A national program geared towards providing opportunities for Canada’s youth is once again up and running.
The Katimavik youth program, which was created in 1977 by former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau as a way to develop engaged, caring and capable citizens, had its funding cut in 2012 by the Harper government.
However, last month, the Liberal government announced $3 million in new funding for Katimavik through the Canada Service Corps - a federal initiative funding 10 organizations related to giving youth opportunities to get involved in communities and to provide volunteer services.
Christine Butt, communications co-ordinator for Katimavik, said despite the funding cuts, the youth organization still managed to operate but on a much smaller scale.
“Katimavik continued as an organization, just barely,” she told The Guardian in a phone interview. “We did find some smaller, short-term funding for specific projects, but we haven’t been able to re-launch the national program across Canada. This funding is specifically to be able to reinstate that program.”
With funding in place, the organization is now calling on young people between the ages of 18 and 25 to apply to the program, which will run from July to December. Online applications for the upcoming program can be found at Katimavik.org. The application deadline is March 22.
One new element of Katimavik is the focus on reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, where volunteers will have the opportunity to visit Indigenous communities and connect with the people and learn about their history and culture within Canada.
Charlottetown resident Andrea MacDonald participated in the Katimavik program in 1999-2000 when she was 20 years old.
MacDonald said the idea of being able to travel within Canada for free really appealed to her, so during her senior year of high school she applied for the program.
The waiting list at that time was quite lengthy, and MacDonald put it out of her mind until she received a call two years later asking her if she was still interested.
The experience brought MacDonald first to a small community outside of Drummondville, Que., then to Vancouver’s east side, and finally to Goodrich, Ont.
The Cardigan native said the Katimavik experience changed her.
“Oh year, for sure. It kind of opened my mind to the fact that Canada is not as big as I thought it was and that it’s possible to travel pretty easily and pretty cheaply,” she said. “It’s really eye-opening to meet people from across the country.”
Today, nearly two decades later, MacDonald said she still keeps in touch with some of the people she was in the program with, and they still talk about the great experience they had.