The Translation Bureau is an institution of the federal government of Canada operated by Public Services and Procurement Canada that provides translation services for all agencies, boards, commissions, and departments of the government.[1] As of December 2022, the bureau employs 130 interpreters, of which about 70 are on staff and 60 are freelancers.[2] It is one of the largest "government organizations dedicated to translation".[3]

The bureau was transferred from the Department of the Secretary of State to Public Works and Government Services Canada in June 1993, when the then government reorganized agencies to consolidate groups primarily tasked with providing services to other government organizations, referred to as common service organizations (CSOs).[4]

The number of interpreters employed by the bureau affects the number of Parliamentary committee sessions that can be conducted.[2] Freelance interpreters are not accredited by the Translation Bureau.[5] Public Services and Procurement Canada only works with accredited interpreters, prioritizing those with an open contract.[5]

Tasks of interpreters include live interpretation during House of Commons debates and committee meetings, and translation of documentation such as Acts of Parliament, bills, correspondence, and reports.[5]

The bureau has investigated the use of various technologies to provide its services, including neural machine translation and artificial intelligence.[6][3] It has used a statistical machine translation system named Portage developed by the National Research Council Canada since 2016.[7] This system is used in conjunction with human translators.[7]

In January 2019, the bureau began providing translation services in Dene, East Cree, Plains Cree, and Mohawk.[8]


  1. ^ Mitchell, Christine (7 March 2022). "How Canada accidentally helped crack computer translation". The Walrus. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  2. ^ a b Ryckewaert, Laura (13 December 2022). "Work, interrupted: new hires, remote interpretation set to boost committee capacity in new year". The Hill Times.
  3. ^ a b Association for Machine Translation in the Americas (18 August 2022). "9 highlights in machine translation — what to expect at AMTA 2022". Slator (Press release). Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  4. ^ Roberts, Alasdair (1996). "Public works and government services: Beautiful theory meets ugly reality". In Swimmer, Gene (ed.). How Ottawa spends, 1996-97: Life under the knife. McGill–Queen's University Press. pp. 171–204. JSTOR j.ctt9qf21r.
  5. ^ a b c van Dyk, Spencer (17 August 2022). "Parliament Hill interpreters concerned over translation quality if feds hire non-accredited staff". CTV News. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  6. ^ Public Services and Procurement Canada (15 August 2019). "Translation Bureau establishes industry advisory committee" (Press release). Canada NewsWire. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  7. ^ a b Marking, Marion (8 February 2016). "Cats and dogs trigger machine translation row in Canada". Slator. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  8. ^ Wapachee, Celina; Wapachee, Cheryl (13 February 2019). "Cree translator in House of Commons 'proud' to be part of history". CBC News. Retrieved 15 December 2022.