Shawbridge and
Shawbridge Boys Farm

Organizations / Shawbridge and Shawbridge Boys Farm

A history going back more than 100 years

Shawbridge logo in 1990

Founded by the directorate of the Montreal Boys' Home in 1907 as a special project for the treatment of delinquent, anglophone boys, Shawbridge Youth Centres has since acquired an international reputation for the quality of its differential treatment programs and its innovative approaches in the area of community treatment alternatives.

The following year saw the completion of the first building on the original 250 acres of arable land in the Laurentian foothills, some 40 miles north of Montreal. Designed to include essential kitchen facilities, a mini school and storerooms, this building also accommodated 32 boys. In the spring of 1909 Shawbridge was prepared to open its doors to the first clients, a group of boys from the Sherbrooke Jail, followed shortly there- after by a group from the Roman Catholic Reformatory in Montreal.

Expansion and treatment development continued. By 1930 the Boys' Farm and Training School was known in Canada as the pioneer in the establishment and development of family-group plan treatment. Cottages now housed 25 boys supervised by a set of parents. Activities ranged from formal education, cadet corps and sports to farming. The boys' participation in the latter resulted in prize winning cattle and successful crop harvests.

Provincial legislation was passed in 1950 establishing Social Welfare Courts and Youth Protection Schools. The resultant effect was that the Boys' Farm now changed status to a Youth Protection School and increased the age range of its clients to include boys from 7 to 18 years of age. This legislation forced the agency to accept referrals of cases not previously included in the mandate and included battered children requiring residential care, run-away youth, and even handicapped youngsters.

The turbulent sixties brought bigger change to the Boys' Farm. Apart from a radical modification in acceptance policy limiting type and number of referrals, the use of differential treatment programs was initiated. The staffing pattern in the cottages was altered to that of a child-care model and the number of youngsters per unit reduced to 12.

A focus on de-institutionalization with corresponding expansion of services into the community came in the early seventies. At the request of the Ministry of Social Affairs girls were admitted into the Shawbridge system. This new mandate led, in 1977, to the change in name from The Boys' Farm and Training School to Shawbridge Youth Centres - as it was known until the early 1990's. Apart from the obvious need to reflect a co-educational population in the name, the agency wished to be recognized as a multi- service organization.

In the 1980's and early 1990's, Shawbridge Youth Centres was comprised of a residential treatment facility on an expansion (1800 acres) of the original 250 acres in the Laurentians, four group homes and three community residences located throughout the Montreal area, a centrally located Project Centre for day care programs and a Montreal based administration building. A staff of 250 regular employees provide residential and community services to 227 youngsters. Other services offered at the time included case work, vocational counselling, transitional workshop and a school program.

1n 1993, Shawbridge merged with Ville-Marie Social Service Centre, Youth Horizons and Mount St-Patrick Youth Centre to form Batshaw Youth and Family Centres.


Shawbridge timeline

  • 1907: Founded on the recommendation of J.J.E. Woods, provincial inspector of reformatories. The idea is based on the notion "the best way to make a bad city boy good is to put him to work on a farm where he is free of depraving influence."
  • 1909: First school, with 30 students, opens under the direction of the founding president, John Dougall, publisher of the Montreal Witness newspaper.
  • 1921: Kiwanis Club builds a hospital on the site, which operates as a working farm manned by the youngsters. Today the building is the administration centre.
  • 1922: The Molson Chapel is built in memory of Capt. Percival Molson, killed in the First World War.
  • 1927: The gymnasium is built, funded by Edward Beatty, the influential president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Beatty becomes a major benefactor and often visits the farm as a volunteer to work with delinquent boys.
  • 1944: The present school building opens.
  • 1948: Fire destroys the gym. It is rebuilt and rededicated the following year by Viscount Alexander, Canada's governor-general.
  • 1950: Quebec adopts legislation establishing social welfare courts and youth protection agencies. This expands the farm's original mandate as a reform school and opens the facility to battered children, runaways and handicapped youngsters.
  • 1954: Kiwanis donates a swimming pool to the farm.
  • 1968: Farming operations are closed.
  • 1976: The Boys Farm and Training School is integrated into the Shawbridge Youth Centre and girls are admitted. The Parti Québécois government officially changes the name Shawbridge to Prévost Campus. The chapel is closed and converted into a detention centre.
  • 1992: Changes to the Health and Services Act create the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, named to honour prominent Montreal social worker Manuel Batshaw. Included in the merger are the Ville Marie Child and Youth Protection Centre, Shawbridge farm, Youth Horizons and Mount St. Patrick Youth Centre.
  • 1997: The Quebec Human Rights Commission denounces the practice of using the Molson Chapel as a solitary confinement unit for hard-to-handle youngsters.

Former Superintendents and Directors of Shawbridge and The Boys' Farm

  •          - 1927: Major Ralph Willcock, B.A.
  • 1917 - 1927: J.N. Barss
  • 1907 - 1917: G.W.O. Mathews