is not “I am a certified member of the Society of Translators and Interpreters of [your province]” or “I am a VCC Court Interpreting graduate” you must look deeper into the matter. Sadly, you cannot always take a person’s word on certification. In British Columbia you are perfectly entitled to see a current STIBC membership card or VCC certificate.
It has happened that a translation agency operates a school for translators whose graduates become ‘fully certified legal interpreters’. An even more entrepreneurial variation amounts to, “I hereby certify that I am a certified interpreter.” It is extremely important to determine the certifying agency of anyone purporting to be certified.
As a practical matter, in civil trials in Canada and the United States, if both counsel agree that an interpreter is acceptable, the judge will ordinarily go along with any warm body who will take the oath – including in our experience, the lady who runs the coffee kiosk in the courthouse lobby, the janitorial staff, family members of the plaintiff or even a co-accused. So why should a lawyer bother with nuisance details like the interpreter’s training, credentials and experience? If you think of the court interpreter as an expert witness it becomes clear. Can you imagine a lawyer who would allow a witness to testify about soft tissue injury without asking a few pointed questions to confirm some decent level of expertise?