Dozens of youths have joined together to ask the federal government to provide young Canadians with “good, green jobs” that address the climate crisis.
On May 8, a group of youths delivered 90 cover letters from across Canada to the Ladner constituency office of Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, applications for a yet-to-be-created “Youth Climate Corps.”
The group — spurred by a call for action by the Climate Emergency Unit (CEU), a project of the David Suzuki Institute initiated by author and former director of the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Seth Klein — is calling for the creation of a federally-funded climate action program that would provide anyone 35 and under with living wage jobs that address community-identified needs.
“We’re ready for a government program that offers us meaningful climate work, yet all our options remain small, short and without the opportunity to turn into long-lasting careers,” organizer Manvi Bhalla said in a press release.
“The climate crisis is here. Youth understand the need for mass worker mobilization to adapt our communities and accelerate mitigation efforts. It’s time the government acted accordingly.”
“Young people have taken their futures into their own hands by applying for jobs that would solve some of B.C.’s biggest problems, such as the failure to respond to the 2021 catastrophic heat dome and flooding,” added organizer and CEU director of communications Erin Blondeau.
“Up until this point, the government has failed to adequately prepare for the climate crisis, despite declaring it a federal emergency in 2019.”
Bhalla said the diversity of youth engaging with the CEU’s call to action shows how popular the idea of a long-term green jobs program is.
“Since launching the call for cover letters only two weeks ago, youth across the country have demonstrated incredible support for this proposed national program and have identified hundreds of jobs and industries that are critical to ensuring liveable futures.”
As envisioned in a policy brief available on the CEU’s website (climateemergencyunit.ca/climatecorps), the program would fund thousands of climate mitigation and adaptation jobs, work that both expedites the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and helps communities prepare for, respond to, and become more resilient to climate impacts and extreme weather events.
Participants would earn “thriving” wages during a two-year apprenticeship spent in the field or in a partnership with a post-secondary institution (combining field work and classroom study), providing them with a potential pathway into life-long careers in climate/energy transition jobs of the future.
“Members of the YCC could be engaged in restoring ecosystems that help capture carbon, managing our forests to reduce wildfire risks, responding to climate disasters and enhancing community resilience/safety, and building the new climate infrastructure we desperately need (renewable energy projects, building retrofits, high speed rail and more),” the brief states.
“The YCC could contribute to a growing Indigenous resurgence movement, making clear that traditional ecological knowledge has a leading role to play in how we respond to climate change. YCC youth could also be involved in low-carbon caring work (elder and child care) at the heart of a ‘Green New Deal,’ and social care and mutual aid work (such as people who go door-to-door during extreme weather events to check in on people and make connections).”
Blondeau said the letters delivered last week show that policy for cross-country green work opportunities are supported and desired by Canadian youth, “regardless of whether they are climate activists or simply looking to serve their communities through meaningful work.”
“A Youth Climate Corps is the program to do just that: offering a gateway for youth across the country to access urgently-needed work while receiving fair wages, benefits and a pathway to future education, with a program philosophy that no one gets turned away,” Blondeau said.
Qualtrough, who was not in the Ladner office when the cover letters were delivered, said in a statement that young people in Delta and across Canada are concerned about their futures and leading the charge to create a healthier planet now and for generations to come.
“They are hoping to build careers doing meaningful work to improve our world. In doing so, they are setting an example for the rest of us to follow,” Qualtrough said.
“Here in Delta, my Constituency Youth Council has identified climate action as a top priority. We are very lucky to have engaged youth leaders with a passion for doing good. I regularly share their thoughtful advice with my colleagues in Ottawa and around the cabinet table.
“I believe that we make better decisions as a government when the voices of young people are listened to.”