Court proceedings in Ontario take place in English or French. A court interpreter can help you understand what is being said in court when you don’t speak the language of the court.

You have the right to a court interpreter if you need one.

The Ministry of the Attorney General provides court interpretation services in:

  • any language required in criminal and child protection matters
  • any language in civil, family and small claims court if the litigant qualifies for a fee waiver
  • French in all civil, family and Small Claims Court matters
  • sign language in all court matters
  • any language when it is ordered by the court.

There are about 700 accredited freelance court interpreters that provide interpretation in:

  • over 80 spoken languages
  • American Sign Language
  • Langue des signes du Québec

We provide more than 150,000 courtroom hours of interpretation every year.

When you need a court interpreter

You may need a court interpreter if you:

  • are accused of something
  • agreed to take responsibility for a person accused of a crime (you are a surety)
  • are a lawyer (counsel)

When you ask for interpretation services, be ready to provide:

  • the language of interpretation
  • information about who is requesting interpretation services (the accused, a surety or counsel)
  • the type of appearance (such as bail or trial)
  • the date and time interpretation is needed
  • the court location
  • any other relevant information

If you are accused

Your lawyer may request an interpreter during the first court appearance if they think it’s needed.

If your lawyer does not request an interpreter, and you think you need one, tell the judge or your lawyer on the record when you go to court for the first time.

If you are a surety

A surety is someone who agrees to take responsibility for a person accused of a crime.

If you are a surety and need an interpreter when appearing in court, either:

  • ask counsel to request interpretation services from the court
  • call the court office to ask for an interpreter if you are going to the courthouse to end your obligation as a surety

If you are counsel

If you are counsel and require an interpreter for court (for example, for your client or a witness):

  • give court staff as much notice as possible for interpreter requests
  • phone the court office and speak to the interpreter coordinator or designated staff to file a request
  • make sure the court staff record the request and give it to the court office

Make a complaint about an interpreter

To make a complaint about a court interpreter, contact management at the courthouse where the interpretation took place. They will help you complete an Interpreter Incident Report Form. Following the review of the complaint, the ministry may:

  • dismiss the complaint
  • require the interpreter to do language re-testing
  • require the interpreter to do refresher training and re-testing in court interpretation procedure and ethics
  • remove the interpreter from the ministry’s registry if they are found to have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, or if the results of the re-testing are not satisfactory

We will share the results of the review in writing with the interpreter and the appropriate court management. We will also share the results with the Crown attorney, counsel, parties and the judicial official.