Internships, Youth Unemployment, and the 2015 Federal Election: An Analysis of the Parties’ Positions

The Canadian Intern Association is a not-for-profit organization that advocates for the workplace rights of interns and young workers. In advance of the October 19, 2015 general election, we developed a questionnaire around issues related to unpaid internships, law reform to the federal labour code, and active labour market programs to support youth employment. We received responses from all of the major political parties with the exception of the Conservative Party of Canada. An analysis of the parties’ responses is provided below and the entirety of the actual responses is available for download here. The analysis is divided between the national parties and parties predominately running candidates in Quebec.

As a strictly non-partisan organization, we have engaged directly with the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada (“the LPC”), the New Democratic Party (“the NDP”), and the Conservative Party of Canada (“the CPC”) over the past three years to promote greater workplace protections for interns.  The analysis here is solely based on the responses we received from the parties. No other sources we consulted. Andrew Langille, the Canadian Intern Association’s General Counsel, who does not hold membership in any political party, prepared the analysis.

The Canadian Intern Association urges everyone to engage in the political process surrounding the Federal election. Information about registering to vote can be obtained from the Elections Canada website or by calling 1-866-463-6868. If you have specific questions arising out of our analysis we encourage you to speak directly with candidates in your riding to understand their positions and make an informed choice. The election in on October 19, 2015, and there will be advance polls taking place in the next week. We strongly encourage everyone to vote.

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Canadian Intern Association Submits Its Recommendations to Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review

Last week, the Canadian Intern Association submitted its recommendations to the Changing Workplaces Review, the Ontario government’s ongoing review of labour and employment law.

The Canadian Intern Association’s submissions call for the Ontario government to amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) and the Labour Relations Act (the “LRA”) to provide greater protections for interns and students. Highlights include the following recommendations:

  • Repeal section 1(2) of the ESA and require employers to pay all interns who are not performing their internship as a part of a placement approved by a secondary school board, college of applied arts and technology or a university;
  • Repeal the exemption in O. Reg. 285/01 that excludes students in training for certain professions from key protections under the ESA;
  • Repeal the full-scale exclusion from the ESA for students in experiential learning placements approved by a secondary school board, college of applied arts and technology or a university presently contained in section 3(5) of the ESA. Enact new provisions applying the six-part test presently contained in section 1(2) of the ESA to these positions. Hold secondary school boards, colleges of applied arts and technology and universities to a duty to ensure compliance with these provisions;
  • Enact a statutory definition of volunteer and take other measures to curb volunteer misclassification;
  • Allow for anonymous and third party complaints under the ESA;
  • Expand the use of proactive enforcement under the ESA; and
  • Amend the LRA to provide broader protection for collective action undertaken by interns and other non-unionized employees.

“It’s time we protect the vulnerability of students and interns by bridging the gaps that have allowed them to be exploited for far too long,” said Schenella Pinto, the Canadian Intern Association’s Director of Research.

“The submissions from the Canadian Intern Association shine a light on how young workers, students, and interns continue to be exploited by employers in Ontario,” added General Counsel Andrew Langille, “Law reform to modernize the rules around internships and to promote paid work is incredibly important.”

The Canadian Intern Association’s full recommendations are available online below.

Canadian Intern Association Submissions to the Changing Workplaces Review.

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,


NDP Petition to Protect Unpaid Interns

The NDP have come out with a petition in support of Bill C-636 that would amend federal legislation to provide better protections for interns working for federally regulated organizations.

sign the petition by clicking here

We, the undersigned residents of Canada, recognize the following:

  • Youth unemployment in Canada is close to double the national average.
  • Some companies are replacing entry-level paid positions with unpaid internships.
  • Estimates suggest there are between 100,000 and 300,000 unpaid internships in Canada.
  • Under federal law, unpaid interns have no protections and are at risk of being exploited or abused.

THEREFORE we call upon Members of Parliament to support Bill C-636 The Intern Protection Act, which will extend workplace protections to all interns (paid or unpaid) under the federal labour code and set clear rules on the use of internships to prevent the exploitation of young Canadians.


Under current federal law, many interns lack basic health and safety protections and have no limits on the numbers of hours they can be forced to work.

That’s why the NDP has introduced the Intern Protection Act.

The bill will extend health and safety protections to all interns, like the right to refuse dangerous work and freedom from sexual harassment and basic employment standards including right to time off and holidays.

Additionally the Intern Protection Act will introduce clear rules that will limit the use of unpaid internships and prevent the exploitation of young Canadians.

Students are graduating university with massive debts loads only to enter a job market where youth unemployment is nearly double the national rate. They deserve real action from the federal government to stop the ongoing misuse and abuse.

Tom Mulcair’s NDP is the only party pushing for tougher laws regulating unpaid internships.

Co-Op Student’s Death Highlights Gaps in Workplace Protections for Young Workers


September 29, 2014

Co-Op Student’s Death Highlights Gaps in Workplace Protections for Young Workers

Toronto – Last Friday, high school co-op student Adam Keunen died in a workplace accident in West Lincoln, Ontario. This is the third death of a student engaged in a workplace training program in Ontario over the past ten months. Members of the Canadian Intern Association and Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of these young workers. We also urge that every action be taken to ensure that tragedies like this are not repeated.

Over the past decade work-integrated learning has emerged as a key part of Ontario’s secondary and post-secondary education system. Currently, students engaged in unpaid work-integrated learning programs are not covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) or the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). Additionally, students only receive protection under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) under certain conditions.

These exclusions have real implications. As Amanda Moore reported in the Grimsby Lincoln News, the exclusion of co-op students from OHSA meant that it was the Niagara Regional Police that led the investigation into the workplace accident, rather than the Ministry of Labour, who normally investigates such incidents.

To close these loopholes, the Canadian Intern Association and Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams call upon the Ontario government to bring co-op students and interns under OHSA by passing Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn’s Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, and to grant them other basic workplace protections under the ESA by passing MPP Peggy Sattler’s Greater Protection for Interns and Vulnerable Workers Act.

More broadly, these tragic incidents necessitate that the Ontario government undertake a fulsome review of co-ops, academic internships and experiential learning programs to ensure the safety and well being of students and young workers is being protected. This type of review is not without precedence in Canada as the Government of Alberta launched a similar review in the wake of death of Andy Ferguson, who died while completing an academic internship at a radio station.

In the weeks ahead, both the Canadian Intern Association and Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams will be putting forward solutions that can improve workplace safety for students and give them critical protections while engaged in the school to work transition.

Download the PDF of this press release by clicking here

Media Contacts:

Claire Seaborn, Canadian Intern Association:
(647) 528-2348,

Josh Mandryk, Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams:
(416) 576-1514,

Media coverage: