Great Idea: Katimavik, its programs, and Truth and Reconciliation

Katimavik and its programming

Since its foundation in 1977, Katimavik’s mission has been to empower youth and help them become engaged, caring citizens who can contribute to a better Canada. We do this through the development of key 21st century skills, experiential learning, and civic engagement. Since starting our programs, we have served countless communities across the country and have over 37,000 alumni.

Katimavik offers two programs with different objectives for youth across Canada: the National Experience and FuturePerfect.

The National Experience is Katimavik’s flagship program. For 22 weeks, the program allows Participants aged 17 to 25 to live in two new communities, volunteer, meet other youth from across the country and become supporters of Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The program brings together groups of up to 11 young adults who share and manage a Katimavik house along with a project leader who resides with them and oversees this unique experience.

FuturePerfect is a 14-week employment training program for those who wish to lay the foundation for their professional career. Open to youth between the ages of 18 and 30, Participants are matched with an employer in a new city and have the opportunity to work in a full-time paid job for the duration of the program. In addition, Katimavik provides participants with 10 days of employability training before they leave for their new host community.

Katimavik’s programs are entirely free of charge for participants and are funded by the Government of Canada. 

The National Experience, a unique volunteering program

Photos courtesy of Katimavik

As part of the National Experience, participants have the opportunity to develop the following four competency areas: civic engagement, employability, self-determination, and Truth and Reconciliation. The various components of the program are designed to develop these skills and participants are responsible for choosing how they will develop them during the program. This is reflected in the cultural activities that participants attend, in their volunteering, and in their daily lives within the National Experience. In order to develop specific skills, participants have, for example, volunteered at the Quebec City Marathon, at Pride events in Moncton and Calgary, at a local theatre in Wetaskiwin, or at local cultural events such as the Quebec Winter Carnival.

Each participant has their own individual experience in a local non-profit organization. Participants are matched with an organization in their host community and complete approximately 30 hours of volunteer service each week. Participant placements are very diverse and can range from manual labour on a farm, to working with children, to working with Indigenous organizations. The types of placements are very diverse and National Experience participants are proud to be making a difference in their host communities.

During the course of the National Experience, participants live in groups of up to 11 young adults in two different communities across Canada. Together with a project leader, they live communally, which is a rewarding but challenging experience. In order to maintain a favourable and harmonious living environment, each occupant has to show adaptation and patience, learn to share and remain respectful towards those around them. Living together under one roof is a great opportunity to form lasting friendships and to bond the way a family would.

Each week, one or two participants are excused from their volunteer placement obligations and remain in the house to fulfill the role of house managers. House managers are responsible for choosing and preparing meals, managing the budget, running errands and cleaning the house.

A 50-year commitment to truth and reconciliation

Photos courtesy of Katimavik

Today, Canada recognizes the presence and contributions of the Indigenous peoples who lived on, occupied, and continue to care for these lands.

There is a growing awareness that Canada needs to renew its relationship with Indigenous peoples or it will be significantly hindered in achieving many of its economic, social and environmental goals. It is equally important that the social and economic conditions of Indigenous peoples improve significantly and quickly.

With its proven experience and commitment to strengthening relationships between Indigenous and non-indigenous youth, Katimavik is working to shape future generations of Canadian youth as active leaders in reconciliation. In 2019, Katimavik officially adopted a 50-year commitment to demonstrate its support of Truth and Reconciliation in its programming.

This commitment is strongly reflected in the National Experience. During the 22-week program, participants spend every Friday learning about Truth and Reconciliation. These activities are made possible through a learning platform developed by the Katimavik Indigenous Learning and Engagement Advisory Circle. This circle is normally involved when changes to the platform are needed, and offers different perspectives through the diversity of its members and their Nations (First Nations, Inuit, Metis). The learning platform has particularly been guided by David Newhouse, director of the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies at Trent University and a member of the Katimavik Indigenous Learning and Engagement Advisory Circle.

National Experience participants have the opportunity to engage with Indigenous communities in order to build their capacity to become leaders in reconciliation and pursue their actions and reflections after the program.

During the first half of the program, the focus of the learning is on the truth of Canada’s history. Through the learning platform during these first weeks, participants develop their knowledge on the reality of Canada’s colonial history. In addition to what participants learn from the learning platform, the participants also work on their Homelands Project, a research project on their host community. Through this research project, they learn about the history of Indigenous peoples in the community, their relationships, and their contemporary presence. The shape this project takes is decided by the participants.

During the second half of the program, participants focus on reconciliation, and there is a greater focus on the active aspect of reconciliation. In the spirit of active reconciliation, Participants develop Community Action Projects. These projects can take many forms such as: planting a tree for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in partnership with the local Indigenous community, supporting efforts to have the Mi’kmaq flag on Moncton City Hall, and promoting mental health in the Indigenous communities around Wetaskiwin. Each project is developed in collaboration with the local Indigenous communities and reflects the needs of the communities at the time of the project.

All FuturePerfect participants also have access to the learning platform. As this program is intended to be flexible for participants, their access to the platform is not necessary for their participation in the program. However, it is important to Katimavik that the learning platform be available in all its programming.

For more information

Two cohorts of Katimavik’s National Experience take place each year: from January to June, and from July to December. To participate, one must be between 17 and 25 years old at the beginning of the cohort and be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or landed refugee. Katimavik is actively recruiting for the July 12 to December 13, 2023, cohort. To apply, simply fill out the form on the National Experience page:

Until March 2024, FuturePerfect cohorts will be taking place in Quebec City’s tourism industry. Youth from across Canada are encouraged to apply to jumpstart their professional career, discover Quebec culture and learn French. To participate, one must be between 18 and 30 years old at the beginning of the cohort and be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or landed refugee. Applications are not available at the time of writing this but cohorts will have start dates in September and January. You can learn more here:

By: Philippe Tremblay & Noodinong-Bemosed Christianson