U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin leave a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP, Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

World’s translators push back on forcing Trump interpreter to testify

Democrats had asked translator to testify about Trump’s lengthy conversation with Putin in Helsinki

Canadian translators and their international counterparts say their work should be treated as strictly confidential and they shouldn’t be compelled to testify about the private conversations they hear.

The declaration comes as U.S. Republicans on the House intelligence committee blocked a Democrat request Thursday for Donald Trump’s translator to testify about his lengthy conversation with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

Other than a U.S. State Department translator, no American government officials accompanied Trump and Putin behind closed doors.

The absence of officials — including senior members of Trump’s cabinet or other State Department diplomats — is raising questions about what Trump actually said to Putin during their two-hour, closed-door conversation.

Since that meeting, Trump has vacillated on whether he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election — a conclusion that U.S. intelligence agencies say is not in doubt.

Trump has faced fierce criticism for not challenging Putin, and for playing down the continued threat of Russian interference in the coming fall mid-terms.

READ MORE: A day after back-tracking, Trump defends summit performance

The Geneva-based International Association of Conference Interpreters said Thursday that compelling Trump’s interpreter to testify would violate a principle that has been applied to their craft for decades.

The group was founded in 1953 to support the multilingual needs of the global order that was founded after the end of the Second World War — a set of institutions that Trump is widely viewed as trying to undermine or even destroy, and that the Trudeau government says must be preserved in Canada’s national interest.

The association issued a reminder of a key clause from its code of ethics, which says its members “shall be bound by the strictest secrecy” when it comes to “all information disclosed in the course of the practice of the profession at any gathering not open to the public.”

The association added that “if statesmen are to speak freely, they must be able to trust interpreters unreservedly not to reveal confidential information. Hence the importance of upholding the cardinal principle applied worldwide since WWII, that interpreters should never be obliged to give testimony.”

Lola Bendana, chief executive officer of Toronto-based Multi-Languages Corporation, a translation firm, said it is not unprecedented for high-level summits to take place without other officials in the room. But that doesn’t mean translators should be compelled to reveal the contents of those meetings.

Another common scenario, known in the trade as a “triad,” would see a patient, doctor and translator being the only ones privy to a conversation, she said.

“In the vast majority of scenarios, the information is very sensitive, be it legal or in a hospital … or in political situations such as this one,” Bendana said.

“Interpreters have a lot of privilege of having this information before it’s given out to the world, or personal information such as a patient being diagnosed with cancer.”

Bendana said it is not uncommon in politics, but she declined to give specific examples.

The only exceptions in Canada are if someone’s life is in danger from suicide or there is a risk of child abuse, she said.

None of that prevents courts from issuing subpoenas for an interpreter if they are persuaded that circumstances are warranted, she added.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

The Who’s iconic rock opera coming to Kelowna

Theatre Kelowna Society celebrates 70th season this fall with Tommy

Goalies seal Penticton Vees win in exhibition game versus Warriors

The Penticton Vees and West Kelowna Warriors in BCHL exhibition action

Meet your RibFest BBQers

RibFest Kelowna runs Aug. 23, 24 and 25

Lake Country residents would like to swim

Survey shows 55 per cent of respondents favour a community pool

Indoor Okanagan soccer league expands in 2nd year

The Okanagan Premier League (OPL) returns for indoor action in October

Down the Rabbit Hole in Kelowna

Down The Rabbit Hole, is a story based on Alice in Wonderland told through dance and acrobatics.

Down the Rabbit Hole in Kelowna

Down The Rabbit Hole, is a story based on Alice in Wonderland told through dance and acrobatics.

Concerts, workshops and more will be held in Summerland Aug 24 to Sept. 1

The Ryga Arts Festival, which runs Aug. 24 to Sept. 1 in… Continue reading

Police watchdog investigating two officers after Langley teen’s suspected overdose

According to IIO, two officers were deployed to help Carson Crimeni but did not locate him before he died

B.C. father tells judge he did not kill his young daughters

Andrew Berry pleaded not guilty to the December 2017 deaths

Judge seeks compassion for man caught on moped

Defendant says ICBC told him he could drive

The Ice Queen of the blues coming to the South Okanagan

Award winning blues artist Sue Foley coming to the Dream Café

UPDATED: Kelly Ellard gets day parole extended for six more months, overnight leave

Kelly Ellard was convicted of killing 14-year-old Reena Virk in 1997

Most Read