Question Period: American Sign Language

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, Bill C-81 was passed in the last session, sponsored by Senator Munson, and it constructively moved the accessibility needle forward for people with disabilities and those who are deaf. Communication is critical, and many tell me they are very grateful for the ASL translation during pandemic press conferences.

Many organizations host important public presentations, yet only in rare cases is ASL interpretation available. Small organizations, I am told, have to raise the money for translation themselves.

As we try to make Canada more accessible, does the federal government have a plan to make funds available for all public talks that require ASL?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, senator, for your question, and for raising this important issue. The government knows that all Canadians benefit when everyone can participate in society without barriers. Your advance notice allowed me to make some inquiries with the government, but I’ve not yet received an answer.

I would mention, however, that Canadian Heritage has an Enhancement of Official Languages Program, which accepts applications on an ongoing basis to fund Canadian not-for-profit organizations seeking to provide services in both official languages. The program’s website specifically mentions that sign language is included in eligible simultaneous interpretation activities. When I hear back from the government, I will report back to this chamber in a timely fashion.

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