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Federal proposals on unpaid internships ‘galling,’ advocates say

February 09, 2016

Canadian Intern Association withdraws from the federal government’s unpaid internship consultations.

The Toronto Star reports that the Canadian Intern Association has withdrawn from consultations aimed at protecting young workers in internships. The consultations began last spring under the former Conservative government after it amended the Canada Labour Code to permit  federally regulated employers (like banks and telecommunications companies) to “hire” interns for up to 4 (or in some cases 12) months without pay if certain conditions are met.

The Canadian Intern Association opposes all unpaid internships in the federal jurisdiction that are not for academic credit. In its view, the conditions set out in the Code are broad and ambiguous and, based on the experience in other jurisdictions, will likely lead to employee misclassification and abuse of the law.

In its letter to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, the Association notes:

What  is  perhaps  most  galling  about  the  reforms  being implemented  by  the  Canada Labour Program 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. Students and graduates would no longer be entitled to pay for  many  summer  and  entry-level  jobs. Meanwhile  federally  regulated  corporate  giants 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.

As the Star reports, the Association advised the Minister that it no longer sees the value of participating in the consultation process while its main concerns go unheeded.

“We are not interested in haggling over the minutiae of the degrees of exploitation (such as number of sick days) for unpaid workers. In fact, we believe it is reckless for our organization to continue to take part in these discussions,” the letter says.

GP’s Josh Mandryk, who is also the Association’s executive director, told the Star that “the proposals were also at odds with the new Liberal government’s commitments to youth job creation.” “The government needs to immediately halt this process and go back to the drawing board.”


Joshua Mandryk

Practice Areas

Employment Law