Ontario bill introduced that would protect unpaid interns

Today a press conference introduced MPP Peggy Stattler’s Bill 22, Employment Standards Amendment Act (Greater Protection for Interns and Vulnerable Workers), 2014.

The bill was first introduced by Davenport MPP Jonah Schein last March (details here), but unfortunately was not reelected in the most recent Ontario election. The Canadian Intern Association is very pleased that MPP Peggy Stattler has chosen to re-introduce the bill, which 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

Peggy Stattler is the MPP for London West and NDP Critic for Training, Colleges & Universities and Research & Innovation. Also in attendance at the press conference is Andrew Langille (www.youthandwork.ca) and Joshua Mandryk (www.payyourinterns.ca).

Watch the full press conference here:

On the magazine internship crackdowns & a response to Coyne

If you are reading this you probably know that last week the Ontario Ministry of Labour has cracked down on internships in the magazine industry (more here).

I have been doing a lot of interviews on the Canadian Intern Association’s response to the crackdowns, so I thought I would put my comments all in one place.

1. The crackdowns were no surprise to us. On July 21, 2013 I sent an email to then Labour Minister Naqvi’s policy advisor requesting that Ontario’s employment laws be enforced against several unpaid internships. I attached 15 unpaid internship advertisements, including ones for Toronto Life magazine. Indeed, we have been lobbying for proactive enforcement for almost two years and are very pleased that the Ministry of Labour has taken action. We were not the only ones to bring the magazine industry internships to the Ministry of Labour’s attention, but we hope we helped.

2. The Ministry of Labour did not “shut down” any internship programs. Magazine industry and media responses to the crackdowns often state that the Ministry of Labour “shut down” the magazine internship programs. This is misrepresentative and misleading. Toronto Life and the Walrus have been told they must pay their interns at least the minimum wage OR partner with an educational institution if they want to keep their interns unpaid. The magazine companies should always have been aware of these basic employment laws. They made their own decision to end their internship programs.

3. We are glad other magazines have followed suit. This morning the Rogers-owned publications announced they will be modifying their internship programs to comply with employment laws (read here). Again, media has portrayed this as a “shut down” when in fact they have kept all unpaid interns who are doing their internships for course credit.

4. Employers should not be allowed to “pay in experience.” This comment is a direct response to an article by Andrew Coyne: “Government crackdown on unpaid internships hurt interns the most” where he wrote:

They’re called “unpaid” but they’re not, really: they pay in experience. The same is true of paid internships: whatever nominal amount they pay in cash is dwarfed by the experience they provide. No one puts a gun to the head of the people, most of them quite young, who take these positions. They do so because what they get out of it is worth what they put in — worth it to them, that is. It is an entirely subjective, personal valuation.

They’d obviously prefer to be paid, just as people in paying jobs would prefer to be paid more. But as that option is currently unavailable to them, they choose to work as interns.

Based on this statement, Coyne does not believe minimum wage should exist. Interns at Toronto Life and the Walrus did much of the same work as employees and they are entitled to compensation. If those interns really were just learning, again, the employers could easily partner with a journalism school and develop a truly educational program. The entire unpaid internship concept raises serious questions about why Canada’s businesses refuse to invest in young workers.

Additionally, the “no one put a gun to their head” argument makes no sense in time of high youth unemployment and a hard to access job market. Sure the interns signed up for it, but in employment law nobody can agree to be paid less than minimum wage. Furthermore, unpaid internships have become essentially the only way to access certain industries, including journalism and publishing. Coyne completely ignores that people without the connections or finances to do unpaid internships have become blocked from entering entire professions.

Finally, Coyne explains that the programs are “oversubscribed” and therefore the interns are not being exploited. He states that “The government claims to have been acting “on a complaint,” but it sure didn’t come from the interns.” The burden certainly should not be on interns to enforce employment laws. We have received dozens of e-mails from interns who would like to speak about but do not want to risk tarnishing their reputation. The Ministry of Labour must act on anonymous complaints if it is going to appropriately respond to the power imbalance that exists between interns, employers, and law enforcement.

If you liked this, read the story of one unpaid intern with the Toronto Star and check out this opinion piece featured by the Canadian Journalism Project.




Ontario Ministry of Labour Cracks Down On Unpaid Internships at Two Canadian Magazines

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has begun a crack down on unpaid internships in magazines, beginning with two high-profile Canadian publications – the Walrus and Toronto Life. Following numerous complaints about unfair labour practices and resultantly a visit by a ministry inspector, the magazines have been told to immediately end their internship programs.

Effective Monday, Toronto Life will have to let go of (or pay) five interns, who are not in school and thus, do not meet Ontario’s employment standards for unpaid work. Going forward, both publications will be expected to pay interns who are not receiving school credit for their work, or not have them around at all.

It has been revealed that this crackdown is just the beginning of an anticipated blitz, which will have every ministry inspector targeting magazines in Ontario – one of many areas that has relied heavily on unpaid internship programs.

The Canadian Intern Association would like to applaud former Minister of Labour, the Honourable Yasir Naqvi, for spearheading this much needed enforcement in Ontario. We strongly encourage other provinces and territories to follow suit to stop the misclassification and exploitation of interns.

Additional reading on the Ministry of Labour’s crackdown can be found at the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Canada.com, Canadian Business and Canadian Magazines.


We are fighting Bell Media and need your help

Have you done an internship with Bell Media? Do you know someone who has? We are calling on all former and present Bell interns to e-mail us at info@internassociation.ca.

You can ask to remain anonymous or tell us who you are. We want to know about your experience as an intern at Bell, including (but not limited to) those who have done the Bell Professional Management Program.

We need help from interns for a case against Bell Media.

Jainna Patel was an unpaid intern with the Bell Professional Management Program. She eventually left the program because she felt the interns were replacing paid staff members and entitled to at least the minimum wage for their work. Patel filed a complaint with the Canada Labour Program. After conducting an investigation, the inspector Liela Handanovic rejected the complaint and found that Bell was not required to pay her wages.

Patel has appealed the decision and Dewart Gleason LLP has agreed to take the case on pro bono. This summer a Referee Hearing will take place to determine whether Patel was entitled to wages and whether Bell Media is required to pay their interns.

To learn more about Patel’s case, see:

Ontario Labour Minister Tables Bill To Protect Precarious Workers, Including Unpaid Interns

Today Ontario Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi tabled the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013 (full document at the end of this post), which amends five statutes relating to employment and labour relations and will protect precarious workers, including unpaid interns.

Under the proposed legislation, new protections are afforded to high school, university, college and co-op students, and interns (trainees), and amend current stipulations regarding filing claims for unpaid wages. We’ve broken down what the new labour legislation would mean for young people who find themselves in any of these forms of precarious employment below.

Listen to Claire Seaborn discuss the bill on News Radio 919 McLean in the Morning:


  • Schedule 4.1.1 – 4.1.5 of the proposed legislation, broadens the definition of ‘worker’ to include co-op, high school and university/college students, as well as unpaid interns.
  • By broadening the definition of ‘worker’ in this way, employers would be responsible and held to account for their employees under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. More importantly, these young people would have equal protections under the act as other workers.


  • Schedule 2.6.1 – 2.6.4 of the proposed legislation would increase the current time limit allowed to file a complaint to the Ministry of Labour for unpaid wages from 6 months to 2 years.
  • With more time provided to file a claim, unpaid interns also have more time to collect necessary documentation for claim submission, and seek advice if necessary.
  • Under Schedule 2.5.4 of the proposed legislation, Section 103 of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 would be amended to remove the $10,000 maximum cap on unpaid wages.
  • By removing the cap on unpaid wages, this would create a clearer route for claimants who are entitled to minimum wage to receive the total amount owed.


  • Finally, it is likely that this new legislation will come with additional resources to enforce existing employment laws, and hopefully transition towards a proactive approach of holding employers accountable and maintaining young workers’ rights.

We here are the Canadian Intern Association are ecstatic that the Ontario government is taking action and responding to the plight of young workers and unpaid interns in the province. This is a HUGE victory for our movement in Ontario and we thank all those who have joined us in lobbying the government and those who have kept the conversation going. We hope to see other provinces and territories follow this example and take similar efforts to change their employment laws.

Check out the full document – Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2013