I am an undergraduate student who has signed up for a 4 months internship at a Canadian university with the Mitacs global intern program.

The initial deal was to travel to the Canadian university for the internship where I would get paid and work closely with the supervisor.

Due to the pandemic, the trip was canceled and borders closed. The Mitacs organisation canceled the internships. However, as I didn't have any possible internship in my country, I agreed to continue the internship remotely by Skype without getting paid.

The problem is that I usually have a strong work ethic, although I am definitely not continuing in research. I believe I should do my best at my current job. I don't think it's okay to lay back and not get it perfectly done but there is 0 motivation.

The supervision is very minimal and I am not getting paid, plus home work.

Finally, I am looking for advice. Should I continue my internship as a good committed person and work full time? Or should I work part time, get it done poorly and learn something for my career in the mean time?

2 Answers 2


Should you exchange your time for very minimal supervision (and no pay)?

That depends on whether you perceive the value of very minimal supervision to outweigh the value of your time.

You should consider whether alternative uses of your time (e.g., paid work, vacation, personal study, ...) are more valuable.


No, if you were promised pay and that was revoked, you should stop working. That is not a fair trade, and only incentivizes your host to cancel paid programs (because they can get volunteers!).

Furthermore, I once worked in Canada as a foreign student. I had issues with my work permit, and the university office was very clear I couldn't work for free in the lab until the work permit was sorted out, as a foreigner volunteering for a position that could go to a Canadian (or other lawful resident) was illegal, as well as immoral.

I am not a lawyer, and don't know how Canadian law deals with working remotely, but I doubt there are exceptions, and your supervisor replacing a paid intern with an unpaid one may be against the law.

  • Presumably it could be seen as the OP simply working for themselves on their own time and collaborating with their would-have-been supervisor, which arguably is the OP's choice - since there's no payment involved, and by the sounds of it no actual contract, I'd have thought there's unlikely to be a legal issue. Whether or not it's a good idea depends on what the OP thinks they might get out of it other than money - if not much, maybe it's not such a good idea. On the other hand, sometimes collaborations can lead to things. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 18:58
  • @StuartGolodetz The absence of a contract has no effect; I never signed one when I worked in Canada. It was simply illegal to volunteer for a paid position. Because this position was offered to be paid in real money (and not collaboration dollars), my understanding is that it would be illegal for the university to accept uncompensated labor in its place, but I'm not a Canadian labor lawyer. Nevertheless, I cannot advise someone to do for free something they would have been paid for. There is far too much compensated labor in academia, and it would be wrong of me to endorse it. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 19:42
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    @StuartGolodetz Like I said, I'm not a lawyer. The way it was explained to me was that assuming the duties of what would usually be a paid position (regardless of whether one exists) was not allowed. Clearly, the supervisor traded a paid intern for an unpaid one. This would be against the spirit of the law as I was told. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 21:21
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    It is not clear what the OP's duties are. For example, if they are doing things like coding data or other "grunt work" for a professor rather than collaborating with the supervisor on their own project, the nature of the relationship is rather different, and may count as working in Canada. The idea of an "internship" is usually the former. Like I said, I'm not a labor lawyer so I qualified my post, but I believe my first point is the more important one anyway. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 21:23
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    If I were working for the summer at a Record Store (they no longer exist, I know) and they informed me that they couldn't/wouldn't pay me, I would surely quit. But research is different. Many people do it with no pay at all (Charles Darwin, I think) because it is something that is, in itself valuable to them and appreciate the opportunity. And if you are researching and getting nothing out of it but the pay, it is then that you should quit.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 22:17

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