Liberal promise to set strict rules for unpaid interns pushed to 2019

Officials now say it will be fall of 2019 — right when the next federal election is expected

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won’t make good on their vow to crack down on unpaid internships until next year — almost four years after the issue first landed on the federal government’s agenda.

In the 2017 budget, the Liberals promised to eliminate unpaid internships in federally regulated workplaces — the only exception being student placements required as part of a school course. Interns would be treated like regular employees, with the same work hours and under the same safety regulations.

Officials now say it will be fall of 2019 — right when the next federal election is expected — when they unveil the final set of regulations, at which time those groups pushing for an end to unpaid internships will find out when the rules come into force.

Cabinet will have the final say on when the rules come into effect.

“Once the legislation was amended, most people assumed you couldn’t do this anymore,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

“I don’t know why they haven’t put forth the regulations on this because they were very clear. Immediately after they got elected, they acted on it.”

Since coming to office, the Liberals have touted spending aimed at creating more jobs for young people — notably doubling funding for the Canada Summer Jobs program, and putting money into creating internships and apprenticeships — hoping to meet campaign promises that won over many young voters.

NDP jobs critic Niki Ashton accused the Liberals of being “all talk and no action” on an issue of vital importance to young Canadians.

“There’s no excuse for not making a change sooner.”

The previous Conservative government promised changes to labour laws to protect unpaid interns as part of their 2015 budget, but the rules were never implemented.

The Liberals revived the proposal in December 2015, weeks after taking office, and faced opposition to its plan to allow unpaid work for up to four months full-time or up to a year part-time. The Canadian Intern Association dropped out of consultations, students mounted protests and labour groups demanded the whole process be restarted.

When Patty Hajdu became labour minister in early 2017, her mandate letter called for updating labour standards “to address emerging issues such as unpaid internships.”

The government’s second budget bill last year deleted part of the Canada Labour Code that provided an allowance for unpaid internships in certain cases, but left an existing exception for educational placements intact.

The department overseeing the new regulations plans to hold a new round of consultations this fall to coincide with talks about new unpaid leaves for family reasons, traditional Indigenous practices, and victims of family violence.

“While we’re encouraged that the federal government is finally moving forward on addressing unpaid internships within federally regulated employers, we’re also concerned that the timelines are excessive and push any concrete action into 2019 or 2020,” said Andrew Langille, counsel for the Canadian Intern Association.

“The commitment to tackle unpaid internships was made during the 2015 election and one would think four years would be enough time to tackle a straightforward regulatory change.”

Ashton said some schools are avoiding unpaid internships for students. Even so, she said, some young people believe unpaid work is the only way they can get job experience and a foothold in the labour market.

Last week’s latest jobs figures from Statistics Canada showed an 11.7 per cent unemployment rate for workers age 15 to 24 — almost twice the national average of six per cent and up from May’s rate of 11.1 per cent.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Air ambulance called to scene after report of shots fired in Abbotsford

Incident Monday afternoon in the area of Ross and Simpson roads

Surrey Mounties investigate drive-by shooting in Fleetwood

It happened Monday afternoon in the 8000-block of 153A Street. Police say no victim has been located.

VIDEO: North Delta remembers

Hundreds took part in this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony at the North Delta Social Heart Plaza

White Rock RCMP unaffected by Surrey’s choice of police force, city says

Mayor Darryl Walker to meet with RCMP Staff Sgt. Daryl Creighton

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

Touching note left on Lower Mainland veteran’s windshield

A veteran is hoping the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words.

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

Shelter struggles: Landlord takes over rental unit whenever visiting B.C. town

Renter’s story highlights how hard it is to find accommodation in Revelstoke

Most Read