Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (June 2015)
The Canadian government has announced plans to protect unpaid interns from dangerous work scenarios.
In its Economic Action Plan, released on April 21, 2015, the Conservatives said they would amend the Canadian Labour Code to ensure that interns under federal jurisdiction are subject to basic safety standards. The budget also promises to clarify the circumstances under which unpaid internships can be offered.
“Internships can provide important workplace-based learning experiences and support youth in making a successful transition from school to work,” the action plan states. “However, many Canadians are concerned about the potential for abuse and lack of protections offered to unpaid interns.”
The government has also committed to strengthening compliance with the Canadian Labour code by hiring 10 new health and safety officers, bringing the number of officers across the country to 100. Additionally, it plans to amend the Government Employees Compensation Act to simplify and accelerate claims processing and clarify coverage, so that ill or injured employees receive compensation and return to work in a safe and timely manner.
The Canadian Alliance of Students Association (CASA) welcomed the new protections for interns, saying that it is pleased that $419 million will be allocated Canada Student Loan and Canada Student Grant Programs over four years. “Young Canadians and students have been waiting a long time for this type of investment,” CASA executive director Jonathan Champagne said in a statement.
Career Edge Organization, a group that presented briefs to the Standing Committee on Finance on the topics of youth employment last year, also applauded the announcement. “This inclusion of an intern protections in the budget is also being celebrated by all those who have supported the Intern Protection Act (Bill C-636), which is scheduled for voting tonight,” Communications coordinator Sydney Helland wrote on the Career Edge blog on April 22, 2015.
But the Conservatives’ announcement was met with cool reception from the federal opposition, which has introduced a private number’s bill to amend legislation as it relates to interns. Federal NDP Member of Parliament (MP) Laurin Liu (Riviere-des-Mille-Iles) first proposed the Intern Protection Act, the Conservative Party defeated the motion when it came to a vote on April 22, 2015. In a statement issued earlier that day before the Bill’s defeat, NDP MP Andrew Cash, (Davenport) suggested that the budget proposal had been copied and pasted from the text of the NDP Bill that was already before the House.
The bill C-636 was defeated at second reading by the Conservatives.
Never changes, employer protection instead of worker/intern protection. Everyone knows that federal safety laws have little or no teeth, and like the province of Alberta, the federal government makes little effort to enforce section 217.1 of the Canada Criminal Code. It states,
“Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”
Provinces such as Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland are very dedicated to worker protection and have a good track record in that regard.
We still have a long way to go, however. Everyone needs to contact your local MP and create a dialogue with the MP about improving health and safety on the worksites near you.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – “In Canada, ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.