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Bringing youth from the inner city and from First Nations to build Climate Solutions Parks

Bringing youth from the inner city and from First Nations to build Climate Solutions Parks

Jose Etcheverry

The work to build Canada’s first Climate Solutions Parks (CSP) has received an important boost, thanks to new funding from the Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada). The CSPs that are being built will focus on skills development in key areas such as community-focused agriculture, renewable energy, electric mobility, First Nations knowledge, sustainable construction and eco-tourism.

CEWIL is providing EUC Professor José Etcheverry with a new grant that will allow the CSP team to hire in 2022-2023 college and university students to continue experiential learning opportunities to build two CSPs in Toronto and in Penetaguishene, Ontario. Project coordination is led by master’s of environmental studies graduate Dale Colleen Hamilton, and administration by York University master’s of environmental studies student Codrina Ibanescu.

The new program will focus on developing a large multi-disciplinary team that will harness work-integrated learning practices to develop the CSPs online and in the two physical locations that have been selected due to their track record, accessibility and strong replication potential.

The Beausoleil First Nations and Six Nations alongside REAL team members who built design elements of the Climate Solutions Park, an ongoing project that began during previous REAL rounds in Penetanguishene, Ontario.

“We will aim to educate and provide awareness for the public and the community on reconciliation. There is much knowledge left to learn from the Indigenous communities in our country and we are here to support, nourish, and disseminate that knowledge theoretically and experientially,” says Etcheverry. “We will also be working with Land of the Dancing Deer to assist them in the planning, development and execution of the Healing Village and their permaculture gardens through student involvement.”

The Climate Solutions Park is also working with the Rural Urban Learning Association (RULA), a registered Canadian charitable organization with a diverse membership, to ensure trust, genuine relationship building, and community engagement remain central to their mandates with the Indigenous communities where the projects are located. 

Local companies working with local youth to build Canada’s first Climate Solutions Park.

“The ecology garden represents a wonderful foundation that the Climate Solutions Park will continue to foster, nurture and evolve over time. We will remain connected with our roots in Penetanguishene – while reaching towards a greater collective vision for climate change solutions locally and globally,” says Ibanescu, RULA president. 

A solar installation training offered with Relay Education in February 2020 as part of a previous REAL project. Each of the three cohorts welcomed more than 50 students.

Students will be selected to work with local companies, elected politicians, First Nations leaders and non-governmental organizations that are all committed to climate solutions and local community development. There is also a bursary available for some students to participate in York’s 4REAL (4th Renewable Energy & Agricultural Learning) project, which is linked to one of York University’s renewable energy courses and focuses on local climate change solutions with an emphasis on the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. The bursary aims to help domestic students gain experiential opportunities at several farm and green industry sites, including the Climate Solutions Park in Penetanguishene. To learn more about the bursary, visit

Professor Etcheverry and his team will hold open houses in the CSP Toronto location (70 Canuck Avenue) every Friday between 2-5 pm to inform local community members and to meet students that are interested in climate solutions and work-integrated learning.

For further details and to participate in the development of Canada’s first Climate Solutions Parks, please email