As part of a series highlighting the work of young people in addressing the climate crisis, writer Patricia Lane interviews Brahm Enslin, a climate crusader with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Brahm Enslin wants Canada Post to deliver mail and a better future. Based in Saskatoon, he has traded his mail truck for a Zoom screen as he leads the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ campaign in the Prairie region to help Canada Post do its part to create a safe, secure, well-paid, community-based clean recovery.
Tell us about your campaign.
Postal workers have reimagined how our post office could operate. Post offices have always been local hubs, and postal workers walk or drive their communities every day. Thousands of postal service outlets could provide rural Canadians with internet access, banking and electric vehicle charging. In cities and small towns, seniors and those with mobility issues could check in daily with their mail carrier.
Retrofitting postal outlet buildings could create thousands of well-paid jobs close to home. Electrifying the Canada Post vehicle fleet, the largest in the country, would accelerate demand for electric trucks and vans. A green fleet would employ skilled unionized mechanics and provide all drivers the security of knowing they can get their cars, vans and trucks serviced. If we put community first, we can have a much better future.
Union activist Brahm Enslin believes if we put community first, we can have a much better future. #CanadaPost #CleanEconomy
What’s in it for Canada Post?
Canada Post is a Crown corporation owned by all of us. Our government could use it as a pathway to a green recovery that benefits everyone. Greening the postal service could be part of the “Greening Government” strategy, and offering new services means additional revenue for Canada Post.
Who opposes this plan?
The most resistance comes from those who have strong financial or emotional ties to the fossil fuel industry or fear losing their jobs. Although the industry admits the transition has started, there are those who still engage in disinformation.
If people believe a union only protects its members’ paycheques, this campaign might come as a surprise. This has always been too narrow a view of unions, but in this case, it's easy to see how protecting our members' futures can also help protect the future of humanity.
How did you get interested in this campaign?
I worked as a mail carrier to help pay for university. My parents raised me to speak my mind and think independently, and when my local union’s leadership supported me to do that, I felt right at home. I had only been a union steward for a couple of years when I was encouraged to step up. Before I knew it, I was on the convention floor speaking to 700 people! My parents’ families emigrated from South Africa and Ukraine, and I have always been aware of my status as a settler and been shocked by how badly we treat Indigenous and other marginalized people. This campaign will bring internet, banking, transportation infrastructure and good clean jobs to so many marginalized communities, many of them Indigenous. It just seems like the right thing to do.
What keeps you awake at night?
I am a calm person, but I do worry about the continued influence of large fossil fuel corporations gaining at the expense of us all. I worry our government is in the back pocket of corporations. I worry that Canadians don’t see the climate crisis as urgent. It is good to see U.S. President Joe Biden understanding climate change is important and unions help strengthen society for us all, but I worry that Canada has slipped behind.
What gives you hope?
This entire country is having this conversation. I am in Saskatoon, and while the media might have you believe that we on the Prairies do not see climate change and Indigenous justice as important, this could not be further from the truth. Polls indicate support for bold climate action and social justice all over the Prairies, and it is picking up speed. The next generation is ready and willing to stand up for what is right, and that encourages me.
What would you like to say to other young people?
You inspire me. It is incredible to meet so many well-informed, articulate and innovative 14 and 15 year olds. I hope that with the postal service delivering new services and good jobs close to home, you will be even more excited to make the changes we all want.
Do you have anything to say to older readers?
We stand on your giant shoulders. Your experience and wisdom are important and so are new ideas from the youth. Let's work together to be the change that we want to see!