Chronicle | Save the children (and Jacques-Bourdon Park)!

Laurent is a physical educator at the Saint-Charles pavilion at Des Ormeaux elementary school, in the Duvernay district of Laval. He has been teaching there for ten years. This pavilion accommodates kindergarten students and approximately 210 5th and 6th grade students. At school and in the neighborhood, most people call him Mr Lawrence .

He has become popular in this community because he does not compromise in his work. For example, the gymnasium of his school, built in the late 1950s, is shockingly small. The place is barely bigger than a badminton court.

Instead of complaining about it, Mr. Laurent has set up a volleyball program that culminates each year in a tournament in which between 90% and 95% of 5th and 6th grade students participate VOLUNTARILY. The volleyball court is so small that, during their year of initiation to volleyball, Mr. Laurent gives 5th grade students the right to use the walls during play sequences. He has found a way to transform the handicap of his local into a learning tool.

Mr. Laurent is an energetic, even hyperactive man. Any guy in my softball league would tell you that. But he seems to be even more at work. In the winter, after the snowstorms, he uses a small tractor to make big mounds at the back of the schoolyard so that the children can slide down them. He doesn’t have to. But he considers it important that his students be able to benefit from playful play areas.

This kind of involvement, let’s face it, is not commonplace.


To counter the disadvantages of the tiny gymnasium in the St-Charles pavilion, Laurent Daoust and his groups of students are also among the biggest users of Jacques-Bourdon Park, which is located just behind the school.

Jacques-Bourdon Park is also located in the heart of an island surrounded by a municipal library, two schools and three daycare centres. In addition to being a central element of the district, this park is obviously part of the daily life of the children, young and old, who attend these five institutions.

Designed about sixty years ago, the park does not betray its age. He needs a lot of love. It is currently composed of a swimming pool and a wading pool, games for toddlers and two small baseball fields.

However, the space is large and functional enough for students to run, play soccer, play baseball, volleyball and a host of other activities.


Ten days ago, therefore, Laurent Daoust told me that he was particularly worried about the health and physical condition of his students.

Every year since his arrival in Saint-Charles, Mr. Laurent submits his students to the shuttle test to measure their physical condition and their cardio-respiratory capacities. This test is quite simple: all you have to do is cross, round trip, a distance of 20 meters following a sound signal whose rate increases gradually. The greater the number of stages you manage to cross, the more in shape you are.

The mask is mandatory in physical education classes in times of covid.

A physical education class in Quebec

Photo: Radio-Canada / Bruno Giguère

However, the more the years pass, the more the results that the pupils produce in the shuttle test decrease.

When I started doing the shuttle test around 2014, it’s amazing how my students were able to take two or three more steps than today. It’s very clear. The difference is significant. I talk about it with colleagues from other schools and it seems to be a generalized situation.

Are there still fit children? Yes. But in the past, let’s say that out of a group of 26 students, there were 2 or 3 who were really out of shape. There were about fifteen who were in average physical condition and the other five or six were in really good shape. But there, I would say that there are 80% of students who are not in good shape. The gap between the fittest and the rest of the group is gigantic he says.


What Laurent Daoust says is not the fruit of his imagination.

Thousands of Quebec students have undergone the shuttle test for study purposes since the early 1980s. And several researchers have noted that our children’s performance and physical condition have dropped dramatically over the years.

In an interesting master’s thesis in experimental medicine (Laval University) written in 2014, Renée-Claude Guy already noted that the children’s results were in freefall compared to those compiled in the study by Léger et al. This last study, which often serves as a point of reference for researchers, which was done in 1982.

For example, an 11.5 year old boy and girl who were in the 50th percentile in 1982 crossed 6.8 and 4.9 levels respectively. In 2014, boys of the same age only crossed 4 levels. And girls, only 3.25.

It’s dramatic.

I remind you, these statistics date from 2014. And Mr. Laurent notes that in his school, the performance of his students has not improved much since 2014.

The aftermath of the pandemic, he says, was particularly troubling.

Young people play Frisbee in the courtyard of St-Joseph school.

Students learn to play and collaborate with young people of all ages.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Benoit Jobin

When his students finally started attending his classes again, the vast majority were unable to sit still in indian for more than a minute because it hurt her too much. In the trunk flexibility test (sitting on the floor with legs stretched out and bending the trunk towards the feet) an alarming number of children could hardly flex their trunks enough to touch the lower part of their knees! Some even had to hunker down their shoulders to do it.

In short, we are in the presence of a passionate and dedicated physical education teacher who is worried, and who realizes that the two hours of lessons he offers per week are clearly insufficient to counter this alarming trend. To compensate, he recommends exercises to do at home and he tries by all means to teach his students the extreme importance of being active and developing healthy lifestyle habits.

At this point, I think my role is to try to make my students realize that the current situation is serious. Sometimes I wonder if children of this generation will not start to suffer from heart problems in their thirties rather than in their 50s or 60s. he said, troubled.


The straw that broke the camel’s back of concern for Mr. Laurent occurred on April 12th. He is still flabbergasted.

That day, during an information session (which is still available online (New window)), Ville de Laval has announced its intentions regarding the redevelopment of the precious Jacques-Bourdon Park. And in summary, instead of modernizing and diversifying the sports facilities there, the City has decided to make them disappear! Exit the swimming pool and the romper. Exit the two baseball fields.

The park’s change of vocation will coincide with a major renovation of the Germaine-Guèvremont municipal library, also adjacent to the park. And the intentions of the Laval administration are very clear. She decided to transform Jacques-Bourdon Park into a beautiful and vast backyard for the library. We want to make the park a place where contemplative activities will be privileged.

A map of the park

View from above of Jacques-Bourdon Park

Photo: City of Laval

Parc Jacques-Bourdon will therefore no longer have a sporting purpose. City officials have indicated that conventional games for toddlers will remain in place given the presence of many daycare centers and kindergartens nearby. There will also be vast water games which will obviously only be used by very young children. A mound will be created, it is said, so that the children can slide there in the winter and which can serve as an auditorium in the summer season.

Finally, a grassy area, of relatively modest size, can be used as a multipurpose sports area, it was explained.


During the question session that followed this very cordial presentation by the City of Laval representatives, however, we clearly felt strong resistance from the citizens. The majority of the interventions concerned the importance of preserving the swimming pool and keeping sports facilities for the population of the district.

I was impressed by the citizens’ attachment to this old-fashioned park and their understanding of the strategic importance of this space, given its proximity to schools.

Our children learned to swim in this pool , argued a citizen. (I am paraphrasing the interventions here, as they were quite long)

You tell us that the water games will be able to be used for a longer period than the swimming pool, but these games will only be used by children aged 0-5 years. The rest of the community will lose pleaded another.

We will fight to keep our pool! announced a man in his sixties.

A few years ago, the City stopped installing a skating rink in the winter. And there, you announce to us that it is the swimming pool, the romper and the baseball fields which will leave underlined a lady who was worried about the lack of infrastructure to give young people a taste for movement.

At each intervention, City representatives always very cordially defended their project to redevelop Jacques-Bourdon Park. This change of vocation, they explained, is part of a major strategic plan for the City.


It’s all about perspective in life.

Developing a park with a contemplative vocation probably seemed like a good idea in the offices of the town hall. But given the alarming trend that is developing in his tiny gymnasium, Mr. Laurent is convinced that this is really not the time to make sports facilities disappear.

Students run in the gymnasium of an elementary school.

Students run in the gymnasium of an elementary school.

Photo: Radio-Canada

It is a key moment in the history of the district which is being played out. There are too many things that tell us that we adults need to do more to get kids moving.

50 years ago, children played outside and everything was simple. Our role right now is to ensure that the adults of tomorrow are competent, balanced, and healthy. If we’re going to combat the eternal buffet of entertainment kids have in their homes, on their phones or tablets, we need to give them something really interesting on the outside. These children must have inviting sports facilities in their living environment. he says.

City of Laval representatives accepted citizens’ comments, in writing, until April 26. They explained that the comments would be analyzed and that they could be used to improve the concept that was presented. The concept will be finalized during the summer.

Ville de Laval professionals had better sharpen their pencils very well before presenting their final version of Jacques-Bourdon Park. Because the citizens of the neighborhood don’t seem to be in contemplative mode.

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