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Arts Researcher Profile

Marco Fiola

Marco Fiola




Languages, Literatures and Cultures


Languages, Literatures and Cultures


The first English-Tamil legal glossary in Canada will give one of Ontario’s most under-served communities better access to justice by improving legal services provided by court interpreters, translators and newcomer agency workers.

Misinterpreting court proceedings can have a devastating outcome on the accused and on the application of the law. To help address this issue, Ryerson University has published Canada’s first English-Tamil legal glossary that the legal community, interpreters, translators and settlement agency workers will be able to access online free-of-charge, thanks to a grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario.

“This online resource is the first step in ensuring that the Tamil community, as well as organizations and interpreters who work with the community, use standardized, commonly-accepted terminology,” said Marco Fiola, Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Ryerson University, who partnered with the Ryerson Law Research Centre to develop and publish the online resource. “This, in turn, will improve inter-cultural communication and the delivery of legal services for Ontarians.”

The result of over one year of research, data collection and focus group discussions, this glossary was developed with the help of Tamil-speaking language professionals and legal representatives including interpreters, translators and lawyers. With close to 700 concepts (or terms) in both English and Tamil, this glossary will help fill a significant gap in the bilingual resources available to Ontario court and community interpreters.

According to the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG), the Ontario Tamil community is one of the most under-served communities in legal representation, even though this fast-growing community includes over 60,000 Tamils in Toronto alone.   In addition, according to a 2010 MAG report, there are only a handful of fully accredited court interpreters in certain languages, including Tamil. This has led to the idea of developing tools such as a legal glossary to ensure that Tamil court interpreters can better prepare themselves for court interpreting duties, enhancing access to the justice system for the Tamil community.

“This ground-breaking glossary is an excellent example of Ryerson’s commitment to innovation in the delivery of legal knowledge and education,” said Avner Levin, academic director of the Law Research Centre. “We are delighted to have been able to support Professor Fiola’s important work and to have helped improve access to justice for the community.”

In addition to court and other legal terms, the glossary also contains a number of concepts regularly used by settlement agencies that relate especially to immigrant and refugee issues as well as to the settlement process.

This resource will help Tamil newcomers better understand what their legal rights are in Canada and help them navigate through the myriad of decisions they need to make to make their new country a permanent home. It will also help those working in community services to meet their responsibilities with respect to the Tamil-Canadian community.

Now that the glossary is available online, Fiola is looking for ways to develop an app for the glossary. In addition, a French-Tamil version of the glossary is currently in preparation as well, with publication planned for early 2015.


Ryerson develops first English-Tamil legal glossary in Canada