Relevant Legislation to Providing

Sign Language Interpreters in Canada

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom (1982) The Charter is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. The Charter protects the political and civil rights of all Canadians and supersedes all provincial human rights codes. The Charter is explicit in its provision for sign language interpreting services during any proceeding in which Deaf Canadians are involved (See Section 14 and 15.1)


Canadian Human Rights Act (1985) This Act extends the laws of Canada to uphold the principle that “all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated...without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on ...disability.”


Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General) [1997] The Supreme Court ruled that it is the responsibility of governments to provide sign language interpreting. While Eldridge dealt specifically with the right to sign language interpreting in the health care system, the principles set out apply more generally to services provided by government, or by non-government organizations carrying out specific government objectives.


Canadian Association of the Deaf, et. al. v. Her Majesty the Queen [2006] Federal Court of Canada decision requires that all Federal Government Programs, offices and services provide sign language interpreting services “upon request.” The ruling makes explicit the right of access to government. Note: the preceding sections under Legislation is borrowed verbatim from the information sheet: “The Canadian Hearing Society Position Paper on Accessibility and Accommodation”


BC Human Rights Code The BC Human Rights Code protects BC citizens from discrimination based on amongst many characteristics (i.e. race, ancestry, family status et. c.) disability. The BC Human Rights Code is clear that there is a ‘duty to accommodate’ responsibility for those who provide services. “Employers, landlords, and people who provide a service to the public have a duty to reasonably accommodate the needs of disabled persons, unless doing so would result in undue hardship.” (BC Human Rights Code brochure).


The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Canada ratification, pending) Article 21: “Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information” Paragraph (b) “Accepting and facilitating the use of sign languages, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions;” for many Deaf people the communication mode of choice is sign language which requires the use of interpreters.