Published on: September 23, 2014
For a month now, Adam George-Ouellet has travelled from jail cell to courtroom to jail cell to courtroom, never once hearing let alone understanding the many things that police and lawyers and other officials say to him and about him.
On Monday, an Ottawa judge was vocal in expressing anger over the outrageous failure of court staff to find sign-language interpreters for the 28-year-old deaf and mentally disabled man.
This is the biggest comedy of errors I have seen in the last five years, Justice Robert Fournier declared after being told again that no interpreter was available for George-Ouellet, who was arrested for allegedly causing damage at his group home and then waving a knife and making threats by sign language to staff.
Hampering the efforts of court officials is a need for both an interpreter who can communicate in LSF (langue des signes française) and a DI, or deaf interpreter, who can put whats said into context for George-Ouellet, who reportedly has the intellectual capacity of an eight-year-old.
As well, court heard that two interpreters of each type could be required because the rigorous demands of translation can limit how long they can carry out their roles in one sitting.
That didnt satisfy Judge Fournier. I dont want an explanation. I want action, he lectured Crown prosecutor Andrea Levans, questioning why one interpreter couldnt be found who could relay proceedings to the accused.
Surely they have someone who is bilingual in this country thats not unusual and who can sign in French.
Defence lawyer Michel Bisson said in an interview he is frustrated because his client appears to be a low priority to the limited number of interpreters available to the court.
What could be more important than this? he added. His liberty is at stake.
Bisson is seeking to have the charges dropped because of the delays, but even that application is stalled because of the lack of a translator.
Mark Moors, acting deputy Crown attorney, said he was limited in commenting because the case is before the courts but stressed that staff have been working long hours trying to arrange the specific services needed.
This is a genuine issue, Moors said. People want to do the right thing.
George-Ouellet next appears in court on Wednesday.
Fournier said he wished he could apologize to the small man with a full head of dark curls who sat quietly in the prisoners dock. Keeping him in jail without communications, the judge said, is not borderline outrageous. It is outrageous.
In a written response to a comment, Ontarios Ministry of the Attorney General, responsible for the provinces court services, said it will continue to make every effort to secure the services required for this matter.