Revive Katimavik as an alternative to radicalization

Six young people from Quebec, two of them female, are believed to have gone to Syria recently to fight with ISIS

“Know your enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a thousand battles without defeat.” – Sun Tzu

According to news media reports, six young people from Quebec, two of them female, are believed to have gone to Syria recently to fight with ISIS.

Closer to home, a B.C. couple is presently on trial for planning to explode a bomb during Canada Day celebrations at the provincial legislature in 2013.

Last fall a radicalized young man struck and killed a soldier in Quebec with a car, seriously injured a second, and then died following a police chase.

A short time later another radicalized young man shot and killed a soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa before being shot and killed himself inside the Parliament Buildings.

Although apparently not inspired by Muslim extremism, last year a young man in Moncton shot and killed three RCMP officers and wounded two others. His stated goal was to start a rebellion against the Canadian government.

That is just the start of the list. Other young Canadians have been arrested and charged with concocting various terrorist plots – some of them half-baked but nonetheless dangerous.

Others have gone overseas to fight with Islamist radicals in the Middle East and North Africa. Several have died.

This is not a healthy situation.

Canadian society is getting polarized between the wealthy few and the struggling many. The rich are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer – and too many young people feel that they do not have a future.

Our society also is becoming polarized along ethnic lines. There is a sizeable and growing Muslim minority in Canada and, not surprisingly, they feel they are being discriminated against because of the actions of a radical few.

Correcting this situation would require a multi-prong approach. One important part of this would be a greatly expanded Katimavik program.

Katimavik (an Inuit word for “meeting place”) takes small groups of Canadians aged 17 to 21 from diverse backgrounds and puts them through an intensive six-month program of community service and learning-by-doing.

Since it was formed in 1977, more than 30,000 young people have taken part.

During the 1980s it included a military option in which participants could spend three months on an army or navy base.

Funding for Katimavik from the federal government has ebbed and flowed over the years, but a small core of committed individuals plus support from a variety of others sources has kept the organization alive.


The program should be expanded so that all young Canadians can have the opportunity to take part. In addition, they should be paid for their service so that, when their six months are done, they have a small nest egg to begin the next stage of their lives.