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Provincial funding of $691,000 dollars towards the implementation of the YMCAs of Québec’s Alternative Suspension Program in Newfoundland and Labrador

Funded by the Department of Public Safety to promote school perseverance and prevent drop-outs among Canadian youth

For immediate release

Montreal, February 22, 2011 – The Department of Public Safety and The YMCAs of Quebec announced today at a press conference held at the YMCA-YWCA of Northeast Avalon in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, in the presence of the Honourable Vic Toews, Canada’s Public Safety Minister and Stéphane Vaillancourt, President and CEO of The YMCAs of Quebec, the federal government’s funding of $691,000 over five years for provincial implementation of the Alternative Suspension program created by The YMCAs of Québec.

Alternative Suspension is an initiative that allows youth who have been temporarily suspended from school to turn their suspension into a positive experience that promotes personal development and autonomy. In 1999, the YMCAs of Québec created the Alternative Suspension program, in collaboration with the National Crime Prevention Centre, Centraide / United Way of the Greater Montreal and the Commission scolaire de Montréal, in order to promote the school success of youth in Mile-End, a neighbourhood in the heart of Montreal.

This funding will provide financial support for the implementation of Alternative Suspension in communities across the country over a five year period. To date, the following cities have committed to offer the Alternative Suspension program in their community:

  • Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador;
  • Moncton, New Brunswick;
  • Chilliwack and Abbotsford, British Columbia ;
  • Edmonton, Alberta ;
  • Regina, Saskatchewan ;
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba ;
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia ;

Mr. Stéphane Vaillancourt, President and CEO of The YMCAs of Québec stated that he is “very pleased to be sharing with the Federal government the YMCA’s vast front-line experience with youth. The success of our younger generation is of the utmost importance for any society seeking to secure its long term future. It is has been shown time and again that their positive engagement in society is largely based on their ability to persevere in their education. The expansion of Alternative Suspension from a local to a national program highlights the impact of this important service and demonstrates that the YMCA is a partner of choice engaged in promoting the well-being and success of youth.

Alternative Suspension:
A program developed in Québec now responding to a national problem

Reducing school drop-out rates is without a doubt one of the main concerns of Canadian families. In Canada, 1 in 5 youth aged 15 to 19 no longer attend school. The two northern territories, Saskatchewan (23.3%) and Alberta (25.5%) have the highest drop-out rates in the country. Québec and Ontario follow with drop-out rates of 22.5% and 15.9% respectively.

Alternative Suspension is an instrument of change in increasing school perseverance. An independent consulting firm, CAC International, conducted an evaluation of the program, which demonstrated that the program’s methods and principles contribute effectively to reducing the risk factors associated with dropping out of school.

The program currently has 7 service sites on the island of Montreal, 11 elsewhere in Québec, and 9 across the rest of the country and provides support to a total of 116 high schools. Last year, Alternative Suspension served more than 1, 400 youth participants. Alternative Suspension’s positive impact among youth is felt all over Canada, and a pilot project is also being implemented in a suburb of Paris, France.

“We are very proud to see that the Alternative Suspension program has expanded to benefit more Canadian youth,” adds Scott Haldane, President and CEO of YMCA Canada. “This program, led by the YMCAs of Quebec, was developed in response to the needs expressed by the community. This is the strength of our federation – the ability to work together to deliver our mission of building healthy, confident, secure and connected children and youth.”

A model intervention program

Alternative Suspension’s ingredients to success are:

  • a neutral location outside of a school setting,
  • an “à la carte” and individualized intervention program comprised of one-on-one meetings with the youth, educational workshops, and group activities,
  • regular communication with the school and the parents,
  • an accompanied return to school,
  • a minimum stay of 3 days in the program,
  • a long-term individual follow-up,
  • effective collaborative practices with partners in each participating community.

A young participant explains: "The atmosphere is less stressful, quieter, calmer... it helps me decompress. I am away from where my problems occur. This changes the environment; it is more interesting, and therefore I am better able to express myself. My peers and my friends do not know about my situation when I am here and it is good to meet new people and live new experiences."

“A successful stay in Alternative Suspension translates into youth who enjoy their experience because they found individualized support, someone who would listen, and a place where they feel valued but don’t necessarily want to come back to the program! We make sure that there is a high level of self-reflection done by the youth and a rigorous curriculum of schoolwork is also required. Our ultimate goal is that our participants do not get suspended again and persevere in their studies,” states George Kalimeris, National Director of Alternative Suspension and School Perseverance Programs of The YMCAs of Québec.

Michelle Northover, Director, Development at the YMCA-YWCA of Northeast Avalon in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador states that “a first service site is already in operation in Corner Brook and a minimum of two other service sites should be opening in the next 18 months. Operating since the spring of 2010, our Corner Brook program is already having an impact among youth in the neighbourhood and has already welcomed 35 participants, serving 4 high-schools.”

YMCA Canada, The YMCAs of Québec, the YMCA-YWCA of Northeast Avalon, and the other YMCA associations would like to thank the more than one hundred partners across Canada including school boards, individual schools, community organizations, municipalities, etc.) for their support with the implementation of the program in their region and are grateful for the important collaboration of Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) for its support and funding as part of its national crime prevention strategy.

About The YMCAs of Québec
The first YMCA in North America was founded in Montreal in November 1851. The mission of this charitable organization is to promote the development of people in spirit, mind, and body, and to the empowerment of individuals, families, and communities. Its ten Y centres are visited each year by more than 100,000 people who benefit from its Health, Fitness and Recreation, and Education and Training programs, as well as its Children and Youth programs, its Community and International Initiatives, and its Donations and Volunteering opportunities. The YMCAs of Québec is part of the Canadian network of 53 YMCA associations. For more information visit: http://ymcaquebec.org/en/ or the YMCA Québec Facebook page.

About the YMCAs of Newfoundland and Labrador
The YMCA has been a part of life in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1854 when the YMCA opened in St. John’s. Today the YMCA operates across the province as three charitable organizations – YMCA-YWCA of Northeast Avalon in St. John’s, YMCA of Exploits Valley in Grand Falls-Windsor, and YMCA of Humber Community in Corner Brook. Programs are offered across the province in more than 40 locations in 12 communities. The YMCA is a leading community charity which provides opportunities to learn and grow in spirit, mind and body. We empower people to be the best they can be. The YMCA involves thousands of families and individuals in Newfoundland and Labrador in activities to be healthy.


Nathalie Viora, Communications Office
Telephone: 514-849-5331, ext. 215 / 514-523-2006

© YMCA of Newfoundland and Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador