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Ville de Montréal, Québec, Canada
City flag City coat of arms
City motto: "Concordia Salus (Salvation through harmony)"

Location in the province of Quebec

Area 500.05 km2 (193.07 sq. miles)

 - City (2001)
 - Canadian CD Rank
 - Canadian Municipal Rank
 - Density

Ranked 3rd
Ranked 2nd

Time zone Eastern: UTC-5


Mayor Gérald Tremblay
Governing body Montreal City Council

Montreal or Montréal1 (pronounced in Canadian English, /mɔ̃ʀeal/ in standard French, and /mɒ̃ɾeal/ in Quebecois French) is the second largest Canadian city. With a population of 1,812,800 people it is the largest city in the province of Quebec, of which it constitutes an administrative region and the economic engine. 3,607,000 people live in the Montreal metropolitan area (Statistics Canada 2004 estimate) (See Greater Montreal Area). Montreal is the headquarters of more than 60 international organizations, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Montreal is the third-largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris and Abidjan. It is also the largest city in the Americas where the majority of the population is francophone. Montreal has a substantial anglophone minority and an increasing population of allophones (those whose first language is neither English nor French), including both ethnic communities with deep historical roots, and substantial numbers of recent immigrants of whom a substantial number are integrated into the French-speaking community.

Montreal is situated in the southwest of Quebec, approximately 200 kilometres (120 miles) southwest of Quebec City, the provincial capital, and 150 kilometres (90 miles) east of Ottawa, the federal capital. The city sits on the Island of Montreal at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence River and Ottawa River; the island divides the Saint Lawrence between the main channel and Rivière des Prairies. The city also includes a total of 74 nearby islands such as Île des Soeurs, Île Bizard, Île Sainte-Hélène, and Île Notre-Dame. The city is spread over an area of 482.84 km2 (186.43 square miles).



Main article: History of Montreal

The area known today as Montreal had been inhabited by the Algonquin, Huron, and Iroquois for thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. The first European to reach the area was Jacques Cartier in 1535. He reached the area after speaking to a Iroquois chief in present-day Quebec City who told him of a shiny stone upstream from his village. Cartier listened to him, and believed he was describing gold, which lead him to the village of Hochelaga, on the Island of Montreal. The local Iroquois took him to the top of Mont Royal and Cartier planted the first of the mountaintop's famous crosses in honour of Francis I, his sponsor. Unfortunately for Cartier, the shiny stone turned out to be quartz (or perhaps Pyrite, also called Fool's Gold) not gold.

Seventy years after Cartier, Samuel de Champlain went to Hochelaga but the village no longer existed. He decided to establish a fur trading post at Port Royal on the Island of Montreal, but the local Iroquois successfully defended their land. It was not until 1639 that a permanent settlement was created on the Island of Montreal by a French tax collector named Jérôme Le Royer. Under the authority of the Roman Catholic Société Notre-Dame, missionaries Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, Jeanne Mance and a few French colonists set up a mission named Ville Marie as part of a project to create a colony dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In November of 1653, another 140 individuals arrived to enlarge the settlement that eventually became known as Montréal.

Ville Marie became a centre for the fur trade, and the Iroquois resumed their attacks on the settlement. Despite the continuous attacks, Ville Marie prospered as a centre for the Catholic religion and the fur trade, as well as a base for further exploration into New France until a peace treaty was signed in 1701 between the Iroquois and the French. A few buildings from this era remain in the area known today as Vieux Montréal and in a few places around the island.

The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the French and Indian War and France chose to keep Guadaloupe instead of its Quebec colony. Now a British colony, and with immigration no longer limited to members of the Roman Catholic religion, the city began to grow from British immigration. In 1775, American Revolutionists briefly held the city but soon left when it became apparent that they could not take and hold Canada. More and more English-speaking merchants continued to arrive in what had by then become known as Montreal and soon the main language of commerce in the city was English. The golden era of fur trading began in the city with the advent of the locally-owned North West Company, the main rival to the primarily British Hudson's Bay Company.

From the early part of the 18th century, the Scots-Quebecer immigrants who chose to make Montreal their home played a key role in the city's cultural, scientific, and business life. Although at their peak, the Scots made up only a small percentage of Montreal's population, they had an impact on the city far beyond their numbers. Scots were instrumental in building the Lachine Canal that turned the city of 16,000 inhabitants into one of the most important and prosperous ports in North America. It was also Scots who constructed Montreal's first bridge across the Saint Lawrence River and who founded many of the city's great industries, including Henry Morgan (a merchant who built the first department store in Canada, incorporated within the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1970's)), the Bank of Montreal, Redpath Sugar, and both of Canada's national railroads. The city boomed as railways were built to New England, Toronto, and the west, and factories were established along the Lachine Canal. Many buildings from this time period are concentrated in the area known today as Vieux Montreal . Noted for their philanthropic work, Scots established and funded numerous Montreal institutions such as McGill University, the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec and the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Montreal was the capital of the United Province of Canada from 1844 to 1849, bringing even more English-speaking immigrants: Late Loyalists, Irish, Scottish, and English. The now large and wealthy Anglophone community built one of Canada's first universities, McGill, and built large mansions at the foot of Mont Royal. The economic boom also attracted thousands of immigrants from Italy, Russia, Eastern Europe, and other parts of French Canada. By 1860, Montreal was the largest city in British North America and the undisputed economic and cultural centre of Canada.

Montrealers volunteered to serve in the army to defend Canada during World War I, but most French Montrealers opposed mandatory conscription. After the war, the Prohibition movement in the United States turned Montreal into a haven for Americans looking for alcohol. Americans would go to Montreal for drinking, gambling, and prostitution, which earned the city the nickname "Sin City." Despite the increase in tourism, unemployment remained high in the city, and was exacerbated by the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. However, Canada began to exit the Great Depression in the mid 1930s, and real estate developers began to build skyscrapers, changing Montreal's skyline. The Sun Life Building, built in 1931, was for a time the tallest building in the Commonwealth. During World War II its vaults were the secret hiding place of the gold bullion of the Bank of England and the British Crown Jewels.

Canada could not escape World War II. Mayor Camillien Houde protested against conscription. He urged Montrealers to ignore the federal government's registry of all men and women because he believed it would lead to conscription. Ottawa was furious over Houde's insubordination and put him in a prison camp until 1944, when the government was forced to institute conscription (see Conscription Crisis of 1944).

Skyline of downtown Montreal, seen across the from
The Montreal , as seen from the lookout on Mount Royal
The Montreal skyline, as seen from the lookout on Mount Royal

After the population of Montreal surpassed one million in the early 1950s, Mayor Jean Drapeau laid down great plans for the future development of the city. In 1958 he started development projects that had provisions for a new metro system and an underground city, the expansion of Montreal's harbour, and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. New buildings were built on top of old ones in this time period, including Montreal's two tallest skyscrapers up to then: the 43-storey Place Ville-Marie and the 47-storey Tour de la Bourse. Two new museums were also built, and finally in 1967 the metro opened along with several new expressways in time for Expo '67, which was held in Montreal and was anticipated to attract 50 million visitors. A new major league baseball team, called the Montreal Expos, was named after the Expo and started playing in Montreal in 1969; the team moved to Washington, DC in 2005 . The Summer Olympics were held in Montreal in 1976. Except for a few years during the 1960s, Drapeau was the mayor until the mid-1980s and brought Montreal into a new era even as Toronto overtook it as the economic centre of Canada.

Montreal celebrated its 350th anniversary in 1992, which prompted the establishment of new development projects, including the two tallest skyscrapers in the city: 1000 de La Gauchetière and 1250 René-Lévesque. More museums, neighbourhood rehabilitation, and an expansion of the Metro are under development.

City government

The head of the city government in Montreal is the mayor, who is first among equals in the City Council. The current mayor is Gérald Tremblay who is a member of The Montreal Island Citizens Union . The city council is a democratically elected institution and is the primary decision-making authority in the city. It consists of 73 members from all boroughs of the city.

The council has jurisdiction over many matters including public security, agreements with governments, subsidy programs, the environment, urban planning, and three-year capital expenditure program. The council is also required to supervise, standardise or approve certain decisions made by the borough councils.

Reporting directly to the city council, the executive committee exercises the decision-making powers appropriate to it and is responsible for preparing various documents including budgets and by-laws, submitted by the city council for approval.

The decision-making powers of the executive committee cover, in particular, the awarding of contracts or grants, the management of human and financial resources , supplies and buildings. It may also be assigned further powers by the city council.

Standing committees are the council's instruments for public consultations. They are responsible for the public study of pending matters and for making the appropriate recommendations to the council. They also review the annual budget forecasts for departments under their jurisdiction. A public notice of meeting is published in both French and English daily newspapers at least seven days before each meeting. All meetings include a public question period.

The current standing committees have a two-year term. There are seven standing committees. In addition, the city council may decide to create special committees at any time. Each standing committee is made up of seven to nine members, including a chairman and a vice-chairman. The members are all elected municipal officers, with the exception of a representative of the government of Québec on the public security committee.

See also: Parliamentary representation in Montreal, 2004


Thanks to competing climactic influences, the climate in Montreal varies greatly, both by season and from day to day, and is considered a character of the city by Montrealers.

Precipitation is abundant, with an average snowfall of 2.4 metres per year in the winter and regular rainfall throughout the year. Each year the city government spends more than $50 million on snow removal. Frequent thunderstorms make summer the wettest season statistically, but it is also the sunniest.

The coldest month is January, with a daily average of -10.4°C (13°F). Due to wind chill, the perceived temperature can be much lower than the actual temperature, and wind chill temperatures are often included in weather forecasts. The warmest month is July, with a daily average of 20.9°C (70°F). The lowest temperature ever recorded is -37.8°C (-36°F) in January of 1957, and the highest temperature ever was 37.6°C (100°F) in August of 1975.

Moderate to high humidity is common in the summer. In spring and autumn, temperatures and precipitation amounts average between 55 to 94 mm (2.5 to 4 inches) a month. Some snow in spring and autumn is normal. Similarly, early heat waves as well as "Indian summer" are a regular feature of the climate. [1]

Despite its widely varying climate, the Montreal region supports a diverse array of plants and wildlife. The maple is one of the most common trees, and the sugar maple in particular is an enduring symbol of Montreal and Quebec, thanks to the production of maple syrup.


The Chinatown gate on boulevard Saint-Laurent
The Chinatown gate on boulevard Saint-Laurent

Main article: Demographics of Montreal

The greater Montreal area has a population of 3,607,000 people (Statistics Canada 2004), including the neighbouring major cities of Laval and Longueuil, among other smaller cities. Montreal proper will be home to about 1.6 million people after the demerger referendum of June 2004, which comes into effect on 1 January 2006. A resident of Montreal is known as a Montrealer in English, and a Montréalais(e) in French. Residents sometimes refer to the city by the shorthand name of MTL.

Most Montrealers speak French as their first language[2]; a sizeable minority speak English, but a majority of residents have at least a working knowledge of both languages.[3] This trend has increased after the French language reforms of the 1970s.

About 67.8% of the population of the Greater Montreal Area are francophone. 18.4% areallophone (they have neither French nor English as their first language) and 13.8% are native anglophone. Allophones and anglophones are most highly-represented on the Island of Montreal, where they make up 27.7% and 18.8% of total population, respectively. A majority of allophones speak French or English as a second language. A May 2004 survey noted that 53% of the people in Montreal speak both French and English, while 37% speak only French and 7% speak only English.

While the official language of Montreal is French, services are also commonly offered in English in downtown and tourist areas as well as in areas designated as bilingual boroughs. The city has well-established Irish, Italian, Jewish, Greek, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, Haitian, and Portuguese communities, along with smaller communities of people from almost every nation in the world. The Irish have been settling in Montreal and the province of Quebec for centuries as they saw it as a more inviting place than many other parts of the British Empire. The Irish and French shared a common religion, Roman Catholicism. This made it easier for the Irish to be accepted and not discriminated against, as they were in Toronto (York). A large number arrived during the Great Famine of 1845-1852 in Ireland, which resulted in many orphans being adopted by French families. The tide of immigration continued for many years and by some estimates, it is believe that nearly 40% of Francophones have a mixture of French and Irish heritage.

Each of the many neighbourhoods in the city has a predominant language. The parts of the city that lie to the west of Boulevard St.-Laurent can be said to be predominantly Anglophone, while the neighbourhoods to the east are predominantly Francophone. Speakers of both languages are found in all parts of the city. Westmount, on the southwestern slopes of Mont Royal, is traditionally the home of wealthy Anglophones, while Outremont, on the opposite side, is the home of wealthy Francophones. Montreal is the home or former home of multiple famous people, including two prime ministers, many well known artists and musicians, and a number of politicians.

See also: List of famous Montrealers


Avenue McGill College in downtown Montreal
Avenue McGill College in downtown Montreal

Once the largest city in Canada, Montreal remains a vibrant major centre of commerce, industry, culture, finance, and world affairs. Montreal is a major port city, being at the start of the Saint Lawrence Seaway a deep-draft inland waterway which links it to the industrial centres of the Great Lakes. As one of the most important ports in Canada, it is a transshipment point for grain, sugar, petroleum products, machinery, and consumer goods. For this reason, it is part of the railway backbone of Canada and has always been an extremely important rail city; it is the eastern terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway and home to the headquarters of the Canadian National Railway.

Montreal industries include pharmaceuticals, high technology, textile and clothing manufacturing, electronic goods, transportation devices, printed goods, fabric, and tobacco.

Montreal is one of the world's top aerospace industry center. It is often said that Montreal is the only city in the world where an entire airplane can be built, from the start of engine crafting to the last paint drop. The leading wagon of the industry is unquestionnably Bombardier, which is one of the three most important aerospace company in the world (along with Boeing and Airbus). The headquarters of the Canadian Space Agency is located in Longueuil, southeast of Montreal.

Places in Montreal

Downtown Montreal (Centre-Ville) is at the foot of Mount Royal, whose expanse forms a major urban park. Downtown contains dozens of notable skyscrapers, including 1000 de La Gauchetière, 1250 René-Lévesque, and Ieoh Ming Pei's Place Ville-Marie. This cruciform office tower built in 1962 sits atop an underground shopping mall which forms the nexus of Montreal's underground city, one of the world's largest, with indoor access to over 1,600 shops, restaurants, offices, and businesses, as well as metro stations, transportation termini, and tunnels extending all over downtown.

Southeast of downtown is Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal), a historic centre with such attractions as the Old Port, Place Jacques-Cartier, City Hall, Place d'Armes, Pointe-à-Callières museum, Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral , and Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica.

Montreal was host of one of the most successful World's Fairs in history, Expo '67. Partially based upon the success of the World's Fair, Montreal was awarded the 1976 Summer Olympics. The Olympic Stadium has the world's tallest inclined tower and, until the end of the 2004 season, was the home of the Montreal Expos baseball team. Montreal is also home to the Montreal Canadiens, one of the first four original teams of the NHL. The Olympic complex also includes a modern ecology museum, an insectarium, and the Jardin botanique de Montréal, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, second only to Kew Gardens in England.

Montreal is the centre of Quebec and a major centre of Canadian culture in general. It has many specialised museums such as the Redpath Museum, the McCord Museum of Canadian History, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. The Place des Arts cultural complex houses the Museum of Contemporary Art and several theatres, and is the seat of the Montreal Opera and for the moment the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, which is scheduled to receive a new concert hall adjacent to Place des Arts.

Nicknamed "the city of saints," or "la ville aux cent clochers", Montreal is renowned for its churches, causing Mark Twain to comment: "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." The city has four Roman Catholic basilicas: Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral, Notre-Dame Basilica, St. Patrick's Basilica, and St. Joseph's Oratory. This last is the largest church in Canada, with the largest dome of its kind in the world after that of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Other well-known churches include the pilgrimage church of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours which is sometimes called the Sailors' Church, and the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, which was completely excavated and suspended in mid-air during the construction of part of the Underground City. All of the above are major tourist destinations, particularly Notre-Dame and the Oratory.

Montreal is the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body, and of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Montreal has a small Chinatown (Quartier chinois), just south of downtown, featuring Chinese shops and restaurants, as well as a number of Vietnamese establishments.

Montreal is known as a gay-friendly city: in 2002, organizers of Divers/Cité, Montreal's pride festival, estimated it drew 1.4 million people ([4]). Montreal is home to a large gay village located downtown and known in French as le Village gai. Montreal is an epicentre of Queer life and culture in Canada, and hosts several circuit parties every year. The 2006 World outGames are to be held in Montreal.

Every Sunday in the summer, hundreds of people gather at the foot of Mount Royal for several hours of synhronized drumming, dancing, and juggling (amongst many other activities) in an event that has come to be known as the Tam Tams. It is unclear how this event started; but, as it has no formal organization and has carried on for many years, there is no indication that it will end soon.


The , in the city's eastern section
The Olympic Stadium, in the city's eastern section

Montreal is the site of the Canadian Grand Prix, a Formula One auto race held annually at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Île Notre-Dame. Montreal also hosts the Molson Indy Montreal of the Champcars Series. From 1969 to 2004, a Major League Baseball franchise called the Montreal Expos played in the city. On 13 July 1982, Montreal hosted the first baseball All-Star Game outside the United States. The Expos have recently relocated to Washington, DC.


Montreal is a transportation hub for eastern Canada with well-developed air, road, rail, and marine links to the rest of Canada as well as the United States and Europe.

Mass transit

The Montreal Metro was inaugurated in 1966 in time for the Expo 67 World's Fair held in the city the following year. Montreal is also served by a commuter rail system, which is managed and operated by the Agence métropolitaine de transport.


Montreal has two international airports, although only one is currently open for passenger flights. Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (formerly Dorval airport, the name most locals still use) in the City of Dorval serves all commercial passenger traffic. To the north of the city is Montreal-Mirabel International Airport in Mirabel, which was envisioned as Montreal's primary airport but which now serves only cargo flights.


The spans the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Longueuil
The Jacques Cartier Bridge spans the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Longueuil

Montreal has a problem with vehicular traffic, especially from off-island suburbs such as Laval on Île Jésus, and especially Longueuil on the south shore. The width of the Saint Lawrence River has made the construction of fixed links to the south shore expensive and difficult. Accordingly there are only four road bridges (plus one road tunnel, two railway bridges, and a metro line), whereas the Rivière des Prairies is spanned by eight road bridges (six to Laval and two to the north shore).

Since Montreal is on an island, the directions used in the city plan do not precisely correspond with compass directions , as they are oriented to the geography of the island. North and south are defined on an axis roughly perpendicular to the St. Lawrence River and the Rivière des Prairies: north is towards Rivière des Prairies, and south is towards the St. Lawrence. East and west directions are defined as roughly parallel to the St. Lawrence River (which flows southwest to northeast) and the Rivière des Prairies. East is downstream, and west is upstream.

Boulevard Saint-Laurent divides Montreal into east and west sectors. Streets that lie on both sides of boulevard Saint-Laurent are divided into two parts, which have East (est) or West (ouest) appended to their names. Streets that lie on only one side of boulevard Saint-Laurent do not generally contain a direction in their names. Address numbering begins at one at boulevard Saint-Laurent. East of it, numbers increase to the east, while west of it, numbers increase to the west. On north-south streets, house numbers begin at the St. Lawrence River and increase to the north. Odd numbers are on the east or north sides of the street; even, west or south. Numbered streets generally run north and south, and the street numbers increase to the east. The municipalities annexed to Montreal in 2002 do not follow this system, except for Verdun and Montréal-Nord.

According to the rules of the Commission de toponymie du Québec, the French-language form of street names is the only official one, and is to be used in any language: e.g. chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges; rue Sainte-Catherine; côte du Beaver Hall. Many English speakers, however, use English generics such as "street" or "road", as do English-language media such as the Montreal Gazette. Officially bilingual boroughs have the right to use such names in official contexts, such as on street signs. In the past, a number of streets had both English and French names, such as avenue des Pins or Pine Avenue, rue Saint-Jacques or St. James Street, rue de la Montagne or Mountain Street. Some of these names are still in common colloquial use in English. There are many streets whose French names incorporate an English specific, such as chemin Queen Mary, rue University, avenue McGill College. There are also a few cases where two names are official, such as chemin du Bord-du-Lac/chemin Lakeshore.


Montreal has one of the highest per-capita populations of post-secondary students of any large city in North America, due to its four urban universities—McGill University, Université de Montréal (including the École Polytechnique de Montréal and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Montréal), Concordia University, and branches of the Université du QuébecUniversité du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), the École de technologie supérieure, and the École nationale d'administration publique. Neighbouring Longueuil, on the South Shore of Montreal (across the St. Lawrence), is home to the Université de Sherbrooke à Longueuil.

Communications and media

Montreal has a large and well developed communications system, including several English and French language television stations, newspapers, radio stations, and magazines.

Television stations


Community newspapers

  • Bharat Times (English)
  • Golos Obszhini (Russian)
  • Matin (French)
  • Messager Verdun (French)
  • Monitor (English)
  • Montreal Community Contact (English)
  • Quebecois Libre (French)
  • Voix Populaire (French)
  • BHMA (Greek)

Radio stations

Neighbouring Municipalities

  North: Laval, Terrebonne, Repentigny, Boisbriand, Ste-Thérèse, Blainville, St-Eustache  
West: Vaudreuil-Dorion, Île-Perrot, Pincourt , Pointe-Claire Montreal East: Longueuil, Boucherville
  South: Kahnawake, Brossard, Candiac , Châteauguay  

See also


  1. According to The Canadian Style, the official style guide of the federal and provincial governments, the name of the city is to be written with an accent as Montréal in all printed materials in both English and French. However, it is more common to omit the accent in English usage and keep the accent in French usage.

External links

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