Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 556
Using an interpreter at trialRegion: Ontario Answer # 556
If your language ability, or that of any of your witnesses, is not good enough to understand the court proceedings or if the judge cannot understand you or them, an interpreter will be required. When deciding whether you need an interpreter, keep in mind that you want the judge to have the best possible understanding of your case. Where a trial has already started and the judge feels that a party or a witness cannot be properly understood due to language, the judge can order that the party provide an interpreter.
Interpreters for English and French
Small Claims Court provides interpretation services for all court proceedings and written documents from English to French and French to English. If you or your witnesses need language interpretation in court in these circumstances, notify the court office at the beginning of the case.
Interpreters for other languages
Interpretation from English or French to any other language, however, must be arranged and paid by the party who requires it. You should arrange to bring someone who has proper skills to translate from your language to English. The interpreter must be accredited as being capable of performing that function. The interpreter must not be someone connected with the lawsuit, and if possible should not be a member of your immediate family. If you do not know someone who can act as an interpreter, there are services available where you can hire a court-qualified interpreter. The services of a court-qualified interpreter are paid for by the party requiring them. More information can be found from the Ministry of the Attorney General – Court Interpretation Services in Ontario.
Fee waiver request
If, because of your financial circumstances, you cannot afford to pay for an interpreter, you may qualify for a fee waiver, in which case the court office will pay for ‘in-court’ interpretation in any language. To qualify for a fee waiver, you must complete the Small Claims fee waiver form and give detailed information about your finances. If your application is approved, you will then complete the Small Claims form requesting an interpreter. Fee waiver and request for interpreter forms can be found at any court or enforcement office, or online from the Ministry of the Attorney General website.
If you are using an interpreter, you must give your evidence entirely in your own language. You cannot testify partly in English (or French as the case may be) and partly in your language. It is also a good idea to speak slowly enough for the interpreter to be able to translate for the court.
For more information about Small Claims Court and using an interpreter at trial, visit the Small Claims Court website.
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