Each Katimavik program consists of groups of 11 youth aged 17 to 21 who are drawn from across Canada. They travel together to one or two different places in Canada for a period of six months. During the 2007-2008 program year there were 99 such groups spread across Canada. Each participant volunteers for about 40 hours per week and completes a learning program that focuses on Canada's official languages, protecting the environment, leadership, cultural diversity, and leading a healthy lifestyle. Each year, more than 500 community non-profit organizations are assisted by Katimavik volunteers doing full-time work for them. Katimavik has volunteer projects in all 10 Canadian provinces and three territories. Katimavik has signed partnerships with a number of post-secondary institutions in Canada, including Vancouver Island University, Capilano University, Quebec's public community colleges (CEGEP), and George Brown College in order for Katimavik participants to receive post-secondary credit for their experiences.
Katimavik has its national headquarters in Montréal, which also serves as regional office for the Atlantic and Quebec region. For the Central region, the regional office is located in Ottawa. For the North, Pacific and Prairies regions, the organization's regional office is located in Calgary.
Katimavik was started by Pierre Trudeau's government and then Senator Jacques Hébert as well as then Minister of National Defence Barney Danson. Legally, it was incorporated as OPCAN, a non-profit corporation created by letters patent dated January 26, 1977 pursuant to Part II of the Canada Corporations Act. Much of Katimavik's structure was taken from Canadian Cadet Organizations and the defunct Company of Young Canadians.
In the 1980s Katimavik offered a military option, an opportunity to spend three months on an Army or Navy base learning fundamental skills such as first aid and map reading, as well as basic military skills, such as drills and rifle handling.
The overall program grew quickly in its initial years to its peak in 1985-86, when there were more than 5,000 participants. The program was cancelled that year by Brian Mulroney's new government.
The cancellation prompted founder Jacques Hébert to undertake on a 21-day hunger strike in protest, to no avail. He subsequently worked with Quebec region director Claude Raiche to continue Katimavik as an outdoor recreation training centre at Notre-Dame-de-l'Île-Perrot.
It continued in this form until 1994 when Youth Service Canada helped Katimavik to form a pilot program involving six projects and 66 participants. The next year, the Government of Canada's Department of Heritage provided the program with ongoing funding and the number of projects and participants tripled. The size of the program then continued to increase; during the 2005-2006 program year there were 1,155 participants in 105 communities across Canada. In 2008 Katimavik was granted consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council which has allowed Katimavik to liaise with similar organizations in other countries and represent Canada internationally.
In 2006, Katimavik was told by the government that its funding was under review and that it was to cease recruitment activities. A letter-writing campaign was organized by Katimavik and funding levels were maintained until October 2010 when the government announced three-year funding in the sum of $15 million per year, a reduction from its previous funding levels ($19.7 million).
In recent years, Katimavik diversified its program offerings. Katimavik launched a program called Katimavik North which focused upon pairing groups of youth between the ages of 18 and 25 that were half-composed of young Canadians from the territories and half-composed of young Canadians from the southern provinces; the groups then lived in both Canada's north and south in order to learn from each culture.
Katimavik expanded beyond youth service when it launched an Eco-stage program in conjunction with the Government of Quebec; the program allowed Quebecers between the ages of 18 and 35 to gain experience in an environmentally-related career while drawing upon the educational expertise that Katimavik has built.
Katimavik's current program offerings relate to the themes of "Cultural Discovery and Civic Engagement", "Eco-citizenship and Active Living", "Second Language and Cultural Identity", and the program "Katimavik Horizon" which combines all of the program elements into a less focused but more diverse experience. About these programs:Katimavik Horizon
This six-month program provides an opportunity to live and volunteer in two different Canadian communities. The volunteers can shape the program based on the particular aptitudes and interests of the group.Cultural discovery and civic engagement
For six months youth volunteer in two distinct Canadian communities, one of which has a significant aboriginal population. This program is designed for youth who are interested in discovering the diversity of Canada while engaging in meaningful volunteer service activities. Volunteers will explore the geography, history, economy and socio-cultural makeup of their host communities.Eco-citizenship and active living
This program gives youth the opportunity to develop a healthy lifestyle and to thoroughly acquire an understanding of the important ecological challenges in a Canadian community where they will be located while participating in volunteer initiatives that promote environmental stewardship. Over the course of six months, volunteers obtain an in-depth knowledge and fully integrate in one Canadian community outside the volunteer’s home province where they apply the principles of eco-citizenship.Second language and cultural identity
For six months youth volunteer in two Canadian communities: one Anglophone community in Western Canada and one Francophone community in Québec. It gives participants intense immersion in an linguistic and cultural experience while engaging in meaningful volunteer service.Éco-stage
Éco-stage is a three-month program for young Québécois between the ages of 18 and 35 who want to engage in periods of work experience related to getting professional experience in the environmental sector. Interns in this program receive a $3000 allowance to cover travel and accommodation expenses.British Columbia pilot project
In conjunction with the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Francophone Secretariat of British Columbia, Katimavik has a program in which British Columbia youth are paired with youth from Quebec in non-profit programs, including World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, with the aim of developing knowledge of sustainable agriculture and increasing employability.
Katimavik had a funding agreement with the Department of Canadian Heritage that ran until March 31, 2013. $15 million per year was contributed to the program under this agreement. Katimavik also has the organization the Katimavik Fund which receives donations on behalf of Katimavik, including those donations made via the Katimavik website. The Eco-Internship program is currently supported by a funding agreement with the government of Quebec.
Youth who apply to the program are randomly selected though groups are based on demographic factors such as mother tongue, sex and province of origin. Selected applicants must submit a completed doctor's examination and criminal record check. The programs run for six-month periods from January to June and from July to December.
A selected group of eleven participants might include, for example, one from British Columbia/Yukon, two from the Prairie provinces, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, four from Ontario, three from Quebec and one from the Atlantic provinces. These eleven youth will be between the ages of 17 and 21 (inclusive).
The Katimavik program receives financial support from the Citizen Participation Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Because of this there is no cost for travel, food, or accommodation. Additionally, participants are paid an allowance of $3 a day to cover incidental living expenses. All activities planned by the group are arranged under various learning budgets. Since there is rarely time for any extracurricular activities outside of the program, any sort of group activity expenses are paid for out of the group budget and have to be agreed upon by the group and the Project Leader, i.e. hiking, visiting cultural centers, theater and media presentations, etc. There is a $300 non-refundable participation fee, payable once volunteers are officially accepted to Katimavik. This fee covers accident insurance and other administrative costs. There is also a $350 transportation deposit that is paid by volunteers upon departure and refunded upon completion of the program; if a volunteer leaves the program early this deposit is sacrificed in order to cover the increased costs associated with unplanned transportation home.
Participants volunteer 35–40 hours a week and participate in workshops and activities with their fellow group members and Project Leader. Three groups in close communities form a "cluster" that may often meet up together for certain activities. Each cluster of four projects is monitored by a Project Coordinator.
During the program participants can expect to abide by certain standards of behaviour which fall into four main categories: participation, health and safety, and respect. Participants are monitored by their project leader, one who lives with them during each phase to lead the project. Project leaders can issue verbal warnings, commitments to improve, final warnings, and expulsions if the behavioural standards are not followed.
Katimavik builds participants' skills during the course of the program by implementing five learning programs, comprising various essential activities and workshops. Katimavik also implements a learning plan, which uses an AARR educational model (Anticipation, Action, Reflection, Recognition) and follows participants through each community. Participants receive six letters of appraisal (3 from the project leaders, and 3 from work supervisors), as well as a certificate of completion upon completion of the program.
While participants are in the program, they will spend a week of their time in each community living with a "host family". This is a family living in the community that has agreed to take on a participant (or two). This allows the participant to take some time off from group life, while living with members of the community, and learning what it's like to be a local.
Every group, every three months, is given budgets of varying amounts in each the following categories: Cultural Discovery, Environment, Healthy Life Style, Second Languages and Leadership. This money is spent in ways that correspond to program's learning objectives. The goal of the program's educational component is to build the capacities of participants in the following key areas:Interact with others in a variety of situations
Adopt an open attitude towards the diversity of social and multicultural realities
Communicate in both official languages
Engage in diverse work experiences
Apply habits that favor a healthy lifestyle
Develop an integrated vision of environmental protection and sustainable development
Engage as a citizen
Prepare to integrate, as a citizen, into the job market, school or other life event
In the 2012 Canadian federal budget, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the program will be eliminated. The stated reason was the comparatively high per-person cost of the program when compared to other government youth initiatives.
A Nationwide day of protest was held on July 21, 2012. Prominent politicians such as Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, and NDP MP Charmaine Borg supported the rally.
The Conservative party encountered protest from politicians and supporters of the program after the budget was announced. An Ontarian mother, Colleen Cleve attempted to lodge a Class-Action lawsuit on behalf of the 600 Canadian youths who were selected but retroactively denied, her own two children among them. She states that the Federal government prematurely revoked and reneged on the contract with the youths, as government funding was not scheduled to expire until a year later in March 2013.
NDP MP Charmaine Borg embarked on a cross-country tour to raise awareness and rally support in 2012. She has also introduced Bill 352 to restore $15M CAD Federal funding to the program.
Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau called for restoring funding to the program. His father Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau established the program. The Katimavik online petition was one of the many launched by the Liberal Party in 2012. Justin Trudeau claimed that the reasons the program was cancelled were ideological differences, comparing the $14M for the community-oriented Katimavik program with $207M for the military-oriented Cadet program.
There was a cross-country movement of Katimavik activists to relay packages to Stephen Harper, including a journal signed by supporters along the way, a Katimavik T-shirt and signed petitions requesting reversal of the decision. The relay was routed through 50 communities served by Katimavik.
Olympic gold medalist kayaker Adam van Koeverden claims that he owes his own existence to an encounter between his parents who worked as Katimavik team leaders upon university graduation and for five years later. Van Koeverden describes Canadian youths as suffering from a crisis of identity as they try to define their relevance in life, and that Katimavik would be ideal to help them discover themselves.
In 2012, the University of Ottawa chapter of the Young Liberals of Canada devised a 'Pennies 4 Katimavik' penny drive inspired by the budget's announcement of the Canadian penny's obsolescence and of termination of government funding. The event was intended to raise $5K CAD and to inform the public of the merit of Katimavik and of the fate of its funding. Similar drives were conducted through the country and announced by the project's Facebook page.
A Katimavik-affiliated program, 'Volunteering to Independence Program', where youths from Ontario were dispatched to Peterborough began in September 2013. The program varies from the old Katimavik program in that the program has no rotations and participants are from Ontario rather than across Canada.