Military program aims to attract aboriginal youth

  • Apr. 5, 2013 8:00 p.m.

by Jane Wilson–April 30 is the deadline for Aboriginal youth to apply for the Bold Eagle Program. Every year, the program takes 92 Aboriginal youth from western Canada and Ontario into a Canadian Forces summer training program in Wainwright, Alberta. The program involves a cultural component, learning from First Nations elders, and then a standard military basic training. The training includes military knowledge, weapons handling, navigation with map and compass, first aid, drill, outdoor field craft and survival skills. “The whole purpose behind the program is to give them a summer employment opportunity where they can complete the army reserve basic training,” said Bold Eagle Coordinator Major Nolan Kemp, “at the same time have the cultural support built in, and at the end of it, leave with some money in their pocket, friendships, and a better resume for the future for whatever they want to pursue.” Maj. Kemp said that 50 to 60 percent of the graduates of the program go on to find employment with the Canadian Forces, either full-or-part-time, but that it’s not the point of the program. “It’s about developing aboriginal youth in Western Canada and Ontario. It wasn’t something that we (the Canadian Forces) created, it was a need identified by the aboriginal community 24 years ago and we were able to build a program that met that need, which was to try to instill confidence, discipline, teamwork, time management, fitness and leadership.” Interested youth should apply soon, as the application process is a long one, said Maj. Kemp. There are five steps to go through, including an aptitude test, medical assessment, fitness evaluation, interview, and enhanced reliability check. However, the costs associated with the steps, including flying down to the recruiting office in Vancouver, are covered by the program, as the organizers understand that it would not be feasible for many people in remote communities to apply if that were not the case, said Maj. Kemp. “Bold Eagle is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said, “It’s one of those experiences that they will never ever forget. They will carry it with them for the rest of their life.” Maj. Kemp was on Haida Gwaii for the job fair last month, and regularly travels through western Canada. He often hears from graduates of the program how important it was for them, “I hear such positive things about how it got them on the right path.” To be eligible for the program, youth must 16 years or older, be a Canadian citizen and self-declare as Aboriginal, must have completed the tenth grade and must live in western Canada or Ontario. More information is available online at www.forces.gc.ca/boldeagle, or interested youth can call Maj. Kemp at 1-403-410-2320 (3555) or the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre at 1-800-856-8488.