Public Safety Canada

Alternative Suspensions Program

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Our first Pay-for-Success Project!

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.

On August 12 2021, 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.

YMCA Alternative Suspension is a three-step process:

cloud raining on a person to cool down

Cool down

Students find themselves in a new and structured environment, putting a stop to the downward spiral.

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The program encourages students to reflect during one-on-one meetings and group workshops.

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The program motivates students to make changes that will have a positive impact in their school environment.

The initiative is the first time the Government of Canada has used a pay-for-success 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 pay-for-success project was co-developed by Public Safety Canada, Impact Canada and the MaRS Partner Solutions Group, 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.

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 Suspensions 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 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 Partner Solutions Group is a launchpad for startups, a platform for researchers and a home to innovators. They offer a range of high-value services that help high-growth companies succeed by providing them with access to advisory services, connection, talent, capital, customers and more.