Democracy in Montreal from 1830 to the present / ExhibitDemocracy in Montreal from 1830 to the present / Exhibit

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Montréal, metropolis of Québec, was founded by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve in 1642, but it became a distinct political entity and gained the right to self-government in 1832.

From Jacques Viger down to Gérald Tremblay, 41 men in turn held the office of mayor.  The political institutions of Montréal underwent radical changes throughout the years.  Between 1833, date of the first municipal election, and today, Montréal adopted seven forms of government.  Those transformations fostered the growth of local institutions and favored a better distribution of powers.

In 1874, elected representatives enjoyed a more systematic form of government as a result of the formation of aldermen committees.  The establishment of the Board of Commissioners at the beginning of the twentieth century brought about a first distribution of powers, which had been exercised until then by city council.  The executive committee set up in 1921 consolidated that process.  From 1962 on, the choice of executive committee members by the mayor ensured a more coherent and stable form of municipal government.

This is also the history of the gradual democratization of local political life.  In 1833, only male property owners were entitled to vote.  Taxpaying tenants were awarded the same privilege in 1860.  It was only at the end of the nineteenth century that certain categories of women, namely those who had come of age and widows, were granted suffrage.  Universal suffrage was finally introduced in 1970.  From then on, all adult citizens were entitled to vote in municipal elections.

As time went on, political practices and electoral standards changed radically, thus fine-tuning the democratization process initiated over 150 years ago. 

Democracy in Montréal from 1830 to the present is in two parts: a virtual exhibit  providing an overview of Montréal institutions and political life, and Citizens of  tomorrow, a teaching tool on municipal democracy, intended for elementary school students.

The exhibit covers 7 periods and contains textual and iconographic records on the evolution of the municipality and the democratic process. The "Mayors of Montréal" section contains a short biography and archival material on the 41 mayors. Under "For more information" students will find election results from 1833 to 2005, lists of all members of the council from 1833 to 1978, as well as committee members from 1840 to 1970. Students may also test their knowledge by taking the quiz.

Citizens of  tomorrrow provides information on the planning of class activities, in particular the  organization of a local election, as well as tours of the Centre d’histoire de Montréal, vaults of the Section des archives, and city hall.

Enjoy the tour!

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