Katimavik hopes for revival with new focus on Indigenous reconciliation

The iconic yet controversial Katimavik program hopes to relaunch with millions in federal funding and a fresh focus on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

The national youth service program, which aimed to educate youth through volunteer community service and civic engagement, was suspended in 2012 after the Conservative government cut $14 million in funding. That left only a small environmental program operating in Quebec.

But Katimavik is now waiting for word on whether it will snag a sizeable share of a $105-million, five-year envelope for youth service programs announced in this year’s federal budget. The organization’s new mission statement aligns with a top federal objective of renewing Canada’s relationship with First Nations.

Katimavik “will enable volunteers to become informed, thoughtful, capable women and men who can facilitate and lead reconciliation activities within their own communities. This will become a core part of all programming,” reads part of a draft strategic rationale document obtained by CBC News.

It said Katimavik will foster understanding, respect and reconciliation with Indigenous people and Canada’s other diverse cultures, regions and the environment.

Indigenous focus

The organization’s current chair, Willy Fournier, said that will mean more Indigenous participants and education about traditional territory and languages of the host communities.

“That is a big, big piece in the new Katimavik,” he said.

Fournier wouldn’t disclose exactly how much the organization has asked for from the federal government. But he said he believes Katimavik could nearly double its previous enrolment of roughly 1,100 people a year by making use of federal funds, volunteers and community and corporate partners. 

He hopes the revamped program could grow to 10,000 participants each year, operating under a “collaborative partnership model” with the federal government, alumni, Indigenous groups and eco-steward partners.

Amélie Caron, spokeswoman for Employment and Social Development Canada, said the Youth Service Initiative that was announced in the March budget commits to helping young Canadians “gain valuable work and life experience while providing support for communities across Canada.”

None of the money has been disbursed yet, and “further details will be announced in the coming months,” she said.

Mired in controversy

Katimavik has been mired in political controversy in past. James Moore, who was Heritage Minister when the Conservatives scrapped funding, said it was it was too expensive and had a high drop-out rate.

“As a minister of Canadian Heritage, you have to make some tough decisions and some easy decisions,” Moore said in the House of Commons. “Ending funding for Katimavik is one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.”

Trudeau defends Katimavik21:13

In 2012, Justin Trudeau, who served as Katimavik’s chair between 2002 and 2006, accused Stephen Harper’s Conservatives of killing the program for ideological reasons because it was launched under a Liberal government of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

(The program had been cut once before. Senator Jacques Hébert, who helped create the program as a federal cabinet minister, went on a 21-day hunger strike in 1986 when the Brian Mulroney government chopped funding. It was partially restored in the Chrétien era, only to face the final cut in 2012.)

Fournier believes it’s a worthwhile investment for participants, those communities served by volunteers, and the country as a whole.

He says Katimavik ranks as the “best overall national exposure experience for youth who really, really want to develop civic engagement practices and perspectives and related fields to address 21st century issues whether they are in Canada or around the world. And in Canada, the biggest issue that we’re going to be focused on is the relationship with Indigenous people.”

Article source: