The Honourable Marci Ien, P.C.,
Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, P.C.,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada
The Honorable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of FInance
Youth. Nature. Economy. These are arguably some of the most important pillars of our Canadian society that are worthy of investment, and they intersect in an important way when it comes to funding for youth employment in the conservation sector. The integrated outcomes that come with funding them extend to include community benefits, ecosystem wellbeing, economic potential, youth career paths, inclusion, diversity, and health. And that is just for starters.
Nature Canada has been leading on a collaborative project which employed almost 350 youth in the conservation sector over the last year; 72% of them facing barriers, 63% of them diverse, 40% of them returning to school, 100% of them increasing their career potential. Funded through Parks Canada with money from the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) program of the federal Department of Employment and Social Development (ESDC), the positive feedback from this project was incredible.
We are writing to request your leadership to ensure that YESS is fully funded and that the grants and contributions programming delivered by Parks Canada for youth employment in natural and cultural conservation receives full, multi-year funding. There was an incredible demand for subsidies to hire youth within the conservation sector. The existing one year funding of $20M was not sufficient to meet that demand and there is strong interest to continue year after year. Therefore, we request that you consider an investment of $125M over 5 years which would mean the employment of thousands of young people starting their careers in the conservation sector.
Our joint initiative, called Work to Grow, provided Canadian youth facing complex barriers to employment with information, skills, work experience, peer support, and networks within the nature conservation sector. The program has given us the opportunity to create hundreds of job opportunities for youth in nature organizations across the country and to support other nature-based organizations in their missions to grow communities of engaged citizens working to preserve and appreciate natural spaces.
From its inception, it was important to us to have a strong focus on engaging Black, Indigenous, and Youth of Colour (BIPOC), removing systemic barriers and providing opportunities for marginalized youth to gain the working skills necessary for a productive career in the nature sector. The program also serves to build public awareness of race-related barriers to nature in Canada and the need for anti-racism work in the conservation sector. There is now a cohort of diverse young Canadians who have developed integral skills to help them on their career paths in the conservation sector. The long term implications are bountiful.
We have seen incredible investments in youth and in nature based programming come to life through this program. In our post-pandemic economic reality, we must continue scaling up youth and student skills and employment programming and initiatives for Canadian youth. The nature groups that we work with and who have participated in this program would not be able to employ these youth without financial support. We urge you to renew the funding for this valuable program.
Thank you again,