Strange Bedfellows: Youth Activists, Government Sponsorship, and the Company of Young Canadians (CYC), 1965-1970
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1Throughout the 1950s small groups of anti-conformists from Greenwich Village, New York City left the east coast and relocated to the North Beach area of San Francisco. Influenced by the writings of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, The Beats often chose to settle in rundown neighborhoods that had been in decline since the Depression called The Haight. By the summer of 1967 it was not the cheap rent that lured many prominent activists and hordes of youth to the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets. Instead, those across the United States that embraced and redefined the spontaneous creativeness and anti-conformist message espoused by their Beat predecessors made their way to San Francisco to participate in the Summer of Love. Despite differences between the many factions of a defiant youth scene, by the late sixties a generation of young people increasingly questioned societal norms - so much so that outspoken defiance became fashionably acceptable. The dark and somber beatnik had been replaced by the often colorful and bold hippie.1
2 It is difficult to begin any commentary on the 1960s without mentioning beatniks, hippies, Haight-Ashbury, and Greenwich Village. Flower Power activists and hippie subcultures of the sixties remain some of the most referenced elements (in memory, film, and text) of an era that witnessed a wide range of social and political upheaval. As many scholars concerned with gender, class, ethnicity, and race have demonstrated, however, activists in the 1960s wore many hats. In the U.S. context, less-known activists included the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and the Community Action Program (CAP). Products of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the War on Poverty, both programs acted as domestic counterparts to the Peace Corps by providing an avenue for young American volunteers to address issues related to poverty and social injustice on their doorsteps. Many of these young Americans volunteered on a full-time basis, living as members of the communities they served. Often college or professional school graduates, VISTA and CAP volunteers garner only a fraction of the scholarly attention other activists of the same era tend to attract. A couple of possible explanations for this historical oversight jump to mind. First, the story of cooperation between middle class “do-gooders” and federal authorities during the 1960s does not fit well with the existing image of a decade marked by social upheaval. Interconnected with this is the perpetuation of the idea that government-funded activists did not lead or involve themselves with controversial subcultures. This essay seeks to debunk these notions.2
3 Like the many differences among the generation of youth that are so often ignored in historical accounts of the decade, so too with the young residents of Canada. Much like The Haight and The Village, Yorkville in Toronto and Kitsilano in Vancouver acted as a beacon to a variety of youth, activists, transients, and drug-peddlers. Unlike their American counterparts, however, these developments have not been as mythologized or drawn into a wider historical narrative concerning youth activity during the 1960s in North America. In fact, when compared to studies of the United States, scant attention has been paid to this generation of youth and youth activism in Canada.3
4Most scholars that study the U.S. subcultures seem to follow a formulaic approach that underscores how a disaffected baby boom generation rebelled and attempted to create an alternative society through protest, drug use, communes, and enclaves. While aspects of this equation ring true, inquiry into youth and youth activism in Canada illuminates complexities that do not fit well with the established historical framework. Leading young activists in Canada did clash with the authorities over issues of space and freedoms, but they also forged important working relationships with government officials, community representatives, medical professionals, and social workers. The worlds of “radicals” and “do-gooders” appear less discernable in Canada when compared to related youth activism in the United States – especially when one looks at the underrepresented histories of VISTA and CAP.
5Nevertheless, north of the border it is difficult to ignore the fact that a generation of young activist leaders appear to have entertained a notion of cooperation as they pursued a social agenda by challenging and working within the space provided to them by federal authorities. In fact, in an attempt to further their twin goals of community development and social change, the leaders of Canada’s activist scene engaged authority in an often uncomfortable, but nevertheless cooperative relationship. Instead of tuning in, turning on, and dropping out en masse, government documents and oral interviews disclose that many young Canadians sought to alter social norms as members of both government-subsidized and structured organizations.4 One such organization was the Company of Young Canadians (CYC).
6In 1965, according to a federal newsletter, the Lester B. Pearson government “decided that young people should be given the opportunity to contribute to the growth of their country.” In April the government provided the finance for a new youth-run program called the Company of Young Canadians. The Company, “conceived as a means for young Canadians to put their ideals and concerns into constructive action,” was to target the causes of hardship, inequality, and poverty through their projects. Activists that sought to address a number of social ills that plagued Canada’s urban youth were provided with a government-sponsored initiative to put their ideas to the test. According to a federal bulletin, the Company would give “volunteers the responsibility to make and carry out decisions without government control or interference.”5 In fact, Liberal government officials openly appealed to youth activists by suggesting that the CYC be controlled by its volunteer participants through a youth-run Permanent Council. By 1966, backed by millions of dollars of federal funds, the Company of Young Canadians Act outlined the operation of the organization as an independent Crown corporation. According to the twelve operational principles, the primary purpose of the CYC was to address the economic, social, and cultural needs of communities through subsidized volunteer placements. The principles established that the driving goal of the organization was to reach out to young Canadians. However, by 1969 problems with this approach became obvious and the government reacted to the more radical parts of the organization by taking away the clause that secured volunteer representation. Increasing pressure and criticism from a number of areas and the recommendations of a parliamentary investigation forced the restructuring of the entire Company. At this stage, more defiant activists quit the CYC for different government initiatives such as the Opportunities for Youth program (OFY) or vowed never to work with the government again. Other young people, however, continued to work with the government in order to maintain the integrity of their projects. Despite the splintering and reorganization of the Company, the CYC is an inimitable entry in the annals of youth activism during the North American sixties.
7Historical references to the organization have largely passed over the cooperative youth-government elements that provided the basis for the Company.6 Writing in the early 1970s, former Company member Ian Hamilton devoted considerable analysis to problems that plagued the organization from 1966 to 1970, and suggested the Company’s close ties with the government significantly hindered its ability to adequately represent youth. Margaret Daly, a journalist for the Toronto Daily Star, echoed Hamilton’s theme of cooption by juxtaposing events in the field with those taking place in Ottawa to show the complicated bureaucratic structure that was endemic to the organization during its inaugural years. According to Daly, the CYC evolved into a “Liberal attempt to co-opt radical youth, [which] would be run by older people with only token youth representation, and would be concerned not with basic social change but with token social service.” While important for their detailed examination of CYC activities both in the field and in the head office, both perceptions need to be updated with documented and oral evidence from volunteers who seemed to believe that opportunities such as the Company of Young Canadians allowed them to engage in meaningful volunteer work throughout the country. This is not to suggest that young Canadians and the federal government enjoyed a blissful relationship, but evidence does indicate that elements of cooperation played an integral role in the founding and development of the organization.7
8Before the Company became an official Crown corporation in 1965 the government created an organizing committee to establish the direction of the new initiative. The Leddy Committee consisted of eleven members, drawn from diverse backgrounds. According to the committee, this composition ensured that voluntary organizations, youth movements, the government and other agencies would be evenly represented. Hired as a research assistant for the Leddy Committee, Joan Kuyek remembers traveling around the country interviewing various representatives from both voluntary and non-voluntary organizations to figure out the direction of new the Company of Young Canadians. On the one hand, Kuyek recalls that government officials concerned with community development were as keen to discuss possibilities for future projects with Kuyek as she was with them: “I talked to lots of government people too, interested in community development and how that might be a way to bring about social change.”8 On the other, Kuyek remembers talking “to all sorts of national voluntary organizations in terms of what they wanted people to do.”9 Tasked to define and develop the CYC, the committee looked primarily to the Student Union for Peace Action (SUPA) for guidance.
9 SUPA, the leading New Left organization in Canada, provided the inspiration for the Leddy Committee’s viewpoint. Formed out of the Combined Universities Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s 1964 annual meeting in Regina, the organization resulted from a change in leadership which abolished the organization in favor of a new more broadly defined replacement-the Student Union for Peace Action. A number of younger members, influenced more by the spirit of the Port Huron Statement than the single cause CUCND, shaped the direction of this New Left group. Many of these younger members spent the summer working with their American counterparts in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) learning the techniques of civil disobedience and the ideas of the student left in the United States.10
10 SUPA activists emphasized the need for volunteer representation in the decision-making structure. In fact, the SUPA report stated that if the CYC was not controlled by its youthful constituency it would not fulfill its original objectives of being a youth represented group. The Leddy Committee agreed. In subsequent reports to government representatives, committee members underscored that CYC volunteers had to operate with significant independence from government interference, and federal support should reflect such a strategy. These concepts of community development, integration, and independence from the head office as endorsed by SUPA became central to the Leddy Committee’s recommendations to the Prime Minister in 1965 and formed the main tenants of the CYC Act of 1966.11
11 To fully comprehend these ideas of community development and benefit from the experience of SUPA volunteers, the nascent Leddy Committee advised the government to sponsor five projects in 1965. Based on the Economic Research and Action Projects of the American Students for a Democratic Society, SUPA implemented projects across Canada that summer.12 In exchange for financial support from the government, SUPA activists provided a full report on a number of community development projects. Student volunteers in Kingston, Ontario helped urban poor demand their rights in the community, while nine SUPA volunteers initiated the Student Neestow Partnership Project in Saskatchewan by living among the Métis and Native community with the purpose of documenting the inferior economic, social, and political status of the indigenous residents. In British Columbia, the Kootenays Project consisted of eight people living in an abandoned Doukhobor house with the purpose of studying economic and social problems of the local community. In Montreal, Project La Macaza focused on similar problems.13 SUPA volunteers agreed to fill out questionnaires for the Leddy Committee, and in turn, the committee received important information needed to lay the foundations of the CYC.
12 Integration into host communities and the direction of the budding CYC remained a persuasive strategy for many young activists. The idea was not to “work among the underprivileged during the day but return in their private lives to homes in different cultural and economic areas.”14 In fact, Arthur Pape, SUPA’s Toronto Coordinator, made a move of his own and began cooperating with the government through the Company of Young Canadians. For Kuyek, this decision was similar to many other young people who left SUPA for the government-sponsored CYC: “SUPA decided it really wanted to see this as an opportunity for young people to get involved in really progressive community development work, we were organizing poor people [and could] get in touch with each other and create a movement across the country with the CYC.”15 Kuyek comments on another part of the rationale behind the movement of SUPA members like Pape into the government organization and her work alongside Company volunteers in Kingston: “If you wanted to work in a community nobody was going to pay you to do it, the CYC did offer a $135 per month [which] was enough to live on, and a lot of people were attracted to the idealism of the CYC; the CYC offered a way to get paid to do movement work.” Activist David DePoe agrees. DePoe, who joined the Company and worked as an on-site volunteer with the Toronto Youth Project, also viewed the CYC as an opportunity to get paid for the same work he was doing with SUPA. The CYC was as “a means to implement radicalism,” DePoe recalls, with the security of a paycheck. While acknowledging that the CYC provided “free money,” DePoe nevertheless emphasized the organization’s greatest attraction rested with the fact that youth “could run it, and take it over with [their] own interests.” DePoe became a leading spokesman for Yorkville’s hippies, gradually becoming integrated into the community and a member of the Village Council.16 In fact, in 1967 after being arrested for demanding that Yorkville be closed to traffic in order to rid the area of tourists, he remembered the support from the government: “Pearson defended us, [he] defended our right to do what we were doing.”17 Because of this incident, DePoe was arrested and several newspapers highlighted these events in the expectation that the controversy would have negative ramifications for the Company.18
13 The cooperative relationship between the government and young people from SUPA determined the direction of the CYC from 1965 to 1969. At its inception, project personnel (the volunteers and field staff), the administration (permanent staff in the head office who worked full-time and received a salary) and the Council formed the main structure of the CYC (Figure 1). CYC volunteers, typically young people between the ages of 18 and 26 with some post secondary education, would be encouraged to live directly in target communities to promote social change.19 Furthermore, supported by field staff and the council, volunteers were to be given primary decision-making powers in the Company and operate independently on selected “projects.”20 The CYC Act maintained that the Council remained provisional (as the Interim Advisory Council) until the volunteers elected their own representatives at which point it would become the Permanent Council. The Council administered the affairs of the Company, including the establishment of by-laws and policies. Once appointed, the Permanent Council would consist of twenty members: fifteen elected by the volunteers and five appointed by the government.21 As part of the administration, an Executive Director managed the organization and supervised the staff. Finally, the CYC reported annually to Parliament through the Secretary of State.22
14 The envisioned Company attracted many young activists. Referred to as the “guiding spirit” of SUPA, Arthur Pape joined the Interim Advisory Council of the CYC in 1965. His willingness to work closely with the government was aided by the number of strong, experienced, independent, and thoughtful public servants working in Ottawa during the mid-sixties. According to Pape, there were many public servants who viewed the Company as a chance to “broaden and deepen what government did.” In the CYC’s early years, the government made “no attempt… to control or manage it or use it; no efforts to politically control it or make it something used in partisan political ways.” As for the claims made by critics that the CYC co-opted radical youth from the New Left, Pape insists that this was nothing short of “leftist paranoia.” In fact, CYC members were “genuinely excited” that the government could play a role in promoting “participatory democracy and empowerment as opposed to colonialism, oppression, and marginalization.” As for the people in the government who may have wanted to impose greater regulations on the organization, it did not mean they sought to “kill the new left,” Pape remembers, as it was clear even to them that they were not able to control or manage social movements to that degree. Thus, for Pape the Company of Young Canadians symbolized an opportunity to continue community development work with proper funds, training, and research. Testimony to his early perception of the endeavor is the fact that CYC members experienced little conflict in their work with the government from 1965 to 1969.23
15 While financial backing from the federal government provided opportunity, the directive of the CYC would prove futile unless appropriate support staff could be recruited. As a result, when Pape made the move to the CYC he negotiated bringing over a number of youth from SUPA and the Canadian Union of Students. His reasoning was simple. Without the advice and guidance from experienced New Left activists, Company members would simply not have the proper training for the field. Among Pape’s closest New Left colleagues and recruits were Alan Clarke, Doug Ward and Stewart Goodings. While these men joined the Provisional Council of the CYC on the advice of Pape, they each expressed similar sentiments with regard to the organization’s promise. In an attempt to explain his move to the CYC, Ward mentioned the strains within SUPA itself and his belief in the New Left’s inability to deal with young Canadians: “I thought it was very important to loosen up that youth constituency, to open the Company to radical groups.” In addition to joining the organization, Stewart Goodings, Assistant Director of the Organizing Committee of the CYC, encouraged other SUPA members to enroll in the government organization at its annual conference in Quebec in 1965. Goodings convincingly explained to New Left activists that the CYC was a “device to divert radical energies into safe, responsible and conventional channels.” In fact, in a published interview printed in the Globe and Mail, he remarked that CYC volunteers would have the opportunity to undertake new and innovative projects, and anticipated “the critical interest and assistance of groups like SUPA at every stage of the CYC’s growth.” Goodings continued to remark: “what all of this adds up to is a determination on our part to build an institution which will reflect the aspirations and concerns of the most progressive elements of the Canadian youth community.”24
16 Many SUPA members became CYC staff at the head office in Ottawa, significantly influencing policy-making there from 1965 to 1969. That said, the CYC did not maintain exclusive membership guidelines and provided other opportunities for those seeking an alternative tool to combat social problems. Lynn Curtis, for instance, joined the Company to create a youth project in Victoria, British Columbia. Curtis represented the hippie scene in Victoria and helped to create the Victoria Youth Council (later renamed Victoria Cool Aid), which sought under CYC sponsorship, to provide vital services to young people in the city.25 Reflecting on his decision, Curtis commented that it had less to do with money, or switching to a new organization, then seeking an additional way to make a difference. Curtis also remained personally active with SUPA. Similar to Pape’s comments on the CYC, Curtis remarked that the government did not interfere with the projects and that young volunteers did not sell out for government sponsorship. In fact, Curtis had a strong sense that the Company embraced good ideas and provided youth with the tools of agency.26
Figure 1: “CYC National Newsletter, 12 December 1966” Courtesy of the York University Archives, Canada, 2000-015/021.
17 Picking up on the same elements of cooperation, the media repeatedly compared the CYC to SUPA. The independent newspaper, Queen’s Journal, highlighted the Company’s insistence on operating outside the mainstream. By incorporating terminology such as “group meetings,” “knowing yourself,” and “unstructured structures,” the editors of the paper stressed that the Company’s activist ideology strongly resembled that of SUPA.27 The Company’s “New Leftist” volunteers did not deter the Pearson administration from defending the Company. In fact, when the Canadian Intelligence Service publicized Clarke and Goodings’ past association with the New Left, the Prime Minister himself defended the objectives of the initiative and its members.28 Despite even this public defense of the Company, problems associated with notions of government-sponsored radicalism mounted almost immediately after the formation of the CYC.29
18 The creation of the CYC contributed to a number of increasing problems within SUPA. The loss of Pape, Goodings, Ward and other peace activists had a significant affect. In fact, according to some accounts the creation of the CYC caused SUPA to collapse in 1968. A prominent SUPA activist and an initial opponent of the Company, Jack Snell, felt the two organizations were incompatible. Like many critics of government organizations, he insisted that the Company of Young Canadians was not an agency that had the freedom to cooperate with the “most progressive elements of the Canadian youth community.” For Snell, the organization stole young people before they had come to terms with social problems. Moreover, the Company remained a threat to the New Left because it seduced young people and assigned them to service-oriented projects, cutting them off from the radical youth community. Historians have picked up on this theme, as it fits tidily into a story of a federal strategy of subversion. It cannot be forgotten, however, that by 1966 SUPA had its own share of problems that had essentially rendered the organization ineffective. A community organizing strategy was noticeably absent and a number of other problems plagued the organization’s administration - a lack of finances, regional rivalries and conflicting ideologies topped the list.30 Furthermore, keeping in mind Lynn Curtis, “the phenomenon of the New Left was bigger than any one organization.” For Arthur Pape, the CYC was one of many organizations that provided a vehicle to make change.31 Even Jack Snell could not deny the amount of opportunity the CYC provided for social change, since in 1966 he joined the Company himself as the Ontario Regional Director.32
19 Building on the traditional memberships of SUPA, by 1966 the CYC aimed its recruitment practices at universities throughout the country.33 The CYC focused on university recruitment as it established a campaign to attract students from the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, and British Columbia. Specific recruitment drives took place across the country at the National Canadian University Students Seminars.34 Two types of volunteers were encouraged to join the organization. The first consisted of the youth who would form the leadership element of the organization and be represented in the staff positions. The second group would make up the contingent of specialized volunteers in the field. In both cases, men overwhelmingly made up the rank and file.35
20 While the CYC recruitment campaigns did not target female activists specifically, women did make significant contributions to the communities where they served as volunteers. Patricia Canning learned about the Company through her local community in Vancouver and described her rationale for joining the organization: “I thought well hell’s bells, I’m Canadian, this is my government, I own my government.”36 Initially discouraged by the lack of training, supervision and support, Canning used the extensive network of experts at her family’s disposal to successfully organize the Vancouver District Public Housing Tenants Association. She unveils her underlying principle as a CYC volunteer: “other people in the Company were concerned about identifying enemies, I was more concerned with figuring out who I could work with.” This mentality allowed her to create the Residents of Gastown Association and procure the lease of two buildings for displaced peoples. These connections did not free Canning from instances of sexual harassment or exploitation. In response to an application for child support (available to women under the CYC Act of 1966), Canning met with Executive Director Claude Vidal in Ottawa where she became subject to sensitive questions pertaining to her husband’s whereabouts. Apparently, her work in Vancouver remained a secondary concern.37 For female volunteers, these types of events happened regularly in the Company. Canning and her counterparts were ridiculed and dismissed. She recalls another instance reflective of her gender: “[I] would sit in a room with nine volunteers and the staff person’s eyes would go to the man beside me and the other man beside me and they would never see me.” Based on personal recollection, female volunteers experienced similar occurrences: “to be female in the Company meant that you were sexually available, and everybody made a pass at me.”38
21 In addition to women, Canning also mentions other marginalized groups, such as gay men, who seemed either unable to act on their sexual preferences as Company volunteers or became peripheral to the organization altogether.39 Again, no evidence exists to suggest that volunteers confronted the CYC as a result of this treatment. One of Canning’s closest friends was rejected by the CYC precisely for this reason: he was “overtly gay.”40 An incident involving Jerry Gambill, the Ontario Regional Director also implicated the Company for its anti-homosexual stance. Shortly after Gambill joined the Company of Young Canadians in 1967, he became Regional Director. Within a year, however, his conduct and aggressiveness aggravated a number of members. Among other things, Gambill’s enemies accused him of playing favorites with the projects and staff.41 By the year’s end, CYC members led by Information and Communications Director, Rick Salter had gathered in Ottawa to discuss Gambill’s future. With the backing of his Ottawa affiliates, Salter charged Gambill with engaging in a homosexual act with a volunteer. Soon thereafter, Gambill found himself unemployed. In defense of the abrupt move, Executive Director Alan Clarke maintained that Gambill’s actions, not his sexual orientation, represented the root cause of his decision to terminate his employment. Clarke insisted that Gambill had jeopardized the working relationship between a director and a volunteer. Some young people complained of the Company’s stance towards homosexuals, but few challenged the organization outright on this matter.42
22Despite continued gender and sexual discrimination indicative of the day, by the summer of 1966 the Company’s membership had swelled and the CYC Act had been approved by the federal government.43 Company organizers kicked-off their inaugural year by sponsoring a series of projects across Canada. Two notable endeavours included the Victoria Youth Project in British Columbia and Rochdale College in Toronto.
23 Led by former SUPA activist and Company of Young Canadians volunteer Lynn Curtis, the Victoria Youth Project sought to establish community services for young people in urban British Columbia. In August 1966, Curtis created the Victoria Youth Council which promoted a search for alternatives, and focused its activities on maintaining and extending the hippie community in Victoria. The Council operated a coffeehouse, organized “love-ins”, provided cooperative housing, and opened “free stores.” Moreover, staying true to the Company’s directives, those who worked on behalf of the Victoria Youth Council had the same background as the young people for whom they worked.44 Similarly, the Company sponsored the Rochdale College Educational Project. This project worked with individuals from the University of Toronto; “staff with high level of awareness about themselves and society with deep sensitivity for other people.” Rochdale promoted itself as a gathering point for young people, and a place where theory and practice, image and reality could come together as a source of growing analysis. In general terms, this meant the creation of a location where students could live and learn according to their own rules. Government-sponsored idealism, however, had its problems.45
24 Once the CYC put a number of its own projects into the field in 1966, confrontations between the administration and the project personnel became evident. The first volunteer training session at Crystal Cliffs, Nova Scotia, exposed a number of major communication problems. Volunteers sent letters of complaint to the head office arguing that the training session did nothing to establish discussion networks among those in the field and those representing the head office. According to the SUPA activists that ran the session, the main purpose of the gathering was to foster youth participation in “special training in human relations and community development; in methods of instruction and the communication of knowledge and skills.”46 Little in the way of substance existed and, according to an internal memo written to the head office after the training session, “many of the volunteers left the training site uncertain of their role within the Company.”47
25 Since the CYC structure did not establish elaborate communication channels among the volunteers and the head office, Doug Ward, as Director of the Interim Advisory Council, dealt with these concerns by establishing a Working Group in 1966 as a forum for discussion. The Working Group held its first meeting on 5 December 1966 in Ottawa and consisted of volunteers, field staff, and Provisional Council representatives. As detailed in the meeting’s minutes, the Working Group existed “to attempt to get those involved in the CYC to work together.”48 The Group continued until the spring of 1967 and made several important contributions to the organization’s procedures and policies by appointing volunteers for election to the Permanent Council. In response to the precedent established by Ward, volunteers in Ontario took it upon themselves to create their own Regional Council to continue to improve communication networks among themselves and their field staff.49
26 Exposed early on, communication issues between the field staff and the volunteers suggested that important logistical issues had been avoided in favour of putting volunteers into the field as soon as possible. The transfer of power from the Interim Advisory Council to a Permanent Council also uncovered the problems that existed in the government’s relationship with youth activists.
27 The Company of Young Canadians Act of 1966 did not outline how the Interim Advisory Council would evolve into a volunteer-represented Permanent Council. Determined to push forward with the Permanent Council, and in spite of the constitution’s shortcomings, Ward encouraged members of the 1967 Working Group to go ahead with the elections. These initiatives are worth highlighting given the problems associated with the transfer of power outlined by the organization’s Executive Director, Alan Clarke in 1967. Clarke too recognized the lack of precedent for incorporating volunteers into the Provisional Council and argued that no provision was included in the CYC Act to incorporate elections by volunteers to enable the phasing out of the Interim Advisory Council and the phasing in of the Permanent Council.50 With the creation of the Working Group and the holding of elections, Ward seemed determined to make good on the government’s promise of including volunteers in the decision-making process.51
28 To start, the Working Group came up with several recommendations for the Interim Advisory Council: five elected volunteers would be added to the council in June 1967, and one person would be elected from each of the five regions of the Company.52 Members of the Working Group also went ahead to form an election committee composed of five members: two from Québec and three from English Canada. Moreover, the Group elected a coordinator and further decided that volunteer elections be held by secret ballot.53 On 11 March 1968 five volunteers were appointed by their colleagues as representatives to the Permanent Council. The list included Dal Broadhead from the Alert Bay Project, Stan Daniels from the Lesser Slave Lake Project, Robert Davis from Everdale Place School, Maurice Cloutier from the ACEF Project (Québec), and Yves Brunet from Petite Bourgogne (Québec).54 According to the Interim Advisory Council, these volunteers became the “true inheritors of the organization.”55 Members of the council such as Ward and Pape had stated unequivocally from the beginning that volunteer representation was integral to the organization because they, as council members, did not adequately represent volunteer interests and had little experience in the field. In line with this, Bob Phillips, a member of the Interim Advisory Council, remarked that “most of the attacks on the Company are not because the Company is upsetting the power structure but because it is not. The Company has been attacked, not for radical thought or radical actions. Attacks have come for alleged waste and extravagance for muddling for dispersal of effort, for failure to communicate.” In fact, a governing body was not instituted until October 1969.56
29 Despite Bob Phillips’ claims, structural problems associated with a lack of preparation were not the only problems the Company faced in early 1968. Most notably, in 1967 the CYC ran into trouble with the press surrounding the participation of its members in an anti-Vietnam protest and separatist accusations emanating from the Québec branch. The idealism of Canada’s youth, which provided the basis for the Company, began to come up against the restrictions of federal administrators.
30 In January 1967, prominent CYC members David DePoe and Lynn Curtis partook in a SUPA-led anti-war protest outside of the American consulate in Toronto. Publicized, their involvement quickly drew negative criticism from the press and others outside of the organization. It was not long before DePoe and Curtis became the focus of the media’s crusade against the CYC. Several newspapers used the protest as an opportunity to highlight the problems with the organization and reflect their distaste for a government organization inadvertently sponsoring radical activities. The Ottawa Gazette, in January 1967, for example, claimed that the Company faced the “crossroads of its existence” because of DePoe and Curtis’s participation in the protest. The article made a striking comment that the volunteers themselves may be the ones in need of assistance and that their job of helping others may be in the wrong hands. Some newspapers even sent out warnings to the volunteers not to involve the Company in political demonstrations.57 Given the visible presence of DePoe and Curtis in the protest, the Vancouver Province fixated on the supposed radicalism of the Company.58 This event provided the media with the opportunity to unleash severe criticism of the CYC for its work in Calgary, Victoria, and Moncton. The Calgary Albertan reported that Premier Ernest Manning wanted CYC volunteers removed from the area and referred to them as “radical” and as “agitators.” Manning told the press that CYC volunteers wasted a significant amount of the government’s money and had done more harm than good.59 The Moncton Times elaborated on these points by singling out the individuals who were working in that area, referring to them as a “weird collection of people.” The article discussed the volunteers who apparently contributed very little to the area.60 Canadian Business suggested that the CYC’s problems stemmed from poor behavior on the part of its volunteers.61 Two years earlier the same periodical noted that the CYC was poorly organized and directed: “it has no clear philosophy, no definition of what it is trying to accomplish and no yardstick against which to measure its achievements and failures.”62
31 Defending the actions of DePoe and Curtis as those of private citizens, Ward and Clarke immediately issued a statement denying that the Company of Young Canadians had organized the demonstration. Clarke also drew attention to CYC legislation which pointed out that its members were not federal civil servants and therefore not subjected to the same political restrictions. Arthur Pape and Anthony Hyde had their own concerns about the future of the Company. The “Company had until that point represented itself to Canadian youth as being committed to change and to building a nation of democracy and justice,” Pape and Hyde outlined in a letter to Executive Director, Alan Clarke. “Obviously many Company volunteers feel strongly that the purpose of their projects must include building a warless society and a warless world,” but “your statements imply that staff and volunteer involvement in the demonstration is ‘inconsistent with the purposes of the projects’.” In fact, Pape and Hyde pointed out the inherent contradiction involved in the scandal, insisting that CYC could not be a viable organization for democratic social change in Canada and the world.63
32 On 4 January 1967, just two days after the demonstration, the reaction to the event had grown considerably. The Cabinet called for the abolishment of the CYC based on the idea that it had “become a political instrument rather than a service instrument.”64
33The Provisional Council called an emergency meeting to discuss the matter and the Prime Minister demanded that one of his staff be present. Marking a notable shift in tone, the initial reaction from the Prime Minister’s Office mirrored the negative criticism detailed in the newspapers.65 The main sticking point for the Prime Minister focused on
34the embarrassment that the CYC’s involvement in the protest had caused and the implications of its radical elements. Clarke responded to this apprehension by threatening to resign if the Provisional Council did not support the volunteers. As a result, the Provisional Council supported the volunteers, and on the advice of a special advisor the Prime Minister addressed Parliament in defence of DePoe and Curtis stating that the two had “demonstrated in their personal capacity as citizens of a free country.” Pearson went even further by suggesting that the CYC needed a “maximum degree of independence as it seeks to channel the idealism of youth into constructive action.”66
35Nevertheless, divisions among the volunteers manifested in negative reactions towards the protest. Volunteers Steve Anderson, Doug Williams, Carole Patry, Dennis Crossfield, Murray Morton, and Harry Mott wrote a letter to the Provisional Council stating their disapproval of the protest. According to the disgruntled authors, a volunteer offers an opinion only to resolve problems, not create them. Leadership roles in public demonstrations only undermine the intention of the position and a devoted volunteer must “therefore learn to keep [quiet]” on such occasions. “Both DePoe and Curtis took leadership roles in the demonstration, established strong personal images, used the CYC to expand the public knowledge of these images and did not think about the effect of this step on the other organizers within the CYC.67
36Rumours emanating from Québec later that year compounded the Company’s problems. In contrast to the rest of the organization, the Québec branch had important differences. The Compagnie de Jeunesse Canadien (CJC) was implemented a year later than the rest of the organization in 1967 and divided into different projects. The Québec chapter had its own director and field staff and a special advisory committee in Ottawa and because of the uniqueness of the organization in Québec, the head office typically let the French Canadian branch run itself. This practice became especially noticeable when Martin Beliveau became the Associate Director of the organization in Québec in 1967 and attempted to declare the Québec branch independent from the rest of the Company.68
37The province had a long history of student activism and a number of youth organizations had already gained significant popularity there. The Union Genérale d'étudiants de Québec (UCEQ), for example, remained overtly critical of a federally sponsored youth organization. After the creation of the UCEQ in Québec in 1964, every French university in the province withdrew from the national Canadian Federation of University of Students.69 Because of this strong organizing presence in Québec, the CYC established itself carefully within the confines of a French Canadian activist tradition. This made a focused internal structure for the CJC a necessity and every possible means had to be implemented to strengthen understanding for and the implementation of the Company’s general objectives within the province. The CJC-Québec, the Québec-specific information bulletin, was created to this end and played a crucial role in encouraging feelings of belonging to the Company as a whole.70
38Divided into four regions, the CJC’s structure represented its major projects. La Petite Bourgogne, le centre Est de Montréal, Joliette, and Association co-opérative d’économie familiale (ACEF) formed the nucleus of the Québec organization.71 In addition to the tradition of youth activism and its project-based approach, the CJC adopted elements of “animation sociale.” Animation sociale equaled SUPA’s notion of community development and rested on several assumptions. The first assumption maintained that the success of projects depended on the participation of the masses. Further, the masses had to be responsible for their own organization. The masses possessed the capability to understand the most complex problems.72
39By 1967, the four projects in Québec were facing considerable hostility. The ACEF project had different aims, approaches, and methods from Centre-Est and Petite Bourgogne. The CJC directorate found itself in disagreement with the coordinators over four main factors: the Ottawa-Québec structure, staff-volunteer divisions, budget restrictions, and the increasing numbers of volunteers. Financial problems also caused insecurities in the province as budget restrictions in 1967 cut Company finances to $2.4 million at the same time the number of volunteers in Québec increased from 50 to 125. Further cutbacks took place in 1968 with finances reduced to $1.9 million, and again this occurred simultaneously with rapid expansion in the number of volunteers.73
40Martin Beliveau became regional director of the CJC in August 1967 in the context of these difficult financial and administrative issues. Beliveau received the post in spite of his professed desire to stake out the independence of the Québec branch. He emphasized four major points in a presentation in September 1967: the originality of the CJC; its reliance on animation sociale; a plan for expansion; and collaboration with student organizations and the provincial government in Québec.74 But he went even further and declared the independence of his group from the rest of the Company, renaming the French chapter the “Company of Young Québécois.” Commenting on what he believed characterized the CJC’s independence, Beliveau stressed, “we are the Company of Young Québécois. We constitute an independent organization of Québec volunteers, independent of the federal government, independent of the provincial government.”75 The Québec director continued to write: “the new projects we are planning to develop will involve only a few full time volunteers who will compose the nuclei around which will form teams of part time volunteers offering their services freely.”76 Beliveau called out to French Canadian students and the provincial government, “we therefore ask the people and the government of Québec to fully accept us. Our Company is the CJC. We are entirely Québécois and want to be accepted as such by the population of Québec.”77
41Newspapers across the country used this claim by Beliveau that the CJC was a separate entity to comment on the merits of the organization as a whole. The Toronto Star, for example, maintained that the Québec branch had declared its independence to appease French Canadian volunteers who hated the Ottawa head office. The article took further issue with the fact that Québécois volunteers, under Beliveau’s scheme, would be in charge of their own projects, with the head office footing the bill, but not exercising any control.78 The French papers gave complete but unemotional accounts of the facts and stressed the competition that would ensue with Québec organizations. For example, La Presse commented on the increased competition an independent CJC would create among itself and the French Canadian student organizations in the province.79 In contrast, English papers in Montréal such as the Gazette and the Montréal Star interpreted Beliveau’s comments as a separatist gesture. This interpretation drew sharp criticism from the Executive Director who responded to these accounts by arguing “it is that sort of reaction that causes separatism in Québec.”80
42The head office responded by sending Stewart Goodings to Québec to handle the crisis. After an analysis of events in the province, Goodings relayed to the Prime Minister that the French Canadian volunteers had been misunderstood and in fact had no interest in staking out their independence. Executive Director Clarke reiterated these sentiments on behalf of the CYC to the Prime Minister when he claimed, “we are deeply concerned to see a political interpretation given to an activity which is essentially oriented to the progress of the most underprivileged sections of the Québec population.”81 Clarke further commented that the Québec projects enjoyed the support of the public and voluntary associations and the volunteers remained deeply involved in the communities in which they served. The “high quality of work being done by the volunteers” received the support of the Interim Advisory Council.82
43While the head office had seemingly averted disaster on the independence issue, another disturbance broke out in Québec between Beliveau and the CJC’s Associate Director, André Bonin, further exposing serious tensions in the youth organization.83 With the budget cutbacks, Beliveau proposed that the field staff give up their jobs as paid members of the Company and become true volunteers.84 André Bonin and those volunteers in opposition to Believeau’s plan sent a telegram to the head office, claiming that the Québec organization contained separatists. Those responsible for the letter noted the possibility of a public protest at Parliament Hill. In reaction, CYC officials from Ottawa forcibly removed Beliveau from his position in May 1968 and replaced him with Peter Katadotis, a Montréal-based community organizer. This act represented the last straw. With administrators such as Katadotis exercising all the power, the CJC had undergone a complete reorganization.85
44By mid-1968, the Company of Young Canadians as envisioned only three years before was in disarray. With the backing of Ward, volunteers demanded the resignation of the Interim Advisory Council in 1969 on the grounds that it had a limited perspective on problems, poor communication networks, and undemocratic structures.86 Commenting on the delay between the elections and the creation of the Permanent Council, volunteer Millie Barrett wrote a memo to Secretary of State, Gerard Pelletier on 12 April 1969:
The unforeseen delays in the election of a permanent council of the CYC has created a serious vacuum in Company operations. We understand that these delays caused the election procedure to fall to the bottom of Cabinet agenda. Because of this, decisions as to project budgeting for the new fiscal year have been held in abeyance. Ongoing operational requirements of field work are hampered. Policy guidelines for overall company activity are unclarified.
45Barrett continued with her view on the delay with the elections:
At a time when our field work is becoming increasingly effective, and demands for our services is growing, this is a most regrettable situation. We therefore plead that you exert all possible influence to gain the necessary approval of the election procedures, and that a date for the elections be set as early as feasible.87
46Phil Lalonde, a volunteer representative from Calgary, directly questioned Pelletier in April 1969 about the delays and outlined the contradictions between claims made by the head office and those emanating from the office of the Secretary of State. According to Lalonde, the head office assured him that the election procedure had been given Cabinet approval. But when Pelletier’s assistant insisted that approval had not been granted, delays ensued and Pelletier could do little more than assure the CYC that he would see it carried through. Within months, however, it was clear to many Company volunteers that the organization was headed in another direction.88
47 No doubt stemming from problems with the Company’s structure, events in Québec, and criticism of volunteer protesters, in October 1969 the federal government empowered a parliamentary committee to examine the legislative framework, organization, and operations of the CYC. The committee’s findings suggested that the Company’s administrative and financial procedures significantly hampered the organization. In addition, the report documented DePoe and Curtis’ involvement in the protest, and argued that public funds had been used in Québec to support separatism. Finally, the report attacked the Company’s policies for the research, selection, evaluation, and termination of programs.89 Based on these conclusions, the committee rendered the newly appointed, volunteer-elected Permanent Council inactive in December 1969, a mere two months after it had taken office. The CYC Act was also amended to provide for a Permanent Council whereby all members be appointed directly by the government, forever removing the possibility of volunteer participation.90 The duties of the Permanent Council changed to policy-making responsibilities, while the Executive Director managed the entire organization. A further provision required continual Company consultation with federal, provincial, and municipal authorities and the examination of the finances by the Auditor General of Canada.91
48 After these recommendations, the government appointed Claude Vidal as Executive Director in 1969. As the first Executive Director with no background in the student New Left, Vidal’s appointment marked a significant shift in policy. In effect, his reign as Executive Director meant the end of cooperation and volunteer representation on a Permanent Council, and the beginning of top-down administrative control by the government. CYC staff believed that Stewart Goodings would be elected as the Executive Director, with his experience in the organization since 1965 and dedication to community development and volunteer participation. However, government officials believed that Goodings did not have enough experience and that his popularity with the volunteers and supposed radical background would not allow him to run the Company properly.92 It became obvious to those such as Goodings, Pape, Clarke, and Ward that the Company would not continue to uphold its promise of volunteer involvement and these individuals left the organization.
49 As Executive Director, Vidal ran the Company until March 1970 without advice from the Council. Moreover, the federal government appointed all new members.93 According to Daly, the members were “purely political nominees who had never even visited a field project.”94 Successive Executive Directors continued Vidal’s legacy of tight administrative control, with a government-appointed Permanent Council. In fact, by October 1971 even guidelines that defined the limits of membership activities outside the Company had been cleverly written into policy.
It is accepted that the volunteers have their own personal political convictions, but the volunteers should not be involved in direct partisan political activity. The role of the volunteer is to assist people to organize themselves to act on their own behalf. It is neither practical nor desirable for the Company to censor the private personal convictions of the volunteer. Nevertheless, because the public acts of a volunteer reflect on the entire Company, any volunteer who wishes to carry his private political convictions to the point of active partisan political involvement will be asked to resign.95
50The CYC continued in this way until 1976 until the Trudeau government removed funding to cutback federal spending and to divert resources to other youth programs. Several of its members tried to keep the organization running despite the shortages and the federal government offered severance pay to volunteers. However, nothing could be done to save the organization by this point, and in January 1976 the fight was given up. Council members scurried to keep existing projects alive.
51While the documented changes in the CYC reflect the government’s provisional cooperative relationship with young people, from 1965 to 1969 it is difficult to ignore the fact that young activist leaders significantly shaped and influenced the direction of the CYC. But by 1970, the limits of this relationship had become clear. After the participation of DePoe and Curtis in the anti-Vietnam protest and accusations of separatism in Quebec, a Parliamentary Committee restructured the organization and removed the possibility of volunteer participation. The negative criticism resulting from these two events spurred the government to assume more control over the CYC, and from that point on the Company was different. Volunteers were no longer represented on a Permanent Council and thus exercised little power in the overall decision-making policy. As a result, by the early 1970s many young volunteers had moved on. Some simply cut all ties with the government. Others worked in alternative government endeavors such as the Opportunities for Youth program (OFY). In fact, many CYC-trained volunteers and activists formed the backbone to a number of street-level initiatives throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s that bridged the worlds of young activists and “the establishment.” These organizations sought to address increasing problems with an urban transient and often-times drug-afflicted population of young Canadians. Notable ventures included the Toronto Digger House and Oolagen, Yorkville Trailer, Kitchener Fat Angel, Calgary Youth Aid Centre, and Vancouver and Victoria Cool Aid’s.
52In the end, as this article has argued, there are many inherent problems with making sweeping statements about a rebellious and uncompromising youth scene in Canada (and indeed the U.S.) during the 1960s and early 1970s. Given federal involvement in a variety of youth initiatives during the same time, so too is it problematic to define “the establishment” as a repressive and conservative apparatus unwilling to engage young Canadians. As previously noted, limitations did restrict the often tenuous and short-lived relationship between activists and the government. But, it is misleading to paint an image of youth activism that does not address the collaborative elements of a number of unsuspecting partners - strange bedfellows that took aim at a variety of social problems affecting young Canadians during the sixties.
List of illustrations
|Caption||Figure 1: “CYC National Newsletter, 12 December 1966” Courtesy of the York University Archives, Canada, 2000-015/021.|
Carrie A. Dickenson and William J. Campbell, « Strange Bedfellows: Youth Activists, Government Sponsorship, and the Company of Young Canadians (CYC), 1965-1970 », European journal of American studies [Online], 3-2 | 2008, document 2, Online since 08 September 2008, connection on 26 April 2017. URL : http://ejas.revues.org/2862 ; DOI : 10.4000/ejas.2862Top of page