Every summer the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) holds a host of programs around the country to empower Aboriginal youth and introduce them to military life.
“It’s basically to introduce aboriginal youth to the military and hopefully they’ll like it and in the future consider a career in the military,” said Anne Marie Hamilton, Petty Officer First Class and course director of the Raven Aboriginal Youth Employment Program.
Designed in 2003 by the Commander of the Maritime Forces Pacific, Raven is an outreach program to introduce potential military or civilian careers with the Department of National Defence with the unique flavour of the Royal Canadian Navy.
The program is a total of six weeks and is held at the CFB Esquimalt Work Point Barracks.
Raven starts off with a three and a half day Cultural Camp to integrate the youth.
“We’re getting students from all different parts of the country and they all come from diverse cultures. They’re all going to have different cultural backgrounds. In order to smooth into basic training we get do some cultural education. It’s a bit of stepping stone to military life as well,” explained Hamilton.
The Culture Camp is administer by Elders from different First Nations and Aboriginal groups.
Then the youth move into basic training. Highlights for many during this time include visiting the range for shooting practice.
“A lot of the kids are good shooters because they’ve already been shooting their whole lives and hunting. It’s a big highlight for them to do that and show off their skills,” noted Hamilton.
After basic training is completed, the youth have a chance to take two orcas out to sea for a day sail and be introduced to life in the Royal Canadian Navy.
The program rounds off with a field exercise. Exercise Warrior consists of four days in the field that culminates into an amphibious attack by an opposing force.
The program ended this year on Aug. 18. Twenty seven youth graduated with more than half interested in joining the CAF one day.
“I think it’s really important to reach kids at that time of their life so they can get different life skills. You really see them turn a corner by the end of the course. A lot of people are quite emotional when they’re graduating,” said Hamilton.
Other programs include Black Bear, an Army Training program that takes place in Oromocto, NB and Bold Eagle that takes place for six weeks in Wainwright, AB.