Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles with regard to interns in federally regulated workplaces.
My hon. colleague is asserting that unpaid interns are being exploited and left unprotected, in violation of both federal and provincial labour codes.
Many internships are requirements of post-secondary educational programs which, as we know, are in the provincial and territorial jurisdiction. As such, real change can only be accomplished by working together with our provincial and territorial partners.
That is why the hon. Minister of Labour discussed ways to better protect young workers, including interns, at the meetings of the provincial, federal and territorial ministers responsible for labour. That was just this past September. This is not to say that we are unsympathetic with the goal of the member of the opposition, but the federal government cannot go it alone.
I can assure the House that the labour program is carefully examining the Canada Labour Code to ensure that individuals participating in internships in organizations under federal jurisdictions are safe and treated fairly. Our government is studying measures that could address the challenges faced by interns.
What protections exist for unpaid interns?
The Canada Labour Code states that employers must ensure that individuals are informed of and protected from health and safety hazards in the workplace. his includes interns.
While internships are not specifically addressed in the Canada Labour Code's employment standards, if an intern in a federally regulated workplace believes that he or she is entitled to benefits, he or she can file a complaint with the labour program and it will investigate. If labour officials determine that an employer-employee relationship exists, the individual's employment entitlements will be enforced and protected. This includes, among other things, hours of work, wages and vacation.
I share the member opposite's concern for the well-being of these hard-working young people. We can all agree that no one should experience harassment. Employers are responsible for providing a harassment-free environment and to take action when it occurs. Many workplaces have anti-harassment policies, grievance procedures and/or unions. Any intern who believes he or she is being harassed should seek help through appropriate mechanisms to address this. For example, the Canadian Human Rights Commission deals with complaints regarding discrimination and harassment.
We are focused on jobs and growth and the economy. We are relying on young Canadians to help fill critical skills and labour shortages in a number of sectors and regions. That is why we support a number of initiatives to help our young people learn and develop important skills to help them in their future career. This is why earlier this year the Standing Committee on Finance held a number of hearings focused on examining youth employment in Canada.
It is also why economic action plan 2014 is investing $40 million to support up to 3,000 paid internships in high-demand fields. In addition, the youth employment strategy has re-allocated $15 million annually to support up to 1,000 full-time paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates.
Our government will continue to support young Canadians, especially those who are preparing for and those who are currently part of the workforce.