The Sierra Youth Coalition is an organization run by youth and for youth, serving as the youth arm of the Sierra Club of Canada. SYC began as a small group with a vision towards the involvement of Canadian youth in pressing environmental issues. SYC has grown into a nation-wide network, with hundreds of registered members and thousands of dedicated volunteers, operating in more than 80 colleges and universities and 50 high schools.
Through grassroots action, SYC aims to address unsustainable practices through a solutions based approach that promotes education for sustainability, bioregionalism, and sustainable communities. SYC acts as a networking and resource centre for youth aged 15 to 30 concerned about environmental and social justice issues. Our mission is to empower young people to become active community leaders who contribute to making Canada a more sustainable society. To this end, we:
- educate young people about ecological and social sustainability;
- challenge unjust and environmentally destructive systems by using a solutions-based approach;
- advocate for the new generation of people in Canada who want to inherit a world worth inheriting: one where social justice and the environment are at the center of society's priorities.
SYC runs the national Sustainable Campuses project, which concretely reduces the ecological footprints of our learning establishments while training a new generation of environmentally conscious leaders. We hold a national campus sustainability conference annually and many regional conferences where skills and success stories are shared.
We engage high school students through the Community Youth Action Gatherings and the Sustainable High Schools project, through which we are developing a culture of volunteerism and social activism in a younger target audience.
We also organize national and international awareness campaigns on pressing environmental issues raised by our membership (e.g. To The Tar Sands (Alberta) and the Deconstructing Dinner Caravan (Canada, USA, Mexico) bicycle campaigns).
Finally, we provide a venue for youth participation at major conferences and summits at the local, national, and international level (Province Houses, Canadian Parliament, World Trade Organization, UN, G8, etc.) through our Education Fund.
Since its inception, SYC has run a variety of successful campaigns and initiatives, including:
1998-present: The Sustainable Campuses Project is one of SYC's most successful projects. 2010 will mark our twelfth annual National Sustainable Campuses Conference. In 2005, SYC received an award from the North American Association of Environmental Educators for outstanding environmental education on a regional level. Our Sustainable Campuses Network engages over 80 campuses from across Canada.
1999: The Eco Echo Tour took skills-building workshops across rural communities in Canada throughout the summer of 1999. These workshops were attended by youth from high schools, universities, colleges and other youth focused community groups. This project began as an initiative on the East Coast, and due to its success, was expanded nationally to communities and youth groups across the country!
2001: During the Climate Change Caravan, from May 7 through to September 20, 2001, a group of 40 concerned citizens, primarily youth, engaged in a self-propelled, fossil-free movement across Canada, starting in Tofino, British Columbia, via Newfoundland, and finishing in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This caravan of bikers and a bus powered by used vegetable oil complete with solar panels (all engineered by students) delivered The BET campaign to all Canadians. The Climate Change Caravan visited roughly 120 towns and cities along the way, making presentations about climate change to town councils, schools, and community groups.
2001-present: Our Community Youth Action Gatherings work with high-school aged youth. We now run week-long Youth Action Gatherings each summer in the Prairies and the Ottawa area.
2003: In the area of trade and the environment, SYC has always thought it important to communicate strong messages to youth concerned about the impacts of increased trade liberalization and current trade negotiations on ecosystems and the human environment. SYC was active in the lead up to demonstrations in both Seattle and Quebec City.
2003: The Sierra Youth Coalition coordinated the Deconstructing Dinner Caravan. On this bike tour, 18 Canadian activists rode from Vancouver to Cancun, Mexico to demonstrate against the WTO's 5th Ministerial. Along the way, they collected stories about the connections between trade, the environment, and agriculture. Education and information sharing are always priorities in SYC's work, and reporting and documentation of our involvement in these events reached thousands of SYC volunteers, members, supporters, and youth.
2004-2008: The It's My Future campaign challenged the investment practices of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. We urged teachers to demand that their pension not be invested in dirty energy such as coal power plants.
2004-2008: SYC has been working with the Sierra Club of Canada and the Arctic Indigenous Youth Alliance to protect the Mackenzie River Valley from the construction of a 1300 km natural gas pipeline.
2009: SYC was a sponsor of Power Shift Canada, organized through the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition of which we are proud members.
Envisioned as a place to learn and grow, SYC aims to provide volunteers and employees with satisfying and meaningful work. This is achieved through a non-hierarchical and consensus-based decision making model that allows equal access to information and a fair distribution of responsibility. SYC operates within an anti-oppressive framework. Within our work and lives, we work to dismantle systems of oppression, including but not limited to oppression based on 'race,' ancestry, place of origin, ethnicity, language, class, citizenship, creed, system of belief, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, and physical and/or mental disability.