top of page

A Shared Youth Vision for Environmental Leadership in Canada

We are pleased to put forward this vision statement, developed collaboratively with youth across the country.


We need to ensure meaningful youth participation in politics if Canada is serious about tackling climate change. In Canada and globally, so-called “environmental problems” are threatening both our planet and human security, health and livelihoods, and compounding existing crises of affordability, inequity, and wealth disparity. As we prepare to inherit these crises, youth are not waiting idly for change. Across the country and around the world, we are stepping up for environmental action.

But our political, economic, and social systems create and uphold the status quo. They minimize our voices and those of equity-deserving communities and generate apathy and disenfranchisement, making necessary changes difficult to achieve. For example, youth face structural barriers to participation, such as a lack of policy frameworks, specific guidelines, and resourcing to support youth engagement in climate and environmental decision-making spaces, as well as inter-generational knowledge gaps. Additionally, certain groups of youth may experience greater barriers to participation due to intersecting forms of inequality and marginalization, such as but not limited to age, gender, socioeconomic status, and race.

Like any diverse group, we as youth hold a range of perspectives, policy positions, and partisan values. Yet, we are united in our belief that bold and equity-centered environmental leadership at all levels of politics is critical not just to our future but to our here and now - the absence of it undermines our trust in our leaders and democratic system. As such, there must be further discussion of the enabling conditions to meaningful youth participation in environmental policymaking and politics in Canada. This vision statement is intended to begin that dialogue between youth and decision-makers. We call on leaders to embrace it and include us in its realization.

Foundational Principles for Environmental Policymaking

The following principles are frequently absent in policymaking, but are critical to guide and propel the decision-makers who chart our environmental future and inspire others to get involved.

  • Recognize and respect the importance and interconnectedness of a healthy environment to human safety, physical and mental health, food security, economic livelihoods, spirituality, recreation, and heritage

    • Reject the compartmentalization of “the environment” solely in terms of natural/extractable resources and services (independent of human health, security, and wellbeing), while respecting the inherent value of biodiversity and importance of healthy ecosystems

  • Value Indigenous knowledge and structurally incorporate this knowledge and its holders in decision-making

  • Acknowledge, and seek to redress, the global environmental harms disproportionately committed by wealthy nations, including Canada, and by certain segments of society, at the expense and exclusion of marginalized people within Canada.

  • Seek to equitably distribute the benefits of environmental policies, programs, and investments to all Canadians, with special care for groups who have been systemically excluded from these benefits (e.g. access to public transportation, green space, green jobs, etc.)

    • Embrace broad principles of circular economics, environmental justice, food security, environmental education, and center them in the transition to sustainable jobs

  • Demonstrates a willingness to work across political divides and form cross-party consensuses for outcomes that will reflect the needs of different peoples within Canada

    • Address regional differences and the rural-urban spectrum and work towards solutions that fit the needs of different communities in Canada

  • Consult meaningfully, with affected communities of a potential policy before putting the policy into practice, especially if it affects Indigenous and/or marginalized communities

Youth Inclusion in Decision-Making

Current systems of decision-making in Canada fail to meaningfully make space for and incorporate our voices, even though we already are and will continue to be among those most affected by decisions of environmental policy. As such, we call on current decision-makers to:

  • Meaningfully work towards dismantling barriers to youth participation in politics

  • Ensure that information on issues relevant to youth is easily and freely accessible

  • Formalize, expand, and protect pathways for youth participation in decision-making

  • Ensure that these pathways are inclusive, accessible and equitable for youth from underrepresented and/or marginalized communities, including young women, young people with disabilities, racialized youth, LGTBQ2S+ youth, and newcomer youth

  • Work formally and informally to create welcoming and enabling environments for continuous youth participation in decision-making spaces

  • Respect the time, ideas, and dignities of youth by rejecting tokenization and enabling youth to see the outcomes of their advice, action, and leadership

  • Enable youth engaged in environmental leadership to build institutional knowledge so they can engage effectively with these systems

Fundamentals of Environmental Leadership

We welcome the diverse styles, types of, and intersectional approaches to leadership that exist, but also believe there are common attributes and attitudes of leaders necessary in bringing about our vision of leadership.

  • Personally committing to honesty, transparency, accountability, and integrity

    • Ensuring a comprehensive transition of knowledge, resources, tools, and power to help incoming youth fully undertake their new responsibilities as leaders

  • Exhibiting a high level of empathy, respect, and emotional intelligence

    • Demonstrating a willingness and determination to engage in dialogue, fostering a collaborative and open-minded exchange of ideas and perspectives and upholding values of active listening, respect, and empathy

    • Providing hope against climate grief and anxiety by acknowledging it and working with youth for positive change

  • A proactive approach to learning and leading (e.g. not waiting for youth to fix things)

    • Being humble and empowering youth who might have more technical and lived knowledge, despite their age, to make important decisions around our environment

  • Approaching policymaking with a long-term view that resists political short-termism at the expense of important change

  • Taking a holistic approach that explicitly accounts for the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental systems

    • Making sure that environmental policy objectives are adequately considered and incorporated in public policy processes and vice versa

  • Acknowledging personal biases that result in decentering other ways of knowing, such as Traditional Ecological/Indigenous Knowledge, and working to dismantle colonial ways of thinking

  • A commitment to equity and inclusion that moves beyond goals of “increasing representation” and towards “creating belonging”

    • Committing to co-design, co-creation, and sharing power at all stages of the policy process to facilitate community-led solutions that involve the equitable and inclusive participation of marginalized youth populations


There is abundant motivation, knowledge, and readiness amongst youth that make us valuable stakeholders for and leaders of effective environmental action. Through this statement, we have identified critical considerations and aspects of a bold and equity-centered environmental leadership that will enable and elevate the ability of diverse youth to meaningfully engage in environmental decision-making spaces and policy processes at all levels of governance and across sectors in Canada.

We hope that this statement will instigate dialogue between youth and decision-makers. Further, we hope that this will activate much-needed youth-led and/or youth-inclusive partnerships across generations in environmental policy and politics in Canada. Our future and that of the planet depend on such conversations to advance collaborative, innovative, and equitable solutions to protect the environment and people.


bottom of page