Bridging the Gap

By: Brock Tremblay, Bilingual Project Coordinator

On Saturday February 21st, MCIS hosted a free Translation Pop-Up Clinic at The 519, a city organization located in the heart of Toronto’s gay village that serves the LGBTQ+ communities. This Translation Pop-Up Clinic was an MCIS first, and it was a huge success! Although we have been offering free or subsidized translations to individuals in need for several years, this Pop-Up was the first time that MCIS has mobilized translators and volunteers to offer free document translation to folks not only face-to-face, but also in their very own community. Newcomers to Canada often need official translations of numerous documents in order to apply for refugee status or a PR, go to school and to find employment and housing. Unfortunately, the cost to do so can be hefty, and finding free or subsidized services can be very challenging. For people who can’t afford to translate their documents using a professional translator, the Pop-Up was an opportunity to get the official translations they need.

We decided to partner with The 519 for this event because of the experiences and stories shared with us by these incredibly resilient people. Their decision to come to Canada is often based on necessity rather than desire, as many queer people face the tragic reality of persecution and prejudicial treatment based on their sexual identity. However, once they arrive in Canada, LGBTQ+ people often find themselves facing a number of barriers, including language and financial barriers. Our hope for this event was to help break down some of these barriers and make settling into their new home just a little bit easier.

We had nearly 30 volunteers attend the event, including more than 10 translators in various language combinations, and we served over a dozen clients! The most fulfilling aspect of this event was bringing together translators, other MCIS staff and clients. Typically, translators never meet the people they serve, and MCIS staff rarely meets the translators. Everything is completed behind a screen, so translators seldom realize the impact that they have in the lives of many. They are the ultimate language justice warriors; their weapons of choice are the keyboard and dictionary, and their goal is clear: helping immigrants integrate and thrive in their new home. Translators’ services are crucial to the integration and success of so many immigrants, but their existence goes unrecognized by most. They truly are the unspoken heroes of people who have come to Canada in search of a new life. The Translation Pop-up Clinic gave everyone: translators, MCIS Staff, and individuals who need translation, the opportunity to meet and engage in meaningful dialogue about translation, immigration, and life in Canada.

Translators bridge the gap between languages and cultures, and this event showed us just how significant the impact can be in the communities we serve. It was an opportunity for our staff and translators to meet clients face-to-face, hear their stories, and make a difference. It would have been worth our while to help even one person, but we are thrilled to have had such a good turn-out, and we look forward to working with other partners to offer this same event.