Ontario bill introduced that would protect unpaid interns

Today a press conference introduced MPP Peggy Stattler’s Bill 22, Employment Standards Amendment Act (Greater Protection for Interns and Vulnerable Workers), 2014.

The bill was first introduced by Davenport MPP Jonah Schein last March (details here), but unfortunately was not reelected in the most recent Ontario election. The Canadian Intern Association is very pleased that MPP Peggy Stattler has chosen to re-introduce the bill, which would:

  • Grant unpaid interns more protections under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, such as regular work day, eating periods, and holidays
  • Require employers to provide written notice to the Ontario government when they take on unpaid interns. This would assist the Ministry of Labour with data collection and enforcement.
  • Create a complaint system that allows complaints to be submitted by third parties and interns anonymously
  • Require employers to post a poster with information about intern’s rights in Ontario in the workplace prepared by the Ministry of Labour

Peggy Stattler is the MPP for London West and NDP Critic for Training, Colleges & Universities and Research & Innovation. Also in attendance at the press conference is Andrew Langille (www.youthandwork.ca) and Joshua Mandryk (www.payyourinterns.ca).

Watch the full press conference here:

The Intern Protection Act : a new private member’s bill to protect intern’s rights

Today Members of Parliament Andrew Cash and Laurin Liu announced a private members bill entitled the Intern Protections Act. 

Details were released at a press conference at noon on Parliament Hill. Also in attendance was Matt Furgeson, the brother of Andy Furgeson, who died in a head-on collision in 2011 after working excessive hours as an unpaid intern at a radio station in Alberta, who is supporting the legislation.

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Content of the Intern Protection Act:

The Intern Protection Act will only apply to interns working for federally-regulated organizations, banks, mobile network operators, broadcasters, airlines, and the federal government.

Currently, it is unclear whether federally-regulated interns (whether paid, unpaid, or part of an educational program) are subject to employment standards and workplace protections under the Canada Labour Code.  

The Intern Protection Act would:

1. Extend workplace standards and protections to all unpaid interns 

The Intern Protection Act would extend employment standards and workplace protections to interns (paid and unpaid) that already apply to regular employees. The bill will provide interns with:

  • health and safety protections (right to refuse dangerous work, inclusion in all accident and reporting laws, etc.)
  • reasonable hours of work (maximum 48 hours per week, one full day of rest each week, and 9 statutory holidays)
  • protection from sexual harassment

2. Set clear rules and conditions for the use of any unpaid internship

The Intern Protection Act would set clear rules and conditions around when an unpaid internship is permissible for educational or equivalent training ensuring the intern receives the bulk of the benefit and will make all other unpaid internships illegal.

  • The internship must be educational (post-secondary or equivalent), primarily benefit the intern, and not replace paid employees
  • Employers must notify the intern of the terms of the internship including duration, hours, type of activities, and that they will not be paid, and keep records of the hours worked

Canadian Intern Association reaction:

The Canadian Intern Association would like to commend and congratulate MPs Laurin Liu and Andrew Cash on their initiative in putting together this bill.

In March I appeared as a witness before the House of Commons Finance Committee and am very please that our recommendations are being realized through this bill.

The Intern Protection Act is a huge step forward for protecting interns’ rights federally and will hopefully encourage the provinces to continue to make improvements. Over the past two years the interns’ rights movement has grown around the world and I am very pleased to see action happening at the federal level in Canada.

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Media coverage:

For comments, please contact Claire Seaborn at 647 528 2348 or claire@internassociation.ca.


Walrus Magazine interns to be paid

Walrus Magazine is on our Wall of Fame today since it announced they would be offering a paid internship program. This news follows the Ontario Ministry of Labour crackdown on unpaid internships that led Toronto Life and Walrus Magazine to end their illegal internship programs.

The Walrus reportedly acquired external funding from the Chawkers Foundation to bring three of its former unpaid interns back with pay. We would like to congradulate the Walrus and encourage other magazines to use their resources to offer paid internships as well!



On the magazine internship crackdowns & a response to Coyne

If you are reading this you probably know that last week the Ontario Ministry of Labour has cracked down on internships in the magazine industry (more here).

I have been doing a lot of interviews on the Canadian Intern Association’s response to the crackdowns, so I thought I would put my comments all in one place.

1. The crackdowns were no surprise to us. On July 21, 2013 I sent an email to then Labour Minister Naqvi’s policy advisor requesting that Ontario’s employment laws be enforced against several unpaid internships. I attached 15 unpaid internship advertisements, including ones for Toronto Life magazine. Indeed, we have been lobbying for proactive enforcement for almost two years and are very pleased that the Ministry of Labour has taken action. We were not the only ones to bring the magazine industry internships to the Ministry of Labour’s attention, but we hope we helped.

2. The Ministry of Labour did not “shut down” any internship programs. Magazine industry and media responses to the crackdowns often state that the Ministry of Labour “shut down” the magazine internship programs. This is misrepresentative and misleading. Toronto Life and the Walrus have been told they must pay their interns at least the minimum wage OR partner with an educational institution if they want to keep their interns unpaid. The magazine companies should always have been aware of these basic employment laws. They made their own decision to end their internship programs.

3. We are glad other magazines have followed suit. This morning the Rogers-owned publications announced they will be modifying their internship programs to comply with employment laws (read here). Again, media has portrayed this as a “shut down” when in fact they have kept all unpaid interns who are doing their internships for course credit.

4. Employers should not be allowed to “pay in experience.” This comment is a direct response to an article by Andrew Coyne: “Government crackdown on unpaid internships hurt interns the most” where he wrote:

They’re called “unpaid” but they’re not, really: they pay in experience. The same is true of paid internships: whatever nominal amount they pay in cash is dwarfed by the experience they provide. No one puts a gun to the head of the people, most of them quite young, who take these positions. They do so because what they get out of it is worth what they put in — worth it to them, that is. It is an entirely subjective, personal valuation.

They’d obviously prefer to be paid, just as people in paying jobs would prefer to be paid more. But as that option is currently unavailable to them, they choose to work as interns.

Based on this statement, Coyne does not believe minimum wage should exist. Interns at Toronto Life and the Walrus did much of the same work as employees and they are entitled to compensation. If those interns really were just learning, again, the employers could easily partner with a journalism school and develop a truly educational program. The entire unpaid internship concept raises serious questions about why Canada’s businesses refuse to invest in young workers.

Additionally, the “no one put a gun to their head” argument makes no sense in time of high youth unemployment and a hard to access job market. Sure the interns signed up for it, but in employment law nobody can agree to be paid less than minimum wage. Furthermore, unpaid internships have become essentially the only way to access certain industries, including journalism and publishing. Coyne completely ignores that people without the connections or finances to do unpaid internships have become blocked from entering entire professions.

Finally, Coyne explains that the programs are “oversubscribed” and therefore the interns are not being exploited. He states that “The government claims to have been acting “on a complaint,” but it sure didn’t come from the interns.” The burden certainly should not be on interns to enforce employment laws. We have received dozens of e-mails from interns who would like to speak about but do not want to risk tarnishing their reputation. The Ministry of Labour must act on anonymous complaints if it is going to appropriately respond to the power imbalance that exists between interns, employers, and law enforcement.

If you liked this, read the story of one unpaid intern with the Toronto Star and check out this opinion piece featured by the Canadian Journalism Project.




We are fighting Bell Media and need your help

Have you done an internship with Bell Media? Do you know someone who has? We are calling on all former and present Bell interns to e-mail us at info@internassociation.ca.

You can ask to remain anonymous or tell us who you are. We want to know about your experience as an intern at Bell, including (but not limited to) those who have done the Bell Professional Management Program.

We need help from interns for a case against Bell Media.

Jainna Patel was an unpaid intern with the Bell Professional Management Program. She eventually left the program because she felt the interns were replacing paid staff members and entitled to at least the minimum wage for their work. Patel filed a complaint with the Canada Labour Program. After conducting an investigation, the inspector Liela Handanovic rejected the complaint and found that Bell was not required to pay her wages.

Patel has appealed the decision and Dewart Gleason LLP has agreed to take the case on pro bono. This summer a Referee Hearing will take place to determine whether Patel was entitled to wages and whether Bell Media is required to pay their interns.

To learn more about Patel’s case, see: