Historians of Tomorrow

Jean Drapeau

Jean Drapeau was born in Rosemont district in 1916. His father was an insurance agent. He studied law at the Université de Montréal. As a lawyer, he was also interested in politics. He was defeated at the federal and provincial elections, but was successful at the municipal level. His reputation grew when he led a public inquiry into police corruption. When he was elected mayor of Montréal in 1954, he was only 38. He lost the next election, but he ruled Montréal from 1960 to 1986. In 1945, he married Marie-Claire Boucher. They had three sons. He died in 1999.

A new public transit system

At the 1960 election, Jean Drapeau had built his campaign on the construction of a metro. He saw that as a solution to the problems of traffic congestion. Once elected, he kept his promise. The construction work began in May 1962, and the metro was inaugurated on October 14, 1966. The underground network reduces traffic: 3 lines, 26 stations, 369 metro cars. These vehicles are all electrically powered and have the added advantage of being silent. Lines 1 and 2 closely follow Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Denis streets, and greatly relieve congested bus routes. Line 4, which runs from Berri-de-Montigny (now Berri-UQAM) station to Longueuil station, leads directly to the site of Expo 67. He also saw to the construction of autoroutes such as the Ville-Marie and Bonaventure expressways.

Montreal, international city

Jean Drapeau dreamed of Montréal as the major city in Canada and worked to give it international recognition. During his terms of office, great events contributed to the international fame he was seeking. People from all over the world attended Expo 1967 and the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. La Ronde and the Olympic Stadium still stand today.

1967 — After 6 months of record crowds, Expo 67 ends. The mayor’s dream came true: from April 28 to October 27, 1967, Montréal was the centre of worldwide attention. One hundred years after the birth of Canada, 62 countries played hosts to 50 million visitors to Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame. Montrealers had the impression of covering the entire planet with a passport as their admission ticket. Valid throughout the exhibition, the passport was just like a real passport, with the holder’s photo and seals of all pavilions visited. Thousands of people kept their passports as a memento of Expo 67.

1976 — Ten years after Expo 67, from July 17 to August 1, 1976, Montréal hosted the 21st Olympic Games. At the opening ceremonies, 73 000 people saw the athletes parade through the stadium. Mayor Drapeau received a standing ovation. To be able to host the games, the mayor had to convince the members of the International Olympic Committee and was under great financial stress. The Olympic Park along Sherbrooke Street, in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, covered 55 hectares. It contained the stadium, pools and the velodrome designed by French architect Roger Taillibert. The Olympic village nearby was inspired by Egyptian pyramids. Other places, such as Maurice-Richard arena, were redeveloped, and some were built for the occasion, such as the rowing basin at Île Notre-Dame.


Links to other interesting websites about Jean Drapeau

• Democracy in Montreal, from 1830 to the present:

• The Canadian Encyclopedia:

Complimentary information about this person's era (for the post-visit activity in class)

• Montreal, 500 Years of History in Archives:
See chapters 11 and 12.

Image source: Archives de Montréal.

Jean Drapeau

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