This week, Victoria’s member of Parliament, Laurel Collins brought a new motion before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to fund jobs in which young people could have a tangible role in fighting the climate crisis.
Collins brought the idea to create a national ‘Youth Climate Corps’ forward on Monday, December 4th — an idea loosely based on the United States’ American Climate Corps.
The Youth Climate Corps would have those aged 17 to 35-years-old engaging in job sectors that would be actively helping curb the climate crisis. Their roles could range from disaster emergency relief, protective forestry work, helping transition from greenhouse gas emitting industry to green industrialization and much more.
“I wish we had been doing this for the past few decades,” Collins explained.
“The Youth Climate Corps would enroll people in two-year paid positions and they would come out of it with free tuition afterwards.”
“For young people, this is a way forward,” Collins added.
Collins told Victoria Buzz that the thought behind this new program is that young people are more prone to being impacted by climate anxiety and many feel as if there is nothing they can do to stop the world from burning.
“I used to teach at the University of Victoria and there was a young woman who came up to me in one of my classes,” Collins explained. “She was in tears at one of the breaks.”
“She asked me, ‘how am I supposed to study and work on these things when it feels like the climate is burning?’”
Collins says she sat down with her and talked with her about climate grief and the importance of taking action to counteract the anxiety that many young people are feeling.
This moment sticks out in Collins mind as a catalyst for her putting this motion together. She says she wants young people to not feel powerless — to give them options for progress.
Specifically, Collins and her colleagues want to see the Youth Climate Corps become a reality so young people can get good paying jobs with the foundations for a clear career path going forward.
She wants to see the young people involved receive post-secondary school credits upon completion of the corps, similar to how serving in the military can help pay for further education and she wants to see this program have a positive impact right here in Victoria.
“New zero-emission buildings and affordable housing, those are key needs in our city and those are ways we can combat two crises, the housing crisis and the climate crisis,” Collins told Victoria Buzz.
“But building retro-fits, energy audits, urban farming — we have an amazing little farm here, the Mason Street Farm in Victoria — these are kinds of community resilience programs, but we also want to do more environmental education.”
Collins also sees this program helping with things like urban planning, social infrastructure, food systems, having more green spaces, zero-waste programs and air quality monitoring among other ways to protect the climate and improve on our systems for a better future.
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Historically, environmental science work and those who are already working toward curbing climate change are not among the highest paid in Victoria or throughout the rest of the country.
Many of these workers rely on grant funding from all levels of government and work for non-profit organizations or universities that are operating on shoe-string budgets as is.
Collins says she would like to see this change and have the people doing this type of work paid a fair, living wage.
“This is part of the program. Our vision for Youth Climate Corps is one with decent pay, it’s one with family-sustaining wages,” Collins told Victoria Buzz.
With the free education following completion of the program, she says that “This is a pathway to a life-long career in climate and energy transition jobs.”
Collins says this likely won’t get to second reading or royal assent with a minority government, but she said it did receive positive feedback from Prime Minister Trudeau who said he may be willing to discuss the motion in the future.