One of our city’s greatest attributes is its multicultural makeup. Stroll through the streets of Montreal and you’ll see that living in (or just visiting) our city means surrounding yourself with a tapestry of cultures from all four corners of the globe. It’s a true privilege to experience all this diversity in the heart of the city!
Up until 1960, the majority of immigrants to Montreal were of Western or Central European descent, most notably members of the Hassidic Jewish community, most of who came from Russia. Today, nearly 200 languages are spoken across Canada; here in Montreal, over 120 different cultural communities live amongst each other in harmony. Two of Montreal’s largest cultural communities are made up of individuals with origins in Asia and Maghreb. The diversity found in our city is undeniable.
Over the years, Montreal has become one of the most diverse cosmopolitan cities in the entire world. The first wave of immigration to Montreal, of course, was made up of French colonists. After the Conquest of 1760, Montreal saw an influx of British immigrants; this surge of Anglophones is the reason our city is so bilingual today. Despite the mixing of cultures here in Montreal, our city remains somewhat divided along linguistic lines; members of the Francophone population tend to reside in the city’s east side, while Anglophones often settle down in the west.
These two first waves of large-scale immigration paved the way for other, smaller groups who left their countries of origin for Montreal. Chinatown, located in the borough of Ville-Marie, is a great example of this. Did you know that the neighbourhood is one of the oldest Asian districts in all of North America? The first Chinese immigrants to Canada arrived in the southernmost part of the country in the 19th century. The community initially settled on the west coast, most notably in British Columbia, during the gold rush of the mid-1800s. Many would later make their way to Montreal and establish a slew of businesses along rue De La Gauchetière; these were the beginnings of the Chinatown we know today.
Another good example is the Little Italy neighbourhood in Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie. Much like the Chinese community, Montreal saw a wave of Italian immigration in the 19th century. At the time, the Italians settling in Montreal were mostly men, workers who sought employment on the railroad or in the mining or logging industries. Between 1948 and 1970, more families and individuals seeking permanent residence made their way to our city, thanks to Immigration Canada’s recently instated sponsorship policy. This policy favoured potential immigrants who already had family in the country. The most influential wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Montreal towards the end of World War II, settling around the Jean-Talon Market and populating the neighbourhood we now consider Little Italy.
Every year, people from around the world move to Montreal, contributing to our city’s development and cultural wealth. In 2014-2015, 30,003 new immigrants called Montreal home, helping make our city a much richer and more interesting place to live.
BERTHIAUME, Guy, Claude CORBO et Sophie MONTREUIL (dirs.), Histoires d’immigrations au Québec, Québec, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2014
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