For the 100th anniversary of Canada’s National Forest Week, Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada) wants to highlight Indigenous professionals in the green sector to inspire more young people to go into the forest.
“Indigenous Peoples are Canada's original forest and conservation professionals. They shape every facet of the sector, creating even more opportunity for their communities and for the next generation of leaders,” said Paul Robitaille, Director of Indigenous and Youth Relations, PLT Canada.
Guy Wright, a member of the K’ómoks First Nation, helps ensure sustainable harvesting so forests grow back healthily. K’ómoks First Nation Forestry uses sustainable forest management to create more economic opportunities for their community.
“I pride myself in getting the best return for our trees, which are renewable assets. Our forestry work supports education and all sorts of other important things for the K’ómoks First Nation,” said Wright.
Now a natural resource manager, Wright first became interested in forestry when he worked for KDC Forestry Consulting in the late 90s. His supervisor, a University of British Columbia (UBC) grad, convinced him to join UBC’s Faculty of Forestry, and then he got into forest engineering.
“Planning roads and boundaries was like a puzzle. You need to put the pieces together and make it work. I was hooked!” he said.
The K’ómoks First Nation is certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Small-Scale Forest Management Module for Indigenous Peoples, Families and Communities. They, along with the Qualicum First Nation, were the first to certify to the small-scale module. Companies that are SFI certified are committed to responsible forestry practices, protecting water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat and species at risk.
Through PLT Canada’s Green Jobs wage matching program, the K’ómoks First Nation’s Guardian Program hired a young person from their community this summer as well. The Guardian Program protects their lands and waters with a traditional decision-making approach.
The K’ómoks First Nation also accessed PLT Canada’s Green Skills Training Fund for first aid and forestry equipment training. The fund provides flexibility for Indigenous communities to design and deliver forest-focused training opportunities that best meet their needs and enhance employability in the forest and conservation sectors.
“I want to help keep growing my First Nation’s businesses so our people can have even more opportunities,” said Wright.
SFI is committed to building and promoting forest-focused collaborations rooted in recognition and respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and traditional knowledge. PLT Canada, an initiative of SFI, works with partners like the K’ómoks First Nation to tailor their programs to meet local needs and co-create positive change. This means PLT Canada is flexible with program delivery, responds to communities’ unique priorities, respects inherent and treaty rights, and more.
With feedback from Indigenous communities, PLT Canada has developed a growing and evolving suite of programs and services to better support youth’s Green Job experiences. Supports include pre-employment skills courses, webinars with job seeking tips, mental health services, mentorship and financial supports to help remove barriers to green employment, like the skills training fund and the Work-Ready Equipment Subsidy.
PLT Canada also published “A Guide to Green Jobs in Canada: Voices of Indigenous Professionals” this summer, which is available in English and French and has been translated into Anishinaabemowen and Plains Cree. The 60-page career resource shares the personal stories of 12 role models in the forest and conservation sector, including Wright, and career fact sheets highlighting the diversity of green job opportunities.
“We hope to inspire even more young people to find a place for themselves in the forest with their stories,” said Robitaille.
PLT Canada has placed youth in over 3,000 high-quality work experiences through the Green Jobs program, including more than 500 Indigenous youth from over 80 different Nations—many of whom found placements in their own communities. More than 200 employers in the forest and conservation sectors have been funded with the wage-matching program. First Nations, First Nations businesses and community-serving non-profits are all eligible to receive 50% wage matching from PLT Canada. Youth and employers can learn more about the Green Jobs program here.