L’Arche Daybreak: An Oasis for People with Special Needs


L’Arche Daybreak is an oasis in Richmond Hill, Toronto.

It is a serene ground of well-kept natural scenery, a modern avant-garde spiritual centre and eight charming cottage style houses. The place is welcoming, calming and spiritual all at once.

Besides its clear ponds, streams and state-of-the-art church architecture, L’Arche Daybreak is truly an oasis for men and women with intellectual disabilities. The institute recruits assistants who lives with them and build relationships organically.

Community life is the essence of how both the assistants and residents of L’Arche come to experience personal growth and share their gifts and talents in a supportive environment.



L’Arche is in fact a movement, having started in over thirty countries. There are over 140 L’Arche communities fostering safe environments for people with intellectual disabilities all over the world now.

Jean Vanier, son of Canada’s former Governor General Georges Vanier, founded the original L’Arche community in 1964 in a small French village of Trosly-Breuil. The second L’Arche Community in the world was born right here as L’Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill, Toronto in 1969.

At Friday evening worship services at the Dayspring spiritual centre, testimonies of beautiful lives and personalities of residents are celebrated and treasured. Stories of the beauty and worth of people with intellectual disabilities show how much positivity a space for hospitality and love can foster.


Community Leader Carl Macmillan is the long-time chief of L’Arche Daybreak at 11339 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill.

Community Leader Carl Macmillan has spent about ten years serving at L’Arche Daybreak. He was a priest from the United States and took one sabbatical to retreat at L’Arche. He fell in love with the place and has worked there ever since.

“It is fundamentally about friendships and relationships here at L’Arche Daybreak,” he said. “There is growth for everyone and the vehicles for change lie in relationships.”

“I personally most enjoy being around the table during meals. Assistants cook good food and there is fun engagement all around. It becomes a real place of life.”

He mentioned that services that happen every Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings and every Friday evening at Dayspring Chapel are when the whole community shares their lives together. He also pointed out that guests with developmental disorders are asked to lead the services and participate at the forefront. This helps them become more confident with themselves and to truly be integrated into L’Arche Daybreak.







The entrance to the Dayspring Chapel sanctuary is a colourful mural of a picturesque landscape painted by both the guests and assistants at L’Arche Daybreak.

The vision of Macmillan coincides with the vision of L’Arche Daybreak: to see all people with handicaps as all people with gifts. Through living together, learning together, the lives of those in this institute are richer and more in touch with God’s heart in developing genuine, down-to-earth relationships.

Have you been to L’Arche Daybreak before? Do you know any other associations that offer similar care to people of developmental disabilities? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to visit you! 

About the author

has written 15 articles for Enabled Kids.

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