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From left to right: Ordinary Seaman Basic Raelinn Parenteau, Ordinary Seaman Basic Konnor Issaluk, Ordinary Seaman David Inglangasuk. Photo by LS David Gariepy, MARPAC Imaging Services NCdt S.L. Delaney, MARPAC PA ~

This summer, 24 Indigenous youth from across Canada are gathered in Esquimalt for six-weeks of sharing culture and training with the Royal Canadian Navy. Now in its sixteenth year, the Raven Program invites Indigenous youth to experience the military lifestyle through immersive training that teaches basic military skills while honouring cultural customs. The current students have travelled from eight different provinces and territories, representing Métis, Inuit, and First Nations people.

After arriving in Esquimalt, the students are sworn in as Naval Reserve members of the Canadian Armed Forces. From there, they dive right into the first phase of the program with a four-day culture camp in Nanoose Bay. There, they gather with Elders to learn Métis, Inuit and First Nations teachings.

While partaking in team-building activities, raising a teepee and sharing in a sacred fire, the students are also building a foundation of trust in their peers and in themselves to carry them through the demanding military training that awaits.

And the training is rigorous. Waking up at 5:00 a.m., the candidates fill their days learning new skills like first aid, orienteering and weapons handling, all the while maintaining a steady schedule of physical training, drill and inspections. In fact, in six short weeks, the students will earn their full Basic Military Qualification.

Graduates can then elect to continue on as a Naval Reservist or transfer to the Regular Force. In the last five years, Raven has seen 168 graduates, with 21 members retained in the reserve force, and nine members transferring into the regular force.

Beyond recruiting and retention, the program also builds awareness and fosters relationships between the RCN and Indigenous communities across Canada. The program has seen the power of word of mouth, fielding calls throughout the year from parents and teachers who have heard great feedback from past participants.

The students who do not choose to stay in the forces still come away with their first aid certification, new skills, increased confidence and new friends and mentors from across the country.

Ordinary Seaman Basic (OSB) Raelinn Parenteau, current Raven candidate, affirms that “it’s great to have people from all over Canada come together like this. I have a new family.”

OS Parenteau is from Chatham, Ontario, and she heard about Raven from her uncle, a graduate of Black Bear, the Eastern Canadian Army equivalent of Raven. Parenteau chose the Raven program because she likes the water and felt the Navy would be a great fit.

Her favourite part of training so far has been the confidence course—an obstacle course that challenges physical and mental toughness, and requires the candidates to lean on each other and work as a team. Parenteau took on the challenge of Raven because she wanted to put herself outside her comfort zone and engage with new people. Tackling the confidence course is physical proof that she is doing just that.

OSB Konnor Issaluk lives in Deep River, Ontario, and is originally from Nunavut. His stepfather is a serving military member who recommended the Navy as a great way to develop leadership skills.

Issaluk explains that he decided to join Raven because “I was looking for summer employment; I wanted to push my limits; I wanted to learn about being a leader, and I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps.”

Issaluk aspires to give back to his community using the skills that he learns this summer.

“I want to do charitable work back home. I want to be able to stand up […]

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