Year 5 PIE Interns with PIE alum Camilla Stanley, PIE Director Ami Gagné, and GreenPAC Program Coordinator Raymond Dang.
Year 5 of the Parliamentary Internship for the Environment (PIE) has wrapped up, and what an incredible journey it has been! With a dynamic new director, specialized program streams, and a cohort of passionate young leaders, PIE has been a hub of environmental action and learning. In this blog, we'll take you through the highlights of this remarkable year, focusing on the impact of these young voices in shaping Canada's environmental future.
“The day-to-day experience of being in the program for me is so exciting. I always wanted to work in Ottawa and be exactly here on the Hill, engaging in debates on committees and soaking up all the dialogues around environmental issues in real-time. Meeting people I see on TV every day or speaking to politicians and ministers is really accessible here, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to network with those who are actively involved in drafting bills and representing the government.” -Kelsey Lane (she/her)
A Year of Energy and Innovation
In September 2022, we welcomed our largest cohort yet – ten exceptional young interns from across Canada. This diverse group of emerging leaders brought fresh perspectives and boundless energy to a range of critical environmental issues. From Reconciliation to clean finance, to gender equity, these interns showcased the importance of youth in driving change.
Mary Gholami with host MP Michael Chong; Kelsey Lane with host MP Peter Schiefke (photographed with MP Terry Duguid).
Specialized Streams for Specialized Impact
This year we introduced a Specialized Stream for Indigenous Interns, and welcomed two Indigenous youth. The program recognizes the invaluable insights and perspectives Indigenous youth bring to environmental discussions and the pivotal role of Indigenous voices in shaping Canada's environmental policy landscape. With a commitment to active allyship and addressing institutional inequities against Indigenous culture and leadership, PIE is also strengthening the inclusion of the teachings and insights of Reconciliation and Indigenous communities across the broader cohort. Central to this is Indigenous-led training and immersive experiential learning opportunities, like discussions with Elders and Knowledge Keepers, teachings about Traditional Ecological Knowledge, comprehensive anti-oppression training, and hands-on, experiential learning experiences.
“It is honestly a scary experience to start...working in the colonial government. But it’s an honor to be there. Just your presence will help push change, and you’ll be occupying a space that our ancestors were denied. My advice would be to embrace that Indigenous pride, that pride in your culture...walk into Parliament with your head held high and know that your ancestors are watching you, and they are proud.” -Logan (they/he)
The Sustainable Agriculture stream continued this year, offering two young leaders from the prairie provinces the chance to dive deeper into this crucial field, which is intended to bridge the urban-rural and East-West divides in environmental politics.
"I appreciate how the agriculture stream was designed for people who are from the prairies and gives them an opportunity to come to Ottawa and see the kind of world you wouldn't see back home. It has been amazing to witness the [legislative] process and how day-to-day life is for the people who represent us.” -Mary (she/her)
PIE also offered a themed placement this year in Climate Finance, a growing field in the climate movement.
Championing Environmental Causes in Parliament
We had the incredible opportunity to work with 12 MPs and 1 Senator from the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, Canada's New Democrats, the Green Party of Canada, and the Independent Senators Group. Each intern played a unique role, making valuable contributions to the environmental efforts of these offices. Here are some inspiring examples from across the cohort:
Building Bridges: Hosting, with their MP, the first All-Party Climate Caucus for the 2022-2023 sitting, bringing together representatives from across the political spectrum to discuss climate action.
Policy Action: Working on various committees (transport, environment, natural resources, ethics, finance, etc.), conducting research and writing briefs on issues like transportation, soil health and conservation, climate finance, and marine protected areas; contributing to a motion on electoral reform that received support from all parties!
Youth Engagement: Coordinating their MP’s first youth council and conducting Parliamentary tours for secondary-school level constituents of their MP.
Sustainable Agriculture: Working on research for amendments to the Building a Green Prairie Economy Act; supporting farmers and sustainable agricultural practices; conducting significant research to support the development of a national soil strategy.
Global Influence: Staffing a Minister at COP15, contributing to Canada's global efforts on climate change; supporting the ongoing work of the Senators for Climate Solutions group by crafting policy briefs on international climate events, and contributing to climate policy discussions.
Cross-Government Collaboration: Organizing and bringing together constituents and representatives from different levels of government for issue discussions.
Interns in the Senate of Canada.
“I know from experience that it's often very hard to have your voice heard as a young person in politics, especially on climate, but I felt like I was able to have a strong impact in my offices. A highlight was getting to lead a campaign on electoral reform for one of my offices, including helping write the motion itself which will be coming up for debate and a vote in the House in the fall.” -Sophia (she/her)
“I learned how to prepare for committees, how to connect with key people, how to explain the purpose of Private Members’ Bills, and how to get answers from the government through well-placed questions... I didn't just hone my research skills; I also learned how to [use] my investigative skills... I am proudest of the information I found to explain why we need a national soil health strategy.” -Mike (he/him)
A Platform for Personal and Professional Growth
In addition to their impactful work in Parliament, PIE interns had extensive opportunities for personal and professional development. They attended workshops and Fireside Chats with influential guest speakers, expanding their horizons and building valuable skills. Special guest speakers include Julie Gelfand (former Federal Commissioner of the Environment, MP Yasir Naqvi (Ottawa Centre), Michael Jacobs (CEO of CAMBIUM Indigenous Professional Services), Yves Giroux (Parliamentary Budget Officer), and more!
They also participated in conferences and events related to their areas of interest, like the 2023 Montréal Climate Summit, and had the chance to develop and polish their personal skills, through French language training or taking technical writing or project management courses.
Left-to-right: Interns at Youth Summit; Interns at International Women's Day on the Hill; Interns at a special event.
“Some of my favourite programming highlights were attending the Guelph Organic Conference, where I connected with the local farmers, and meeting Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner during a PIE trip to Toronto. Being one of the Agriculture Stream interns, I learned a lot that I can take back to my community as I continue my studies in agriculture.” -Mary (Sustainable Agriculture Intern)
An exciting new program feature this year was our first inter-jurisdictional trip, a unique opportunity for the cohort to engage with MPPs at Queen’s Park in Toronto. During this immersive three-day trip, interns met influential figures across parties, including Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, MPP Brian Saunderson, MPP Jessica Bell, and First Deputy Chair Bhutila Karpoche. They also participated in enlightening policy workshops with local experts. This firsthand look into provincial government equipped interns with a deeper understanding of Canada’s federalist system that will be critical as they lead on environmental policy solutions throughout their careers.
Clockwise from top-left: Interns outside the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; Interns having dinner in Toronto; Interns meeting with MPP Bhutila Karpoche; Interns meeting with MPP Mike Schreiner.
FLIP (Future Leaders in Politics)
This year’s cohort supported the development and delivery of our annual FLIP (Future Leaders in Politics) Summit, playing a pivotal role in elevating the skills and competencies of young environmental leaders nationwide. This year’s FLIP focused on shifting the narrative and landscape around youth involvement in politics. The innovative, deconstructed summit featured three sessions designed to empower youth with practical tools and insights. PIE interns contributed by workshopping session themes, facilitating breakout sessions, and serving as featured speakers.
Session 1, Letters for Leadership: An Earth Day Workshop for Youth,was in partnership with Youth Climate Lab and featured guest speakers Jonathan Pedneault (co-deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada) and Soomin Han (Programs Lead at Youth Climate Lab and PIE alumni).
Session 2, Youth Councils to Environmental Action: A Conversation with Young Leaders, was in partnership with the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity & Sustainable Youth Canada, and featured panelists Abhay Singh Sachal, Annie Martel, Haruka Aoyama, Skw'akw'as (Sunshine) Dunstan-Moore and Shir Gruber.
Session 3, Youth Environmental Leaders: Personal Branding & Storytelling Workshop, in partnership with Environtastic and Ecology Ottawa, was an in-person session at Impact Hub Ottawa.
Clockwise from top-left: Kelsey Lane and PIE alumn Camilla Stanley participating on a panel at FLIP 3.0; Arthur Thuot moderating a Storytelling Workshop; MPP Chandra Pasma; MPP Joel Harden.
Coming Soon: The PIE Podcast
Launching this fall, the PIE Podcast is a project crafted by our interns, featuring GreenPAC-endorsed MPs and other Parliamentarians who are championing environmental action. These discussions will delve deep into their personal stories, experiences, and efforts to address pressing environmental issues as elected officials. Our podcast guests include the Hon. Michael Chong, Senator Rosa Galvez, and MPs Mike Morrice, Terry Duguid, and Peter Julian.
Year 5 of PIE has been a testament to the passion, dedication, and influence that young leaders can bring to the forefront of environmental politics. As our interns become alumni, they are already making waves in their respective fields. Members of this year’s cohort are returning to school and taking on new opportunities that leverage their learnings, including as National Coordinator for Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak, Prairie Youth Engagement Coordinator for the Canadian Council of Invasive Species, Regional Advisor to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Accessibility Policy Officer to Canada Post.
“Honestly, I feel like this program was a launch point for me. The experience gained was so valuable and so fulfilling but, also, so beneficial to developing my knowledge and career goals. I expanded my professional network and made valuable and lasting friendships with the other interns, my colleagues, and even the MP. As soon as I shared on LinkedIn that I was looking for work, I had so many people reach out! I think this program really helped make that happen.” -Logan (they/he)
As these interns move forward in their careers, they carry with them the experiences, knowledge, skills, and network gained through PIE, ready to tackle the pressing environmental challenges of our time. We look ahead to the future with excitement for the positive environmental change that will continue to come through the leadership of the inspiring individuals who are a part of this program.