News / Calgary

Calgary councillor's translation services hit secondary suite public meeting

Councillor. George Chahal stepped in when one of his constituents, who didn't speak English, needed help presenting during the city's public hearing on secondary suites.

Coun. George Chahal listens to a speaker during Calgary City Council's meeting.


Coun. George Chahal listens to a speaker during Calgary City Council's meeting.

If you tuned into Calgary's city council on Monday, you may not have understood the discussion – that is, unless you speak fluent Punjabi.

During a council public hearing, Coun. George Chahal left the floor and stood with a constituent to act as a translator – a move that was applauded, and rare. The gentleman couldn't speak English, but had several questions about the city's plans to change secondary suite rules.

Then, Coun. Jyoti Gondek rose and spoke in Punjabi to ask the gentleman questions, or to explain how he could better access translation services through the City of Calgary, and community resources.

It was a simple move that pointed toward a bigger question about how the city is able to serve a diverse population.

Chahal told reporters that 30 per cent of Calgary's residents don't identify English or French as their primary language. And in Ward 5, his area, that number jumps to 65 per cent.

"I'm happy I could help," said Chahal. "It does show the diversity in our city and the need for translation services, particularly in certain parts of the city where there's larger (diverse) populations."

He said the man's questions were merely to clarify some basic information, and even making sure to add information in mail-outs about the city's 311 translation services could help people understand City of Calgary communications better.

Chahal is working on a notice of motion to look closer at the city's communication policies to bridge what he sees as an apparent gap.

"It's something we need to do a better job at," said Chahal.

He hopes to bring a notice of motion forward soon, but wants to make sure he has all details in order before he makes that proposal public. But he said it involves making the city's communication strategy stronger.

More on