Van Fringe Festival, the jig is up

The Vancouver International Fringe Festival is hiring a unpaid intern under the title of “Communications Coordinator.” Since this position is not part of a “formal education process,” it falls within the meaning of “internship” in the British Columbia Employment Standards ActTherefore, it seems based on this job description that this intern is entitled to minimum wage ($10.25 per hour in BC).

Legalities aside, how is someone supposed to work unpaid in Vancouver for almsot 5 months? Working in the arts is hard enough as it is. I don’t doubt that this position would be a great experience, but surely this intern is at least entitled to minimum wage. Some of the responsibilities include “coordinating social media,” “editing content written by Fringe staff,” and “preparing and delivering a final report.” Check out the full advertisement here:

We have already written about employment laws surrounding unpaid internships in British Columbia in our article on HootSuite. HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes responded directly to complains and now the company is complying with employment laws (see details here). The Canadian Intern Association is calling on the Vancouver Fringe Festival to pay their interns!

For more information on internships in British Columbia check out this article by employment lawyer Andrew Langille and the Ministry of Labour’s Interpretation Guidelines Manual.


One graphic designer says unpaid internships are wrong

Mark Busse is a graphic designer based in Vancouver and he opposes unpaid internships.

Design Edge and The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada Blog posted an article he wrote called: “Unpaid Internships are harming the design industry – and they’re illegal.”’re-illegal-.pdf

Mark makes a ton of great points in this article and we fully support him. He emphasizes how unpaid internships contribute to class divides and put too heavy a burden on the intern to make a change.

Most unfair is that young designers likely aren’t strong enough to take a stand. Nor should they be. The “If you don’t like it, don’t accept the internship” argument puts the onus on them, and that is cruel.

He also explains the fact that the majority of unpaid internships are illegal under British Columbia’s employment laws. There are still far too many employers that are either wilfully blind or unaware that their internships are illegal and we would like to thank Mark for raising awareness on this issue. And thanks for mentioning the Canadian Intern Association too!

To read more about British Columbia’s employment laws surrounding internships visit check out this article by employment lawyer Andrew Langille and the BC Ministry of Labour Interpretation Guides Manual.


A cry against 10 unpaid internships advertised by WIND Mobile

Here we go again. Another well-known Canadian company seeks unpaid interns and the advertisement clearly shows the position would violate employment laws. WIND Mobile has posted TEN positions (see below) all of which state they are seeking an “Unpaid Summer Intern to join our Toronto [or Mississauga] Office.” Here are all the internship positions (the links are to PDF versions of WIND Mobile’s advertisements that I have saved onto our site in case they are taken down):

WIND Mobile is sitting on our Name & Shame Wall for a number of reasons:

  • These jobs are disguised as internships and breaking the law. They are unlikely to meet the criteria for an exemption under s. 1(2) of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (read more here) and the interns would also be considered an employee under the federal Canada Labour Code (read more here). It appears these interns would be entitled to Ontario’s minimum wage of $10.25 an hour.
  • The nature of the work is highly skilled creating a further entitlement for paySome examples of work requirement in the advertisements: “system and hardware troubleshooting,” “handle unlock codes request,” “develop and Accessory Deck for each device,” “recruitment / job fair coordination,” “day to day HR admin support.” Many of the postings have certain educational requirements such as “Bachelors Degree,” “University degree or college diploma in HR,” “Bachelors Degree in Science or Engineering,” and “University or College Diploma in Marketing, Communications, or Business.”
  • These interns are replacing what should be paid positions. Although the advertisements mainly state “part-time” and no hours are listed, it is clear from the roles and responsibilities that these interns are doing work that is necessary for the functioning of the company and taking away a paid position.

The Canadian Intern Association is calling on WIND Mobile to comply with Canada’s employment laws and pay the interns who fill these positions at least the minimum wage. We also want to remind WIND Mobile that this is not only a legal issue, but a corporate social responsibility issue since providing only unpaid positions prevents those people who cannot afford the internship for joining your company. These internships are also contributing to currently high youth unemployment rates and making it difficult for students to pay back large student loans with a summer job.

We hope to bring these issues to WIND Mobile’s attention and we would appreciate help from anyone that can help us do that!

– Claire Seaborn

Also, take a look at’s post “Why Can’t WIND Mobile Pay Their Interns?” It explains that as a federally regulated company, WIND Mobile’s internships are prohibited under the Canada Labour Code:

Under “Hours of Work – 802-1-IPG-002“, a policy directive published by Federal Department of Labour, it states that training scheme of longer durations where a person is performing aspects of a job a de-facto employment relationship develops and the person must be compensated for the hours that they work. Legalities aside, posting multiple unpaid internships like this reeks of exploitation by a corporate giant that could easily pay the minimum wage.

FYI, here is the job search page that shows all the internship postings:

Why unpaid internships are a gendered issue

The following article was posted on the Babes on Bay Street blog by Janet Graham. Babes on Bay Street is an online community that offers support and inspiration to women (and men) who work in the financial services industry in particular and the corporate world in general.

As a female university student in my early 20s, I fall into the demographic most likely to have done an unpaid internship. In fact, I have done two unpaid internships. Many of my female friends and classmates have done at least one unpaid internship as well.

Dr Phil Gardner’s survey of over 25,000 American undergraduate students found that 77% of unpaid interns were women (click here for the full report). Unpaid internships in the United States are far more prevalent for certain academic majors, such as education, social sciences, health sciences, community, and arts and humanities, which have higher proportions of female students.

There is reason to believe the situation is similar in Canada. Although statistics on unpaid internships in Canada do not exist,  lawyer Andrew Langille estimates up to 300,000 unpaid internships exist in the private sector. In Canada, unpaid internships are most common in industries that have predominantly female workers, such as journalism, marketing, and the fine arts. Perhaps, employers are less likely to see women as valuable enough to be paid and women are less likely to ask for a paid position.

Recent articles in Dissent MagazineJezebel, and The Economic Policy Institute Blog are the beginning of a discussion about unpaid internships as a gendered issue. A provocative title – “Are interns the new housewives?” – caught my attention. In an article for The Atlantic, Phoebe Maltz Bovy wrote: “that subconscious belief – that young, middle-class-seeming women are somehow automatically taken care of financially – has persisted to this day, and I believe it’s this assumption that prevents even otherwise progressive sorts from taking action to prevent the rise of the unpaid internship.” 

The impact of unpaid internships on women is just one reason why I founded theCanadian Intern Association. We advocate against the exploitation of unpaid interns and aim to improve the internship experience for both interns and employers. Unpaid internships are typically against the law in Ontario and their regulation varies from province to province. This spring I will finish my second year of law school at the University of Ottawa. I hope to use my knowledge and networks to fight against yet another barrier women face in the job market.

– Claire Seaborn

Click here to view the article and Janet Graham’s comments on the Babes on Bay Street blog.