Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to today's debate on my Bill C-636, which would apply the same employment protection standards to unpaid interns that salaried employees get and establish clear rules and conditions governing unpaid internships.
In an article published in Le Soleil on June 18, 2014, entitled “Prévenir le cheap labor”, Brigitte Breton wrote:
Ottawa had to tighten the rules for its temporary foreign worker program because employers were misusing it to the detriment of local workers. It now has to be vigilant about unpaid interns by becoming aware of the role they play in businesses and protecting them from abuse.
I can tell the House that Canadians who commented on my private member's bill shared that same sentiment.
I invite my colleagues from all parties to vote in favour of this bill. In my five-minute right of reply, I will respond to some of the arguments that were made during the debate.
First of all, according to the Conservatives, the bill will prevent employers from hiring unpaid interns who are new Canadians and those transitioning to new careers, thus taking away a stepping stone to a new job. Essentially, this is the argument behind the idea that there should be no limits on the use of unpaid internships and that they should not necessarily have an educational value. I disagree. Employees, whether they are new Canadians or people transitioning to a new career, must most definitely be paid if they are doing work that benefits an employer. Entry-level jobs must not become unpaid internships. I completely disagree with my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, who says that immigrants should not be paid for the work they do.
The Conservative members raised another concern, namely that the bill does not include a definition of training. However, there is already a common law definition of training in the Canada Labour Code, which already refers to training outside of internships. On the face of it, I would not oppose a clarification of what constitutes unpaid training, and we could study this if the bill is sent to committee.
The Conservatives also claim that the bill would make it easier for employers to stop paying some salaried employees. That is absolutely not true. The bill will in no way increase the use of unpaid internships. On the contrary, it will limit the use of unpaid internships as a replacement for paid work.
Lastly, I want to say that I was so grateful to hear that the Liberal Party will support my private member's bill. Although some Liberal members expressed concerns that this bill could prevent non-profits from hiring unpaid interns, this bill will in no way affect volunteer work. The only sectors that will be affected by my private member's bill will be sectors under federal jurisdiction, such as telecommunications, transportation and banking.
The past has taught us that it is very important to have a framework governing the use of unpaid internships, especially within multinational companies that have no shortage of financial resources to hire staff.
While the Liberals would rather wait for the Conservative government to take action, the NDP knows that now is the time to do something. I hope that my response has clarified some of the points that came up during the debate.
Some witnesses testified in committee. They told us that too many young Canadians are being exploited because there is no federal legislation for unpaid internships. Interns in Canada deserve protection, and now is the time for Parliament to take action.