Raven Program blends Indigenous cultures with military training

Navy News / July 12, 2021

By Peter Mallett

After a one-year shutdown, the Royal Canadian Navy’s popular Raven Program is ready to soar again.

This outreach program is run by Naval Fleet School Pacific (NFSP) at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt, B.C., and blends Indigenous cultures with military training.

Candidates come from across Canada, enrol in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and are housed at CFB Esquimalt in July and August. This year, COVID-19 health and safety measures have also been put in place.

“It was disappointing to tell last year’s participants they couldn’t come due to the shut down,” says Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2) Michelle Howell. “This year the Raven interest has picked right back up. I’ve been receiving numerous emails and calls from potential recruits, parents, community representatives and CAF members expressing how excited they are about taking part in the program this summer.”

CAF recruiting centres across Canada have received over 100 applications for Raven this summer and are busy conducting security background checks, medical reviews and FORCE testing (fitness for operational requirements). Normally, this process would take months, but with the recent lifting of tight COVID restrictions, staff only have a few weeks to process applications and get as many applicants as possible into the course.

There are a number of Indigenous training programs offered by the CAF across Canada; the Raven Program in particular can accommodate a maximum of 45 candidates.

This year the candidates will be sworn into the CAF on July 8 and immediately begin their Basic Military Qualification (BMQ). This kicks off with a four-day Culture Camp, where the recruits learn about Canada’s Métis, First Nations and Inuit cultures. They then carry on with all the military elements involved with BMQ.

The overarching intention of the Raven Program is to bring together people from across Canada, both military and Indigenous, to start building relationships, experiences and connections to our nation’s Indigenous and military roots, says PO2 Howell.

It’s important to note that the Raven Program is no longer regarded as a summer camp or “just a summer job” says the officer overseeing the program, Seamanship’s Divisional Commander at NFSP, Lieutenant-Commander James Classen. He emphasizes that candidates are gaining employment; however, now they are enrolling in the CAF and the program offers a number of options upon graduation.

“It now opens up doors and opportunities for the participants that didn’t exist before. We are running a fully functioning BMQ, where the recruits can then move on to the Regular Force or Primary Reserve. It also covers different Indigenous teachings and education recruits may not have experienced prior to coming to the program.”

All travel expenses to and from Esquimalt are covered. Raven recruits also receive meals, accommodation, military clothing and equipment, and a salary of approximately $4,200 for the summer.

For more information about the Raven Program visit its Facebook Page or https://forces.ca/en/programs-for-indigenous-peoples/