Black Bear

Are you an Indigenous person living in Canada? Interested in a challenging summer experience that delivers hands-on skills development, encourages teamwork, provides physical fitness training and promotes cultural awareness?

If so, Black Bear is the program for you! This unique summer training program combines Indigenous culture and teachings with military training that will help you develop valuable skills such as self-confidence, self-discipline, teamwork, time management, respect and fitness.

The six-week program is conducted from the first week of July to mid-August each year at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, in New Brunswick. During this time, you are enrolled as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as a Primary Reservist. Upon completion of the program, you can choose to remain in the CAF (as a Regular Force member, a Reserve Force member or a Canadian Ranger) or to be released from service (no obligation for continued service).

Benefits of the program

During the program, you’ll find out more about yourself and what you’re capable of achieving through hard work, perseverance and teamwork. You will also have the chance to meet Indigenous people from other communities. Overall, the program will help you prepare yourself for the future – wherever that may take you.

During the program, we will provide you with: 

  • Meals and accommodation;
  • Military clothing and equipment to use during the training;
  • Transportation from home to the training location and back home; and

If you live near a Primary Reserve unit, you can, upon graduation, transfer to that unit to continue to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) when you return to your community. You can also transfer into the Regular Force or into a Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. Serving full-time or part-time are excellent career options and a chance to further your service in the CAF, should you choose this route.

Eligibility requirements

Are you up for the Black Bear challenge? The first step is finding out if you’re eligible. To be eligible for the Black Bear program, you must:

  • Be First Nation, Métis or Inuit (status not required);
  • Be 16 years of age or older;
  • Have completed Grade 10; and
  • Be a Canadian citizen.

Further instructions for applicants 18 and under

All applicants under the age of 18 must obtain consent from a parent or legal guardian to participate in this exciting opportunity. Applicants must be at least 16 and enrolled in school full-time at the time of application. If you are not a full-time student, the minimum enrollment age is 17 years.

If you’re still completing Grade 10, you must send us a letter from your high school outlining the courses you’re taking and your potential to complete them successfully. You will be enrolled once we receive the transcripts that state that you have passed Grade 10. Make sure to send us your proof of completion early, as you cannot be enrolled in the program without it, and slots fill up early.

Black Bear training

Once you’re accepted into the Black Bear program, your training will take place in Gagetown, New Brunswick at the 5th Canadian Division Training Centre from the first week of July to mid-August.

The program is comprised of Indigenous cultural activities and basic military training.

The first day of the program is when you will be sworn into the CAF as a Primary Reservist basic recruit. The remainder of the week is comprised of the Culture Camp, where you will learn traditional Indigenous values and teachings as taught by Indigenous Elders or teachers. The Culture Camp helps candidates understand the need for self-discipline and teamwork and instills pride and the sense of continuing the Indigenous tradition of military service.

At the end of the first week, you will continue on to basic military training with CAF military instructors. The course itself is the standard five-week Army Reserve Basic Military Qualification (BMQ). During the BMQ course, you’ll learn a number of skills, including weapons handling, navigation with a map and compass, first aid, drill, outdoor field craft and survival skills.

You will also have the opportunity to participate in local powwows, the end-of-course sweat lodge and attend an organized career day that will introduce you to the education and career options in the CAF.

In addition to the comprehensive and extremely demanding training, there will be Indigenous counsellors available to provide emotional and spiritual guidance for the duration of the Black Bear course.

At the end of the program, you will be congratulated on your success with a graduation ceremony that encompasses military protocol with Indigenous customs. Black Bear recruits are enrolled in the Primary Reserve at the beginning of the course. That means that you can continue your career with the CAF, should you choose to do so. 

How to apply to the Black Bear program

You can apply to the Black Bear program online, by email or mail with the following paper applications. Make sure you have all of the required documents, including your:

To apply to the Black Bear program, we encourage you to get in touch with our program coordinator as well as the staff at the nearest Canadian Armed Forces Recruiting Centre or Primary Reserve unit in your area for information. They will be able to answer questions and help walk you through the online application. Our program coordinator can also provide paper application forms, if needed. 

The CAF starts taking applications at the beginning of September each year. There are a limited number of vacancies available for Black Bear, so don’t wait! However, please contact the Black Bear Coordinator to confirm as there may be occasions where they accept an application after the deadline. Once you’re accepted, you will receive a package containing all course details. We’ll also work with you to schedule your travel arrangements.

Contact us

Black Bear Coordinator: Captain Matthew Graham
Phone: 506-292-0124

Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre – Online Application
Email: Contact a recruiter near you
Phone: 1-800-856-8488

You can also request to have the Black Bear Coordinator come to your community or organization to give a presentation about the program. Please send a detailed email request for consideration to the Black Bear Coordinator at

For requests to visit rural or remote locations, the Black Bear Coordinator will try to include your community, when it is feasible to do so, during a planned visit to the region.

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