Quebec Studies

The Montreal Citizens' Movement, Then and Now

Quebec Studies (1988), 6, (1), 1–11.


Québec Studies, No. 6,1988 THE MONTREAL CITIZENS' MOVEMENT, THEN AND NOW by Henry Milner The Montreal dailies recently ran a large front-page picture of the city's smiling mayor hoisted parallel to the ground at waist level by five burly football players. A picture of their mayor in such a pose might not have startled residents of other North American cities, but a Montrealer could not help but blink. It is simply inconceivable that Jean Drapeau, who was mayor of Montreal as far back as most Montrealers remember, would ever be seen in such a pose. But Drapeau was replaced in November 1986 by Jean Doré, leader of the RCM or Rassemblement des Citoyens de Montréal (in English, the Montreal Citizens' Movement, or MCM). Yet, if one thinks back to the founding character of the RCM in the mid-1970s, it is almost equally inconceivable that the leader of this radical movement would be found in such a pose, especially since the football championship being celebrated is that of McGill University, stomping ground of Quebec's old English-speaking elite. But many things have changed in Montreal, and much is not what it seems. The RCM held its 1987 congress in late November, a few weeks after the party celebrated its first anniversary in power in Montreal's city hall and an appropriate moment to reflect on the changes that have been taking place. The story begins late in 1973 when a handful of activists and intellectuals started to meet regularly, setting in motion the events that led to the founding of the party in June 1974. The contrast between the RCM then and today is striking—at least to this writer who was one of that original handful and has since been a participant/observer on the Québec political scene. What follows is thus a rather idiosyncratic drawing of that contrast. To understand the transformation, we must first set it in context of the interplay between the evolution of Québec society as a whole and that of the political constellation in Montreal over the past fifteen years. In 1973 Québec was highly politicized and polarized. The then already long-serving mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, had capitalized on the polarization by utterly destroying his 1970 opposition, the FRAP, associating it with the terrorist FLQ

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Author details

Milner, Henry