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YMCA Fact: Immigrant Services since 1870s

  • As far back as the 1870s classes were held to provide training to help citizens and immigrants find work.
  • In the 1930s, the YMCA initiated strategies to support unemployed by providing job counseling and training programs to teach skills.
  • The recession of the 1980s generated a host of additional employment, training and literacy programs for youth and adults, including unemployed youth at risk.
  • In the 1990s, the YMCA, with the private sector and federal government, launched a national youth internship program, to help give unemployed youth work experience. The Y’s settlement services continue to assist new immigrants in becoming oriented to life in Canada.
  • Did you know YMCA Calgary has an Immigrant Services area? Click here to find out more.


YMCA Fact: Swimming Since 1888

The Y has been teaching swimming since the first Y pools were built in 1888. In 1906, a Y staff member started a revolutionary style of swimming by teaching groups swim strokes using land drills before going into the water.

Even the military relied on the YMCA’s new swim instructions with WWI soldiers using land drills to learn strokes and survival swimming by wearing 60 pounds of gear in deep water. During the 1930s, the Y developed Canada’s first national standards for drown proofing, resusitation and scuba diving as well as test standards for swimming lessons that are still used today.


YMCA Fact: CDN Universities

Concordia University was originally founded by the YMCA of Montreal when it formed the Montreal YMCA Schools in 1926, which later became Sir George William University (named after the founder of the YMCA), before taking on its current name.

The YMCA of Ottawa saw a need for higher education and started Carleton College in 1942 as a post-secondary institution, open to everyone, with full-scale day and evening classes. The College later became Carleton University.

The YMCA of North Toronto was instrumental in the development of York University in 1959.


YMCA Fact: Basketball Invented at YMCA

Basketball was invented by Canadian YMCA Physical Director, James Naismith in December 1891. He was given just two weeks to come up with an indoor game that would amuse students more than standard calisthenics.

Hanging peach baskets to gymnasium balconies, Naismith tacked 13 rules to the wall and unveiled his game to the students. The game was an instant hit. The peach basket was quickly replaced by a wire basket with a hole in the bottom, through which a broom handle could be inserted to pop the ball out, after a bucket had been scored.


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