Harper government axes Katimavik volunteer service organization in federal budget

The Harper government hates young people. You know how I know? Among the ridiculous cuts revealed in today's fully egregious budget was a short statement: "The Government will eliminate the Katimavik program."

For those of you not in the know, Katimavik—the Inuktitut word for "meeting place”—is a volunteer service organization aimed at 17- to 21-year-olds. For the last 35 years, Katimavik has offered volunteer opportunities to young Canadians, allowing them to see the country, meet new people, learn how to live within a group, give back to communities, and generally be decent human beings.

Ask pretty much anyone who's been a participant and you will hear nothing but good things about the program.

(I was never in Katimavik so if you were, please leave a comment below and assure me that it was indeed as awesome as I was led to believe.)

But our government—the one that is "committed to giving our young people the opportunities they deserve"—no longer finds Katimavik valuable. The government's big problem with it? It has an "excessive per-person cost". Alright, Katimavik does cost money: about $28 million since September 2009. But apparently a program that's had 30,000 participants—one that fosters independence, community service, civic engagement, and leadership skills isn't worth anything to the Harper government as its axing the entire thing, no questions asked.

Keep in mind this is an program that generates $2.20 for every dollar it spends in its host communities and its participants logged 572,392 hours of volunteer time in 2011.

What does the government plan on supporting instead?

Encounters with Canada, a program that brings kids to Ottawa, and the Forum for Young Canadians, which educates kids about the government.

To sum up, supporting highly political programs aimed at indoctrinating children: yay! Supporting a program that helps create more empathetic, independent, service-oriented Canadians? Not a chance.

Follow the outraged Miranda Nelson on Twitter.



Mike G

Mar 29, 2012 at 6:33pm

Dang, I was on Katimavik early 2000s, learned how to cook and a few other essentials to life. Made me a better person without a doubt and was all around a wonderful experience, this is sad news.

Stevie Renaud

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:10pm

I'm from Québec and I was in the Katimavik program in 2002. Katimavik really changed my life as well as all the members of my group. Never I would have thougth I could work as a manager in my life... It gave me leadership skills, problem solving skills (when 12 peoples are living in the same house, believe, problems may occur).

I can't understand how come the Conservatives are "kiling" Katimavik. I'm so upset right now.

Alex Hanam

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:15pm

My Katimavik experience was nothing short of amazing. Seriously.
I could write several novels worth of praise for the program, so I'll attempt to summarize: I learned a lot about myself, other people, communities, jobs, the crazy diversity that makes Canada so amazing and rich, and how to live life--with open eyes and open arms.


Mar 29, 2012 at 7:22pm

I support the argument being made in this article, but the prose needs a proofread before being published online. Eg. Egregious, not "aggregious". Best.

Miranda Nelson

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:27pm

This is why I should never turn off spell check. Thanks for the catch :)


Mar 29, 2012 at 7:57pm

Harper's party is full of haters. They all come from the disenfranchised and uneducated (they are of the WalMart crowd) and they will. punish any and all that does not work for the greater greed in Fort Mac.


Mar 29, 2012 at 8:05pm

There MUST be some way for the program to continue without federal funding.

30,000 past participants with leadership and problem solving skills? A program that fosters independence?

Don't let Harper control your life kids, there's no reason this can't be saved and run without the government.


Mar 29, 2012 at 8:16pm

I did it a few years ago, pretty much made me change what I wanted to be. Completely changed my career choice. I wish this doesn't happen...

You're kidding, right

Mar 29, 2012 at 8:28pm

I am very disappointed with this decision. I too, am a grad of Katimavik. This programme opened up the concept of Canada for me.

It was an incredible opportunity and experience. One of the best things: it got me out of (then) parochial Vancouver, and I met and worked with other kids from all Canada. Will it surprise any of you to know that the English and French kids, after a little initial unease due to the times (PQ on the rise, referendums on separation being held), really learned something from each other.

Many of the francophones were sovereigntists, at the time. I think they were surprised to see that Anglos were just as passionate about the concept of a nation, as they were. In fact, I know that that obvious passion for one country that accepted many experiences, but was united, captured hearts and minds.

At the time I attended there was a "civilian" and military option in the program. I would say that every Canadian in that age group should serve their country in some capacity, get outta the house and away from the electronics, and see and work for this country. I hope that we will be able to bring the Katimavik program back at some point in the future.

By the way, I don't know if we can prove cause and effect, or correlation, but I am willing to bet that the experiences that kids have had in the 34 years of the programmes existence--kids from Vancouver, from Cape Breton, from Estevan and Chicoutimi, kids from Fort McMurray to Kitchener and Corner Brook and all points in between and beyond---has made many of us Katimavik attendees, better, more engaged citizens of this great country.

Engagement makes for better democracy. I urge everyone who has been fortunate enough to experience the program, to write to Minister James Moore and the Prime Minister. Let's find a way to restore this profoundly important programme.

Michael Huang

Mar 29, 2012 at 9:14pm

Thank you Katimavik for teaching a Chinese kid from Alberta that he needs no labels, except "Canadian." I smoked peace pipes with the James Bay Cree up in Chisasibi, QC, farmed with Manitoban sheep farmers, and had heated debates with the Quebecois sovereignists in my rotations (Until we decided: no politics at the dinner table!)

Looking back, those were the best (and at times, the worst) six months of my life.