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

Abbotsford mayoral candidate calls for DeLair baseball expansion

Eric Nyvall says Abbotsford needs baseball complex; Braun says city should stick with long-term plan

Abbotsford police ride the bus to target distracted drivers

Project Bus Ride also watches for other driving infractions

Preet Rai running for 4th term on Abbotsford school board

Rai notes a global perspective and experience working with youth through various organizations

Freddy Latham seeks 2nd term as Abbotsford trustee

The retired drama teacher notes extensive experience with the local arts community

UPDATE: One dead after serious crash in rural Abbotsford

Two trucks collide at an intersection on Sumas Prairie

VIDEO: B.C. deer struggles with life-preserver caught in antlers

Campbell River resident captures entangled deer on camera

BC Children’s warns of possible PayPal fraud

Recipients are asked to forward the emails to PayPal

Increased security, staffing changes coming to Colony Farms

Coquitlam Forensic Psychiatric Hospital to get new safety measures, stop patient-on-staff violence

Still too many B.C. seniors in care facilities, on drugs

Seniors Advocate watching use of antipsychotics, opioids

Police raid Langley home in search for ‘extremely violent’ murder suspect

Several law enforcement agencies were at a Willoughby home, hunting for a man charged with murder.

Officials: 3 killed in shooting at Maryland Rite Aid centre

FBI described the Aberdeen incident as an ‘active shooter situation’

The hunt for online herb: feds seek dope on hazy world of pot’s ‘cryptomarket’

In less than a month, Canada to be first industrialized country to legalize recreational marijuana

Despite protests, Russia’s anti-doping agency reinstated

On a 9-2 vote, the executive committee declared RUSADA as having satisfied conditions

Burnaby pedestrian in hospital after being hit crossing busy street

Driver remained on scene, is speaking to RCMP

Most Read