The federal government’s 2017 Budget was released in Ottawa on Wednesday, and the Canadian Intern Association is very pleased to see a positive announcement in defense of intern rights. The Budget includes the following:
The Government of Canada has agreed to ban unpaid internships in federally regulated sectors (with the exception of internships which are part of an educational program). The Canadian Intern Association has been lobbying for this amendment to the Canada Labour Code since 2013, and are hopeful that these amendments will finally be adopted.
“These changes mark an important first step to respecting and compensating the work done by young Canadians and new employees”, stated Claire Seaborn, Chair of the Canadian Intern Association Advisory Board. “We are pleased to see that the government has listened to concerns raised by the Canadian Intern Association and so many of our partners who continue to speak out about the rights of young and precarious workers.”
While federal sector unpaid internships make up a small percentage of unpaid internships in Canada (most are provincially regulated), this amendment will prohibit unpaid internships outside of school programs from some of Canada’s largest companies in banking, telecommunications, and transport sectors.
“We consider this to be a positive first step in the regulation of unpaid internships in Canada. It must be remembered that this change, while important, only covers a fraction of workplaces in Canada. Provincial legislation is needed across Canada to address precarious, unpaid labour that far too many Canadian workers are being forced into” stated Joshua Mandryk, Ontario Director of the Canadian Intern Association. The Canadian Intern Association has recently participated in the Ontario government’s Changing Workplaces Review, and hopes to see further protections against unpaid internships reflected there.
The Canadian Intern Association is also committed to fighting for wage protections concerning internships that are part of academic programs.
“We look forward to working with the federal government to implementing the Budget 2017 reforms so that they are meaningful and effective in protecting interns from exploitation” stated Claire Seaborn.
This is not the first time the intern question has emerged in the federal budget. In 2015, the Conservative government proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code around the definition and scope of internships. The proposal remained in the consultation stage until recently, with little progression and only tacit support from the current government. The Canadian Intern Association publicly stepped away from those consultation as the proposed amendments fell far short of expert and public opinion. The Budget 2017 proposal has come a long way in addressing the Canadian Intern Association’s longstanding concerns with respect to the Canada Labour Code.