views updated May 23 2018


Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Montréal, Québec, Canada, North America

Founded: 1642; Incorporated: 1832
Location: Southern Quebéc, at the junction of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers
Flag: A red cross on a white background, with four emblems, as follows (clockwise from upper left): fleur de lys, rose, shamrock, and thistle, representing historic French, English, Scottish, and Irish influences
Time Zone: 7 am Eastern Standard Time (EST) = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: White, 82.4%; black, 5.6%; other visible minorities, 12%
Elevation: 36 m (117 ft)
Latitude and Longitude: 45°31N, 73°34W
Coastline: 24 km (15 mi) along the St. Lawrence River
Climate: Continental climate with heavy snowfall and strong winds; warm summers
Annual Mean Temperature: 6.5°C (43°F); January6.3°C (27°F); July 22.2°C (72°F)
Seasonal Average Snowfall: 214 cm (84 in)
Average Annual Precipitation: 115150 cm (4560 in)
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Metric system
Monetary Units: Canadian dollar
Telephone Area Code: 514
Postal Codes: All postal codes begin with the letter 'H'

1. Introduction

Montréal is the largest city in eastern Canada and after Paris, the second largest French-speaking city in the world. Located on an island at the junction of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, to the north of New York state. Montréal is a center for trade and exchange. The stockaded settlement of Hochelaga predated the arrival of the first white explorers, such as Jacques Cartier. European settlement dates from 1642 when Maisonneuve established a small fort, Ville Marie, on the St. Lawrence River. Montréal takes its name from Mt. Royal, an imposing hill in the center of the city. The location of the city has ensured Montréal's position prominence in shipping, manufacturing, and until recently, finance. Although today its manufacturing industries are in decline, Montréal remains an important port for both ocean-going freighters and shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. Initially settled by the French, Montréal's population has been divided between an English-speaking business elite and a poorer working French-speaking class.

Montréal's ethnic complexion and its importance in both English Canada and Québec has changed. Under pressure from Québec Nationalists, major businesses and the English-speaking elites who dominated them have departed for Toronto and English-speaking Canada. Québec City, the provincial capital, has surpassed Montréal as the center of Québec political life. Although Montréal, particularly the eastern part of the city, remains French, Francophone middle classes have departed for the suburbs. Immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and other parts of the world have made Montréal an ethnically diverse city. The city remains an important cultural center and a destination for North American and European tourists enticed by its restaurants, entertainment, neighborhoods, and the character of its older city. Narrow cobblestoned streets, stone buildings, and numerous cafes give Old Montréal a more European character than any other North American city except the provincial capital Québec City.

2. Getting There

Montréal is easily accessible by road, rail, water, and air.


Ten super highways converge on Montréal from Toronto, Ottawa, the Laurentians, Québec City, the Eastern Townships, New England, and New York state. Principal highways include the Trans-Canada Highway, which passes underneath the downtown; Autoroute 20 from Toronto; I-89 from Vermont and New England; and I-87 from Albany and New York City. Québec City is approximately three hours away; Ottawa, 90 minutes; Toronto, five hours; and New York City, six hours by car.

Bus and Railroad Service

Montréal is a hub for both the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways. Via Rail operates trains to Ottawa, Toronto and points west, and Québec City and Eastern Canada. Amtrak operates a daily service from Washington, D.C., and New York City. Montréal can also be reached from numerous points by bus.

Montréal Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 1,005, 000
Area: 192 sq km (74 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 82.4% white; 5.6% black other visible minorities 12%
Nicknames: City of Churches

Metropolitan Area

Population: 3,401,000
Area: 3500 sq km (1,355 sq mi)
World population rank 1: 79
Percentage of national population 2: 14.4%
Average yearly growth rate: 0.6%

  1. The Montréal metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Canada's total population living in the Montréal metropolitan area.


Montréal's Dorval Airport is served by Air Canada, as well as major American and international carriers. Flights depart regularly for 130 cities in eastern and western Canada, as well as major American and European cities. There is shuttle service to Toronto, which is one hour away by air. Ottawa, Canada's capital, is 15 minutes away by plane and can be reached in 90 minutes by car. Mirabel Airport, 58 kilometers (36 miles) to the north, provides charter and freight service.


Linked to numerous ports around the world by various shipping lines, Montréal is the leading North American container port on the North Atlantic market. Over the past decade, the Port of Montréal has handled an average of some 18 million metric tons (20 million tons) of cargo each year, including containerized and non-containerized general cargo, grain and other dry bulk, and petroleum products and other liquid bulk. In addition, the port welcomes thousands of visitors to its Iberville Passenger Terminal every year.

The Port of Montréal engages in year-round domestic and international trade. Moreover, the St. Lawrence River has been navigable year-round for ocean-going vessels for more than 35 years. A computerized dispatching system ensures that the correct number of longshoremen with the precise skills required are assigned to a ship each day. The Port of Montréal is also among the safest ports in the world as the entire port perimeter and individual terminals are enclosed, and entrances are always monitored.

3. Getting Around

Montréal is served by a metro, buses, and an extensive but sometimes traffic-choked road network. Travel by auto can be frustrating. Although the city is traversed by broad boulevards and several expressways, roadways, bridges, and tunnels to suburbs in the south are often stopped with traffic. Drivers unfamiliar with exits and entrances find it difficult to maneuver across lanes to exits and entrances, and in accordance with provincial language laws, signs are in French.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

The easiest way to get around the city is by Metro and bus. The Metro is modern, efficient, and quiet. Following a French design, trains run on rubber tires. Metro stations are spacious; each has a unique modern design. There are four separate lines: the green line runs east to west through the downtown; the red line runs south from Henri-Bourassa, west through the downtown and north again, intersecting the green line at Berri-UQAM and Lionel-Groulx; the yellow line runs from Berri-UQAM south to Longeuil on the opposite side of the St. Lawrence River. The Metro and bus systems are integrated: buses stop at Metro stations, and transfers are available from bus drivers or special machines at station entrances. Cash fares are $1.90 per trip. Six-ride tickets, one-and three-day tourist cards, and weekly and monthly passes are also available. Bicycles can be transported in non-rush hours in the front car of each train. Dorval Airport, 18 kilometers (11 miles) west of the city, can be reached by bus, limousine, or taxi.

City Fact Comparison
Population of urban area13,401,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded1642AD 969753 BC723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy)$108$193$172$129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)$62$56$59$62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)$15$14$15$16
Total daily costs$185$173$246$207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city4132011
Largest newspaperLe Journal de MontréalAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper254,9571,159,339754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1964194419761948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

4. People

The city of Montréal has a population of one million, but the Montréal metropolitan area has 3.1 million people, 1.75 million of whom live within the Montréal Urban region. The population of the city is diverse. The largest groups within the population are Québecois (French Canadians, approximately 319,000) and English Canadians (301,000). However, Montréal is home to numerous ethnic and linguistic groups. The 1996 census reported substantial numbers of Italians (84,000), Irish (43,000), Scots (26,000), Jews (27,000), Greeks (20,000), Chinese (22,000), South Asians (27,000), Haitians (37,000), and Lebanese (14,000). Nearly one-fifth of the population (204,000) is composed of visible minorities. Nearly half of Montréal's population (492,000 people) is bilingual and thus capable of speaking both of Canada's two official languages; 370,000 others speak French only, and 100,000 speak English only. This is a substantial change from the past when most of the English Canadian population spoke only English. However, to the dismay of many Québec nationalists, many Francophones are moving to Montréal's suburbs. As a result, the proportion of Montréal residents speaking French is declining; there is less insistence on the use of French in bars, cafes, and restaurants.

5. Neighborhoods

Montréal grew up in the area between the St. Lawrence River and Mount Royal. Older industries are on low lands to the west. Old Montréal, the area of initial settlement, is a historic area with cafes and restaurants. The contemporary downtown is nearby, between Boulevard René Lévesque and Sherbrooke. Urban renewal projects under Mayor Jean Drapeau (19161999) replaced many low-rise buildings with modernistic high rises and a network of underground passages connecting shopping and office complexes.

The modern city surrounds Mount Royal, a large glacial formation in the middle of Montréal island. Residential neighborhoods have distinctive complexions. North of Sherbrooke Street, mansions line streets running up to Mount Royal and extend into West-mount, an English-speaking area to the west of the downtown core. Westmount has been a center for Montréal's English-speaking population. The east end of Montréal is a poorer and predominantly French. Housing stock here consists primarily of three-story walk-up apartment buildings, with wrought-iron exterior stairways. Further west is Notre Dame du Grace, home to middle classes and immigrant communities. The Jewish and many other immigrant communities originally settled in the heart of the city, along St. Lawrence (St. Laurent) Blvd., a north-south artery dividing the eastern and western portions of the city. Italian areas are located further north, around the Jean-Talon metro. Mount Royal, to the north of the mountain of the same name, is primarily an Anglophone area. Outremont, in contrast, is predominantly French speaking. Laval, on Jesus Island, is a French-speaking suburb. Longeuil on the southern shore of the St. Lawrence is mixed.

6. History

Montréal is one of Canada's oldest settlements. Iroquois and Algonquin Indians had established a trading post and settlement, Hochelaga, well before the arrival of Europeans. The French explorer, Jacques Cartier, sailed up the St. Lawrence in 1635 and explored the island and surrounding areas. French settlers, under Sieur de Maisonneuve (Paul de Chomedey, b. early seventeenth century; d. 1676), established Ville Marie in 1642 at Place Royale in what is now Old Montréal. Initially, Montréal was governed as a seigneury, or concession held by a religious order, the Gentlemen of St. Suplice. Ease of water transport established Montréal as the center of the North American fur trade. Montréal remained under the French until 1760 when they were displaced by the British during the French and Indian War (175563). The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ceded Montréal to the British.

Following the British conquest, Scottish and English merchants displaced the French and in the next 100 years established a commercial and banking empire. Construction of the Lachine canal in 1825, bypassing rapids in the river, opened up inland trade. The Bank of Montréal was established in 1817. Montréal banking interests financed the construction of the Canadian Pacific and the Grand Trunk Railways (later the Canadian National Railway), solidifying Montréal's position as a shipping and commercial center. The city of Montréal was incorporated in 1832. English migration briefly produced an English-speaking majority from 1831 to 1867, but this was reversed by migration from the countryside later in the nineteenth century. European immigration lead to further growth in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The city's population reached one million in the 1930s and has remained stable since then. However, surrounding areas have continued to grow. Montréal island has 1.7 million people, the larger metropolitan area, 3.1 million. Water and rail transport and available work force facilitated the growth and diversification of industry.

Montréal quickly emerged as a major city in both Canada and the province of Québec. Until the 1970s, Montréal was the center of Canadian banking and commerce, as well as an important industrial center. Although the transfer of business and commercial interests to Toronto has undermined the economic position of the city, Montréal's earlier position has left the city with a legacy of public buildings and institutions, reflected in the major museums and cultural centers described below. Montréal is also the center of Québec cultural and intellectual life, and until recently dominated the smaller, more traditional and homogenous provincial capital, Québec City. In the late nineteenth century, Montréal provided a center for French-Canadian nationalism and was at the heart of the Quiet Revolution, which transformed Québec in the 1960s and 1970s.

Relations between English and French speakers have been central in the development of Montréal, Québec, and Canadian politics. English conquest in 1763 transformed Montréal from a French to an English commercial center. Anglophone financial and commercial interests in Montréal allied with Québec upper classes, enabling English-speaking Montréal to flourish in an otherwise rural, traditional, Catholic and church-dominated province. In Montréal, English was the language of business, and French Canadians found themselves frustrated by demands to "speak white"in English, rather than their native French. Elimination of Catholic (and thus Francophone) schools in Manitoba and other parts of western Canada cut off Québec migration to other parts of Canada, encouraging French-Canadian populations to turn in on themselves in solitude, separate from the rest of Canada. Cut off from both the rest of Canada and France, Québecois opposed Canadian involvement in both world wars. Opposition to the draft led to the arrest and imprisonment of Montréal Mayor Camillien Houde until 1944.

Social and economic change transformed Québec in the 1960s and 1970s. French Canadian intellectuals, including former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau (b. 1919; prime minister 196879 and 198084) and former Québec Premier René Lévesque, a Montréal journalist, joined with others in a Quiet Revolution against the domination of traditional upper classes and the Roman Catholic Church. Montréal became a major center for competing views of the position of Québec in Canada. Trudeau and other federalists argued for bilingual and multi-cultural Canada while Québec nationalists, such as Lévesque, insisted on primacy for the French language in Québec and sovereignty for the Québec people. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Québec nationalism provoked massive demonstrations and occasional acts of terrorism by organizations such as the Québec Liberation Front (FLQ). Kidnappings led to the imposition of the War Measures Act, a martial law, in Québec in the spring of 1970.

After 1976, new language laws, requiring education in the French language for all, except the children of Anglophones born in Québec, and a dominant position for French in the workplace and on signs, transformed Québec society. Sign lawsSignagebecame a point of friction between Anglophones, unable to operate in French, and Québec nationalists. Québec sign laws originally permitted signs only in French, but after negative court decisions, the law was rewritten to require that French lettering be at least twice the size of lettering in any other language. Anglophones unwilling to become bilingual left Montréal and the province. In the process, Montréal lost many of its head offices but emerged as vibrant center of Québec intellectual and cultural life. However, language laws demanding that the children of immigrants be educated in French became a source of friction in Montréal's many ethnic communities. More recently, tensions have subsided, in part because of Francophones. To the dismay of Québec nationalists, Montréal has regularly voted against a referenda demanding that Québec establish itself as a sovereign nation loosely associated with the rest of Canada. In turn, Parti Québecois governments have channeled badly needed investment to Québec City instead of Montréal.

7. Government

Montréal has two levels of government. The city of Montréal has its own 57-member council and a directly elected mayor. The city has a long and colorful political history. Mayor Camillien Houde was jailed during World War II (193945) because of his opposition to military conscription. Jean Drapeau (191699), mayor during the 1960s, was responsible for the urban renewal and reconstruction of the downtown core, the construction of the Metro, and Expo '67, which brought numerous visitors to Montréal. Drapeau's Civic Party governed Montréal from 1960 to 1986 when it was replaced by Jean Dore's Citizen's Union.

The City of Montréal is the largest of the 29 municipalities in the Montréal Urban Community. The Montréal Urban Community (MUC) handles police, fire protection, water supply, roads, public transportation, and regional planning for towns and cities on the island of Montréal. Created in 1970, MUC is governed by a council representing mayors and councilors from each of its 29 municipalities.

8. Public Safety

Policing and fire protection are provided by the Montréal Urban Community. Crime rates are relatively low in comparison to American cities, but the changing composition and relative poverty of Montréal's population results in friction between police and fireman and visible minorities. Montréal crime rates are higher than Toronto but lower than Western Canadian cities, such as Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Regina, and Vancouver. The Montréal Urban Community employs nearly 6,000 policeman, one per 174 residents.

9. Economy

Montréal originated as trading post and subsequently developed as a cultural and industrial center of Québec and Canada under French rule. Montréal was home to the Hudson's Bay Company and a major center of the fur trade. English-Canadian commercial and banking elites emerged in the nineteenth century, making Montréal the center of the Canadian economy. Its harbor and rail lines made it Canada's premier port and a major center for manufacturing. However, in recent decades, older industries, such as textiles, have declined, and Montréal has lost prominence as a banking and commercial hub. The shift reflects linguistic conflict and changes in modes and methods of production. The rise of Québec nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s provided the opportunity for the rise of Francophone professional elites. However, successive language laws ensuring the pre-eminence of the French language forced English Canadians to relocate or become bilingual. Many took the latter course, but banks and insurance companies relocated head offices or key functions to Toronto. Linguistic conflicts coincided with the decline of older industries, such as textiles. In addition, in recent years, provincial governments have favored investment in Québec City over Montréal. One sign of Montréal's economic decline is a recent decision to shift trade in common stocks from the Montréal to the Toronto Stock exchange.

Despite the departure of corporate and banking headquarters and the decline of older industries, Montréal remains an important industrial and commercial center. Its port receives ocean-going ships, via the St. Lawrence River, and Montréal remains an important trans-shipment point for grain, agricultural, and industrial products, which arrive by rail and Great Lakes steamers. In addition to its port, Montréal is a major center for food processing, oil refining, and the production of electrical machinery and electronic equipment. Bombardier is a major producer of snowmobiles, subway and rail cars, and aircraft. Nevertheless, Montréal is plagued by an aging industrial base, making it difficult to provide sufficient employment for a workforce continually augmented by industrialization. Nearly one-fourth of the city's population lives below the poverty line.

Montréal is the home of Radio Canada, the Francophone equivalent of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. French and English cultural life thrive. One advantage of Montréal's economic decline is that housing is less expensive than in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, or Vancouver.

10. Environment

Montréal has an inland climate. Temperatures in winter months are cold, averaging3°C (23°F). With an annual snowfall of 214 centimeters (84 inches), Montréal receives more snow than Moscow. Temperatures rise to 11°C (52°F) in April or October. Summers can be hot. Average summer temperatures are 26°C (79°F).

Water quality in the St. Lawrence River has improved with the clean up of the Great Lakes. However, Montréal does not yet treat sewerage, creating major pollution problems. Portions of the downtown and older industrial areas are now derelict and unoccupied, providing a sharp contrast to adjacent renewed areas of the city. Prevailing winds bring pollution from Ontario and the American Midwest.

11. Shopping

Montréal is a shopper's paradise. The city is a center of fashion and design; stores in almost any price range are easily found. The principal shopping areas are downtown, in and around St. Catherine and Peel Streets. Department stores include the Bay and Oligivies. Numerous shops are located in Montréal's underground city, an extensive network of underground malls and shopping centers. These link not only shops but also office complexes, hotels, and the central station. The principal shopping streets are St. Catherine Street from Place Ville Marie to Rue Guy. Smaller boutiques may be located along St. Catherine or Sherbrooke Street, two blocks to the north, and on the streets in between.

12. Education

Reflecting its bilingual character, Montréal has both English and French schools and universities. Until recently, most English-speaking students studied in Protestant schools, which were primarilybut not exclusivelyAnglophone, while French-speaking students studied in Catholic schools. However, the province of Québec has recently reorganized its schools on linguistic rather than religious lines. Students study in public schools through grade 11 and then move on to more specialized schools (CGEPS) for an additional two years of study.

Montréal has two Francophone and two Anglophone universities. The University of Montréal, the oldest and principal French-speaking university, has an extensive campus on the north side of Mt. Royal. The University of Québec in Montréal (UQAM) is downtown at the intersection of St. Catherine and St. Denis Streets. McGill University, the principal English University has its main campus downtown, between Sherbrooke Street and Mt. Royal. Concordia University is a few blocks to the west. Numerous students live in apartments in the "McGill ghetto," located between the McGill campus and St. Denis Street, north of Sherbrooke.

In addition to its four universities, Montréal is also home to the Biblioteque Nationale, Québec's principal library, housed in buildings near UQAM. McGill attracts students from across the country and from the United States, and the University of Montréal attracts students from all over the province of Québec. Concordia and UQAM typically enroll larger percentages of local students.

13. Health Care

The Province of Québec, like all Canadian provinces, provides universal health insurance for all its citizens. Montréal is home to 20 hospitals, including the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montréal General Hospital, Saint-Luc, Sacré-Coeur, Hôtel-Dieu, Jewish General, Montréal General, and others. Many hospitals are affiliated with either the McGill or University of Montréal Medical faculties. In addition to hospitals, 56 community health centers have been instrumental in providing health care, particularly in poorer neighborhoods. However, both medical centers and hospitals have been hit by funding cuts, resulting in closure of beds and cutbacks in services.

14. Media

Montréal is a center for both Francophone and Anglophone media. The principal French-language newspapers are Le Devoir, La Presse, and Le Journal de Montréal. The Montréal Gazette serves Anglophone Montréalers. Numerous ethnic groups are also served by weekly ethnic newspapers. Montréal has 33 am and FM radio stations and is home to Radio Canada, Canada's public Francophone radio and TV network. Canada's National Film Board (NFB) is based in Montréal. Available television includes Radio Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as well as numerous private broadcasters. Cable connections augment local broadcasting, providing among other things, access to the American media.

15. Sports

The most important sports in Montréal are hockey and baseball. The city's sports teams include the Montréal Canadiens. The Canadiens, winners of 24 Stanley cups, were one of the six teams that originally made up the National Hockey League. Fans flocked to Montréal Forum, particularly to watch Montréal deal with its rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Known for its intimacy, the Forum was recently replaced by a new arena, the Molson Centre. The Alouettes, Montréal's Canadian Football League (CFL) team, play at McGill stadium. Montréal has also been home to minor and major league baseball. The Montréal Expos play National League baseball in Montréal's Olympic Stadium. The Expos team has had difficulty maintaining its standing in the league and attracting sufficient fans to fill the cavernous stadium that the Expos inherited. The one time that the Expos were close to winning the national league pennant, strikes forced the cancellation of the remainder of the season.

16. Parks and Recreation

Montréal's most famous park, Mount Royal, occupies most of the mountain by the same name. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (18221903), Mount Royal contains wooded land, trails, gardens, a skating rink and ski area, and sports fields along its base. A large iron cross, commemorating the original settlement, dominates the skyline, and two lookouts provide spectacular views of the city, particularly the downtown core, harbors, and the St. Lawrence River.

The Parc des Îles (Park of Islands) is located on artificial islands in the St. Lawrence River. Originally built with fill from the construction of the Metro, the islands were the site of Expo '67, the 1967 World's Fair. The Parc des Îles contains the Stewart Museum, exhibition space, an open air gallery with ten sculptures (including Alexander Calder's L' Homme ), the Floralies Gardens, sculptures, and the Biopshere, a large globe built to house the former U.S. pavilion at Expo '67. The Biosphere now houses the Ecowatch center, an interactive museum that focuses on the complex ecosystem of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. The islands also house a casino and Le Ronde, the amusement park built for Expo '67. Other parks include the Botanical Gardens (East on Sherbrooke) and Andrigon, in the western part of the city.

Several parks and recreation areas are a one-to two-hour drive from the city. Mont Tremblant, in the Laurentian Mountains, is north of the city. The Eastern Townships, a region of glacial hills and lakes just to the north of Vermont and New England, provide summer and winter recreation. Lake Champlain, Vermont's mountains, and the Adirondack region of New York are also in easy reach of Montréal.

17. Performing Arts

Montréal is a major center for music, dance, and French-language theater. The Place des Arts contains several large theaters and exhibition centers and is home the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, the Montréal Opera, Les Grandes Ballets Canadiens, and the Feux Follets, as well as numerous ensembles and quartets. Theater companies include Le Theatre du Nouveau Monde and Le Theatre du Rideau-Vert. Clubs and frequent festivals supplement regular offerings, ensuring that music for any taste is readily available.

18. Libraries and Museums

In addition to the Biblioteque Nationale and its university libraries, Montréal is home to numerous museums. The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts contains classical and modern collections and hosts numerous traveling exhibitions. Located on Sherbrooke Street, the museum is housed in a neoclassical building, and a modern annex faces it on the opposite side of the street.

The McCord Museum concentrates on the history of Montréal, the Province of Québec, and Canada from the eighteenth century to the present. Its collections include paintings, drawings and photographs, costumes and textiles, and ethnographic objects from native peoples.

The Cinémathèque Québécoise tracks trends in Québec, Canadian, and international film, television, and visual media. Photos, books, posters, scripts, clippings, and other documents are housed at an ultramodern location on Boul. De Maisonneuve East. Although films and tapes are stored in special vaults in Boucherville, the Cinémathèque in Montréal regularly screens films, old and new, and is a major centre for exhibitions and meetings.

The Montréal Museum of Decorative Arts on Rue Crescent contains major collections on twentieth-century decorative trends, including furniture, glass, ceramics, jewelry, textiles, and graphic and industrial design.

The Canadian Centre for Architecture is a museum, library, and research center devoted to architecture, landscape, and urban design, past and present. Exhibits and collections focus on the relationship between architectural trends and their relationship to natural and social environments. Collections are drawn from societies, past and present, in all parts of the world. Reflecting its interest in the interplay between past and present, the Centre is housed in a modern building located in a garden built to restore the surrounding urban area. The center includes Shaughnessy House, one of the few nineteenth-century Montréal homes still open to the public.

McGill University's Redpath Museum focuses on the history and diversity of the natural world. One of the cities oldest museums, the Redpath functions both as a university teaching facility and a natural history museum for elementary and high school students. However, budgetary cutbacks have forced the museum to restrict the hours in which it is open to the public.

Other museums include the Stewart Museum, an original fort with exhibitions documenting the settlement of the new world, located in the Parc des Îles.

19. Tourism

Montréal's rich history and its status as North America's only bilingual city make it a tourist's delight. Tourists come to enjoy not only its museums, galleries, and shops, but also a wide range of restaurants, theater, music, and an active night life. Old Montréal, adjacent to the port and a short distance from the downtown, is a regular stop on tourist itineraries. Located between the present downtown and the St. Lawrence River, Old Montréal provides access to the river and port. Gray stone buildings line cobblestone streets and squares, such as Place-d'Armes and Place Royale. The Champ-de-Mars, a public park is nearby. Attractions include the nineteenth-century domed Bonsecours Market, the City Hall, the Customs House, the Saint-Sulpice Seminary (Montréal's oldest building) Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel, and the Notre-Dame Basilica, noted for its richly gilded neo-gothic architecture. Other attractions include visiting St. Helene, the artificial island built to house the 1967 World Fair Expo, and strolling along streets lined with cafes and restaurants, such as St. Laurent, St. Denis, or Prince Arthur. In addition, there are numerous exhibitions and festivals. The Oratory of St. Joseph is a domed church on the north side of Mt. Royal; it attracts pilgrims who climb its many steps on their knees to seek salvation.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Good Friday

Victoria Day

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day

Canada Day

Labor Day

Thanksgiving Day

21. Famous Citizens

Pierre Elliot Trudeau (b. 1919), Prime Minister of Canada, 196879 and 198084.

Former Mayor Jean Drapeau (19161999), architect of the city's urban renewal.

Humorist and economist Stephen Leacock (18691944).

Novelist Mordecai Richler (b. 1931).

French-Canadian intellectual Henri Bourassa (18681932), founder of the influential newspaper, Le Devoir.

Although not born in Montréal, the first Parti Québecois premier, René Lévesque (192287), spent much of his journalistic career in the city before entering politics.

22. For Further Study


Tourisme Montréal. [Online] Available (accessed January 7, 2000).

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

1001 Square Dorchester
Montréal (Québec) H3B.1G2
(514) 873-2015
(800) 363-7777


Hamilton, Janice. Destination Montreal. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1997.

Lloyd, Tanya. Montreal. Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 1998.

Water, Paul, ed. Montreal & Quebec City. Halifax, NS: Formac Publishing, 1999.


views updated May 18 2018


MONTREAL , Canada's second largest city and home to the country's oldest and second largest Jewish community, one that is well known for the overall quality of its Jewish life. Until the 1970s the community was the largest and most dynamic in Canada, but it has declined in importance relative to Toronto's since then. The multicultural city is the metropolis of the overwhelmingly French-speaking province of Quebec. Most of the Jews are Ashkenazim, descended from immigrants who arrived during the first 60 years of the 20th century and assimilated into the English-language community, in part due to the more favorable educational and economic opportunities available in that sector. The Sephardim, largely French-speaking, have become increasingly important during the past 20 years. They are mainly the products of the post-1956 immigration from North Africa.

As Quebec nationalism, especially as manifested in demands to secede from Canada, became more assertive after the founding of the Parti Québécois (pq) in 1968, minority ethnic groups, including Jews, felt less secure. pq election victories and independence referenda between 1976 and 1995 sparked an exodus of thousands of Jews, mainly young adults, and left the remaining Jewish community on edge and apprehensive about its future. In the face of continuing threats of secession, the vast majority of Montreal Jews remains staunchly federalist and vigorously opposes the idea of an independent Quebec.


The community was founded by Sephardim from New York in 1768 but remained minuscule until the emigration from Eastern Europe began late in the 19th century. By 1901 there were about 7,000 Jews. During the 20th century there were rapid growth spurts connected with immigration spurred by antisemitism, the destruction of the two world wars, and later by upheavals in the Arab world after the creation of Israel. The community reached its peak population of nearly 120,000 during the 1970s but has been in decline since then due to out-migration, mainly to other cities in Canada. During much of the 20th century Montreal was the leading force in the countrywide community, with most of the major organizations, notably the *Canadian Jewish Congress, headquartered there.

The flow of immigrants, almost all European until the Sephardi immigration that began in 1956, gave the community a European character in many respects: religious, cultural, social, and linguistic. Montreal was home to numerous Yiddish writers and a lively cultural life. The Jewish Public Library and the Montreal Yiddish Theatre are two examples of institutions with deep roots in the community. The geographical concentration of Jews in particular neighborhoods also produced a sense of genuine community that had a positive effect on organizational life. One concrete manifestation was the Jewish Federation, now known as Federation cja, formed in 1965. It is well known for effective fundraising and coordination of a range of services to meet community needs. Through its power to allocate the funds raised in the annual campaign to the various agencies, the Federation is able to dominate Jewish organizational life in the city. However, there are numerous organizations that operate outside the orbit of the Federation, including religious institutions, B'nai B'rith, and bodies with direct links to Israel.

Montreal's Jews have always been consigned to minority status politically, even those who speak French. The same was largely true in the business world as well. Opportunities have been severely limited in both fields. In politics, there have been a few Jews elected, usually to represent predominantly Jewish constituencies. Among the prominent examples since 1970 are the federal minister of justice and former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress Irwin *Cotler, the Quebec minister of revenue Lawrence Bergman, Victor Goldbloom, Gerry Weiner, Sheila *Finestone, Herbert Marx, and Robert Libman. Others, such as Norman *Spector and Stanley Hartt, have been top advisers to prime ministers. Morris Fish is the second Jew appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In business, the largest success stories have been small businesses that eventually grew into large enterprises. Examples are the Seagram liquor empire under Samuel *Bronfman and Steinberg's supermarkets under Sam *Steinberg. In fact, traditionally Montreal Jews were more likely to be employed in Jewish rather than non-Jewish businesses.

By the early part of the 21st century the community faced a number of serious problems. The largest was demographic: a declining Jewish population with an age distribution skewed toward the elderly. Other key problems were the ongoing threat of Quebec independence, inadequate immigration levels, the difficulty of maintaining sufficient levels of community fundraising to support the demands generated by the aging population, and the challenge of supporting an elaborate day school system that educates over half of the Jewish children with only partial government subsidies.


Since the decennial Canadian Census asks questions about both religion and ethnicity, it is possible to generate accurate data about the Jewish population in the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area. According to Federation cja demographer Charles Shahar, the population (using the "Jewish standard definition") stood at 92,970 in 2001, down from 101,405 in 1991, 103,765 in 1981, and 112,020 in 1971. Jews constituted 2.8 percent of the population of the metropolitan area in 2001, compared to 4.1 percent in 1971. Montreal's Jews were 25.1 percent of the countrywide Jewish population and had a higher median age (41.8 years) than Jews nationwide (40.2). In 1971, over 39 percent of Canada's Jews lived in Montreal. Jews constitute the seventh largest ethnic group in Montreal.

A comparison of Montreal's Jews with the non-Jewish population shows that there is a bulge in the over-65 category (21.6 versus 11.9 percent) and a shortfall in the 25–44 group (21.6 versus 32.0 percent). There are similar differences when compared to other Canadian Jews, though not as marked. In addition, the 15–24 cohort shrank dramatically between 1971 and 2001 (from 18.2 to 12.7 percent). The age distribution suggests that the growing social and health care demands of the elderly will be increasingly difficult for the community to meet because of the small size of the key productive age cohorts. As a result, the community actively seeks immigrants but has found that the supply is insufficient to maintain the population size.

The largest concentrations of Jews in the metropolitan area are found in the suburban areas of Côte St. Luc (19,785) and the West Island (13,030). Other areas with more than 7,000 Jews are St. Laurent, Côte des Neiges, and Snowdon. Hampstead and Côte St. Luc have Jewish populations in the 70–75 percent range. There are ḥasidic enclaves in Outremont (mainly *Belz, Skver, and *Satmar), Côte des Neiges (Lubavitch), and Boisbriand (Tosh), as well as an ultra-Orthodox community in Outremont and the Park Avenue area. There are 6,795 Holocaust survivors, constituting nearly one quarter of Jews over 55. About 18 percent of Montreal's Jews live below the poverty line.

Approximately one third of the Jewish population was born outside Canada. The largest numbers of immigrants came from North Africa and the Middle East (10 percent) and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (11 percent). Smaller proportions came from Western Europe, Israel, and the United States. About two thirds of the Jews speak both English and French, with English the predominant mother tongue and language of home use. Another 26 percent speak English only and four percent speak French only. About 10 percent have Yiddish as their mother tongue, with about 56 percent English, 18 percent French, and three percent each for Russian and Hebrew. Some 70 percent now use English at home.

Religious Life

Jewish religious life in Montreal is extensive and quite varied. There are dozens of synagogues, the overwhelming majority Orthodox. There is one major Reform temple, several Conservative synagogues, and a Reconstructionist congregation. Even among the Orthodox there is a wide range, running from the various ḥasidic sects to yeshivah-oriented ultra-Orthodox to Modern Orthodox to Sephardi, each with its own type of synagogue. Finally, there are also quite a number of informal minyanim around the city, meeting in such venues as schools, homes, synagogue buildings, and even shopping centers. Some of these minyanim have been formally organized as congregations in order to enjoy certain legal advantages.

During the early years of the 21st century, *Chabad has energetically tried to extend its impact in the community beyond traditional Lubavitcher ḥasidim by establishing a major presence in both Hampstead and Côte St. Luc. Among the leading synagogues, the Shaar Hashomayim in suburban Westmount, while originally Orthodox, was affiliated with the Conservative movement through most of the 20th century. It is currently unaffiliated and has hired only Orthodox rabbis since the retirement of long-time Rabbi Wilfrid Shuchat. The Conservatives' decision to ordain women was the key precipitating factor.

In addition to regional bodies representing the various religious movements, there are community organizations whose purpose is to facilitate religious life. The Montreal Board of Rabbis and the Synagogue Council are inclusive. The Va'ad Ha'ir, styled as the Jewish Community Council of Montreal, is Orthodox and has traditionally been the sole body to offer kashrut supervision in the city. The long-time monopoly, while objectionable to some, did serve a unifying purpose because the Va'ad's authority was accepted by virtually the entire community. During the past decade that authority has come into question for two reasons. First of all, the Communauté Sépharade du Québec (csq) organized its own kashrut supervision operation, which amounted to a competing hekhsher. Some kosher eating establishments opted for csq supervision, thereby undermining those who wanted to preserve a single standard of kashrut in the community. Secondly, under the influence of ultra-Orthodox rabbis, the Va'ad became more stringent in its interpretation of kashrut requirements. Its various edicts elicited some complaints from within the Modern Orthodox group.

Personal status issues such as conversion and divorce have generally been handled discreetly through the Va'ad or associated institutions. Issues involving marriage are more open, with traditional norms generally prevailing except among the most liberal groups. Questions about gays and lesbians have not had a high profile, though again the Reform and Reconstructionist congregations have been the most open to those minorities.

In general, studies have shown a pattern of greater religious observance, particularly in terms of Sabbath, holidays, and kashrut, than in other communities on the continent. In addition, there is a considerable amount of tolerance. For example, although most congregations are Orthodox, many of those who attend such synagogues are not. Yet that fact does not seem to have caused significant problems.


Education has been a major issue for the community for over a century. Originally the public school system was confessional, with parallel Catholic and Protestant schools. Ashkenazi immigrants found greater acceptance in the Protestant sector, which is a major reason for the fact that they became part of the English-speaking community. The Catholic schools, most of which operated in French, were not open to the Jews. By the 1960s and 1970s Jewish involvement in Protestant schools was protected as a right; they were no longer there on sufferance.

Due to the confessional character of the public schools, many Jews had opted for private Jewish day schools, of which there is a great variety in Montreal. In 1968, the provincial government agreed to provide partial funding for the general studies portion of the curriculum, a policy that is still in effect. During the 1970s increasing numbers of strings were attached to those grants, notably a requirement that the major proportion of the teaching hours be in French. The schools were also made subject to the eligibility requirements of the language law that limited admissions to schools classified as English (which included most of the main Jewish schools) to students who were officially certified as Anglophones. This condition limited choices for immigrants, including English-speakers. Meanwhile, the Sephardim developed their own day schools, which were classified as French, meaning that any student was eligible for admission.

The result of the government subsidy of tuition kept tuition charges relatively low in the North American context. That, plus the tradition of Jews attending their own schools, has resulted in over half the Jewish school age children enrolled in day schools at the elementary or high school level. Only about half of those who complete Jewish elementary schools remain in the Jewish system for high school. The schools offer a wide range of ideological options, including Religious Zionist-Modern Orthodox, Yiddishist, Conservative, community, and ultra-Orthodox (including ḥasidic). Most of the schools maintain a strong commitment to Hebrew language studies, and the community is known for its innovations in Hebrew language instruction.

There was an agreement with the Quebec government in 2004 to increase the public support to 100 percent of the amount allocated to the public schools (now non-confessional) for secular studies. However, the announcement triggered a political storm that included thinly disguised antisemitism. Within a month the government backtracked, leaving the schools at 60 percent funding. The result was most embarrassing for both the community and the government, especially because of the way that opponents succeeded in ridiculing the government for proposing to channel additional public funds to the affluent Jews.

Organizational and Institutional Structure

Ever since the early part of the 20th century, Montreal's Jews have created a host of organizations, largely to deliver services to the community. Many of these were in the health care, social welfare, recreation, cultural, or education areas. Eventually, in 1965, a federation structure, similar to those in existence in the United States, was established in order to bring more coherence to fundraising, allocations, community planning, and coordination of community affairs. What was originally known as Allied Jewish Community Services was renamed Federation cja during the 1990s. It is one of the 16 large Jewish federations on the continent. The Federation has proven to be exceptionally successful in the annual Combined Jewish Appeal, giving the Montreal community the reputation of being one of the most generous in North America on a per capita basis. In 2005 the expenditures on programs were about $45 million. Of that, about 38 percent supported Israel and related activities, about 6 percent went to countrywide organizations and programs, and 56 percent was retained for local services. The local allocation is primarily for social services, education, and culture (including tuition assistance at the day schools), and various community initiatives.

The Canadian Jewish Congress, which had been the dominant representative body of Canadian Jewry for nearly a century, never established a solid fundraising base. Eventually it had to turn to the federations, including Federation cja, for support. Its Quebec regional operation is now somewhat limited and is supported by the Federation. B'nai B'rith Canada is outside the federation structure. It has a national organization that raises money to fund its local activities, including a Quebec Region office in Montreal, with the main focus on community relations and antisemitism. Other national bodies, such as the Canadian Jewish News, National Jewish Campus Life, the Canada-Israel Committee, the Canadian Council of Israel and Jewish Advocacy, Canadian Jewish Congress, and jias (*Jewish Immigrant Aid Services) Canada, are funded by all the federations in the country through uia Federations Canada.

The Quebec Issue

Ever since the Parti Québécois (pq) became one of the two main provincial parties in 1970, the issue of secession has bedeviled the political scene. The raison d'être of the pq is making Quebec an independent sovereign state, a goal that few in the Jewish community share. Montreal Jews clearly prefer that Quebec remain within Canada. In the 1980 and 1995 referendums on independence Jews overwhelmingly opposed the pq's goal. Indeed some were quite outspoken. After 1995 Jews became particularly prominent in leadership roles within the Anglophone community.

After the pq achieved power for the first time in 1976, many Jews began to contemplate leaving Quebec, despite their strong roots in Montreal. Among the factors that they considered were the deleterious effect of separatism on the economic climate, the accentuation of the minority status of anyone other than the French Québécois, the political uncertainty associated with the secession option, and a general fear of nationalism. It is difficult to be precise about how many Jews left from 1976 onwards, but an estimate of 20,000 is certainly reasonable. The departure of such a sizable portion of the community, especially younger people, is a major cause of the imbalance in the age structure of Montreal's Jews.

Future developments regarding separatism are likely to have a profound effect on the community's future. Although the issue became quiescent with the election of the provincial Liberals in 2003, the pq remains the main opposition party. Should it regain power and hold a successful referendum, there would likely be a further exodus from the productive age cohorts. Consequently the future of the community is in some ways dependent on the vagaries of Quebec politics and nationalist sentiment.

Montreal's Jews have built a strong, cohesive, and thriving community that in many ways exemplifies the best that Jews can achieve in the North American context. Although it retains considerable energy and has been revitalized by the arrival of the Sephardim, its future is clouded by the political uncertainty. There is no doubt that it will persist, but its ability to maintain an elaborate structure remains to be determined.

[Harold M. Waller (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 14 2018


MONTREAL. 25 September 1775. Ethan Allen's abortive attack. When Richard Montgomery started his siege of St. Johns (now St-Jean, Quebec), he sent Ethan Allen ahead to recruit Canadians along the Richelieu River for the American army. John Brown went toward La Prairie with the same purpose while Canadians James Livingston and Jeremy Duggan also started assembling men around Chambly and Pointe Olivier. Allen discovered widespread opposition among the farmers to Governor Guy Carleton's efforts to mobilize the Canadian militia; he decided to try taking Montréal, which was virtually undefended owing to the governor's decision to concentrate his regulars at the border. Although the colony's fate seemed to be hanging in the balance, Allen could not find enough men willing to attack immediately. He turned back briefly to join forces with Brown and Duggan and developed a plan to capture the city. Allen would cross the St. Lawrence with his 110 men (30 Americans and 80 Canadians) at Longueuil below Montreal while Brown with 200 crossed upstream at La Prairie; the two forces would then attack simultaneously.

Allen and Duggan began crossing at 10 p.m. on 24 September, but he had to shuttle the men over in canoes. By dawn on the next day, Allen's band was in the village of Longue-Pointe, but Brown had not been able to get across. Allen was immediately detected, and the inhabitants of the city shut its gates, buying time for the surprised Carleton to organize his defenses. Encouraged by the support he was receiving from the population, Carleton sallied out with a polyglot force: 34 regulars from the Twenty-Sixth Foot, 20 staff members of the Indian Department, 80 English-speaking Canadians, 120 French-speaking Canadians, and a half-dozen Indians. At the approach of this force, most of Allen's Canadians melted away. The dozen or so left, plus the Americans, tried to set up a defense at Ruisseau-des-Soeurs but were quickly overwhelmed. Carleton lost 3 killed and 2 wounded; Allen and 35 of his band were captured and 5 were killed.

This quixotic escapade had an impact far beyond the tiny numbers involved. It shored up British morale, encouraged the northern Indians, and kept most Canadians sitting on the fence. It also left Carleton free and gave Quebec City time to prepare its own defenses.

SEE ALSO Allen, Ethan; Brown, John; Canada Invasion; St. John's, Canada (5 September-2 November 1775).


Lanctot, Gustave. Canada and the American Revolution, 1774–1783. Translated by Margaret M. Cameron. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967.

Stanley, George F. G. Canada Invaded, 1775–1776. Toronto: Hakkert, 1973.

                              revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.


views updated May 21 2018


MONTREAL. 13 November 1775. Occupied by Americans. The fall of St. Johns on 2 November left Montreal open to capture. Brigadier General Richard Montgomery sent an advance detachment of Americans and Canadians toward Sorel the next day, and they brushed aside light resistance; Montgomery followed with his main body two days later. The first of Montgomery's men crossed the St. Lawrence River and landed upstream from Montreal on 11 November. Governor Guy Carleton had only about a hundred troops and a few militia, so during the night of 12-13 November he spiked his cannon and embarked on a few small vessels; in the morning of 13 November the citizens opened the gates of the city to the Americans. The garrison's retreat was turned back twice by blocking positions set up at Sorel. Carleton escaped on 19 November by disguising himself as a Canadian and reached Quebec the next day on the armed scow Fell. Brigadier Richard Prescott and the bulk of the garrison surrendered on 20 November along with their collection of small vessels headed by the six-gun brig Gaspée.

SEE ALSO Canada Invasion; Quebec (Canada Invasion); St. John's, Canada (5 September-2 November 1775).

                              revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.


views updated May 21 2018

Montréal City on Montréal Island and the n bank of the St Lawrence River, Québec province, ne Canada; Canada's second-largest city and the country's chief port. The French settled the site in 1642. It remained in French hands until 1760, when the British seized control. Montréal's growth accelerated with the opening of the Lachine Canal in 1825, connecting it to the Great Lakes. Industries: aircraft, electrical equipment, rolling-stock, textiles, oil refining, metallurgy, chemicals. Pop. (2001) 1,039,534; 3,511,800 (metropolitan).

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