The Ontario provincial government has begun cracking down on unpaid internships at magazines, shutting down programs at The Walrus, Toronto Life, Fashion Magazine, and Quill & Quire, the Toronto Star reported. The newspaper had previously reported on the uncertain conditions for what they estimate may be up to 300,000 unpaid internships in Ontario, pointing out that many of them weren’t protected by health and safety laws and that many of their positions were illegal. Under the Employment Standards Act, unpaid internships are allowed only if they’re done for school credit. Officials from the Ontario Labour Ministry inspected the internship programs at a number of major magazines last December and then issued compliance orders, leading to the abrupt shutdown of the aforementioned programs last week. Today the Star reported that two more magazines, Flare and Chatelain, have preemptively dropped their unpaid and honorarium-based internship programs as well.
Most of the targeted magazines are published by larger parent companies: Toronto Life, Fashion Magazine, and Quill & Quire by St. Joseph Communications; Flare and Chatelain by Rogers Communications Inc. The Walrus, however, is a nonprofit operation under the aegis of the Walrus Foundation. Regarding paying interns, editor and co-publisher John Macfarlane said, “It’s not an option. If we had the money, we’d have been paying them already. The ministry knows this and the ministry is forcing us to shut down.”
In a slightly ironic side note, CBC News also reported on the unpaid internship crackdown, but the story is followed by an editorial disclosure that the company runs its own unpaid internship program. In their words, “All our interns must be current students who are fulfilling a school requirement,” so it is, presumably, legal.