Around 1866, French Canadians once again constituted a majority in Montréal. Nevertheless, the city retained its British character through its institutions, architecture and the predominant role of the English language.
The influence of the Anglo-Scottish upper bourgeoisie was particularly strong. Its members accumulated huge fortunes, controlled most major Canadian firms and cultivated close relationships with Great Britain. This dominant class was represented by the highly respected Board of Trade.
A new middle class was emerging among French Canadians. Its members headed leading Montréal firms in the wholesale trade and manufacturing industries. They created new financial institutions and the Chambre de commerce du district de Montréal.
In the arena of municipal politics, the French Canadians who came to power in the 1880s implemented populist policies which were denounced as patronage by the English speaking councillors who represented the elites under a Reform Movement banner.
The Catholic clergy’s grip on the population grew stronger, and parishes multiplied, along with social and educational initiatives.
In sum, during this period, two different worlds, separated by language and religion, coexisted in Montréal. The Irish were somewhere in between, with one foot in the English-speaking community and the other in the Catholic world. The Jewish community, also distinct in its language and religion, gained strength in the 1880s with the arrival of a wave of immigrants.
Exchanges between communities were commonplace despite these divisions. At times, ethnic or religious solidarity took precedence, while at others, social solidarity prevailed.