of Alberta

Youth Orientation Units fonds

Accessions 2011.032, Accession 2012.019, Accession 2015.007, 2025.025 and Accession 2016.001 (All filed with 2011.032)

Title and Physical Description:

Youth Orientation Units. – 1972-1994. – 60 cm of textual records.

Administrative/Biographical History

The Youth Orientation Units (YOU) was a residential farm work program which dealt creatively with problems and adjustments facing some boys in society.  Peter Rempel, former pastor of the Lendrum Mennonite Brethren Church, Edmonton, initiated the program.  It started very small after Peter Rempel bought 160 acres of land near Warburg, Alberta.  A partnership with Dr. George Loewen made possible the purchase of additional and construction of some appropriate facilities.  The first client, admitted on a temporary basis, arrived in 1970.  Most of the early clients came from the Alberta Hospital, Oliver [Edmonton], a psychiatric facility.

The primary object of the program was to use the farm as the instrument whereby troubled boys were taught practical work skills and habits, given a chance to think about life, and gain a better chance to succeed.  Initially Peter Rempel and George Loewen hoped the program could become self-supporting.  The costs of time and resources needed to monitor and guide boys, many with serious behavioural, health, attitudinal problems, and little practical work experience, were, however, very high.

Members of the Executive Committee of the Mennonite Central Committee, Alberta (MCC Alberta) became interested and in 1972 MCC Alberta provided a small subsidy of $90.00 per month.  That was increased to $2,400 when more boys joined the program.  Social Services, Alberta, provided $190.00 and later more per person per month.  There were, nevertheless, continuing capital costs and operational deficits which resulted in a decision by Peter Rempel and George Loewen to close the program, effective 31 December 1974.  MCC members Stanley Shantz, Edgar Boettker and others, however, asked Rempel and Loewen to continue the program, pending formulation and constituency approval of a long-term solution.  That resulted, in 1975, in acceptance by MCC Alberta of YOU as their program.  A 10 year lease of the farm was signed with Peter Rempel continuing as Director.

An agreement with the Solicitor General’s Department was negotiated in 1976 and came into effect on 1 January 1977. Initially it covered 43% of YOU’s operating costs.  That support rose to 59% in the second year and later to 70%  Up to 12 clients at a time could be accommodated.  They stayed for varying periods of time.  Most of the boys sent to YOU by the courts or other government agencies, supported by the Solicitor General’s Department, were on probation, allowed to be temporarily absent from jail, or wards of the government.  Some were also sent by parents.  The program achieved very positive assessments and exceptionally favourable recidivism rates.

Also in 1976, effective early in 1977, MCC Alberta bought the farm from Peter Rempel and George Loewen for $112,500.00.  Peter Rempel continued as Director until 1984 when he was succeeded by Jake Baergen.  Jake served as Director until 1988 when, after a brief interlude, Peter Rempel returned as Director and served until the program was closed in 1990.

The program was significantly affected by the Young Offenders Act, 1984.  Initially boys between the ages of 16 and 20 had been admitted. The Young Offenders Act, however, applied only to persons between 12 and 17 years of age, and school age boys under 15 could not legally be accepted for farm or other work programs.  As a result, YOU could only accept boys between the ages of 15 and 17.  Most of these young offenders, moreover, received relatively short sentences.  That did not provide sufficient time for clients to achieve the objectives set by YOU administrators and supporters.

Officials of the Solicitor General’s Department became concerned about the rural location, absence of educational services, and hardships of travel for parents and family members.  Severe government budget cuts added to the problems, and in 1990 notification was given that government funding for YOU would be terminated.  There were unsuccessful appeals to the Solicitor General and the Premier.  Several alternative plans were formulated, but after only a short extenson government support ended and the program closed.  Furniture, equipment and removable assets were sold at auction in 1991 and the property was sold to the Lucy Baker School for $330,000.00 in 1994.  The Lucy Baker School is a Christian Girls School supported but not operated by the Anglican Church.

Custodial History

George Loewen was an early partner in program and donated to the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta selected copies of letters and documents, including several documenting the origin and early history of the program, in 2015 (accession 2015.007).    The largest portion of this collection consists of the records of the Board of the Youth Oriention Units during the years which became an MCC Alberta sponsored program.  These materials were donated to the archives of the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta in 2011 (accession 2011.032).  Herman Neufeld served as Chairperson of the YOU Board when the program was closed and the property sold.  He donated his files to the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta in 2012 (accession 2012.019).

Scope and Content

The fonds consists of correspondence, board minutes, legal and other official documents, a few newspaper reports, financial statements.

File List

Box 1 Received as Accession 2015.007 but filed with Accession 2011.032.  Copies of documents provided by George Loewen

1-1. Copies of early and other YOU documents donated by George Loewen
1-1 a. 2 CDs of pictures prepared for a celebration of Peter Rempel and others involved with YOU.
1-1 b. Legislation and Regulations
1-1 c. Correspondence, Genesee Developments. – 1972-1975.
1-1 d. Subject file, Genesee Developments. – 1979-1990.
1-1 e. Taxes, Genesee Developments. – 1970-1987.
1-1 f.  Mortgages, Genesee Developments. – 1973-1990.

Box 1 Received as Accession 2015.032 but filed with Accession 2011.032, MCC Alberta files.
1-2.  MCC Alberta financial support of YOU. – 1972-1974.
1-3. YOU Board minutes, financial statements, reports. – 1975.
1-4. YOU Board minutes, financial statements, reports. – 1976.
1-5. YOU Legal and financial documents. – 1976-1983.
1-6. YOU Board minutes, financial statements, annual reports. – 1976.
1-7. YOU Board minutes. – 1977.
1-8. YOU Program details, government involvement, financial statements. – 1976-1977.
1-9. YOU Follow-up survey, correspondence. – 1977.
1-10. YOU Organization structures, residence lists. – 1978.
1-11.  YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports. – 1978-1980.
1-12. YOU Board minutes. – 1978-1979.
1-13. YOU Board highlights. – 1979-1980.
1-14. YOU Board minutes, documents, reports. – 1980.
1-15. YOU Board minutes, reports, documents. – 1981.
1-16. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1982.
1-17. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1983.

Box 2
2-18. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1984.
2-19. Undated brochures, Alberta Young Offenders Custody, Probation programs.
2-20. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1985.
2-21. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1986.
2-22. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1987.
2-23. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1988.
2-24. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1989.
2-25. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1990.
2-26. YOU Inventory, October. – 1991.
2-27. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, reports, documents. – 1991.
2-28. YOU Review of history and program by partners and workers. – 1991.
2-29. Appraisal of YOU farm by Switzer & Associates. – 1991.
2-30. Lucy Baker School Society minutes. – 1992.
2-31. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, documents related to the sale of the YOU farm. – 1993.
2-32. YOU Board minutes, correspondence, documents, related to the sale of the YOU farm. – 1994.

Boxes 3 and 4, received as Accession 2011.019 but filed with Accession 2011.032.  Herman Neufeld’s YOU files
3-33. YOU Minutes, Financial Statements, Service Agreements. – 1982-1983.
3-34. YOU Policy Manual. – 1983.
3-35. YOU Job applications, minutes, correspondence, financial papers.
3-36. YOU Audit Reports, 1983, 1984, 1986.
3-37. YOU Contracts, supporting documentation, Solicitor General. – 1983-1987.
3-38. YOU Job applications, supporting documentation. – 1986-1987.
3-39. YOU Financial Statements, Board Directory, supporting documentation. –  1986-1988.
3-40. YOU Board Minutes, correspondence. – 1986-1988,
3-41. YOU Contracts and Board Minutes. – 1987-1988.
3-42. YOU Board Minutes, financial paper. – 1988-1989.
3-43. YOU Financial Statements. – 1987-1988.
3-44. YOU Northwest Conference Minutes and Correspondence. – 1989-1990.
3-45. [number not used]
3-46. YOU Minutes and Financial Statements.- 1990.
3-47. YOU Follow-Up Study. – 1989-1990
3-48. YOU Minutes, Financial Reports. – 1990.
3-49. YOU Contracts. – 1990.
3-50. YOU Minutes, Correspondence, Financial papers – 1990.

Box 4
4-51. YOU Victoria and Grey Trust Company Mortgage.- 1984.
4-52. YOU CMHSC Mortgage. – 1983.
4-53. YOU Background and Financial Statements. – 1982.
4-54. YOU Correspondence and Reports. – 1985.
4-55. YOU Policy Manual. – 1982.
4-56. YOU Correspondence and Financial Statements. – 1983.
4-57. YOU Minutes and Correspondence. – 1983-1984.
4-58. YOU Minutes, Correspondence and Reports. – 1984-1985.
4-59. YOU Minutes, Correspondence and Reports. – 1986.
4-60. YOU Job Applications and Evaluations. – 1983-1986.
4-61. YOU Personnel Policy Manual. – 1983.
4-62. YOU Projects. – 1987.


Rempel, Peter, Y.O.U. Peter tells the story, limited publication,  A copy is available at the MHSA library.

Bender, Urie, Stumbling Heavenward, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, Peter Rempel (Winnipeg, MB: Hyperion Press, 1984).