There are few laws in Canada defining or regulating internships directly.  Each province has its own employment standards legislation, regulations and/or guidelines that may apply to interns.

Please note: this page summarizes sections of provincial websites and legislation, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

ONTARIO

Unpaid internships are illegal unless the internship falls under one the three narrow exceptions listed in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act:

  1. internships that are part of a program approved by a secondary school board, college, or university;
  2. internships that provide training for certain professions (e.g. architecture, law, public accounting, veterinary science, dentistry, optometry);
  3. internships that meet the six conditions required for the intern to be considered a “trainee”:

1. The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school
2. The training is for the benefit of the individual
3. The person providing the training derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual while he or she is being trained
4. The individual does not displace employees of the person providing the training
5. The individual is not accorded a right to become an employee of the person providing the training
6. The individual is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time that he or she spends in training.

If the internship does not fall within any of these exceptions, the intern must be paid at least the Ontario minimum wage ($10.25 per hour for most employees). Read more on the Ontario Ministry of Labour website.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Unpaid internships are illegal unless the internship falls under one the two narrow exceptions listed in BC’s  Employment Standards Act:

  1. internships that provide “hands-on” training as part of a formal educational program (called a “practicum” in the Act);
  2. internships that provide training for certain professions (e.g. architecture, law, chiropractory, engineering, real estate);

If the internship does not fall within any of these exceptions, the intern must be paid at least the BC minimum wage ($10.25 per hour for most employees). For further clarity, the BC Ministry of Labour has defined “internship” and requires employers to pay minimum wage in this circumstance:

“An “internship” is on-the-job training offered by an employer to provide a person with practical experience. Often internships are offered to persons who have completed a diploma or degree program and are seeking employment. Completing an internship does not itself result in an academic certificate or diploma. If the duties performed by interns fall within the definition of  “work” contained in the Act, the intern falls within the definition of “employee”, and the agency using the services of an intern falls within the definition of “employer”, internships will be considered “work” for the purposes of the Act.”

Read more in the BC Ministry of Labour Interpretation Guidelines Manual,

QUEBEC

Unpaid internships are illegal unless the internship (“stage” in French) falls under one of the three narrow exceptions listed in Quebec’s An Act Respecting Labour Standards:

  1. internships that are part of a program provided by an approved educational institution;
  2. internships where the intern is a student working for a not for profit organization with social or community purposes;
  3. internships that are part of a programme of vocational training.

ALBERTA

Under Alberta’s Employment Standards Code, unpaid internships are legal if the internship is part of a formal educational program. Based on the definition of employee, it is unclear whether interns in other circumstances are entitled to the Alberta minimum wage ($9.40 per hour for most employees).

MANITOBA

Unpaid internships are illegal unless the internship fall under one of the two narrow exceptions listed in Manitoba’s Employment Standards Code:

  1. internships that are part of an approved work experience program;
  2. internships that provide training for certain professions.

Based on the definition of “employee” and “work,” any other internship requires the Manitoba minimum wage ($10 per hour for most employees).  ”Employee” is defined as “an individual who is employed by an employer to do work.”  ”Work” is defined as “skilled or unskilled manual, clerical, domestic, professional or technical labour performed or services provided by an employee.”

SASKATCHEWAN

Saskatchewan’s Labour Standards Act provides for a minimum of wage of $9.50 for most employees.  An “employee” is defined as someone who receives or is entitled to remuneration for labour or services performed for an employer.  It is unclear what “entitled to remuneration” means and therefore unclear whether interns should receive a minimum wage.

NEW BRUNSWICK

New Brunswick’s Employment Standards Act provides for a minimum wage of $10,00 for most employees (Reg. 2011-54).  An “employee” is defined as a person who performs work or supplies services to an employer for wages.  It is unclear whether unpaid interns are entitled to the minimum wage in New Brunswick.

NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR

Newfoundland & Labrador’s Labour Standards Act provides for a minimum wage of $10,00 for most employees.  An “employee” is defined as a person who works under a contract of service for an employer.  This definition of employee is sufficiently broad to include unpaid interns, meanings that all interns in Newfoundland & Labrador are probably entitled to minimum wage. However,  no minimum wage is required for unpaid internships that are part of a formal educational program.

NOVA SCOTIA

Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Code provides for a minimum wage is $10.15 for most employees.  An “employee” is defined as a person employed to do work.  Based on this broad definition, it appears that an unpaid intern would be entitled to minimum wage in Nova Scotia. However,  no minimum wage is required for unpaid internships that are part of a formal educational program.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

PEI’s Employment Standards Act provides for a minimum wage of $10 for most employees (Reg EC139/96).  An “employee” is a person who performs any work for or supplies any services for an employer for pay, and includes “a person who is being trained by an employer to form work for or supply services to the employer.”  It is unclear whether unpaid interns are entitled to the minimum wage in PEI.

FEDERAL JURISDICTION

Internships for federally-regulated organizations are subject to the Canada Labour Code instead of the provincial legislation. Some examples of federally-regulatated organizations are banks, mobile network operators, broadcasters, airlines, and the federal government.

The Canada Labour Code contains no exclusions for students, trainees or interns, which has resulted in a huge lack of clarity on the legality of internships at the federal level. However, as long as the intern is performing “work” (which includes training) the intern is entitled to the minimum wage of the province he or she is in (Policy on Hours of Work).