Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Davenport.
I am very pleased to participate in today's debate about the report of the Standing Committee on Finance entitled “Youth Employment in Canada: Challenges and Potential Solutions”.
I am very concerned about youth unemployment, and I will talk later about my bill, Bill C-620. I have worked extremely hard on this file with my colleague from Davenport. We have also considered the issue of unpaid internships and the best ways to protect unpaid interns.
Youth unemployment is a serious concern. We know that the youth unemployment rate in Canada is almost double the national unemployment rate.
According to the committee's report, witnesses said that young Canadians are still feeling the effects of the economic crisis.
Although job growth has been too weak across the board to recover the jobs lost during the crisis, young people have been particularly hard hit. More than 455,000 jobs for people under the age of 25 have been lost since the recession, and the youth unemployment rate remains stuck at double the rate for the population aged 25 and over.
Furthermore, if we look at the figures for young Canadians who are underemployed—meaning that they cannot find full-time jobs in their sector—we can see that one out of three young Canadians is underemployed. I find that figure extremely worrisome.
In light of the current climate, I introduced Bill C-620 to protect unpaid interns in Canada. I worked on this bill with the family of a former intern, Andy Ferguson. He was an intern at a radio station in Edmonton, Alberta. After working 16 hours straight, he unfortunately fell asleep at the wheel while driving home and was involved in a fatal accident.
He did not have the benefit of federal protections. Interns working in areas under federal jurisdiction, including the telecommunications sector, in which Andy Ferguson worked, the transportation sector and the banking sector, have no protection.
There is nothing in Canadian law to protect the health and safety of these interns. That is very disturbing. Andy Ferguson's case sparked a national debate.
We have seen other cases across the country in which unpaid interns have been abused. For example, Jainna Patel was an unpaid intern in Toronto with Bell, a very profitable company that makes a lot of money. This unpaid internship program was shut down a few months ago. However, Jainna Patel says that she did the same kind of work as paid employees, but she did not receive any compensation.
This is part of a disturbing trend in which employers transform paid jobs into unpaid internships. We think that this is an abuse of the concept or the very idea of unpaid internships.
This spring, I introduced Bill C-620, which has two parts. Unpaid interns are in a grey area and get no protection. Bill C-620 would ensure that unpaid interns working for employers under federal jurisdiction get a certain level of protection. For example, my bill will give interns the right to refuse dangerous work and protect them from sexual harassment. Harassment cases have surfaced recently in various workplaces, including in the telecommunications sector. The first part of my bill is designed to protect interns.
The second part is designed to prevent employers from converting paid positions into unpaid internships. Canadian employers need to understand that unpaid internships are not a source of cheap labour. Unpaid interns must not be exploited. If interns are doing the same work as paid employees, employers must pay them. My bill stipulates that internships must benefit interns first and foremost. We have to put a stop to the abuse of unpaid interns in Canada, and I think my bill is a good place to start.
This is also about gender inequality, as several witnesses pointed out in committee. Internships tend to be in female-dominated fields. Witnesses from the Canadian Intern Association and the University of Toronto Students' Union told us that unpaid internships are most popular in journalism, nutrition, social work, marketing, public relations and fashion. We have to improve conditions for all workers in the labour market, but it is important to note that women are affected more than men.
According to recent studies, especially one out of the University of Victoria, unpaid interns are no more likely to get a paid job after their internship. Most unpaid interns did not get a job offer after completing an unpaid internship. The Governor of the Bank of Canada claimed otherwise, but he is quite wrong. It is simply not true that unpaid internships increase young people's chances of getting a paid job. The real problem is that those jobs do not exist. The Conservative government has not managed to create jobs for young people. We should start by taking a closer look at that problem.
At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance, I had the great pleasure of asking Claire Seaborn, a representative of the Canadian Intern Association, some questions. Many of her recommendations were quite relevant and very interesting. Since I only have a minute left, I would like to draw the attention of the House to some of the recommendations of that report, specifically recommendation 9, which calls on the federal government to collect data on unpaid internships in Canada. A number of witnesses pointed out that Statistics Canada has no data on the number of unpaid interns in Canada. We need to have this information if we really want to tackle the problem.
Furthermore, recommendation 10 calls on the federal government to continue to invest in internships, especially in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That is an excellent recommendation.
The final recommendation I would like to highlight is recommendation 16, which calls on the federal government to explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada, such as tax credits for businesses, for instance, which was an NDP proposal.
I look forward to questions and comments from my colleagues.