Katimavik was a youth service program founded by the social activist and author Jacques Hébert in 1977 and funded by the federal government. It replaced, to some extent, the defunct Company of Young Canadians, but unlike its predecessor it maintained a low political profile and remained, by and large, out of the public eye. In the winter of 1986 the Mulroney government moved to cancel Katimavik, which precipitated a 21-day fast by Hébert - who was by then a senator - in the Senate lobby. The program survived, but in 2012 the Harper Conservative government withdrew funding, effectively ending Katimavik after three and a half decades.
During its lifetime, Katimavik evolved into Canada's leading national youth service program, with close to 1100 participants per year. Financial assistance was provided to the program by the Government of Canada, through the Department of Canadian Heritage. For nine months, participants lived in groups of 11 young people aged 17 to 21 from every region of Canada. They learned French and participated in community life in three provinces, where they acquired a variety of useful experiences working as volunteers on local projects. Participants developed leadership skills, improved their understanding of environmental issues, accomplished projects, joined in all sorts of activities and tackled stimulating challenges.
Besides benefiting from diverse training through volunteer work, the Katimavik experience provided its participants with ongoing learning in five areas: leadership, second language, environment, cultural discovery and healthy living. Participants received a $3 a day allowance and a $1000 bursary at the completion of the program.