Last November thousands of CEGEP and University students across the province boycotted their unpaid internships and took to the streets in protest. And now 35,000 students are holding a week-long protest to make their voices loud and clear. Their patience has run out.
In a statement last November, CAQ Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said he was ‘aware of the situation and the worries students have over compensation for internships. I will meet with students, schools and internship providers to find solutions that will satisfy all parties’. Let it be noted that when the CAQ was the opposition party in the National Assembly, they supported paying for internships – but the CAQ has not addressed their concerns to date.
Most of the students work in fields such as nursing, occupational therapy, education and social work, claiming the work they are doing is the same as the work being done by regular employees – and it is unfair. In fact, they feel they are being exploited and notably, the majority of those internships are held by women. There is no protection for them because student internships are not considered work and therefore not regulated under Quebec’s labour laws. They are often left overworked, unprotected and unpaid – some working more than 1000 hours. The students are expected to be out in force this Thursday, when the CAQ presents its first budget – and unless there is a surprise announcement, there has been no indication funding internships will be included.