group of high school students

“These exchanges help create lifelong connections with people halfway across the country, and help our students understand and appreciate the cultural differences that can exist in Canada”
-Earl Marriott Secondary

exchange students group photo front of school bus

About the Program

The YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada (YEC) Program is a national exchange program for 12 to 17 year olds that pairs groups of 10 to 30 participants together from a different province or territory, staying at least 5 days in each other’s communities. The program aims to provide youth with the opportunity to develop a broader understanding of Canadian identity, connect with diverse communities, and develop leadership skills.


Each year, over 1,500 Canadian youth participate in exchanges across Canada. A unique aspect of our program is the freedom each group has to tailor their programming to the age and interests of the youth involved, allowing for a customized and purposeful program that fits with your group’s goals. YEC’s participants showcase their community to other similar aged youth through their program plan and have the opportunity to travel to another part of Canada, experiencing different aspects of Canadian culture and diversity.

Key Dates
Traditional exchange:

  • For travel between January 1 and June 30, the application deadline is September 30.

  • For travel between July 1 and December 31, the application deadline is March 1.

Virtual exchange:

  • Our applications are OPEN!

“Our students were able to enhance their knowledge of Canada immensely.
The exchange allowed them to see how big and beautiful this country is and the
rich history that we have” -Camilla Road Senior Primary School

History and Funding

The YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada (YEC) Program is organized through the YMCA of Greater Toronto. YEC has been offering exchange programs to diverse communities across Canada since 1976, and is celebrating 20 years of funding from the Canadian Government’s Exchanges Canada program in 2020. YEC is grateful for the continued support from Exchanges Canada, a division of the federal government’s Department of Canadian Heritage, which is the program’s primary funding source.

Through participation in the program, youth from across Canada are given the opportunity to learn about Canada’s history and diversity, initiate community projects, make new friends and connections, and develop an appreciation for both official languages. The program has a strong and defined focus on engaging youth throughout the exchange cycle, learning through volunteer service and youth leadership within the program’s coordination.

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“Creating an opportunity like this has encouraged our students' engagement and advo-cated for the attendance, academics, and attitude that the students need to participate. These attributes have guided the youth from our community to become stronger individ-uals and leaders for themselves, their families, and their Indigenous communities.” -Piyesiw Awasis Community School

“Throughout the exchange our youth formed an incredible bond and became like one large group where everyone was included. After the exchange our youth have remained connected, both with each other and their twins. They continue to check in with one an-other and have built true friendships.” -Sir Allan MacNab Secondary Schoo

“The youth took pride in planning activities to take place in their community of Montréal. It was pleasant to see the sense of identity that emerged from the program” -YMCA Westmound and YMCA Notre-Dame-de-Grace

“Youth Exchanges Canada is so key to the personal development of any young person. It is such an enriching experience that I would like to make it a mandatory activity for all young people. It shows them other ways of living and how to interact with people differ-ent than them.” -Intercultural Club, Earl Haig Secondary School