We’re Making a Know Your Rights Guide for Interns and Young Workers – Can You Help?

As part of our ongoing commitment to public legal education and improving the workplace rights of interns, we’re making a ‘know your rights’ guide for interns and young workers – the Canadian Intern Rights Guide.

The Guide will be a powerful tool for interns to learn, enforce and improve their rights at work, but we need your help to make it a reality.

Can you chip in $25 or more to help with our printing costs? We are committed to ethical sourcing and printing the Guide at a union shop, but we are a not-for-profit with a shoestring budget. We need help from our supporters and allies to make the Guide a reality.

As recognition for your generous support, if you make a donation of $25* or more to the Canadian Intern Association between November 1st and December 31st 2015, we will send you a complementary copy of the Canadian Intern Rights Guide when it’s printed in early 2016!

Better yet – do you know a young worker who could use a copy of the Guide? Simply provide their name and address in the “purpose” section of your Paypal donation of $25* or more, and we’ll send them a complementary copy of the Canadian Intern Rights Guide!

Donate now, and help make the Canadian Intern Rights Guide a reality!


* $25 or more includes shipping within Canada. For shipping outside of Canada, we ask for a minimum donation of $35 to defray the increased shipping costs.

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, claire@internassociation.ca

Josh Mandryk, Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams:
(416) 576-1514, joshua.mandryk@mail.utoronto.ca

Media coverage:


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.