Panel Discussion at Wilfred Laurier University

Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion at Wilfred Laurier University entitled: Getting a Foot in the Door? Debating Unpaid Internships. I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to Greig de Peuter for organizing this event and to the Council for the Intellectual and Cultural Development of the Arts at Wilfrid Laurier University for funding it.

It was fantastic to see such a great turn out from students, academics, and university administration! The other panel members, Andrew Langille, Jainna Patel, and Agata Zieba, did a great job explaining many aspects of issues surrounding unpaid internships.

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MPP Jonah Schein introduces Private Members Bill

Ontario MPP Jonah Schein is at Queen’s Park today at a press conference introducing his Private Members Bill on internships. Also in attendance is employment lawyer Andrew Langille and Canadian Intern Association Executive Team member Kyle Iannuzzi.

Although we do not have all the details yet, this bill 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

The creation of this Bill is very exciting news for the interns rights movement. It is the first of its kind in North America and will hopefully set a positive example for other jurisdictions. It is clear law reform is required when it comes to internships in Canada and we would like to commend Jonah Schein for his initiative with this Bill.

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Here are links to some media coverage of the Bill:

UVic Masters Students Research Unpaid Internships

Isabelle Couture and James Attfield approached the Canadian Intern Association in March 2013 with an idea: to research and write their masters thesis on unpaid internships. Couture and Attfield are both University of Victoria students in the Master’s of Public Public Administration program. Over the past year, we have worked with these students as they developed the Canadian Internship Survey and conducted interviews with interns across Ontario.

Now Couture and Attfield are preparing to release the findings of their study. I am absolutely thrilled that Canadian media has picked up on the importance of issues surrounding internships. An article released Sunday written by Lee-Anne Goodman from The Canadian Press has been reprinted by news sources across Canada:

Stay tuned for the results of Couture and Attfield’s research!

10 internship advertisements from Rugby Canada

Attention rugby-lovers! We have got Rugby Canada on our Wall of Shame after they posted advertisements for TEN internships in Langford, British Columbia and Richmond Hill, Ontario.

For all of these positions the compensation is listed as “performance based honorarium awarded at the end of internship term.” In other words, these are unpaid internships and nothing in the job description indicates that they are part of a co-op or other educational programs. If you familiar with our What’s the Law? page you will know that these internships are certainly illegal in British Columbia, and almost certainly illegal in Ontario.

Click here for the .PDF files of all 10 internships:

It is hard to know where to begin with these job descriptions. Let’s start with the fact that they are clearly JOB descriptions and include exactly the kinds of responsibilities that one would expect of a full-time staff member. Here are some examples:

  • “Sourcing out various vendors/suppliers”
  • “Manage online coaching & match official programs”
  • “Assist with creation and execution of a volunteer recruitment and training program”
  • “Event Administrative Support, including…track expenses against the event budget, and accounts payable and receivable for the event”
  • “Produce post event sponsor reports”
  • “Ensure timely preparation (pick and pack) and delivery of all Rugby Canada Online Store purchases”
  • “Maintain up to date ticket customer records in a central database for each event”
  • “Applicants should have a valid diver’s licence”

Shame on you Rugby Canada. All we ask is that you pay these interns at least the minimum wage in British Columbia and Ontario. An undefined honorarium payable at the end of the internship based on performance is not adequate compensation.

Our 2014 Ontario Budget Submission

The Ontario government is holding Pre-Budget Consultations for the 2014 provincial budget. The Canadian Intern Association has prepared a submission with suggestions on what the Ministry of Labour could be doing to tackle issues surrounding unpaid internships. Download the PDF here.

If you would like to get involved, join us at the Rally to Stop Unpaid Internship Scams in Toronto this Wednesday, February 26 from 2:30-3:30PM. More details here.

To get an idea of what you will find in our submission, I have copied the overview section below:

The Canadian Intern Association requests that the 2014 budget address the proliferation of unpaid internships in Ontario. Unpaid internships are problematic for three reasons:

  1. Unemployment – Unpaid internships contribute to youth unemployment and drive down wages. In 2013, 16-17% of Ontarians aged 15-24 were unemployed. This rate is notably higher than the Canadian average of 13.5 to 14.5%.
  2. Inequality – Unpaid internships facilitate socioeconomic and intergenerational inequality. Those without the economic means or connections to perform unpaid work are becoming barred from entering a variety of professions. Furthermore, internships are replacing paid entry-level jobs and making it difficult for young Canadians to gain meaningful work experience.
  3. Illegality – An estimated 100,000 to 250,000 unpaid internships take place annually in Ontario. Between 50,000 to 100,000 of those internships are legal since they are part of a formal educational program. However, the remaining 75,000 to 150,000 internships do not comply with the Employment Standards Act and illegally deprive interns of their right to minimum wage.

To address issues surrounding unpaid internships in Ontario, our submission provides three recommendations for the Ministry of Labour:

  1. Improve enforcement of Ontario’s current laws related to internships
  2. Create an expert committee to facilitate data collection and public education regarding internships
  3. Perform a comprehensive review of employment standards exclusions permitting unpaid internships

These recommendations are made in an effort to enforce and improve the legal framework for internships while raising public awareness about employer obligations and interns’ rights.

Some other groups have also prepared submissions addressing unpaid internships: