About Montreal

Montreal is on an island at the junction of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. The first inhabitants of the island, about 11,000 years ago, were the descendants of people who walked over from Asia during the ice age when sea level was lower and quickly occupied all of North and South America. These first inhabitants of the island of Montreal did not establish long-lasting permanent settlements; they were semi-nomadic, but their presence is well documented from the many ceramic, stone and copper artefacts they left behind, which were analyzed by NAA by the way.

The first Europeans to arrive were Jacques Cartier and his crew, in 1535. They were greeted on the island by the Iroquoians of the village of Hochelaga, which was at the base of the mountain, called Mont Royal by Cartier. His ships could go no farther because the river was blocked by the turbulent Lachine Rapids. He called them that way because he thought the route to China was just beyond. When Cartier returned here in 1541 the village of Hochelaga and its inhabitants had mysteriously disappeared. It was another century before French colonists arrived in the area and the village of Ville-Marie was founded in 1642; its name was later changed to Montréal.

The English battled the French during the Seven Years War which ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and New France became a British colony. Many English, Scottish and Irish settlers arrived to occupy lands east and west of Montreal. In 1867, Canada became a sovereign country, with four provinces (later to become ten with four to the east of Quebec and five to the west) and about as many English speakers as French. The conquering English dominated of course and the two peoples struggled to live together peacefully. Tensions peaked between 1960-1995 when the French speakers affirmed themselves and threatened to leave the country. But they ended up staying and now English-French relations are good, each group having found its place.

In the last century, many immigrants arrived in Montreal, especially Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Haitians, French and North Africans and they and their descendants have integrated well into the population, while still keeping their cultural identities, and they now make up about 30% of the more than 3,000,000 population of the metropolitan Montreal area.