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.


Here are links to some media coverage of the Bill:

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:

Statistics Canada “best potential agency” to collect data on internships

In response to a research request from the office of Member of Parliament Scott Brison, the Library of Parliament has produced a brief report on unpaid internships:

I would like to thank Scott Brison and his staff for meeting with me and allowing us to make this information public.

At the crux of this report is the lack of statistics available on internships in Canada. The Canadian Intern Association would like to call on the Government of Canada to have Statistics Canada include internships in the federal census. Employment Lawyer Andrew Langille estimates there are 300,000 illegal unpaid internships across the country. Including internships on the census would verify this estimate and provide much needed data on the prevalence of unpaid internships in certain industries, regions, and classes of people.

Contact us if you want to help get internships on the next Canadian census!

– Claire Seaborn

U of T Students write letter to Ontario Labour Minister Naqvi

The University of Toronto Student’s Union has written a letter to Ontario’s Minister of Labour Yasir Naqvi calling for an end to the practice of unpaid internships in Ontario.

We would like to call on university student unions across Canada to write to their provincial Minister of Labour on the regulation of unpaid internships!

There are tons of great points in U of T’s letter, including:

  • There are an estimated 300,000 illegal unpaid internships across Canada
  • Most interns are entitled to minimum wage and other entitlements under employment standards laws
  • Unpaid internships are much more prevalent in certain industries and programs, and have a disproportionate impact on women
  • Youth unemployment and student debt are exacerbated by unpaid training and internships

Click here to view the letter on the University of Toronto Student’s Union website


Ontario Ministry of Labour improves webpage on the legality of unpaid internships

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has responded to a complaint from the Canadian Intern Association! It now provides useful information about the legality of unpaid internships on their website. The Ministry of Labour emphasizes that in many cases interns can be considered employees for the purpose of the Ontario Employment Standards Act. 

This is a real improvement from earlier versions of the webpage, that misled readers into thinking that unpaid internships were generally legal and provides few tools for recourse. One line from the earlier version read: “There are no regulations pertaining to unpaid internships. The Employment Standards Act regulates paid employment relationship between employers and employees.”

We encourage our readers to check out the Ministry of Labour’s webpage as well as the “What is the law?” section of this website. Find out if your internship is against the law!