Katimavik gives young people the opportunity to serve their country, a phrase that we associate with military service in an all-too-reflexive and limiting way. Katimavik provides the low-key nation-building but earns its reputation among those who have benefited from it by serving in the program or by having our youth step forward to provide their energy and undervalued, burgeoning skills to a project or community that would normally have to wait its turn. The opportunity that Katimavik participants have had to travel to other parts of Canada and grasp its diversity in all its forms also contributed to fostering our identity in ways that peace-keeping and the CBC do, but waging war and paving highways do not. It is a win-win-win enterprise that has over the years developed untold social and human capital that has enhanced our nation. At a time when the government's need to be frugal or austere fails to extend to legitimate process for the tendering of its fighter jet contract, Katimavik's demise is deemed necessary for the country's financial well-being. It is nothing more than an expression of disdain for such a commitment to nation-building in a place where identity has long been subject to question and ought to be allowed to evolve through the dialogues that occur amongst rather than foisted upon us by a government with a top-down mentality about citizenship.
In 1986, when Katimavik first met the Finance Minister's scalpel, Senator Jacques Hebert, who initiated the program went on a 21-day hunger strike against the cuts and eventually a solution was cobbled together to keep the program alive. Whether it was calculated political theatre or a demonstration of his passionate commitment to the contribution to Canadian life and youth, the senator expressed his opposition to the cuts in a way that exceeded the myopic lunge to rhetoric that today's opposition usually resorts. Thus far, the opposition has been relatively muted.
As with the fighter jet program and its omnibus crime bill, the Conservative government has adopted an approach to policy making that ignores evidence available to it and event subverts it for its own purposes. Unlike the Mulroney Conservatives, who recognized the value of the program and found a solution that kept the program going by assembling private support for it, this batch of Conservatives will do as it wishes for little good other reason other than satisfying its own sense of spite. A government that insists on being so inflexible and refuses to let sound reasoning and rational insight permeate policy-making is doing the best it can to erode the core values that I still believe this country stands for.