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Activists deliver 630 letters to minister demanding Canada create ‘Youth Climate Corps’

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A group of young climate activists delivered 630 mock cover letter to Minister of Youth Marci Ien’s Toronto constituency office Thursday as part of push for Canada to launch a ‘Youth Climate Corps’.

“We needed it yesterday,” said Aliza Sabih one of the speakers at the event. “Let our demands reverberate in the corridors of power, demanding and compelling our leaders to act with urgency that this crisis demands.”

To make the corps a reality, the group wants Ottawa to spend $1 billion to start allowing the 1.3 million youth between 18 and 35 years of age across the country to take part in a paid two-year program that would provide training in jobs such as restoring ecosystems, responding to disasters and building new climate infrastructure.

They argue internships, many of which are unpaid, simply do not do enough for youth to access jobs making a difference.

“We believe that meeting the climate emergency requires something much more grand, and we envision a government program that turns no one away, for which the only requirement to entry is the desire to sign on,” said organizer Bushra Asghar.

Nicola Radatus-Smith, 24, has a masters in science and sustainabilty but said her years of education is not enough to land a position offering financial stability.

“The challenge that I'm facing in my industry is there are a lot of companies hiring, but it's in industries that are causing kind of more of the harm than good. So I am more interested in working for more ethical green jobs,” she said.

The event comes as COP28 gets underway in Dubai, the United Nations conference on tackling climate change. The U.N. reports that 2023 is set to be the world’s hottest on record.

Activists say a similar climate corps program launched in the United States this year with 20,000 available positions and demand soared with 40,000 people signing up.

“If the government created a youth climate corps, it wouldn't just be great for the economy, but it would allow young people like me a chance to make a difference in our local communities by giving us opportunities to help protect biodiversity, said Sema Dabran, a Grade 10 student who also spoke outside Ien’s office.

Members of Ien’s staff accepted the mock cover letters. CTV News Toronto has reached out to her office and the department overseeing youth issues but didn’t received a reply Thursday during business hours.

CTV News Toronto asked them about what programs are available for youth to access to jobs and experience where they can make a difference and was directed to Employment and Social Development Canada [ESDC].

“ESDC has a comprehensive array of youth programming to support youth at every stage of their journey towards a bright future. This year alone, the Government aims to create over 140,000 opportunities for youth,” said a spokesperson.

Some of the specific programs they listed include Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program, Canada Summer Jobs, Student Work Placement Program , and The Canada Service Corps.

Meanwhile, Environment and Climate Change Canada said it has programs that aim to support youth employment and provide opportunities related to climate and environmental action including the Science Horizons Youth Internship Program and The Climate Action and Awareness Fund.

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