February 27, 1934

LIB
?

An hon. MEMBER:

Put them on the

order paper.

Topic:   CAIRO POSTAL CONGRESS
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

What I want to know

is this: Is or is not the postal congress at Cairo concluded? In the event of it being concluded, when did that conclusion take place, and if it is not concluded-

Topic:   CAIRO POSTAL CONGRESS
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

Topic:   CAIRO POSTAL CONGRESS
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

-is the Postmaster General at Cairo or in any other country or continent-not in Africa or Europe-and I want to know why?

74726-62 J

Topic:   CAIRO POSTAL CONGRESS
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I am not aware as to

whether or not the conference is concluded. My advice is that it has not been. Wherever the Postmaster General may be I am sure that upon his return he will satisfy the very laudable curiosity of the hon. gentleman.

Topic:   CAIRO POSTAL CONGRESS
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Is he with Ambrose Small?

PRIVILEGE-Mr. LAPOINTE

On the orders of the day:

Topic:   CAIRO POSTAL CONGRESS
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LIB

Ernest Lapointe

Liberal

Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

Mr. Speaker, on a question of privilege, I wish also to satisfy the laudable curiosity of the hon. member for Regina (Mr. Turnbull). It now comes to my notice that last night he commented on and was worrying about my absence from the house while a certain resolution was being discussed. I have much pleasure in informing him that I was engaged in Quebec city, speaking in favour of the League of Nations, the promotion of peace and justice to minorities.

Topic:   CAIRO POSTAL CONGRESS
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BUREAU FOR TRANSLATIONS


Hon. C. H. CAHAN (Secretary of State) moved the second reading of Bill No. 4, respecting the bureau for translations. He said: This bill has been the subject of rather violent criticism in certain sections of the public press. These criticisms, I believe, are due to lack of information as to the provisions of the bill, or an entire misapprehension as to its purpose. The government, let me asure you, is not endeavouring to destroy the confederation pact, or to preclude the use of the French language in the debates of parliament, in the reports of proceedings of parliament, or in the administration of the several departments and agencies of the government of Canada. I am hoping I may be able to remove some of these misunderstandings, and for that reason I beg the indulgence of the house while briefly I review the circumstances which convinced the government that the public interest demanded the moderate measures of reform embodied in this bill. As soon as I became Secretary of State in 1930 I was informed, as the minister responsible for the administration of the Department of Public Printing and Stationery, that the publications of French translations of public documents were frequently so long delayed as to impair, if not to destroy, their usefulness to the government and to the public. A cursory review at that time showed that a very considerable number of the documents translated into and published in French were not published until at least six months after the English edition had been issued, and later the 980 COMMONS Translations Bureau-Mr. Cahan treasury board in making an investigation through an investigator appointed by them ascertained that a considerable number were not published and distributed until one year, at least, after the issue of the English edition to the public. These delays, it was urged, destroy the usefulness, to the people who were most interested, of these documents published in the French language. Oftentimes the documents could not be used in the French language until six months or more after the English edition had appeared. In a province, such as ours, and a city such as Montreal, which is now doing a very considerable business with European countries in which the French language prevails, it was reported to me that their business operations were hampered by the fact that the French editions were not available at an early date for transmission to their correspondents in France, Switzerland, Belgium and other countries. I also received complaints from the heads of various departments that the cost of printing at the Department of Public Printing and Stationery was frequently in excess of the estimates obtained by them independently from printing establishments in Toronto, Montreal and also in Ottawa. Such personal investigations as I was able to make into the conditions prevailing in the printing bureau convinced me that its overhead expenses were excessive, due I think chiefly to the fact that for many years under successive governments important appointments had been made to the printing bureau on the ground of political services rendered, rather than that such appointments were absolutely necessary for the efficient administration of that branch of the public service. Other important matters absorbed my attention, particularly matters dealing with reparations and matters relating to my ministerial duties as custodian of enemy property, and as you all know, in 1930 I had to proceed to Berlin where I was engaged for some time in making a settlement and an adjustment with the 'German government as to the respective liabilities of the two governments arising out of the war. Again, after I returned, the matter came up and I was informed that the cost of printing, particularly the cost of printing translations into French, was frequently increased by the carelessness, if not incompetence in the preparation of the copy which was submitted by translators to the printing bureau for printing. After the type had been set up in the French language in accordance with the typewritten copy received by the King's Printer, such excessive alterations were fre- quently made in the printed text as in some cases to double the cost of typesetting by way of corrections. I then ascertained that little if any governmental or administrative control was exercised over the preparation of translators' copy for the printers. These matters, coming up from time to time, were brought to the attention of council by my colleagues and discussions were invited, I having to assume responsibility largely for the delays and excessive costs as minister in charge of the printing bureau. But the obvious remedy then seemed to be entirely beyond my official control. Nevertheless in the summers of 1932 and 1933 it was found impossible to give full-time employment at the printing bureau, especially to those who were employed by the month at prevailing rates. Out of the five hundred employees of that bureau I think four-fifths are temporary employees who have been so employed on monthly prevailing rates for ten, fifteen and even twenty years. To meet the lack of employment we were compelled during those two summers to reduce the hours of labour at the bureau. We reduced the number of working days a week. Then we reduced the monthly employment by one week's compulsory vacation out of four, and finally it came down to two week's compulsory leisure or vacation in each month. This reduction bore heavily, in fact most severely, on compositors and others whose maternal language is French because, as is natural, they are largely engaged upon compositions in the French language at the printing bureau. The customary delays in the delivery of French copy for the printers, due largely to delays in furnishing the translations into the French language, prevented the bureau from working continuously on French composition during June, July, August and September. Hon. members will recognize that the printing bureau is an absolute necessity during the session of parliament in order to cariy on the printing and publishing of debates and of the proceedings in parliament, but the summer time is the time when, to keep the printing bureau employed, it should have available for printing blue books, parliamentary returns, and other documents which are not immediately related to the work of the session. The delays in the delivery of the copy for these blue books, so called, gave rise to very considerable hardship, and especially to those employed at the bureau whose maternal language is French. The printing work of the bureau, exclusive of cost of material, has been somewhat curtailed by a restriction of the activities of the Translations Bureau-Mr. Cahan administration in various departments. Although the public printing done outside the bureau in the printing houses in this and in other cities has been reduced from $462,000 a year in 1930-31 to $140,000 a year in 1932-33, a decrease of over $320,000 a year, nevertheless the printing done at the printing bureau has been reduced from $1,211,000 in 1930-31 to $1,056,500 in 1932-33, a reduction of $154,500; that is, a reduction in the cost of wages at the bureau. That is to say, that of the receipts of the bureau $154,500 less was available for the payment of salaries and wages of the people so employed. As a result of this in less than five months it became necessary to reduce the number of employees by 77, including 5 deaths, and these 77 were receiving aggregate annual salaries of $155,286. That was done in order to balance the account at the bureau. A few were retired by death but nearly all because they had reached the age of sixty-five or over. Many of those who were retired were under the Superannuation Act, and in the case of those who were not under that act an effort was made to give them a reasonable solatium. Of that entire 77 only six were hand compositors who had reached the age limit. There still remain in the bureau for hand composition alone 87 compositors and 36 linotype operators out of a total staff of 595, of whom 415 are temporary employees, so called. That is, they are employed on monthly wages at the prevailing rates in printing houses in Toronto and Montreal; but they are not under the Superannuation Act, and if they receive a month's notice they have to go out under the law without any compensation. Nevertheless I assure the house that I made every effort to keep these printers engaged by the month at the prevailing rate. The situation was somewhat relieved by a reduction in the large overhead expenses to which I have referred, an overhead which was greatly in excess of the reasonable needs of the establishment. In October last, the copy, especially for the French copies of the so-called parliamentary returns and bluebooks, was not coming in. Notice was given in that month to forty employees who were on prevailing rates at a monthly wage that their services would be no longer required although the working hours and the days in the week worked had been reduced. These employees were notified of their retirement on December 31. On November 27 I went away for a month's holidays and returned on the day following Christmas. I was reliably informed that some of the employees under notice of dismissal had been unable, through lack of employment, to save up sufficient during the summer to provide their families with fuel and food during the month of January. Hon. gentlemen who sometimes discuss in boards of trade throughout the country the necessity of reducing employment in the public service cannot realize the sense of personal responsibility which lies upon a minister when he approves of forcible retirements under such circumstances. These representations were made to me by clerical gentlemen and others who knew the condition of these families, and, when I reflected upon the hardship which would be imposed upon them by retirement, I found I could not sleep the Saturday night before New Year's day. In the morning I got in touch with the King's Printer and asked him to notify these forty employees to return to work on the Tuesday following. We decided to make some division of labour which would enable these men to keep their families warm and provide them with food during the succeeding winter months. These employees were brought back but there had to be a sharing of work by other employees with the result that they and others in the establishment could be given work for only two weeks during the month. These facts have been before the government for nearly two years. I say deliberately that after giving conscientious supervision to the work of that department I find it impossible to give a continuous and fair measure of employment unless all departmental reports both in English and French are furnished as soon after the close of the session as possible in order to provide work for the intervening months before the opening of the next session. I was absent from this country from the autumn of 1932 until the first week of February, 1933. During my absence complaints with respect to the furnishing of French translations from the printed translations by the printing bureau became so acute and other complaints as to the cost of operating the printing bureau under these circumstances became so numerous that the matter was brought up for careful investigation and reconsideration. On March 3, 1932, some rumours with regard to the condition which then prevailed must have got abroad because I was asked in this house a question as to what recommendations had been made for a reduction in or the centralization of the translation services in the government departments and in parliament. I replied that an arrangement had been made for the appointment of an official in the Department of the Secretary of State who was to take charge of the translation of languages other than



Translations Bureau-Mr. Cahan French and English into English and French as might be required by the several departments of government. I stated also that the suggestion had been made and the government was considering the possibility of the organization of a bureau to take charge of translations other than those usually made in the different departments by the regular staffs. This bureau for the translation of foreign languages for all departments was attached to my department and proved to be entirely satisfactory. I am prepared to lay on the table of the house a statement which will show that some fifteen or sixteen departments and agencies of government have made use of this department from week to week throughout the year. Later on, during my absence in France, an investigation was made by the treasury board with regard to matters relating to the administration of the Department of Public Printing and Stationery. This investigation disclosed that careful preliminary revisions by authors and expert translators of all typewritten copy, which is prepared by authors and translators for the printer, would save large expenditures now made in resetting the type when revisions are made after the text has been printed in galley form at the printing bureau or after the printed galley forms have been divided into printed pages. I would have preferred that this matter should have gone directly to a committee where it might have been inquired into, but in order that hon. gentlemen may see the sort of complaint that is made to me, I show them a proof which has been printed, set in type, read by the proofreaders at the printing bureau to see that the printed text is in accordance with the typewritten copy, and then sent back for further correction. These corrections which were made in this printed text necessitated practically a complete reprinting of the entire text. These corrections would be entirely unnecessary if the French copy were revised by one of the experts, of which there are many in the employ of the government. I show the house one example of a translation of a report in the Senate from English into French. The French copy is sent to the printing bureau where it is set up in type. It is then read by the proofreaders to ascertain that the type so set is in accord with the copy received. It then comes back with all these corrections. This is a photograph and the white marks show the red ink corrections. Such examples are brought up week after week and month after month to show how impossible it is, even after the French proof has been obtained, speedily to print and issue the final revised French text.


LIB
CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

One of them happens to be

Hansard, but the others are departmental. It does not make any difference for the present, and I do not wish to make special reference to particular translators. Here for instance is a report made by one of the departments. It is not only set up in galley proof, but the galley proof has been read; then the galley proof was sent back to the translator, who has also read it and revised it, and the translator's changes have been made and set up in the printed text in page proof and after that this page proof comes back with all these corrections made.

Now it was ascertained by one of the committee under the control of the treasury that the setting up in type of these corrections made in the text after it had been set up in type and sent for revision-not all French, but a great deal of it, some of it being in English-over a series of years, in wages in respect of the resetting of that type after it had been first set up in the printed text varied in cost from $75,000 to $80,000 a year during a number of years preceding 1933; and in the first ten months of 1933 the setting up of such changes as those I have mentioned cost $52,000.

It is improper, I think, to hold a minister of the crown responsible for these expenditures unless he has some control or supervision over the work. I am responsible as a minister of the crown for the work of five hundred men engaged in the printing bureau. I keep, when I am in Canada, very close contact with them; I do not think that any predecessor ever kept closer contact with them, because large reductions had to be made in the public service, and I was anxious that such reductions if made should cause, to persons employed in the printing bureau, as little hardship as was possible under the circumstances. These expenditures would have been reduced very largely if the typewritten copy of translations for the printer were at first carefully prepared and then subsequently revised by the more expert translators before being sent to the printing bureau.

The investigations made in my absence in Paris in the early part of 1933 disclosed that the inefficiency of the translation service is due largely to the fact that it has developed

Translations Bureau-Mr. Cahan

in a haphazard way and has never been organized with a view to distributing the work, so that no translator would be idle, apart from a reasonably long holiday for rest and recreation during the summer months, and that no translator should be underworked or overworked, underpaid or overpaid.

In the House of Commons staff, in addition to the translators of debates, there are ten bluebook translators who are engaged in translating departmental reports, which have no direct connection with or relation to the work of the House of Commons and its proceedings. These translators engaged on bluebooks are not translators of the Hansard, but they are under the sole direction of the Speaker of the house. I contend, and the government contend, that they should be under the direction of the government or of that minister of the crown who is responsible for the translating and the printing of these departmental reports.

This bluebook branch of the House of Commons staff was organized as a temporary expedient in 1913, with a view to abolish, or at least curtail, the practice of sending departmental reports for translation outside of Ottawa to political friends as a means of political patronage. Both parties did it and successive governments were responsible for farming out that sort of patronage. Then there were added to the Hansard staff, as a bluebook section, translators from time to time, and bluebooks have been sent to them for translation. But they are not under the supervision or direction of any government authority except the Speaker of this house, and I contend that the independent position of the Speaker of the house really precludes him from being responsible for the efficient translation of governmental or of departmental reports. His Honour should not be exposed to criticism or reprimand for neglect of duties which are by law assigned to ministers of the crown as the executive heads of the several departments over which they preside.

It was under these circumstances that this government bill was prepared, and as Secretary of State I was instructed by council to introduce it to parliament.

It is contemplated that the Bureau for Translations, which will be created by this bill, may be divided! into two branches. One of the two branches would be known as the Parliamentary Translators Branch, whose first duty would be to translate the debates and proceedings of the Senate and of the House of Commons, and the second, that is, the Departmental Translators Branch, whose

first duty would be to translate departmental reports, documents and despatches as required.

It is also suggested that the organization of the departmental branch might well follow the plan of organization recently adopted when, pursuant to the provisions of section 36 of the Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act, 1931, the accountants of all departments were placed under the supervision and direction of the Comptroller of the Treasury.

Any translator really required by the officers of any department for the efficient, independent work of that department would continue to be attached to that department; and it is proposed, if it is possible so to arrange, that the translators required for the work of all departments located in the east block shall be located in that block under one supervising head, and in the west block and in each of the other government buildings in like manner under similar supervision, all of whom will be under one superintendent.

I remember that when this act of 1931 was put into force I had in the Department of Public Printing and Stationery twenty-one accountants, and in my own office of Secretary of State we had three or four. Many of these accountants thought that this reform for them was the end of all things and they were very anxious and apprehensive with respect to the proposed reorganization. It was [DOT]arried out in a most systematic way under the supervision of the Comptroller of the Treasury and of the Civil Service Commission. For instance, in the west block, the accountants, who were general accountants who had formerly attended to the work of the Department of the Secretary of State, the Department of Railways and Canals, the Department of Trade and Commerce and some minor branches located there, were simply segregated in the same building and continued under the general direction of the Comptroller of the treasury, their oversight and supervision of the accounting of all departments located there. The same occurred in the east block and in certain other departments. The result was that these three or four accountants in the Department of Secretary of State, where there was no opportunity for advancement except as one of them died or retired, found themselves in a larger branch with scores of other accountants, where the path of advancement was freely open to those who had ability and who were assiduous in their employment, the result being, I am confident, that to-day not one of the accountants who was so transferred would revert to the old system.

The superintendent of the proposed translation bureau, which will consist of these two

9S4

Translations Bureau

Mr. Cahan

branches, will be under the direction of the minister who administers the proposed act and the minister will be responsible to parliament for the effective cooperation of all officers and employees in each translation branch, and, subject to the Civil Service Commission, for promoting efficiency and removing existing discrimination in working hours and conditions. The superintendent will have general supervision and control of the bureau and branch officers under him will be responsible for such careful preparation of the typewritten copy for the printers as to avoid very largely the wholly unnecessary annual expenditures, which I have just mentioned, in resetting the type of printed proofs and pages before binding and distributing the printed documents to the public. AH these translators will be eligible for promotion in and throughout the whole translation service of the government and not as now, in one department only, and their respective positions in the civil service will be determined from time to time by the Civil Service Commission just as in the case of all other civil service employees. The commission will determine the relative value of the services performed by the respective officers and employees and their qualifications for promotion in the service.

The government, I assure hon. members, has not the intention of using the proposed Bureau for Translations as an indirect means of procuring the dismissal of individual translators from the public service, but will use it rather as a means of distributing evenly the work of translating and of supervising translations so that all departments and agencies of government may be satisfactorily served, and that the work of translation so speedily and efficiently performed as to avoid all unnecessary delays.

I notice in a certain section of the public press that there has been a discussion of a return which I brought down showing that a number and, indeed, a very small one, of translators had been retired in recent years, particularly from the Department of the Interior. But we must remember that there were no less than 1,794 retirements, transfers, resignations and deaths causing vacancies in the staff of the Interior department, and those retirements and resignations were due chiefly to the transfer by the dominion of certain natural resources to the prairie provinces. Therefore it is not surprising that out of, in round figures, 1,800 retirements and resignations, the translation staff of that department was reduced by five. I know we in each of our departments did all we could to make places for those retired from the Department of the Interior; many of us have not under

any consideration appointed any other applicants to positions in our respective departments. I remember my department took two of those who were retired, one of them coming to me as librarian and the other in some'other service, I have forgotten which. Again it is complained that five temporary employees of the House of Commons translation service were released on February 1, 1932, but these employees were not under the direct control of the government, and of all other retirements there were only three vacancies which occurred by death and three by retirements which have not been filled simply because the various departments are waiting to ascertain whether this proposed central bureau shall be organized.

No one can underestimate the competency and efficiency of the translators of the first-class from French into English and English into French, but it is evident that there has not been careful, responsible supervision and direction of their work. I find that in the House of Commons staff at the present time there are ten translators and a chief translator, or eleven* in all, who are translating blue books which have no connection whatever with any work of the Commons. This work, which is part of the ordinary administration of government should, we think, be finder the direction of a minister of the crown and not, as at present, under the Speaker of this house. The government is held responsible to the public for the speedy and efficient performance of this work, but at present it has no direction or control over this branch of its own administration. The Speaker should certainly be relieved of responsibility in such matters as these, as he has no more interest or concern in the work of translating such blue books than he has in the administration of the patent office or the copyright office or any other branch of the public service.

There are at present fourteen translators of commons debates and a chief translator, or fifteen in all. It is suggested that it would be an infringement of the privileges of this house to organize the translators of debates into a parliamentary translators' branch of the proposed Bureau for Translations. The organization of such a branch, when authorized by parliamentary action, can hardly be deemed to be an infringement of parliamentary privileges, and this matter is brought up by the terms of the bill now submitted in the hope that the Commons will give it second reading and send it to a special committee where these matters may be inquired into and where it may be ascertained whether it is for the convenience of the Commons and in the

Translations Bureau

Mr. Cahan

public interest that such a parliamentary translators' branch should be so organized.

I recall to the attention of the house that time and again parliament has deemed it expedient to vest certain of its own powers in judicial and administrative offices of government. The trial of election petitions, which was formerly one of the privileges of this house, was long ago relegated to the courts. The furnishing, cleaning, heating and lighting of the House of Commons, which, in earlier days, was the function of a committee of this house, was later placed under the direction of the Minister of Public Works, who is directly responsible therefor to parliament 'In the earlier days a committee of the house controlled the printing of Commons debates, *bills, votes and proceedings and even acts of parliament, and such printing was farmed out to privileged private printing houses in this and other cities. But scandals arose in connection with the distribution of such printing and the payment of private concerns therefor, and parliament decided to enact a statute creating a department of public printing and stationery, to be charged with the performance of all work relating to printing, lithographing and the like. Parliament also decided that this new department should be placed under the direction and supervision of a minister of the crown, who would be directly responsible to the government of the day and to parliament for the efficient administration of that department.

We are therefore proposing this measure for the consideration of the house. There is no desire to force an innovation upon the House of Commons against its wishes, but we are asking that the facts be elicited before a special committee and duly considered, and that those who are employed in the translation of the debates of the Senate and the House of Commons should be organized into this parliamentary translators' branch of a general bureau for translations, under a minister of the crown with the responsibility I have stated.

It is suggested in the press that these translators of the debates of the Senate and the House of Commons, who receive annually about $60,000 a year in salaries, are so busiiy employed during the four or five months of the session of parliament that they require rest and recreation during the remainder of the year. The Hansard translators of this house are a very efficient body, and I will not say one word in disparagement of the services which they daily perform. The House of Commons staff dealing with the translation of Hansard are busily employed

during the sessions of parliament, but inquiry will show, I think, that they are not overworked as compared with other employees of parliament, and certainly not as compared with the officials of many of the departments of the government. The Senate

translators of Hansard are not, I am told, so busily employed; in fact it is alleged that they are the least busily employed body of men in the public service of Canada. Undoubtedly those who perform an excess of work during the parliamentary session should be granted longer periods of holidays for rest and recreation, and those who are engaged day by day in translating Hansard should have accorded to them under the civil service rules a longer term of holidays than the ordinary employees in the public service are granted, but there seems to me no valid reason why, during two, three or four months of the recess of parliament, they should not be available on special occasions for the translation of special documents such as the reports and proceedings of government commissions, inquiries and the like, and for the translation of special documents which require extreme care and supervision.

I merely desire to place these facts fairly before the house as I see them. If this bill receives second reading, full inquiry then may be made into all relevant facts and considerations, and I am confident that the special select committee on the civil service will do full justice to all parties concerned. I think it is in the interests of good government that those who have any representations to make should appear before that committee where their representations will be received. In regard to those translators who are not now employed in special departments, I think they should be organized in like manner as I have already stated the accountants were organized. I am confident that the position and the prospects of translators in the proposed organization will be very greatly improved and I am assured, though I cannot vouch for the reports that come to me, that a great number of the translators who are employed in the public service, upon a review of the bill and of the facts relating thereto, are very favourably impressed with this proposed change in their employment. As I have already stated to some of them, it is the opinion of the government that a reorganization such as that proposed in this bill will place translators from French into English and from English into French on a higher plane in the public service. It will avoid duplication of translation services and re-

Translations Bureau-Mr. Cahan

search work in relation thereto. It will ensure the effective cooperation of all officers and employees in the existing translation services. It will establish coordination and uniformity in the proper use of technical terms. It will improve the means of acquiring expert knowledge and competency and will promote the advancement of those employed in this very essential branch of the public service. It will tend to remove all discriminations in working hours and working conditions, and it will promote-and this is essential-the contemporaneous publication of public documents in both English and French for the use of parliament and of the public.

During the recess the government might have appointed a commission under the Inquiries Act to inquire into these matters and report, but, as this does affect to a rather slight extent the privileges and powers which this house now exercises, it was deemed rather an impropriety to make that investigation when parliament was not in session. Therefore this bill was drafted with a view to placing it before a committee of the bouse for consideration, by which committee all relevant facts may be ascertained.

I should like to add one personal word, because I have attended conscientiously, as best I could, to the administration of the duties imposed upon me as a minister of the crown. It is true that my maternal language is English and that I am of the Protestant faith, but I confess that during the past few weeks I have felt somewhat embarrassed and even humiliated in reading the charges made in certain sections of the public press that I am now attempting to destroy the confederation pact and to relegate the French language to an inferior place in the federal administration of this country. I should have thought-and I say it with modesty-that my past public life and my consistent conduct in matters relating to race, language and religion, should have protected me from such personal assaults as those I have sustained. This bill is not a Caban bill; it is a government bill, which the members of the government deem to be detrimental to no particular interest, but a measure the terms of which will tend to conserve public interests and ensure more efficient administration of the public services of the country. It is a bill which we trust will be given second reading and sent to a special committee, which will have full liberty to inquire into every interest which may be thought to be prejudicially affected by the terms thereof.

Topic:   BUREAU FOR TRANSLATIONS
Permalink
?

Noé E. Chevrier

Mr. E. R. E. OHEVRIER (Ottawa):

Mr. Speaker, I entertain the most kindly sentiments of friendship for the hon. minister who has just taken his seat, and he knows it. For that reason I believe he will excuse me and not consider me in any way discourteous if I do not traverse the whole of the speech he has just delivered. At the outset may I thank him for the kindly disposition which he has shown towards those unfortunates in the printing bureau during a very crucial time last year. But the hon. gentleman is a bast master in the art of preparing a case, and he has set up a wonderful stage, he has prepared a wonderful picture, and has shown but one side of the situation. He has brought into this House of Commons a big sheaf of something about which we know nothing. Had I had the same opportunity as he had I might show as great a sheaf as the one he has shown where corrections are made on the printed copy and sent back to the prin-ing bureau, and charged to translation.

1 As I have said, the hon. gentleman has given a wonderful exhibition of window dressing. He knows the French language quite Well and will take no offence if I refer him to this particular fable, namely that he has forgotten to light the light of his lantern. He has not in any way attempted to show what this bill would mean in the way of economy. He has shown only the dark side of the picture. I do not intend to follow him through the various points he has raised, except to do so as I go along in the ordinary course of my speech.

The question is as to whether or not this bill will be read a second time. When I shall have finished my observations I shall move, seconded by the hon. member for North Timiskaming (Mr. Bradette) :

That the word "now" be left out and that the words "this day six months" be added at the end of the question.

Under our practice and our rules it is a well established principle that the proper time to discuss a bill is when it comes up for second reading. I am not here to lecture nor am I competent to lecture upon the interpretation of the rules of the house. Nevertheless I may be permitted to remind hon. members and, more particularly, sir, those hon. members of the province of Quebec who for the time being happen to sit to your right, that when an hon. member votes for the second reading of the bill he inescapably Votes for the principle of the bill, and that it is no defence to say that all he intended to do was to vote for the second reading so that it

Translations Bureau-Mr. Chevrier

might be sent to a committee. On this occasion I leave hon. members coming from that great province with these words, "Let duty be their law and conscience their rule." At this stage I believe the easiest way out for the minister would have been to withdraw from his difficulty, and simply and graciously to withdraw the bill. In all friendship and sincerity I say to him that he has needlessly got himself into a whirlpool of trouble. In all frankness, sir, I say to him through you: Why not admit it now ? In one's public career-and the career of the hon. gentleman has been long, honest and honourable-one can make mistakes. This is the mistake of his career. I say that if the minister will withdraw this bill we will forget it, as we would a bad nightmare. At this stage I cannot nor shall I go into the merits or, rather, demerits of the proposed legislation. The minister has done so at considerable length. Unfortunately however I have not the same latitude to follow him to any great extent. I find that the principle of the bill is contained in clauses 3, 4 and 5, and I shall confine my remarks to those sections. To some extent, also, I shall refer to the explanatory notes accompanying the bill.

The reading of those sections indicate, notwithstanding what the minister has said, that it is intended to abolish the existing classes and categories of translation services, in whatever departments they may be, and to blend them into one-the minister now says two, but that is not shown in the bill-into one huge bureau of translation or, as the minister now says, into two bureaus, under a superintendent. Sir, this bill should not be called the Translation Bureau Act, but because of its effects it ought to be called, " A bill for the translation of the remains of the translators, and of translation."

There are two very distinct spheres of activities in which translators take part. One is in the two houses of parliament and the other outside in the various departments of the ministers. The translating staff of the House of Commons is fourfold. There is the law translating branch, where there are three translators; the journals, where there are two; the debates, where there are sixteen, and the parliamentary, where there are twelve. In all there are thirty-three translators. In the other house there used to be three, but as one has now left the service there are only two. In the translating services under the various ministers, to which I have alluded, there are forty-one. It is now desired, under sections 3, 4 and 5 to bring all

of these translators into what I now call because I find no better word, a hotchpotch to operate under a superintendent and under a minister. This superintendent has to supervise the work of ninety-one translators, engaged in all of the most diversified activities of government.

Sir, there was born in the year 1463 a genius named Pic de la Mirandole, possessed of what one might describe as universal knowledge. His knowledge of things was phenomenal, and particularly his knowledge of the foreign languages. Upon reaching the age of thirty-one we are told there was no language he had not mastered. But in that year, sir, he died. Has the minister in mind a distant relative of Pic de la Mirandole as the genius who will supervise these ninety-one translators engaged, as I say, in most diversified activities. Under this plan, and under the direction of this superman would be translated references to paleontology, recipes for making maple syrup,-geology, laws passed by the House of Commons, entomology, the science of bugs, and probably the translation of the speeches of eminent statesmen. This to anyone who has any knowledge of the practical work of a translation bureau is seen to be not feasible and impracticable. For instance, at present if a translator of Hansard is not sure of the meaning of a particular sentence in an hon. member's speech, and there need be no wonder at that, he can at once get in contact with the member and find out what the meaning is; and in the departments, if some expression heretofore unused crops up, the translator in the department has the benefit of immediate contact with the one who made the report and can tell him ivhat is required in the way of interpretation.

The minister says that this bill would remove the existing discrimination in working hours -and) working conditions. At present I say there is no discrimination as to working hours. There are several staffs that work from nine to five and are paid for that amount of work. There are others who work after five and are paid no more. But there are others who work during the night and are paid the same yearly statutory salary. On the translating staff of the houses of parliament there are many who work during a session of four or five or six or seven months just as many hours, and under much more difficult conditions, than others who work simply from nine to five throughout the year.

How does the minister think that he will manage this new organization? Of necessity

Translations Bureau-Mr. Chevrier

he must retain shifts of translators when the house is sitting. Then he must devise some way of having these translations sent back and forth. He would need to have a continuous army of messengers to enable the work to be carried on. The minister knows the meaning of the proverb, "Tot caput tot sensu," so many heads, so many opinions. He desires to bring into this hotchpotch a large number of men who have specialized in their own particular departments. He would have as many ideas of translation as there are men who would be engaged in that particular translation. Instead of having but one revising officer there would have to be quite a number to take care of the work of the shifts as they come and go.

The minister says that there has been a centralization of accounting. That is perfectly true. That was a wise move. Figures and numbers are not susceptible of translation. That is elementary; so why talk about it? There is no reason at all why there should not be a uniform system of accounting of all the government's activities. After all a ledger is a ledger, a credit balance is a credit balance, and a debit balance is a debit balance. That is so true that I do not know that up to the present any of these accountants has been changed from his own particular department, and that is well because the accountants in the various departments may refer their statements to one central office, no matter where they themselves may be located, in which central office the final auditing may be done.

But the minister must realize that that cannot be done with translation bureaux, if the staffs are as he says to remain in their present offices. If they stay where they are, how will the superintendent be able to supervise? How will he be able to allocate the work to the various departments? Will the minister create a special office to which all the translations will be sent as they come to the superintendent so that they may be sorted out and distributed among the most efficient translators for that particular work? If so, how will he quickly get the allocated parts of different work to those who are to do that work? He may hire a fleet of baby Austins and messengers to distribute the work around to the different departments, but will the cost of administration thereby be reduced?

If the translators are not left in their respective bureaux and I apprehend that that will be the effect of the bill, the work will be distributed amongst all the translators to keep everyone working, and a translator who has been accustomed to translate works on chemistry may be called upon to translate something

about aeronautics, while the translator on geology may be called upon to translate the report on the milk investigation.

When these French experts of to-day are superannuated or die they will be replaced by juniors from this hotchpotch. It will not be a case of one expert translator replacing another, but of a junior being assigned to the work of the expert in order to keep the number in that particular bureau even; but certainly there will not be the same level of efficiency, and that is where the evil will be twofold. The quality of the translation will be impaired and the number of efficient French clerks will be reduced, and the status of the French language will to that extent thereby suffer. It cannot be contradicted that if a head clerk at $3,800 retires and is replaced by a junior at $1,800, the efficiency of the translation will suffer and the status of the French language thereby also suffer.

On the other hand, if there is no centralization, if the translators are left where they are to continue to specialize in their own departments, the junior translators will come into daily contact with the work they have to perform and will of necessity familiarize themselves with it, and in that way will one day be able to secure promotion.

Judging by the experience of other bilingual countries which have at some time or another tried centralization, I ask why are we dropping the substance for the Shadow?

There is another aspect of the matter. One may think it is very easy to translate. Well, we may say in French, "Le Secretaire d'Etat est un grand homme," meaning that the Secretary of State is a famous man. But if we say, "Le Secretaire d'Etat est un homme grand," it means that the Secretary of State is a tall man. The words are the same but they appear in a different order, and make the meaning very different.

Everyone who possesses the knowledge of two or three languages knows that the difficulties in adhering to a precise translation appear sometimes to be insuperable, and that is why it is always with the greatest diffidence and a sense of apprehension that I address the house, fearful as I am lest at some time I should innocently misplace or still worse misuse some expression.

But why labour the point any further? It must be obvious to you, sir, and to hon. members of this house that translation is a science, and a science of a very particular nature. Translation is not the mere substitution of words or the mechanical interchange of idioms. It implies a subtle interpretation of analogies, and a delicate appraisal of terms and ex-

Translations Bureau-Mr. Chevrier

pressions so as to render even the finer shades of meaning. The Italians, in their own picturesque language say, "il tradittore il tra-hittore": a translation is very often a treason.

Would the Secretary of State be content to send one of his speeches upon constitutional law, pronounced in the masterful command of the English language which he has, to one of the translators in this hotch-potch, one perhaps who had been a specialist in translating reports on diseased potatoes, the fertility of the malaria mosquito or the physical structure of the tsetse fly ? Would he be content to have such a translation in French circulated through the European universities where his name is not unknown? A translator is not made in a day. His science is the result of years of labour and special study. By reason of those labours and studies he acquires a special knowledge of the subjects, the expressions and the shades of meaning in a language not his own. I am sure hon. members would be astonished if they were brought into contact with the accumulated experience of the translators as it concerns words, expressions and sentences and which has been acquired by diligent study and comparison of other idioms.

This is a trial of centralization or specialization. In 1910 the government of the day desired to know what was being done in the bilingual countries of Europe. Mr. Achille Frechette, former law translator and chief of the translation branch of the House of Commons of Canada was appointed to visit Belgium and Switzerland to investigate this matter. I think some extracts from his report should appear on Hansard. He states first:

My inquiry has been directed to the translation of the debates, of the sessional papers and of the laws.

As is the case in Canada, the debates may be carried on in Belgium and in Switzerland in either or any of the official languages of the country.

At that time the House of Commons and the Senate were operating under a system of centralization but that has since been changed to one of specialization. The report continues :

In Belgium each of the different departments has its own translation staff.

And he continues:

In Switzerland the various departments have their own translators.

Thus it is seen that nowhere in these two countries is translation centralized. And in both countries satisfaction is expressed with the system in use.

Let us now' consider the system that obtains in the Canadian House of Commons. The

service, there, is centralized in an office recruited-may I be permitted to say-independently of any idea of specialization in the work.

And again:

It is evident that so many various translations, for which the most extensive dictionaries and the usual language are altogether inadequate, must require from the translator vast erudition, constantly supplemented through long hours of research and tireless application. Would it not be too optimistic to expect great success from the anomaly of an organization where it is required of each man to be a universal specialist in order to be fit for expert work in all directions?

That is what one would find in this hotchpotch. The report continues:

All the efforts that the chief translator- Under this bill, the superintendent-

-may make towards specializing the abilities of his staff are rendered vain by the manner in which the documents come from the printing office and by the necessity of having the work done quickly. Without entering into more details. I will say that constantly a given work has to be divided' among several translators, either in the office or outside.

Here again is a comparison with the bureau which it is sought to be created by this bill. The reports goes on:

And what is the consequence? If each man, although he feels no personal responsibility for the work, makes the study it requires, no time will have been gained. If such studies are not made, that part of the work which is improperly done will swamp that done by the conscientious translator who knows his subject and its terminology.

This gives an exact picture of the bureau for translation which the minister is seeking to create. The report continues:

The tendency of all this is towards the demoralization of the service. And the French version of the documents suffers in quality, although, in spite of all efforts, it still reaches the public much later than the English version, for the main reason that the latter is received too late by the translators.

The present system, established some seventy years ago, may have answered the needs of the time, when the public documents were very far from being as voluminous, as numerous and as specialized0 as they are to-day, and when the greater part of them, being already in French, had not to go through the French office. But now that the publications of the public service deal with so many activities unknown to the primitive country that we were then; now that all the human interests, more and more specialized find their expression in the papers presented to the Canadian parliament, a centralized translation office can no longer do justice to so much work that calls for specialists. The experience I have acquired during thirty-six years of service in the Commons has convinced me that in centralization rests the vice of our system.

Translations Bureau-Mr. Chevrier

Just a word in passing as to what the hon. minister has said with reference to the general translation branch. He knows that that branch of the House of Commons, although on a few occasions it has translated outside reports, translates a long series of documents and reports from this house, such as the grain investigation, the imperial conference and the innumerable reports which emanate from committees like the milk inquiry committee, the civil service committee, the banking committee, the shipping committee. The report continues:

Therefore, and from my observations in Belgium and Switzerland, where I everywhere found specialization carried as far as possible by the establishment of provisions for translation in the various administrative branches, and where there is thorough satisfaction with the system in existence, I conclude that it is desirable to extend in Canada to all the departments, the practice already intelligently introduced in some of them, as, for instance, the Department of Agriculture.

That was the first department to start specialization and up to the present time I do not think there has been any difficulty or any complaint in connection with the work done there. The report concludes:

The departmental translator having a narrower field of work could comparatively soon master the two languages in the specialties dealt with every year in the documents issued by his department. He could do his work much quicker and much better, all other things being equal.

I do not want to quarrel with the minister as to the diversified statements he has made, though I find it very difficult to reconcile many of them. Taking the bill as it stands however, while perhaps not in the immediate future, at any rate at some later date, the various translating branches will be brought into this Bureau for Translations. The minister has stated the move contemplated will result in a saving of public funds. How that can be accomplished he has failed to show, and one can only anticipate the future by what has happened in the past. The minister has indicated that since 1930 some eighteen translators have been let out. It is quite true that in the Department of the Interior there were five; I think that is a fair statement.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

There have not been

eighteen translators dismissed or retired by this government since 1930.

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LIB

Edgar-Rodolphe-Eugène Chevrier

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

May I ask then how

many there were? It does not matter however how many there were; I am quite prepared to say, in all fairness to the minister,

that the five that were let out in the Interior department should not be taken into account. At any rate, there were some seventeen altogether-

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CON
LIB

Edgar-Rodolphe-Eugène Chevrier

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

Or fifteen; the minister can reply later on. No matter however how many were let out, none has been replaced, and the fact is that there are many heads of departments, French Canadians, holding important positions who have not been replaced. The minister goes on to say that this bill will improve the standing of translators of the French language in the department. Here may I make a special point. If this bill ever becomes law the translators will ultimately leave the Houses of Parliament and all departments and with them such junior clerks and stenographers as are associated with translation work. Not only will so many translators be removed from the departments, but probably double and treble the number of clerks will go with them.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

There are to-day, or there

were yesterday, eighty-six translators with twenty-nine clerical assistants, making one hundred and fifteen in all employed in translation work, and I am sure that there has been no time since 1930 when there have been fifteen dismissals.

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LIB

Edgar-Rodolphe-Eugène Chevrier

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

I submit then that the minister will have to explain this return which has been brought down to the house, wherein I count nine translators, and there are five or six others whom the minister is overlooking.

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February 27, 1934