Today we post the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada on our Wall of Shame for their advertised Marine Teens program. A Marine Teen is a person ages 15-18 who works for two weeks during the summer and additional days during March Break at the aquarium’s day camp for children. Marine Teens are not paid, and instead are labelled “volunteers” with time counting towards their 40 required Ontario Secondary School community service hours.
The Marine Teens program is legal. Under Ontario employment law, camp counsellors are not entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay, public holidays, or public holiday pay. Although the program is legal, we have put it on our Wall of Shame because we believe Marine Teens should be paid wages for their work. Here are a few reasons:
1. Marine Teens perform real work. The website describes their tasks as follows:
Marine teens act as assistants to Day Camp staff and Aquarium Educators. This may involve: preparing materials for activities; facilitating children’s activities, helping to clean up after activities, assisting with escorting children through the Aquarium and to outdoor areas; providing supervision during breaks. Additionally, Marine Teens will attend approximately 4 meetings per year, and can assist with special events and community events as needed (e.g. Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup).
2. The program is an abuse of the high school community service hours requirement in Ontario as Marine Teens are not volunteering for a charitable cause and would be working well in excess of the 40 hour requirement.
3. By not paying Marine Teens, teenagers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds will be inhibited from gaining this work experience.
When the Marine Teens call for application was posted on the aquarium’s Facebook page, it did not take long for the public to respond condemning the practice of not paying Marine Teens. Here are a few of the public comments:
We are calling on the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada to pay Marine Teens wages for their work! If you agree, let them know by emailing MarineTeens@ripleysaquariumofcanada.com.