(image via jpegy.com)

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 LifeFashion 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.

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...

4 replies on “Ontario Reins In Unpaid Magazine Internships”

  1. This is a great move by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. I support expanding it beyond the smallish field of magazine publishing. The arts and media industries are notorious practitioners.

  2. Fine article and all, but the text in the image hurts. Slavery has evolved into something much more sinister and brutal than ‘unpaid internships.’ Overstatement undermines the message.

    1. That’s true, but this image is part of the rhetoric that has been going around (yes, it is extreme) when people have been discussing the topic, so that is why it seemed good to add (coincidentally, this graffiti — or atleast another version of it — was down the street from our office).

      But I agree with you we should not make light of the serious topic of slavery, which still impacts millions of people around the world.

      Thanks for your comment.

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