Montreal Deaf community speaks out about lack of access to English interpreters

Click to play video: 'Deaf Anglophone Montrealers feel silenced following interpreter funding freeze'
Deaf Anglophone Montrealers feel silenced following interpreter funding freeze
WATCH: There has been a temporary freeze of essential interpretation services for some deaf Quebecers. The Deaf community says access to American Sign Language interpreters has been cut off, an essential service used to communicate during medical appointments and hospital visits. Global's Felicia Parrillo reports – Mar 14, 2023

Jack Volpe from Montreal was born profoundly deaf.

He uses American Sign Language to communicate and frequently uses interpreters – especially when it comes to medical appointments.

He usually requests English interpreters from a local organization but was recently informed that the service is being cut temporarily.

“We’re being told that the funding isn’t there, that the money isn’t there to pay for the professional interpreting service or to pay for the administration coordination for that service,” said Volpe. “We’ve been trying to make our voices heard, but can you imagine being in an emergency medical situation and the professional interpreting service isn’t available? It has a profound impact on us.”

There are two Deaf communities in Quebec: anglophones who use American Sign Language (ASL) and francophones who use Quebec Sign Language – or Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ).

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Read more: Sign language interpreters a lifeline for deaf community during coronavirus pandemic

Anglophones who need an English interpreter can request one from the Metropolitain Montreal Deaf Community Center (MMDCC) for free.

But earlier this month, the organization says their budget for interpreters for the year ran out.

“We’ve been asking for more funding from the government and it’s been difficult,” said Louis Belleau, MMDCC president.

“We’ve been asking repeatedly, making those attempts in order for the service to continue, this will need to be addressed. We need a solution soon.”

The organization gets its funding from the PSOC – a support program for community organizations, which is managed by CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.

Belleau admits this isn’t the first time that money for English interpreters has run dry.

Read more: Raising awareness in the name of accessibility for those hard of hearing

Dr. Aselin Weng, a Montreal physician who specializes in deaf and hard-of-hearing patients, says the freeze is unacceptable.

“The Deaf community is being unfairly penalized because health care services should be available to all tax-paying citizens who have a RAMQ card,” she said.

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In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for the regional health authority said “under the PSOC, a total recurring amount of $203,977 is given to the MMDCC.”

“It is important to note that MMDCC is responsible for its financial management, direct billing to institutions and recovery for interpretation services.”

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