Toronto Star Op Ed: Budget Bill Exposes Interns to Exploitation

Today our op ed was published in the Toronto Star!

Budget Bill Exposes Interns to Exploitation

The federal government’s budget implementation bill is bad news for interns.

The proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code would allow federally regulated employers to “hire” interns for four to 12 months without pay if certain conditions are met. For example, the internship must “primarily” benefit the intern, the employer must “supervise” the intern and the intern cannot “replace” any employee. These conditions are overbroad, unclear and inadequate. They permit employers to extract work from interns by providing minimal training and no remuneration.

The government did get some things right. We are pleased that interns in the federal sector will receive health, safety and other basic workplace protections (that part was a no-brainer). We also agree that unpaid internships may be permissible if done in partnership with a school program, although more oversight is a must. Requiring employers to keep records of their internship programs is a good idea.

Nevertheless, allowing four to 12 month unpaid internships is the wrong approach. Students and graduates would no longer be entitled to pay for many summer and entry-level jobs. Federally regulated employers like Bell Media, Via Rail, Air Canada, TD Bank, Rogers and the CBC would have incentive to cycle through interns indefinitely for free labour instead of providing paid positions.

What’s most galling about these reforms is that essentially all federally regulated employers are capable of paying their interns. These are large, national organizations in the telecommunications, banking and transportation industries. We cannot quite understand why these employers would not have to pay wages while non-profit organizations, start-ups and small businesses are required to pay interns (who are not receiving school credit) minimum wage under provincial employment laws.

Two weeks ago the government released a budget that promised to “strengthen the Canada Labour Code protections for all employees and interns under federal jurisdiction” and “clarify the circumstances under which unpaid internships may be offered.” We watched with cautious optimism, but have been sorely let down. Unfortunately, rather than protecting interns and discouraging employee misclassification, the budget bill would create a broad loophole allowing employers to exploit unpaid labour.

Uncertainty — that is what the proposed conditions allowing unpaid internships outside of school programs create. Interns would be uncertain about their workplace rights while employers would be uncertain about when they are required to pay. Coupled with the lack of proactive enforcement and the Canada Labour Program’s meagre complaints system, the system is ripe for exploitation.

The budget bill’s impact on interns reflects the government’s abdication of its responsibility to support youth in their school-to-labour market transition and perpetuates problematic intergenerational inequities. Canadians deserve better.

Claire SeabornJosh Mandryk and Andrew Langille are with the Canadian Intern Association. You can support their work at

Media inquiries:

Josh: 416 576 1514,
Claire:  647 528 2348,


BIG WIN! Federal gov agrees to better intern protections

The Government of Canada has announced that it plans to “strengthen Canada Labour Code protections for all employees and interns under federal jurisdiction.” (page 16 of the Budget in Brief)

The complete 2015 Federal Budget devotes almost two pages to “Modernizing” and “Strengthening Compliance” with the Canada Labour Code (page 169-170). The Canadian Intern Association was quoted directly!



Media, please contact Claire Seaborn at 647 528 2348 or

Wall of Shame: Big Tree Capital Partners, LLC

Big Tree Capital Partners, LCC (“Big Tree”), unfortunately we have put you on our Wall of Shame. Someone from your organization posted an advertisement for an unpaid internship that we think is both illegal and unethical.

Click here to view the unpaid internship advertisement from Big Tree

The unpaid internship advertised is 4 months full-time for a privately held company and requires strong business skills – “MBA preferred.” Although we commend the employer for offering “mentorship” and “experience,” the law in Ontario requires them to also provide employees with minimum wage.

Big Tree, can you find the funds to pay your intern Ontario’s minimum wage ($11 per hour). If the intern works 40 hours per week for 4 months, it will only cost you $7,040.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at

Wall of Shame: Carleton University

UPDATE: This internship posting has been removed. We will provide another update in due course.

Carleton University has joined our Wall of Shame following posts for two summer unpaid internships that look a lot more like summer jobs. Read the full internship posting here: Carleton University Summer Strength & Conditioning Internship 2015

Based on the posting, it does not appear that the interns will be receiving academic credit or pay for these internships. Although the interns may be students, they are still entitled to pay because the internship does not provide them with academic credit.

Both internships are full-time for four months. The expectations include:

  • Coach team, group or individual training sessions
  • Coach movement preparation, corrective exercise and recovery modalities
  • Coach reconditioning sessions with inured athletes
  • Conduct movement assessments and performance based testing
  • Coach Speed, Agility , Quickness and Plyometric Sessions
  • Coach Energy System Development Sessions
  • Work with the Carleton University S&C Staff to enhance our sports performance program (project)
  • Weight room supervision

Making these positions unpaid creates a huge barrier to those undergraduate students that cannot afford to work for free over the summer.

We encourage Carleton University to make these internships paid positions or, at least, ensure that they are legal under the Employment Standards Act by creating an educational component and providing students with academic credit.