House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was violence.


Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île for her question.

If only it was a one-size-fits-all solution, it would already at least be something. However, the solution that Bill C-12 proposes does not even directly affect the drug addiction problem in our current prison populations. It is quite simply something that already exists and is already being applied by the Parole Board of Canada.

I would even have been happier if we were trying to apply a one-size-fits-all solution to see what the Conservative government would have proposed to really tackle this problem, instead of pretending to addressing the problem and simply telling the Parole Board of Canada that what it is doing is very good and giving the board the opportunity to continue doing the same thing. It is relatively good because the Parole Board of Canada is doing very good work. What is interesting about what was proposed in this bill, and what has already been proposed, is that we are not giving the Parole Board the benefit of the doubt, but rather the choice of whether or not to apply the measures.

At least the Parole Board is not necessarily being required to apply the measures that are presented here, depending on the results of the urinalyses, but they have the possibility of playing with them. It is good that the Parole Board is already doing this. Still, we should not kid ourselves. This is a bill aimed at eradicating drugs in prisons, but nothing here covers that.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to join the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île in congratulating my colleague.

We can see that she is well-versed in this subject and very comfortable with it. She is very thorough. Honestly, I must also say that I very much appreciate her optimism in wanting to co-operate with the government on this bill. There must be a true desire to work together in order to be so positive about this bill, which does not have any real substance but is more about the title and the effect of the first page.

I heard my colleague opposite show utter bad faith when he said that the issue with the title being inappropriate was ruled out of order. That does not make the title an appropriate one. That is the truth. This may have been ruled out of order, but that does not mean that the title is acceptable. It is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, I know the reality of partisan politics, which is to constantly point out what this government has done and the laws it has passed, not to mention this famous drug-free prison act, which is going to work wonders for our prisons.

I am wondering how my colleague can be so optimistic about working with these people when the introduction of this bill once again demonstrates how narrow-minded they are.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, who also speaks very eloquently in the House.

I would like to come back to something mentioned by my colleague on the other side of the House who, like me, is also a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I must say that, as parliamentarians, it is truly a privilege for us to sit in the House, but it is also a privilege to sit on a committee.

Although we do not always agree on everything, there is nevertheless some degree of collegiality. One might expect the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to be extremely rigorous, but we are all human beings. We have extremely different views on some topics, and that is normal. That is the beauty of Parliament.

This brings me to co-operation. I will always believe that co-operation is possible with this government, no matter what bill we are talking about. I will never give up on that. It is my job as a parliamentarian to present my views and those of the experts we try to meet, the people who appear before committees and the people I represent. It is our job as parliamentarians to try to work together. I am trying to play along, and I wish the Conservatives would try it more often.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in resuming debate, I will let her know that there about seven minutes remaining in the time provided for government orders this afternoon. We will get started with her seven minutes, but of course, she will have the remaining time when the House next resumes debate on the question, the remaining 13 minutes or so, to take her up to her full time allocation.

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I would absolutely love to speak for the remaining seven minutes.

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to join this debate on the drug-free prisons act. Let me begin by looking at the scope of the actual problem.

Today we know that upon admission for federal custody, approximately 75% of federal offenders report having engaged in drug or alcohol abuse one year prior to their incarceration. It is clear that tackling drug use and the drug trade in federal prisons can help offender rehabilitation. We actually heard about this at committee. Creating a more positive environment that better encourages positive behavioural change will ensure that prisoners have the opportunity to get the help they need so that they can rejoin society as productive members, often for the first time in their lives. It can also help improve the safety of penitentiaries for both inmates and correctional staff as well as the community as a whole.

Certainly Canada is not alone in facing this particular challenge. Our federal penitentiary system shares the same challenges as other prison systems in addressing drug use and the drug trade. That is why Canada works closely with other jurisdictions to identify and share tools and best practices. These include partners from the correctional front lines, the policing community and research communities, local and federal legislators, and volunteers who actually work in that community.

Taking into consideration the current research and the strategies being employed in prison systems domestically and internationally, our government has moved ahead with an approach to combatting drugs in federal prisons that includes a well balanced mix of treatment and programming, interdiction, offender accountability, and penalties.

Much of the direction for our actions comes from an independent review panel we struck in 2007 to explore ways to improve our federal correctional system and to enhance public safety. Based on the recommendations of that review panel, the Correctional Service of Canada has moved forward with a transformation agenda to help maximize its contributions to public safety over the long term. That progress is rather quite impressive.

The Correctional Service of Canada has implemented many of the recommendations of that review panel, both in terms of addressing the presence of drugs in institutions and in improving many other aspects of the way our correctional system operates. Those efforts and progress are noted in the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Drugs and Alcohol in Federal Penitentiaries: An Alarming Problem”. Released in April 2012, that report noted that while we are making good strides, more work remains and needs to be done.

We continue to face an ever-changing and growing challenge to stop the smuggling of illicit drugs and other prohibited substances into federal correctional institutions. As such, the problem is complex, multi-dimensional, and very difficult to resolve. Efforts to tackle the issue must be multi-dimensional and involve an array of interventions including interdiction, prevention, treatment, and community-based initiatives.

On the interdiction side, our Conservative government invested $122 million over five years to increase efforts to stop drugs or other contraband products from entering institutions in the first place. These have included increasing the number of drug detector dogs and enhancing the security intelligence capacity and perimeter security at our federal prisons. We are also working to deter drug use through increased offender accountability and penalties.

Through the Safe Streets and Communities Act, we changed the law to include mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking or possession of drugs in a prison or on prison grounds. Further, the Correctional Service of Canada has over the years implemented a number of initiatives to help reduce both violence and illicit drugs in federal correctional institutions. It has put in place routine and random searching by correctional officers of prisoners and the grounds of the prisons, searching of visitors, X-ray baggage scanners, walk-through metal detectors, and body cavity metal detectors.

The commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, Don Head, noted at the public safety and national security committee that in 2010 there were more than 1,200 drug seizures made in federal institutions. Testing among inmates is now showing fewer positive results for the presence of drugs.

The latest statistics show that in the fiscal year 2013-14, some 2,400 drug-related seizures were made in federal prisons. It is worth noting here as well that the percentage of positive urinalysis tests and refusals has declined.

These indicators show that efforts around seizing drugs are working, and they point to the overall effectiveness of interdiction measures. We believe that this is progress, and it is one reason our government is moving forward to enhance treatment and programming offered to offenders in correctional facilities.

CSC has also made significant recent investments in streamlining the offender intake process so that they can begin treatment sooner. For example, as of 2012, more correctional plans must be in place within the first 70 or 90 days of when the offender arrives at the institution, depending on the length of his or her sentence. The correctional plan is an essential element in the rehabilitation of federal offenders as it is the tool by which the needs of each offender for substance abuse counselling can be identified and then addressed through enrolment in treatment programs.

A couple of amendments have been proposed in the drug-free prisons act. The bill would create an exclusive authority in law for the Parole Board of Canada to cancel an offender's parole, after being granted parole but prior to release into the community, based on failed or refused testing. It would also give specific authority to the Parole Board to impose a special abstinence condition. Simply put, these amendments would give the Parole Board more legislative teeth to fulfill its mission. This would strengthen the board's ability to make decisions regarding conditional releases, and we believe that this is simply what Canadians want.

I can assure members that our Conservative government remains committed to tackling the issue of drugs in institutions and ensuring that offenders can get the help they need to rejoin society as law-abiding citizens. I ask all members to support the passage of this bill.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. parliamentary secretary will have 13 minutes remaining in her time allowed for her remarks when the House next returns to debate on the question.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

moved that Bill C-636, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (unpaid training), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to debate my Bill C-636, Intern Protection Act. It is a particular honour for me, as one of the youngest MPs in the House, because this issue is very important for the workers of my generation.

According to Statistics Canada, the youth unemployment rate is almost twice the national average. Young workers are increasingly living in a precarious situation and are having a very tough time finding paid work.

More than ever, young Canadians who want to launch their careers feel obliged to take unpaid internships that promise to give them work experience but rarely lead to a permanent job.

Other young graduates are often buried under student debt and feel that they cannot afford to work without getting paid. The average debt for graduating Canadian students is $28,000, according to Statistics Canada. Debt often cripples young Canadians for life.

It is estimated that there are 300,000 unpaid interns in Canada today. Although some provinces have legislated on this subject, there is no federal law at present governing internships in areas under federal jurisdiction such as telecommunications, transportation, banks and aviation.

However, Ontario has started to take action against companies that use illegal unpaid internships. Saskatchewan and Alberta have indicated that they were planning to tighten their employment standards governing internships. There is clearly a desire in Canada to protect and have rules for interns.

We cannot talk about unpaid interns in Canada without mentioning the story of Andy Ferguson, a young Edmonton man of 22 who was a broadcasting student. In fact, he would have celebrated his twenty-sixth birthday today, February 17.

Andy lost his life in 2011 when he was driving home after working 16 hours at the radio station where he was completing his internship. The loss of this promising young man brought into stark relief the urgent need for rules that would prevent the abuse of interns, in particular by limiting the hours of work an employer can require of an intern.

A few months ago, I had the honour of meeting Matthew Ferguson, Andy Ferguson’s brother, when he came to the House of Commons for the introduction of this bill. He hopes that this bill will prevent other interns from finding themselves in the difficult position Andy Ferguson was in. Matthew Ferguson believes we have to start this discussion in order to prevent more abuse.

There have also been other cases reported in the media of profitable companies that employed unpaid interns to do the work of paid employees. That was the case with Bell Mobility, which recruited hundreds of interns a year under its professional management program. Last year, a former intern tried to get paid after working for Bell Mobility for five weeks under the program.

Torontonian Jainna Patel argued that the internship had no incentive value and she was doing the same work as a paid employee. Ms. Patel’s complaint was rejected by a federal labour standards inspector, but she appealed his decision with the help of a Toronto lawyer. The standards that apply to the use of unpaid internships have to be tightened to ensure that young workers like Jainna Patel do not fall into a grey area.

Given the current situation, the federal government has to act to provide rules governing internships in areas under federal jurisdiction. The purpose of my bill is to offer unpaid interns the same protections as paid employees. The first clause of this bill requires that employment standards and protections, such as rights relating to health and safety, be applied to unpaid interns.

That includes the right to be informed of any potential danger, to be properly trained for the work and to refuse to perform a task that constitutes a danger to the intern or to others. Other protections that would apply to interns include measures relating to reasonable hours of work.

Bill C-636 will also limit hours of work so that the employer may require a maximum of 48 hours’ work per week. In addition, the measures that protect employees against sexual harassment will apply to unpaid interns. Every intern will therefore have the right to be protected against any conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature that is likely to cause offence or humiliation.

These are protections that everyone deserves to have in their workplace.

My bill contains a second element that sets rules for the use of unpaid internships. Unpaid internships often replace “bottom of the ladder” jobs, and with companies tightening their belts, young workers are the ones who pay the price. The Intern Protection Act would limit abuses by ensuring that the internship is similar to training given at a vocational training centre. Moreover, the intern must benefit substantially from the training and the employer must derive little or no profit from it. The bill will also ensure that interns cannot replace paid employees.

Lastly, the bill requires that the employer inform the intern of the terms of their internship and keep a record of the hours worked by the intern.

I am proud to announce that this bill has received the support of major organizations representing interns, students and young workers, including the Canadian Intern Association, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and other major union organizations, including the CLC and Unifor.

In addition, Career Edge, a not-for-profit organization that helps create paid internships in numerous federally regulated industries, has called this bill a huge and positive step forward. The bill has also received the support of Andy Ferguson’s family.

Incidentally, I would also like to mention the impact of this bill on gender equality. A University of Victoria study of interns found that women are overrepresented in the industrial sectors that use the largest number of unpaid internships. Clearly, Bill C-636 is a step forward for equality between men and women in the workplace.

However, it must be noted that my bill is in reality an essential first step toward protection for interns, and also that we must do more. For example, at present, it is difficult to estimate how many interns there are in Canada, whether paid or not. Statistics Canada and federal and provincial government departments do not compile information about internships. The federal government needs to instruct Statistics Canada to do this, in order to obtain data about the number and types of internships in Canada. This is the only way to get a comprehensive picture of youth unemployment and underemployment. The federal government also needs to strengthen enforcement of the standards to take action against employers that exploit unpaid interns.

Also, Canadians deserve a government that addresses the issue of youth employment. Over 280,000 young people lost their jobs during the recession, and very few of those jobs have since been recovered. The NDP has proposed a number of measures to help young workers in urban centres. The NDP previously proposed a tax credit for businesses that hire young Canadians in order to offset the high unemployment rate. Why not give our young people a country with the future prospects they deserve? We should give our young people the same opportunities their parents had and the same ability to progress through the important stages of life, such as buying a first home or being able to provide for their families.

To conclude, I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to support this bill so that Canadian interns receive the appropriate protections they so desperately need. I will point out that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance has recently published a report that recommends the following:

That the federal government collect data on unpaid internships in Canada and work with the provinces and territories to ensure the appropriate protections under relevant labour codes.

In the same recommendation of last year's report, the members of the committee said:

Moreover, the government should study the impacts of unpaid internships.

Although the NDP emphasized in a dissenting report the importance of stricter additional measures, including changes to the Canada Labour Code, the work of the Standing Committee on Finance showed that the protection of interns goes beyond partisanship. I was actually very encouraged to hear a few weeks ago that Bill C-636 had prompted the federal government to hold consultations regarding the situation of interns in federally regulated industries.

We have to show Canadians that we can work together on these issues that are so crucial for young workers. It is time to take action by passing Bill C-636.

I would add that this bill will not cost the federal government a penny. We have to provide this protection for young workers immediately because too many of them are being marginalized in their workplaces.

I can also talk about my colleagues and people I went to school with, who are currently looking for work. Young workers often go from contract to contract or do several unpaid internships in a row before they get a job offer. I think that is a deplorable situation for young workers in Canada.

I would add that, as I said, the youth unemployment rate is twice the national average: it is close to 14%. That means young workers in Canada are quite unlikely to find paid work.

When witnesses came to testify before the Standing Committee on Finance about youth unemployment, we noted that the rate of youth underemployment was very high. The experts told us that one in three young workers in Canada are currently underemployed. Since they cannot find a job in their field, they are required to accept part-time positions, go back to school or accept unpaid internships.

I would like to come back to the fact that the current federal legislation on interns is vague. We heard the government say in the House that it was not aware of this issue. Basically, part II of the Canada Labour Code applies to occupational health and safety, and part III concerns the hours an employer may ask employees to work.

Unfortunately, we have not yet had a response from this government in the House about the protection of unpaid internships. We can see that the government is not grasping the magnitude of this phenomenon and that it does not understand how widespread the problem is.

Basically, my bill would ensure that the standards for hours of work and occupational health and safety would also apply to unpaid interns.

We have to say that this issue has been in the news in recent months, especially with respect to harassment. All workers in Canada deserve to have a safe workplace and to enjoy basic protections, whether or not they are paid. We heard terrible stories about interns who were exploited in their workplace and had no recourse under the Canada Labour Code.

Unfortunately, we have no data on the numbers of unpaid internships in Canada at this time. The federal government must also require Statistics Canada to collect data on the extent of this phenomenon in Canada.

The underlying premise of this private member's bill is that every Canadian who does the work of an employee who is usually paid must also be paid. That is the intent of my bill. It will ensure that employers provide remuneration to anyone doing the same work as a paid employee.

I encourage all members of parliament to take action on this issue that is so urgent for young workers and to support Bill C-636.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for her comments and for putting forth the bill.

Having been part of the finance committee when it studied youth employment, I know that has been a persistent issue for several decades now and that in the last number of years that rate has come down from what it was from 1993 to 2005, but I have a couple specific questions about her bill, and one is a clarification.

I think there are many cases where people will pursue, and want to pursue, an unpaid internship. I do not think she is saying that is a problem. It can go ahead, as long as these people are protected. I see that proposed subsection 178.1(2) in her bill, under “written notification”, seems to cover that, so I just want her to clarify that she is not saying that there should not be any unpaid internships, just that there should be protection for the employees.

The second thing I want to ask her about is proposed paragraph 178.1(1)(a), which states:

the training is approved by a secondary or post-secondary educational institution or vocational school and the completion of the training contributes to a degree or diploma.

What about a situation where a person maybe pursues an internship to expand his or her capability or to go into another area? That might not necessarily be approved by a school. I wonder what the protection is for the student who wants to pursue that.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He seems to be quite familiar with the content of the bill.

He talked about how the bill does not eliminate unpaid internships. This bill simply provides guidelines for unpaid internships. It would prevent paid positions from being converted into unpaid internship positions. Industries can therefore continue to use unpaid internships as long as they are primarily for the benefit of the intern, not the employer.

My colleague also asked about the fact that my bill would require unpaid internships to be equivalent to training offered by an educational institution. This bill is inspired in large part by a law in place in Ontario that requires unpaid internships to be equivalent to training offered by an educational institution. The conditions in this bill are the same as those in the Ontario law.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up with a question for my colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac and perhaps remind him and the House that this is one of the reasons why the member's bill is so important because we actually need accurate statistics.

In 2012, the youth unemployment rate of those 18 to 25 year old was 12%. In April 2014, it was 14%, and rising. So I am not sure where the member for Tobique—Mactaquac got his numbers in saying it has been on the decline. In fact, it has not. It has been on the increase over the last several years.

I would like to congratulate the member as well for the thoroughness she has brought to the bill, because not only does it show the need for statistics and perhaps the reintroduction of the long form census so we can rely on accurate statistics, but it also calls for the implementation and the need for standards—the need for standardization, for that matter.

In my own riding of Ottawa South right here in the city in the national capital, I have a very high youth unemployment rate, particularly because I have such a multicultural Canadian population in the riding, where there are 82 languages spoken and people from 146 countries.

Would she perhaps help us understand how her bill would help deal with the new normal in Canadian society, which is the diversity I was referring to in my own riding of Ottawa South?

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, my bill will help marginalized workers. It will help female workers who are under-represented in sectors that offer unpaid internships. As my colleague mentioned, it will also help immigrants, newcomers to Canada, the workers who reflect Canadian diversity. My bill will do so much to help protect workers who belong to these distinct and sometimes marginalized groups.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address Bill C-636, proposed by the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles regarding unpaid internships.

Let me be very clear that the government places a high priority on safe, fair, and productive workplaces. These are an essential part of Canada's continued economic growth and prosperity, our number one priority, and internships play an essential role when it comes to providing Canadians with opportunities to gain the skills and experience they need to join that workforce.

There are currently estimated to be several hundred thousand interns in Canadian workplaces, many of whom are working toward degrees or diplomas through secondary or post-secondary educational institutions, but not all of them. There are also new Canadians, recent graduates, and people pursuing a career change or looking to return to the workforce after a period of absence, among others. I think we can all agree that no one wants to see them exploited or left unprotected.

However, the bill could put serious limits on prospective interns. Unpaid internships would be available only to current secondary, post-secondary, or vocational students who are receiving the training as part of their degree or diploma program. This change could leave in the dark prospective unpaid interns who fall outside these limitations, or anyone not involved in an education program with an internship component. Those trying to transition to future studies or employment, like new Canadians, recent graduates, or those looking for a mid-career change could lose an invaluable stepping stone to meeting those goals.

I am sure that prospective interns would have serious concerns about the number of meaningful internship opportunities available to them. The bill also does not define training, which is very much an issue of concern.

The bill could have the unintended consequence, for example, of making it easier for employers to withhold pay from their existing employees who are involved in workplace training.

Another issue is that Bill C-636 is somewhat inconsistent in that it would provide all interns with labour standard protections, except the minimum wage in some cases. This means that labour standards like paid overtime and paid holidays would apply to interns receiving wages, but also to unpaid interns.

There is real potential for confusion about the obligations of employers and the expectations of interns. I am sure we could all agree that internships, whether paid or unpaid, can be extremely valuable. Our government has been saying for some time now that we want to ensure that young Canadians continue to have access to the on-the-job training they need, and internships are an important part of that training.

At the end of January, my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour, consulted the stakeholders in cities across Canada and across industries to gain a deeper understanding of how we can best support interns. Those meetings will help inform the current environment and help us better understand how best to protect interns in the workplace.

We are talking about balanced measures to make sure that Canadians continue to have the opportunity to get the skills and experience they need, including through internships, and to make sure that all interns are protected while doing so. We are investing $40 million to support up to 3,000 paid internships in these high-demand fields, and $15 million annually to support up to 1,000 paid internships in small and medium-size enterprises.

That's not all we're doing to support young workers. We also provide a number of programs to help our young people learn and develop necessary skills for their future careers, including Canada student loans and grants for post-secondary students, and the new Canada apprentice loan for apprentices.

Our government is committed to providing Canadians with the workplace experience and skills they need to find jobs and succeed in the job market.

This brings me to the point in my speech where I will talk a little bit about my personal experiences when it comes to internship programs. A little while ago, when I was chair of the Canada-Poland Parliamentary Friendship Group, I had the notion brought forward to me by young people in Canada, primarily of Polish ancestry.

Our institution has a great history when it comes to internships. We have the internship program on Parliament Hill, where young people from Canada come here to work in MPs' and senators' offices. We have internship programs, such as the Ukrainian internship program, where young Ukrainians come here to work in our Parliament. It is regrettable that we do not have reciprocity on that particular issue with Ukraine, wherein young Canadians could also go to do the same thing. We also have the Jewish internship program here on the Hill. That is part of a community that participates in these internships.

Some of these internships are paid, some of these internships are unpaid. It is happening right here, all around us, in all of our offices.

I am wondering what the effect of this legislative change might be. The member of Parliament sponsoring the bill never mentioned once any of the potential consequences of the legislation when it comes to these kinds of internship programs

Each political party has the ability to have its own internship programs. We have a Conservative internship program and I am sure the other political parties have ones as well. I do not know what the other parties do. They do not pick up the phone and tell me what they do behind their closed doors, which is unfortunate. I do not know why they do not do that.

These are some of the concerns that we have.

Trinity Western University has an internship program here as well. I do not remember the exact name of it, but young people from that university are also coming here.

This prompted me to reach out to the Polish community a few years ago and create Canada's first ever bilateral internship program. The problem that I see with all of these other internship programs here on the Hill is that they are all unilateral. They are all one-way. Through my ability to get the Polish community involved, we have created a society and an agreement with the Polish parliament, and at this point in time we have had a number of young Poles come over and intern in offices here in our Parliament. Young Canadians of Polish heritage have had the same opportunity to do internships in the chancellery, the Polish parliament, as well.

We have a lot of knowledge on the Hill about the impact of these internship programs and how valuable they are and how unique each one is in its structure and how they are set up. While I understand the sponsor's intent with the bill, we have to be careful if we start to tinker with some of these things.

While the protection is nice, and no one would disagree with that, if we do not get it absolutely right, any legislative changes that would deny young people an opportunity to participate in a parliamentary internship program, or to create a bilateral parliamentary program between parliaments, or to give young Canadians an opportunity not only to intern here but also to intern anywhere in the world as part of those bilateral exchanges, is not something we would want to do.

Canada is a great country. It is a land of opportunity and hope. Internship is just a part of that. It is a rite of passage for many young people so they can get the valuable skills and experience they need, and get those first references on their resumés when it comes to moving on and advancing their careers. We have cooperatives and internship placements and all kinds of other things emanating from our public education institutions. However, we have to be careful.

I will reserve judgement on the member's bill until we have had an opportunity to discuss it further, but at this particular point in time, while I do not question the member's motive, I do question the unintended consequences as we see so many times from legislation from the NDP.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to speak to Bill C-636, which seeks to clarify the law regarding unpaid internships.

I would like to begin by thanking my colleague, the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, for introducing this bill and giving us a chance to discuss the issue of unpaid interns.

Too many Canadians, particularly young Canadians, are caught in a vicious cycle of not being able to get a job because they do not have work experience and are not able to get work experience because they do not have a job. It is that catch-22 that we are hearing more and more about in our communities and our own families.

At the same time, many areas of Canada do not appear to have clear laws regarding unpaid internships. This legal ambiguity, combined with a weak labour market for young Canadians, places unpaid interns in a vulnerable position. The concern is that in many cases employers are using this ambiguity as a loophole around minimum wage laws.

More and more vulnerable Canadians are forced to accept unpaid work simply in order to gain work experience. The situation facing unpaid interns appears to have gotten worse since the recent financial crisis, because young Canadians are finding it harder to land their first job in their field of study.

I say that it appears to have grown since the financial crisis, because we do not know how many unpaid interns there are in Canada and we cannot manage what we do not measure, as the saying goes.

Unpaid interns are not included in the labour force survey. They are not counted as employees because they do not receive a wage. They do not count as unemployed unless they are available and actively seeking work, which they cannot do if they are already committed to a full-time internship. Therefore, we do not have good data on unpaid internships.

We do not know exactly where unpaid interns are working. We do not know if there are more of them in certain provinces or industries, but we do know that young Canadians are facing a huge unemployment rate.

Statistics Canada recently revised its employment data going back to 2001. The revised numbers reveal a number of problems with the job market, particularly for young Canadians. The fact is that young Canadians face huge challenges in today's workforce.

For example, compared to before the downturn, more Canadians now fall into the category of the long-term unemployed, those who have been unemployed for over a year. The number of Canadians who do not have a job and have been actively seeking and searching for work for at least a year is twice that of 2008.

The situation is worse for young Canadians. The percentage of young Canadians with paying jobs has fallen from 60% to 56%. There are 160,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians today than in 2008. There are now three times as many unemployed young Canadians who have been looking for work for over a year.

Young Canadians and the long-term unemployed are desperate for new work experiences, which makes them vulnerable to being pressured into unpaid work.

Last June, the Standing Committee on Finance released a report on youth employment in Canada. As part of our study, we heard testimony on the issue of unpaid internships.

I wish to thank Claire Seaborn and her colleagues with the Canadian Intern Association for their extraordinary contribution to public information on this problem.

At committee, we heard from both employers and prospective employees about the need to clarify the law, particularly when it comes to student placements that are part of an academic program. Witnesses told the committee that we should look to British Columbia and Ontario as provinces that have best practices in terms of providing clarity on the definition of what is an acceptable internship, what is an exploitative internship, and protection for Canadians.

For example, in Ontario, an intern is considered an employee and is entitled to minimum wage unless all of the following six conditions are met: one, the training is similar to that given in a vocational school; two, the training is for the benefit of the intern, who receives some benefit from the training, such as new knowledge or skills; three, the employer derives little if any benefit from the activity of the intern while he or she is being trained; four, the training does not take somebody else's job; five, the employer is not promising a job at the end of the training; and six, the intern has been told he or she will not be paid for his or her time.

After hearing the evidence, the finance committee recommended the following:

That the federal government collect data on unpaid internships in Canada and work with the provinces and territories to ensure the appropriate protections [are taken] under relevant labour codes. Moreover, the government should study the impacts of unpaid internships.

Unfortunately, we have not seen any progress from the government since then. It has not directed Statistics Canada to start collecting data on unpaid internships.

We have heard from some organizations, and the Canadian Federation of Students I think said that there were 300,000 unpaid interns in Canada, and we know anecdotally that the numbers have grown. We know from our own families and communities and a number of colleagues and friends whose children are working as unpaid interns. However, we do not actually have good data on this. Therefore, number one, we need to have Statistics Canada measure the number of unpaid interns on an ongoing basis, so that we understand the scale of the problem.

Bill C-636 appears to emulate many of the conditions set out by the Province of Ontario, which is something that, on the surface, we would support. However, we do have some concerns.

The Liberals were the first party to call for greater protection of unpaid interns, but this is something that the New Democrats have also been raising. We recognize that the federal labour law system is complex. It is built on a delicate balance between the interests of labour and management. We also recognize the potential for unintended consequences when we are changing the Canada Labour Code and labour laws of the country through private members' bills. This is something that is always a concern, and it is unfortunate that the government does not move forward with something in terms of a government bill.

One concern we hear over and over again is that young Canadians are desperate for work experience. While there is a greater need for protection, it is critical that we do not regulate away legitimate programs that help vulnerable young Canadians enter the job market. There is a risk that clause 4 of Bill C-636 might in fact do that. For example, there are risks of excluding programs run by community groups to help vulnerable Canadians gain work experience, and not all these programs are linked to an academic program.

During the current Parliament, a number of MPs on the opposition side have expressed concerns about amending the Canada Labour Code through a private member's bill. I would like to quote the member for Trois-Rivières who said:

As far as I know, changes to labour relations legislation have never been introduced via a private member's bill....

In the past, changes to the Canada Labour Code have come about following discussions between employers and workers, not when an MP stands up to say that he has made the discovery of the century.

Therefore, when it comes to amending complex laws, a government bill is generally preferable, because under the rules of the House, it is subject to greater debate and analysis in Parliament.

That being the case, I will be supporting the bill before us because I think it is an important debate. It is one that we should have as a Parliament. We should at least let the bill move forward so that we can dig deeper into this issue and ultimately provide the government with more pressure to actually take action in addressing this important issue of unpaid internships in Canada, which reflects the general malaise we have for youth employment in this country.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place on behalf of the good people of Davenport in the great city of Toronto to speak on this very important bill, Bill C-636, the intern protection act.

It is important to say at the outset that all workers deserve workplace protection and that they deserve to be paid for the work they do. However, today we are seeing more and more young people working for free as unpaid interns.

Let us put this into some context. Youth unemployment is twice the national average. Young people are carrying unprecedented student debt. At the same time, young people are finding it more and more difficult to find entry level positions in the field for which they trained. Entry level positions are increasingly becoming unpaid positions.

It is one thing for a young person to not be paid. It is another thing if they do not even have the same rights and protections as employees, because unpaid interns are not part of the definition of an employee in the Canada Labour Code. This bill, the intern protection act, would change that.

What members of the House must really ask themselves tonight is whether they think it is fair and fine that an unpaid intern does not have the same rights to workplace health and safety protections as other workers. Is it fair and right that an unpaid intern does not have the same protection as other workers from sexual harassment in the workplace? Is it fair and acceptable that unpaid workers, most of whom are young workers, women, racialized, and immigrant, do not have the same rights as other workers to refuse unsafe work, to be trained how to handle unsafe work, or to have a cap on the number of hours they work?

Finally, is it acceptable that so many of our young workers are being forced to work for free, delaying their own ability to launch as independent adults? They are held back from becoming fully contributing members of our economy and society. As a consequence, many of these workers are also delaying moving out of their parents' home, starting families, and buying their first home.

Today, I stand here in this place on the 26th birthday of Andy Ferguson, a young Albertan who, after working two back-to-back extended shifts, was killed in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel on his way home in the early hours of the morning. Mr. Ferguson's brother reached out to me, and we talked on several occasions about how we could turn this tragedy into a bill that would help young workers right across the country who are in a cycle of unpaid work that they have no control over, no agency in, and no protection from.

This bill would be a historic bill that would extend the same workplace protections that all workers expect to have, and most do under the Canada Labour Code. However, unpaid interns do not have them, because they are not included in the definition of what an employee is.

It is important for the government members tonight to realize that the Brad Wall government of Saskatchewan announced new rules prohibiting the use of non-educational unpaid interns. The labour minister, Don Morgan, said:

We’ve said, interns, you’re going to get paid. Ones that would not get paid would be a student learner, where it’s part of their course....

The finance committee did a study on youth employment, starting in March 2014. Among the recommendations, recommendation 9 was to tighten the rules around unpaid interns to bring them greater protections.

As many have pointed out tonight, there may be upward of 300,000 people working as unpaid interns in the Canadian economy.

As well, it is important to clarify tonight that we are talking about interns in federally regulated sectors, including telecommunications, broadcasting, banking, financial, transportation and crown corporations.

In the bill we ask for the same rights and protections that other workers have. Is it fair that all workers get the same rights in a workplace protected under the Canada Labour Code? That is not what is happening. It is really up to us to change that, to make it right.

I look at the members in the House, and I know many of them have adult children and many of them have constituents for whom this is a burning issue. How, in our economy, can we expect young people to work for free?

Many would like to conflate or blur the issue around good internships and important training opportunities for young people. We have seen and heard the stories of quite profitable, powerful private companies, corporations, public companies availing themselves of free labour in this current economic situation in which young people find themselves.

The bill would ensure that internships would be for educational purposes, that they would be the primary benefit of the intern and that they would not replace paid employees. Some will say that means they will not have an opportunity.

We are saying that we need to ensure, especially in companies that can afford to pay young workers, these unpaid internship entry-level positions should be paid positions, as they have been for generations upon generations. I do not think anyone in this place would disagree with the fairness of that.

We know there are many well-run internship programs. Some of my colleagues tonight have referenced some of them. However, we also know that there is abuse in the system. We need to step in as a responsible Parliament and take a look at the things we can do to protect young workers, to encourage the economy to invest in young workers and to stabilize the economy for young workers.

This is an important step in the right direction to see that all workers, all young people, have the same protections as everybody else in the economy and that they get paid. If we are building an economy where we increasingly are encouraging a system and an economy where young people are forced to work for free, we are not doing what we need to do to shrink the income inequality gap and we are gaming the system for those who have the opportunities and the capacity to spend sometimes several years working for free, while others cannot afford that same opportunity.

We need to look at ways in which we can ensure that as many young people as possible can gain access to the economy, can have safety and the knowledge that they are protected in their workplace, to have that agency. We have heard stories and seen examples where that just simply is not the case.

In honour of the memory of Andy Ferguson and the good work his family has done to try to bring this issue to the fore, I urge all my colleagues in the House to really take a look at the bill and to ask themselves whether the way we have set this table for young workers is fair. I am sure when they ask that question in an honest way, they will discover that indeed unpaid interns deserve the same protections and the same rights as employees under the Labour Code.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to the issue of internships in Canada. As we have heard already this evening, there are many examples of the good work that is being done through internships, and we must protect that the best we can.

The government certainly remains focused on jobs, economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians. As we have heard over and over tonight, internships play an essential role in helping to meet this goal. They help Canadians develop the knowledge and skills they need to participate in the job market and to fill possible labour shortages.

We also believe that providing certain protections for interns is vitally important, especially given that it is estimated that there are several hundred thousand interns in Canadian workplaces. What we need to carefully consider is how we go about it.

Many interns are working toward degrees or diplomas through secondary or post-secondary educational institutions. Other interns include recent immigrants looking for meaningful Canadian job experiences, people re-entering the workforce or looking to make a career transition.

Our government has been saying for some time now that we want to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to the on-the-job training they need. Internships are a very important part of that training. The hands-on experience that interns gain is invaluable. The benefit to them cannot be overstated. This is why we are investing $40 million to support up to 3,000 paid internships in these high demand fields and $15 million annually to support up to 1,000 paid internships in small and medium-sized enterprises.

In addition to that, our government every year invests over $10 billion to support post-secondary education and programs for first nations and Inuit students. This includes financial assistance through Canada's student loans and grants. We have seen great success through these initiatives.

However, this is not all we are doing to support young workers. We are also working to better protect them in the workplace.

The government is working with our partners to promote safe, fair and productive workplaces for youth, including interns. For example, and this has been alluded to in some of the previous speeches, at the end of January my colleague, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, the former parliamentary secretary to the minister of labour, met with stakeholders from across Canada and across industries to gain a deeper understanding of how we could better support interns. At the last meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of labour this past September, our Minister of Labour, the member for Simcoe—Grey, and her colleagues agreed to keep on working closely to better protect youth in the workplace and to use new approaches to connect with them.

One example is by going out to places like colleges, universities and high schools with interactive presentations and one-on-one discussions to ensure students have the knowledge and the resources they need to stay safe on the job. Also, the popular “It's Your Job” video contest challenges high school students across Canada to create videos to educate other young people on the importance of workplace safety and their rights.

However, it is not just physical safety with which our government is concerned. More and more we are also learning that mental injury, while invisible, is just as real and serious as physical injury and effects all aspects of an individual's life, at home and in the workplace. In fact, it is estimated that up to 20,000 of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder.

The mental health and well-being of Canadians is very important to our government. That is why, with support from the federal government, the Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace in 2013. It is also why the minister and parliamentary secretary met and consulted with federally regulated employers, provincial workers, compensation boards and mental health organizations to discuss improving mental health in the workplace.

It is clear that we fully support initiatives that protect our workers, including young people.

Let us take a look at the bill that is being proposed today. It would place restrictions on prospective unpaid interns since employers could no longer be able to offer an unpaid internship to anyone other than secondary, post-secondary, or vocational students who were receiving training as part of their degree or diploma programs.

The bill also does not define what is meant by training or provide a regulatory power to do so. There could be a risk of confusion among employers on what constitutes training and could create unintended consequences. For example, this could make it easier for employers to withhold pay for their existing employees who were involved in workplace training.

What is also unclear is the bill's intention to extend labour standard protections to all interns, except for minimum wage in some cases. That could mean that labour standards like paid overtime and paid holidays could apply to both paid and unpaid interns. It is important to our government that we are clear about how interns are protected in our workplaces.

Our government is committed to ensuring safe, fair and productive workplaces. We have made it a priority to provide Canadians with the workplace experience and skills necessary to find jobs and succeed in the job market. The government is committed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, and we will continue to work hard to support all Canadian workers.

As has been stated many times tonight, we know there are good intentions in the bill. We know that there are also questions that need to be answered. We do not want to be creating unintended consequences that will not be beneficial for interns and young people. Therefore, we will continue to follow this closely as it continues on through the process.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say in the strongest possible terms how pleased I am and how strongly I support the bill introduced by my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

In my judgment, this is a long overdue bill. It is really quite shocking to think we have none of the standards in the Canada Labour Code to deal with interns, even though jurisdictions like Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia all have rules of varying kinds to address the problems that this bill would address.

There are some good internship programs, and they have been discussed, but there are some abuses that need to be addressed. We have heard about the sad fate of Mr. Andy Ferguson who, working back-to-back shifts at an Edmonton radio station, was in a car accident after falling asleep. Perhaps if members of the House rose together as one to support this initiative, we might actually call this the Andy Ferguson bill, today being his birthday.

It seems to me this is something that many people in my constituency have told me needs to be addressed. We do not have statistics, but, intuitively, we all know there are a lot more unpaid internships out there. People ask me how this can be and how they can get a rung on the ladder to obtain employment if we do not address these problems.

I know I only have a couple of minutes and cannot, therefore, go through the bill in any detail, except to say that I was pleased to be part of the finance committee, which, in March of 2014, reported on youth employment. Recommendation 9 said:

That the federal government collect data on unpaid internships in Canada and work with the provinces and territories to ensure the appropriate protections under relevant labour codes.

This is entirely within the spirit of the recommendations of that unanimous report. Therefore, I believe it is incumbent on the House to send this to committee where some of the deficiencies that no doubt exist can be addressed.

My colleague across the way talked about the lack of definition of training. That is a simple thing to rectify if members, in good faith, would sit down and try to figure out how to make this law work. If it can be done at the provincial level, there are almost a million people in the federally regulated private sector that would be covered by this. It seems to me it is appropriate that we address that part of the workforce, unpaid interns, to ensure they have protections of the kind we take for granted in other jurisdictions.

There is a gap in the federal law. This bill would address it. It can be dealt with effectively at committee. I suggest that we get on with it and work together across the House to figure out how to make this a reality for young Canadian workers.

Intern Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of this item on private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The hon. member for Victoria will have seven minutes when this matter is next before the House.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Pursuant to Standing Order 37, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-555 under private members' business.

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members who have participated in Bill C-555, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), commonly referred as the triple nickel bill. I am pleased that the bill is at this stage, because it shows, first of all, continuing interest in and support of safety in the seal hunt. It also shows the government's recognition of the seal harvest as a legitimate livelihood.

For more than 300 years, Canadians have relied on the sealing industry to support their families, and today I am really pleased that we are continuing the support for this important industry.

Many members may have enjoyed in recent days the Seal Day held on Parliament Hill. A number of aboriginal representatives from northern Canada showed how important sealing is to the culture and the economy of their communities. I am particularly pleased that the Minister of the Environment and the member for Yukon led the way in that. For those who enjoyed it, certainly they saw some great food, entertainment, and wonderful clothing made from seal skins.

I am glad that members from both sides have been supportive of the bill thus far, as most have been. This whole process is to make sure that we look at legitimate safety within a legal industry. The bill would simply create a larger zone of safety around the sealing expedition. It would go from one-half to a full nautical mile.

When we reflect on the need for the bill, an obvious question comes to mind: why is it that some people are prepared to endanger sealers and those around them and those who are protecting the public? One example stands out. In 2008, the Sea Shepherd irresponsibly and illegally endangered not only the sealers but licensed observers, and it caused considerable damage to a Coast Guard vessel.

We think this continues because of three basic misconceptions that keep cropping up. One, of course, is that the seal hunt is inhumane. Many years have gone by. With the 50th anniversary of the Seal Protection Regulations, many changes have taken place. The sealers are very responsible and very much aware of making sure they do things right. We think it is time for that myth to go, because it is a humane industry and a humane harvest that takes place.

The second myth that kicks around is the sense that this is unsustainable, which may have been possibly a concern back in the fifties and sixties, but today there are over seven million harp seals. They have almost exploded in population and indeed have become a threat to other fish, particularly cod. It is way overdue that we let that myth go by, because not only is it sustainable but it is done in a most efficient manner. Maintaining a healthy sea population is to the benefit of all sealers, and certainly it is to their advantage to make sure it continues.

The third myth is that the seal harvest is not thoroughly regulated, and that is absolutely incorrect. Fisheries and Oceans officials have worked hard over the past decades to make sure that sealers are well educated, well informed, and well regulated, and they certainly do their industry in the most productive and most supportive manner. These regulations make sure that in collaboration with the Coast Guard, policing authorities, provincial authorities, and so on, they are followed. It is important that the officials ensure not only safety but that the proper methods are followed.

It is unacceptable to let the critics simply spread misinformation, but it has been part of almost a worldwide effort for some time. It has been easy for some on the sidelines to make these very incorrect accusations. Today we know that we have not only a sustainable and a very well-regulated industry but an industry that remains incredibly important to the Inuit and the northern population and certainly to many communities in Atlantic Canada. Violations are taken very seriously, with fines, and the process is followed very closely by authorities as well.

This bill, as I said, would double the zone of safety. There is a very thorough process with regard to becoming a licensed observer, and the bill would make sure that both observers and sealers are protected. It would ensure that this legal and legitimate industry is allowed to pursue its course of action and harvest in a safe and thoughtful way and that those who simply want to protest and cause disruption are not allowed to interfere with this legal ongoing industry.

The end result of the effort here is to bring about improvements. We realize there will be more to come. There are certainly more things that should be considered and looked at in this very important industry.

I want to end by saying that we in the House, the government, and I think the general population, in taking the time to understand what this bill is about, realize that sealing is very much a part of both the culture, the background, and the economy of many communities. We want to ensure that it becomes a bit safer, and that is what this bill would do. I appreciate the support of the House and I hope we get this bill moved forward.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask my hon. colleague some questions.

The bill is certainly worthy of our support. I think it is important that we support hunters, fishers and people who are getting by in eastern Canada and the far north.

The negotiation of the European free trade agreement was a golden opportunity to increase the economic opportunities for seal hunt products in the European market. Why did the Conservatives not take this golden opportunity to give an economic boost to this industry that is struggling, as we all know?

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is an activity that obviously goes beyond just a private member's bill. It would require the government standing up and making those points very clear.

In fact, the government has repeatedly made it clear and has gained some ground with respect to some of the European market. As the member knows, it is a tough market to defeat and bring onside, but we feel that we must continue the information and education process that is particularly necessary in the European market.

Canada has been very clear that we will do everything we can to support this industry, to make sure it is done correctly, and to recognize its important role in the economy of our country.