A Canada Without Katimavik

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


WTF!?!?! I just finished reading the article "Katimavik Cuts..." from the Huffington Post (click here to read). I don't normally take many political stances but this is just too extraordinary to not talk about. The next federal budget could dictate the existence of the Katimavik program!

If you know anything about our office you will know that Katimavik volunteers are the backbone of our operations. They literally make this place work. Without them.... actually I don't even want to think about that right now.

Every time a new group of Katimavik volunteers start working for us, I give them the same speech. I tell them that "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" (thank you mister Thomas Edison). I tell them that anyone can have a good idea but making good ideas happen is what makes Katimavik so special.

And "persperate" they do. Our participants are crucial to several of our programs. This past year we had Katimavik manage our Dump and Run (almost 4 tonnes of discarded and donated items that were diverted from landfill and sent to communities in need), assist with our Furniture Recycling Program (1500 items diverted from landfill at a estimated saving of over $400,000 to the University and the community), tend to our Community Garden (over 50 plots established around campus to help the internal and external community), and dish out free coffee as part of Muggy Mondays (hundreds of disposable cups diverted and counting).

Of course that doesn't even scratch the surface. Katimavik participants repair of old coats to give to the homeless, set up and run our Free Store, help collect paper to make recycled notebooks, create signage for our recycling programs, rum our office composting program... seriously, my hand is starting to cramp up just writing all this stuff.

Affectionately in the office we refer to our participants as Katimaslaves, Katimaviktims, and all manner of clever play on word things. But they never feel bad because they own those titles and make all our other volunteers strive to earn that recognition. If anything, we usually call them parts.... short for participants, because they really are a part of who we are as the Office of Campus Sustainability.

So imagine my surprise when I heard about the proposed cut to the program. There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea. I am going to leave the in-depth analysis to better people than I but there are a few outstanding things I do want to mention.

  1. The Katimavik program gives youth a much needed gap year. This is common practice in Europe and much appreciated by youth in Canada. Not everyone is ready to jump into post-secondary education or the job market.
  2. You can't beat the experience. Katimavik gives you the chance to work at something and get a letter of reference... not just another crappy part-time job to post on your resume; actual testimony from a reputable community member.
  3. Katimavik teaches life skills. Trust me, live with 10 other people, manage a home, make meals, clean every day, do the groceries.... some parents only dream about the possibility of giving that experience to their kids.
  4. Mentored feedback and development. I and my colleagues work with Katimavik on an on-going basis to make sure that they are improving at the skills they want to develop.... not every employer does that.

There's more; in fact, there is too much more to mention. What I can't understand is why anyone would want to cut a program that has been a staple of Canadian culture for the past 46 years? I hate to say this but it seems to me that an attack on the Katimavik program is an attack on Canada. There are tens of thousands of people that owe their success to the Katimavik program and with any luck, there will be hundreds of thousands more.

I am not the type of person that makes personal pleas to people I don't know, but I might have to become one. If things go down they way they are looking to, we are going to need some extreme love from the community to help keep Katimavik alive. Because honestly, I don't want to have to think about a Canada without Katimavik.

~jON - campus sustainability manager

photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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