In last week’s budget, Stephen Harper’s cutting knife took aim at nothing so much as those things he ideologically opposes — or, in other words, anything remotely associated with left wing values. Case in point: the annihilation of the popular Trudeau-era youth program Katimavik, whose only sin, it appears, was its association with the Liberal party.
Katimavik, established in 1977, is a national volunteer program for Canadians aged 17-21. Each year, Katimavik sends more than 1,000 youth to various and remote parts of Canada to learn, volunteer and help those in need. The program has helped more than 30,000 youth find their way and their voice at a time when they were looking for direction; it also provides crucial assistance in underprivileged or poverty-stricken areas of the country. Katimavik offers programs as diverse as cultural discovery and civic engagement, ecocitizenship and active living, second language and cultural identity, and more. Katimavik has also signed agreements with several universities across Canada which allow participants to apply time spent with Katimavik to university credit.
The program carries a cost of $15 million a year, and was axed because the government said it carried an “unwieldy” cost and helped a “relatively” low number of people each year. Certainly, 1,000 individuals may seem like a low number — but when you factor in an estimated $12 million worth of work carried out by Katimavik youth in the over 50 communities nationwide where Katimavik works, never mind those that are helped throughout the remainder of these youth’s lives once their spirit of community activism and social justice is awakened, the cost seems very low. An independent report drafted for the Canadian Heritage department concluded that Katimavik is “relevant, valuable and important, and is consistent with government-wide priorities and strategic objectives.” Or in other words, even the Harper government had no complaints with Katimavik. Except one: its history.
“It has the problem of being created by a Liberal prime minister and someone who became a Liberal cabinet minister. That’s the problem with Katimavik,” says Quebec MP Justin Trudeau, whose father created the program during his second term as Prime Minister in 1977. The axing of the program leaves not only several hundred youth in the lurch, but also hurts many charities who were counting on the volunteer hands Katimavik was going to provide.
Conservative governments have tried to cut funding to Katimavik before. Brian Mulroney tried to axe it in 1986, leading Senator Jacques Hebert to stage a 21 day hunger strike. The program was saved, but today it faces extinction once again.
Will Stephen Harper succeed in destroying a beloved Canadian program that helps people — all for the sake of his own ideology? Sign our petition to save Katimavik and tell Stephen Harper NO!
Photo credit: Ryan Millar on Flickr