‘It breaks my heart’: Sudbury man interprets for deaf dad during hearing society strike
A Sudbury, Ont., man is taking time off work to help his father communicate while their family’s interpreter is on strike with the Canadian Hearing Society.
Since the labour dispute began more than one month ago, Paul Legault, 40, has had to break the news that his dad’s cancer has taken a turn for the worst.
“I shouldn’t have to sign to him that he’s going to die. That he’s going to lose his life because of this terrible disease,” Paul Legault said.
“I should be there holding his hand. It breaks my heart.”
‘What’s scary is if I wasn’t around’
Legualt said his father contracted meningitis at nine months and became deaf.
The 68-year-old now has stage four liver, lung and brain cancer.
He understands what is going on because of Legault.
“But what’s scary is if I wasn’t around,” Legault said.
“If I had lived out of town, dad would’ve been without help and I don’t think it’s right.”
Interpreters are available through the hearing society during the labour dispute for critical services, emergency and essential events, according to the organization’s director of marketing and communications Kara-Ann Miel.
Interpreting is also available over video and an app, but Legault said those options are inappropriate for his dad.
‘Can we try to get these people back to the table?’
“My dad has been with the same interpreter for 10 years, so he’s got this bond,” Legault said.
“[To] tell him he’s going to die, from a complete stranger, is just not right for my dad, so I decided to take on the task.”
Legault said he has filed a complaint with Ontario’s ombudsman.
“Can we try to get these people back to the table,” Legault said. “That’s all we want. That’s all we’re asking.”
The ombudsman office does not oversee private organizations, but Legault is also appealing for help from France Gelinas, his MPP for Nickel Belt and the health critic for the New Democratic Party.
MPP to speak to labour minister
“The hardship that people who are deaf are going through right now is just horrendous,” Gelinas said.
“People literally do not have a voice because they usually speak to us through interpreters that are not accessible to them.”
Gelinas said she will ask Ontario’s labour minister to push the work dispute along this week.
Meanwhile, Alison Davidson, a CUPE national representative, is encouraging the deaf and hard of hearing community to use “any avenue” to put pressure on the hearing society to resolve the strike.
“I applaud him [Legault] for pushing for the rights of his deaf father,” Davidson said.
“I think it’s very sad that the deaf and hard of hearing community has lost an integral service of interpreting.”
Should interpreters be deemed an essential service?
The unionized hearing society workers have been without a contract for four years.
They are seeking stability, and protesting rollbacks to their health and benefits program, according to local 2073 CUPE picket captain Allan Wareham.
Legault said he wants to see interpreters become an essential service.
“For the deaf community, this is a necessary service for my father,” Legault said.
“He is dying. He needs someone there to tell him exactly what’s going on.”