About a dozen people marched through Whitehorse Monday night to show their support for Katimavik.
Charmaine Borg, NDP Member of Parliament for Terrebonne-Blainville, Que. organized the march.
As part of the program, youth between the ages of 17 and 21 travel across the country volunteering with different community organizations, often travelling to remote places. The federal government announced it would stop funding the program in the last budget.
The end of funding was felt immediately, Borg said. Katimavik participants registered to begin in July were not allowed to go. This makes it hard for them to find work or apply for school in September.
“They just lost a year of their life,” Borg said. She has had several friends participate in the past, she said.
Monday’s event was an opportunity for the MP to see how Katimavik benefits local organizations.
Katimavik volunteers often complete projects staff don’t have time to do, said Brian Eaton of the Second Opinion Society. Their last volunteer left in June.
They have always been pleased with Katimavik volunteers, he said. The society’s library would not have been completed without them.
The program was Cheryl West’s first introduction to Whitehorse. She participated in the program in 1979, after studying for two years at the University of Waterloo. She spent three months in Whitehorse, volunteering at what is now Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives and the Women’s Centre. While it was a fun experience, it was also a lot of work. West moved back to Whitehorse in 1990 because she liked the city.
Even those who don’t directly participate say the program has benefits. Allison Reed’s daughter volunteered with Katimavik after she finished high school. Since 2008, Reed has billeted nine volunteers. She has heard and seen how the program “opened up the country” for youth. It was one of the reasons her daughter chose to study in Montreal.
The program gives youth a place to make life decisions without the pressures of school and home, Reed said.
Since April, Borg has worked to have the program’s funding reinstated. Her office has collected thousands of stories from alumni. Every day the House of Commons sits, she brings testimonials to Heritage Minister James Moore and Finance Minister James Flaherty.
Her motion to bring funding back will be voted on in the autumn or winter.
Whitehorse was the first stop on Borg’s tour. Between now and Aug. 13, she will stop in cities throughout Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. Through the end of August and beginning of September, she will travel across the Maritimes before ending in her own riding.
Since beginning in 1977, more than 30,000 youth have participated in the program.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at mgillmore@yukon-news.