Montreal’s blend of history, culture and glamour adds plenty of to Canada’s
Montreal’s blend of history, culture and glamour adds plenty of joie to Canada’s joie de vivre
Frequently described as Canada’s Cultural Capital, Montreal has earned the title because of its abundance of museums, galleries, restaurants and world class festivals which draw visitors year round. It’s a reputation that the country’s second largest city fully deserves.
The phrase“combining business and pleasure”is taken to another level here and boredom is certainly not in the local vocabulary.
Founded in 1642 by French settlers, metropolitan Montreal actually sits on an island in the midst of the St Lawrence River. It is connected to nearby mainland suburbs and municipalities by enormous bridges, two of which – the Pont Champlain and Pont Jacques Cartier – are named after the explorers who claimed Canada or‘New France’for their homeland.
The city is served by Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport located in Dorval about half an hour from downtown Montreal by taxi.
Montreal is headquarters to a number of international companies including Air Canada, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Bank of Montreal and the world famous Cirque de Soleil entertainment group. Only Toronto has a larger economy among Canadian cities.
Although French is the official language of the province of Quebec, and provincewide only 13 percent of the residents claim English as their mother tongue, this is not an issue in Montreal. One might be initially greeted in French but most Montrealers quickly switch to English once they deduce their visitor is an anglophone.
However, when it comes to the question of language in Quebec, as the Bard would say, thereby hangs a tale.
Twice in its history Quebec has voted on establishing a separate country or something called‘sovereignty association’ – independent, but with a continued economic association with Canada. The most recent referendum in 1995 narrowly rejected sovereignty association. The electoral fortunes of Parti Quebecois, whose platform has traditionally included the pursuit of an independent nation, has ebbed and flowed since its founding in 1976; it lost in the 2014 election.
The provincial government recently appointed a‘minister of anglophone relations’to boost confidence amongst anglophones but remains committed to the controversial language law, Bill 101. This law made French the official language of Quebec and the normal workplace language. In addition French became compulsory for immigrants to the province. It exists to protect the French language.
“I think we have a comfortable relationship between the English and French groups in Montreal,”says Michel LeBlanc, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Montreal Board of Trade.“The business community I represent wants the population to feel they have access to services in French. At the same time, we realistically know most of the population is bilingual on the island. Therefore, whenever foreigners come they can be served in English too.”
Other problems have plagued Montreal more recently. The city’s mayor, Denis Coderre, was elected in late 2013, following the resignation of his predecessor Gerald Tremblay in November 2012 under a cloud of corruption. If this all sounds off-putting, it pales in comparison to the more recent mayoral shenanigans in Toronto which garnered international media attention.