Government of Canada invests in program to keep at-risk youth in school and away from crime 

News release

August 12, 2021
Ottawa, Ontario

The Government of Canada is committed to keeping Canadians safe and communities thriving by supporting education initiatives that will keep at-risk youth stay in school and away from criminal activities. This has been especially important as COVID-19 has resulted in school closures, changes in educational practices and substantial challenges to students’ social and mental health.

Today, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Bill Blair, announced an investment of up to $4.5 million over 5 years for the expansion of the YMCAs of Quebec’s Alternative Suspension program, a dropout prevention program that helps at-risk youth, aged 12-17, participate in personalized activities as an alternative to a traditional school suspension. This investment will expand the program by adding new sites across Canada including locations in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, and provide services to an additional 1600 youth.

The program provides workshops, one-on-one meetings with a youth worker, dedicated time for schoolwork, and referrals to community and school resources, to students who might traditionally be suspended from school. The goal of the program is to limit risk factors for delinquency by supporting students in a successful return to school, decrease repeated suspensions and improve educational and social outcomes. The YMCA Alternative Suspension program has a proven track record of success, with 85 per cent of its participants exhibiting positive behavioral change at school following their participation in the program.

The initiative is the first time the Government of Canada has used a Social Impact Bond (SIB) funding approach in the area of community safety where investors provide upfront capital and the Government of Canada pays a return on investment once the desired social outcomes are achieved. If the outcomes are not achieved, investors receive neither a return nor repayment of principal.

The SIB was co-developed by Public Safety Canada, Impact Canada and MaRS Discovery District, which helped secure investment partners to support this innovative funding approach. Investors include the Toronto Foundation, Inspirit Foundation, Lawson Foundation, Robert Kerr Foundation and the Counselling Foundation of Canada. The YMCAs of Quebec has engaged a third-party evaluator to validate the outcomes of the program, to determine its effectiveness and inform its future application.


“Investing in proven community safety models like the YMCAs of Quebec’s Alternative Suspension program will positively impact Canadian communities by giving youth in precarious situations the necessary tools and attention to overcome barriers to their success, helping them to stay in school and be active members of their communities.”

- The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

“Diversion programs are vitally important in helping at-risk young people stay in school and away from criminal activity. I am proud to support the YMCA’s work expanding its Alternative Suspension Program to deliver positive outcomes for youth.”

- The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

“We are proud to expand our front-line efforts working with youth through the YMCA Alternative Suspension program to reach more youth in more areas. Time and again, the program has proven that it has multiple positive repercussions on all aspects of the lives of its participants. Through an innovative youth-work model, Alternative Suspension supports youth in persevering through school, making healthy decisions, and, ultimately, in completing their diploma.”

- Stéphane Vaillancourt, President & CEO, The YMCAs of Québec

“This private investment model is a unique way to provide the YMCAs of Quebec and their partner YMCAs more sustainable funding sources, if they deliver on their commitment to achieve meaningful outcomes. Now, more than ever, we need to find new ways to serve populations that are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

- Alex Ryan, Senior Vice President, MaRS Discovery District

“Toronto Foundation is excited to be a part of the YMCA Alternative Suspension SIB. This innovative financing mechanism has strong program leadership and could pave the way to bring other high impact programs to scale in the future. It aligns well with Toronto Foundation’s objectives for its social impact investing and we are pleased that investment returns are directly linked to student outcomes.”

- Denise Arsenault, Chief Operating Officer, Toronto Foundation

“Inspirit is excited to support the growth of the YMCA Alternative Suspension program. We are encouraged by the initiative’s track record and trust the ability of individual YMCAs to tailor programming to meet local community needs across the country. The Foundation believes change is possible through this community-based approach.”

- Jory Cohen, Director of Finance and Impact Investment, Inspirit Foundation

“The Robert Kerr Foundation is poised to leverage the lessons we have learned in nearly a decade of on-the-ground grant making to support basic and urgent needs of children and the homeless. By operating more deliberately at the intersection of communities and capital markets, through investments such as the YMCA Social Impact Bond, we’ll be better positioned to help more youth achieve their high school education and overall prosperity.”

- Bri Trypuc, Executive Director, Robert Kerr Foundation

Quick facts

  • Students who drop out of school are approximately eight times more likely to go to jail or prison, and cost Canada's criminal justice system over $350 million in increased spending for just one year, according to research conducted by Simon Fraser University.

  • The YMCA Alternative Suspension program has been evaluated numerous times over its 20-year history and has been found to lead to a reduction in the number of disciplinary actions for students at risk of dropping out of school. Having demonstrated its impact through more than 150,000 hours of support provided to Canadian youth, the YMCA Alternative Suspension program is the ideal candidate for continued expansion to communities across Canada.

  • To date, the program has over 30 service sites across Quebec and Canada and partnerships have been created with over 30 school boards, 200 high schools, and 250 partners actively involved in accommodating more than 3000 students annually.

  • Situated within the Privy Council Office, Impact Canada is a Government of Canada-wide effort to help departments accelerate the adoption of innovative funding approaches and deliver meaningful results to Canadians.

  • MaRS Discovery District is North America’s largest urban innovation hub. A registered non-profit, MaRS convenes all members of the tech ecosystem to drive breakthrough discoveries, grow the economy and make an impact by solving real problems for real people — in Canada and around the world.

Associated links


Madeleine Gomery
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Media Relations
Public Safety Canada

Page details

Date modified: