The international outrage over a fake sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa last week is a controversy all too familiar to Quebecers who are deaf or hard of hearing.
A new online petition launched by a Montreal-based advocacy group says the province suffers a chronic lack of proper interpretation services for the 10 percent of its citizens who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The petition says Quebecers who are deaf or hard of hearing suffer discrimination and underemployment because they do not have access to quality interpretation services. It calls on the province to correct this reality through free, professional and standardized sign language services.
“We are considered sub-human and we don't have access to information, we cannot participate in an equal level as hearing people,” says Véro Leduc of La Maison des femmes Sourdes de Montréal.
The lack of reliable, professional sign language interpreters in Quebec was made graphically clear last year when the Liberal critic for seniors, Marguerite Blais, used a sign language interpreter who signed nonsense while she wished Quebecers happy holidays.
Quebec does not have recognized provincial standards for sign language interpreters. Sign language teacher Alice Dulude says such standards are the only way to prevent episodes like the one that befell Marguerite Blais and the Mandela memorial.
“We need to be stricter about not allowing that to happen because they're providing a service but are they qualified? Are they really providing access to information,” she said.
The petition also calls on the government to recognize Quebec Sign Language (LSQ) as an official language of the province that should be taught in its schools.
The petition currently has 1,716 signatures. It will be tabled in the national assembly in 2014 by Québec Solidaire MNA, Françoise David.