We are pleased to announce that the Lawson Foundation is investing $2.7 million in ten youth-led environmental initiatives across Canada over three years as part of our new Youth and the Environment Impact Area.

Our newest area of focus was developed in response to our growing understanding that connection to nature and a healthy environment are crucial to healthy human development, and that adolescence/emerging adulthood is a critical period for brain development. It also recognizes that young people have unique abilities and leadership qualities that could be brought to bear in addressing a range of environmental issues.  

This strategy is driven by a double bottom line to strengthen youth leadership and civic engagement; and to encourage connection to nature and enable environmental action.

The ten funded initiatives that we are announcing today were selected from more than 130 initial expressions of interest, because we believe they best represent a genuine commitment and engagement toward that double bottom line.  

In selecting the funded initiatives we were intentional in our approach – validating our assumptions through research and analysis, and engaging youth throughout the process, including at the outset through a youth retreat to help us think this through and in the review process to select the projects.

The projects are diverse in their approaches, geography and environmental focus. Four are in communities in the North (Including one in each territory and one in Nunatsiavut in Labrador), with others in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.   The projects seek to restore and protect ecosystems by addressing a range of environmental issues including climate change, water quality, urban environmental challenges and food security.

What they all share, however, is a strong connection to nature and commitment to deep, intentional youth engagement. They also all have a goal of amplifying the voices of youth.

A core part of our strategy is our cohort approach, which will provide opportunities for youth leaders and participants from the projects to come together, both in-person and virtually, to create a learning community, build relationships and facilitate opportunities for personal and professional growth. Plans are already underway to convene the cohort for our first in-person gathering in the spring.

We’ll share more about the funded projects and what we’re learning together in the coming weeks. For now, please help us congratulate the following initiatives (Alphabetically by organization name):

Empowering the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders in Nova Scotia
Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation (Lunenburg, NS)
$281,500 over 3 years

This project will create a movement of young environmental leaders across the province while drawing attention to several long-standing issues, particularly in marginalized communities where environmental racism persists. Youth will gain the necessary skills, resources, and support to tackle environmental issues in their own communities through research, education, and action. This project will provide inquiry-based learning opportunities and peer-to-peer mentorship for youth in science.


Greenbelt Youth Ambassadors: Empowering the next generation of environmental leaders
Ecospark Environmental Organization (Toronto, ON)
$306,500 over 3 years

EcoSpark’s Greenbelt Youth Ambassador Project will empower the next generation of environmental leaders. One hundred and fifty diverse youth will connect to nature in the Greenbelt, learn about issues facing this protected landscape, participate in its stewardship, and have a voice in the ongoing protection of the Greenbelt. EcoSpark will facilitate six Greenbelt tours to connect youth to the protected greenspace, develop youth leadership skills over two summer conferences and throughout the project, and support youth-led environmental action projects over the course of the school year.


Growing Nature Connection & Skills: Youth-Led Study on Invertebrate Biodiversity in Metro Vancouver
EYA Environmental Youth Alliance Society (Vancouver, BC)
$156,500 over 3 years

The project will engage 40 Indigenous high school youth to lead a three-year civic ecology and citizen science project to create and monitor the impact of native wildflower lawns on urban invertebrate biodiversity. Youth will develop and test the effectiveness of wildflower lawns as a habitat strategy and raise public awareness of the importance of creating habitat for insect species beyond pollinators, while deepening nature connectivity and developing skills in civic engagement and community leadership. Field-work will be braided with land-based teachings from an Indigenous Elder and local Indigenous knowledge keepers.


Next Generation Naturalists
Kamloops Naturalist Club (Kamloops, BC)
$227,500 over 3 years

This project will bring together youth who have an interest in providing environmental leadership. Their role will be to build capacity within themselves and in their community (Kamloops/Tk’emlúps) to effect positive environmental changes. They will raise awareness on important issues by hosting guest speaker events and engaging with the public in person and through social media. They will develop a ‘Master Naturalist’ program that trains people in citizen science and the natural history of this region, including its first peoples. Using the skills they develop, youth will work with the community to create and implement an ambitious environmental restoration project.


Misipawistik Cree Nation Youth Guardians
Misipawistik Cree Nation (Grand Rapids, MB)
$306,500 over 3 years

The Misipawistik Cree Nation (MCN) Youth Guardians project will foster transmission of traditional knowledge to youth, ensuring the land and natural resources are protected for future generations. The project will be led by the MCN Lands department with support from MCN Education and the Indigenous Leadership Initiative. Youth involved in the project will gain an understanding of local conservation issues and sustainable harvesting practices by taking part in locally-developed specialised training, spending time with Elders and Senior Guardians on the land, and hosting community meetings.  


PisonguniKavutit: Enhancing youth capacity for environmental health stewardship in Nunatsiavut
Nunatsiavut Government (Nain, NL)
$305,000 over 3 years

PisonguniKavutit is an Inuttitut word meaning “skills within you” or “having the ability within”.  PisonguniKavutit was envisioned by youth in Nunatsiavut around this foundational concept. Nunatsiavut communities are facing many environmental health challenges, including rapid climate changes, environmental contamination, and food insecurity.  However, youth have the ability and skills within them to address these important issues and build thriving communities. The PisonguniKavutit program aims to enhance this capacity by creating opportunities for Nunatsiavummiut youth to connect with their environment and gain valuable time and experience on the land where cultural knowledge, food skills and Inuit values are learned and practised.


Youth Nıó Nę P’ęné ̨ Sódzene’en (We are Looking After the Backbone of the Mountains) Stewardship Initiative
Sahtú Renewable Resources Board (Tulı́t’a, NT)
$305,000 over 3 years

Nıó Nę P’ęné ̨ Sódzene’en is an Indigenous Guardian program for youth from the mountain Dene communities of Tulit’a, Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories and Tu Łidlini (Ross River) in the Yukon. The program will build strong youth environmental and community leadership and help ensure that shúhta goɂepę́ (mountain caribou) and its habitat in the proposed Nı́o Nę P’ęnę́ Indigenous Protected Area continues to thrive through future generations, along with mountain Dene traditional culture. Youth will build confidence, ownership, language fluency and responsibility by participating in intergenerational on-the-land mentorships and summer and winter camps facilitated by skilled land users, counsellors and scientists.


CityHive Youth Envirolab
Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC)
$302,500 over 3 years

As cities face increasingly complex environmental challenges and simultaneously find themselves with the opportunity to lead in solution-building, citizens and, in particular, youth are needed to create meaningful, creative and urgent solutions.The Youth Envirolab is an innovation process that will empower and equip Metro Vancouver youth to tackle urban environmental challenges with key decision makers and partners, and collaborate on building and launching projects and initiatives. These projects will then be supported in the Youth Hub, where they will receive project development support. The Envirolab aims to build literacy around environment issues and amplify the role of youth in decision making processes.


Students on Ice Climate Action Cohorts
Students on Ice Foundation/Fondation des étudiants sur glace (Ottawa, ON)
$281,000 over 3 years

The Climate Action Cohort program will empower the next generation of climate leaders. Three diverse cohorts of 10 Canadian youth will engage in a two-year program during which they will (1) participate in and co-design a nature retreat, focused on leadership skill building and climate action; (2) participate in a youth delegation to the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; and (3) develop and lead outdoor, environmental community initiatives that address climate change in participants’ home communities. Participants will be supported through mentorship, including youth-to-youth mentorship.


Mittimatalik Guardian Watchmen Youth Leadership Project
Tides Canada Foundation (Vancouver, BC)
$245,000 over 3 years

Youth leaders from five Inuit communities in North Baffin will help to establish and sustain a network of youth Guardians to monitor, protect and caretake the natural and cultural resources of the region. This project will facilitate transfer of knowledge from Elders to youth and help youth share in cultural storytelling as well as traditional land and water stewardship practices. The project will harness the talents and insights of the Inuit youth of North Baffin and create a livelihood pathway for the next generation of environmental stewards to play a role in shaping the future of land and water conservation.

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