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Our History

Our long story...

The Association of St. Lawrence Youth Hostels was created in 1938 by Mary Barclay of the Canadian Youth Hostels Association. Her mandate was to develop the youth hostelling movement in Quebec and link it with the Canadian and International networks. For nearly 20 years, the St. Lawrence Association grew, thanks to the exceptional work of volunteers who were convinced that travel and inter-cultural exchanges, provided in a structured setting, represented a unique means of educating young people.

In 1957, John Charlow became the Association's first paid employee. However, he would not accept any remuneration until he had succeeded in sufficiently developing the youth hostelling movement in Quebec. Thanks to his efforts, the membership grew from 600 to 6,000 in just three years. Ten years after his hiring, he opened the first urban youth hostel in Canada: the Montréal Youth Hostel.

By the end of the 1970s, the name "St. Lawrence Youth Hostels" had become associated only with the Montréal Youth Hostel. Development of the youth hostelling movement in Quebec became the responsibility of the Quebec Hostelling Federation (QFA), which merged in 1989 with the Organisation pour le tourisme étudiant au Québec (Quebec student tourism organization) to become the Regroupement pour le Tourisme Jeunesse (RTJ, youth tourism collective).

The 1990s marked a decade of substantial growth in the history of the St. Lawrence Youth Hostels. The Montréal hostel was required to move into more spacious facilities, better suited to its young visitors and their needs. Still located at this same address today, the hostel can now welcome more than 260 guests per night compared to the 100 maximum capacity of its former building on Aylmer Street.

In the late 1990s, the Association created the Mont-Tremblant International Youth Hostel. In so doing, it made the ski resort by the same name much more accessible to travellers on small budgets. This hostel quickly became the third-most frequented in the entire Hostelling International network in Quebec.

In 2005, the Hostelling International (HI) Association of the Great Lakes region found itself in difficult times, and the St. Lawrence Youth Hostels stepped up to acquire the Niagara Falls and Toronto hostels in order to preserve the presence of the HI network in these two cities.

Two years later in 2007, HI-Canada awarded the Association of St. Lawrence Youth Hostels a regional representation mandate, thereby merging the former Great Lakes and Quebec regions into one under the name "St. Lawrence Region." The St. Lawrence Region Youth Hostels thus reassumed the role of regional development for HI-International Canada some 30 years after it had transferred this responsibility to the QFA, and later the RTJ.

In June 2011, the Ontario East members have decided to join the St. Lawrence Region to create a stronger Hostelling International association on the territory of Ontario and Québec. With this merge, the St. Lawrence region becomes the Québec and Ontario Region.

The Québec and Ontario Region has become the second largest Region in terms of membership in all of Canada. Today it boasts over 15 000 individual members spread out across Quebec and Ontario. It has also become responsible for the HI affiliation process on its territory and represents all affiliated hostels. 

With 15 000 members and more than 15 hostels on its territory, accounting for more than 190 000 overnights per year, the Québec and Ontario Region is proud to have grown into a prominent travellers' community, principally dedicated to the education of youth through travel.

As a Hostelling International Canada stakeholder and member of the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF), the Québec and Ontario Region is part of a network offering more than 4000 destinations worldwide and a community of nearly 4 million members.

In addition to being in operation for 70 years, the St. Lawrence Youth Hostels Association has gone from a simple volunteer organization to having one permanent employee in 1957 and now a staff of over 85 employees. It has given several millions of young travellers the opportunity to discover the cities and towns in which it is established, make friends, and ultimately expand their horizons as they meet people and encounter cultures from near and far.

All of the work that has gone into these past seventy years has rewarded the St. Lawrence Association, its personnel and the HI hostels on its territory with the recognition of numerous awards.

A tradition of high quality service is firmly rooted in the Association's history, whereby young travellers are the focal point of all efforts. The welcoming atmosphere and quality of equipment, tourist information and activities offered today is the height of professionalism. In the upcoming decade, the Association promises to become even more directly involved in programs aimed at the discovery of new places and their preservation, environmental awareness , a growing knowledge of world cultures the respect for others.

The St. Lawrence Youth Hostels Association is evolving in step with its social environment. It hopes to pursue, for many years to come, its mission of educating young people by offering them intelligently-conceived, ethical, safe and affordable travel experiences.

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