The population’s ethnic composition was changing. By 1911, although French-Canadians were still in the majority, a quarter of Montrealers were now of British origin. A large Jewish community, principally made up of garment workers, settled around the Main, now Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Italians, mostly employed as construction workers, lived in the city’s North End.
Visible social differences persisted. The upper bourgeoisie of British descent continued to drive Canadian economic development, while the French-speaking middle class carried on its pursuit of wealth. Some of its members attained high levels in Canadian finance, but most remained within the traditional confines of medium-sized business. The number of neighbourhood shopkeepers multiplied as the urban territory expanded.
As for the working class, highly-qualified workers tended to join the trade unions, which were almost all affiliates of international unions based in the United States. They were also more politically active, thanks to the Labour Party and its workers’ clubs. However, life remained precarious for unskilled labourers and factory workers with few or no qualifications.