The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2022. Very few organizations in the city can boast such longevity. The past year was an opportunity to revisit and celebrate two centuries of landmark achievements by a business community with a common purpose: the economic vitality of Greater Montréal.
Here is a look back at the historic efforts in mobilizing the city’s business community and key moments from the last year in which ambition, talent, and pride held a place of honour.
Landmark moments in our history
A community taking shape
The Chamber was formed on April 11, 1822 under the name Committee of Trade. It was created to play the role of intermediary between the Montréal business community and the government. At its beginnings, it brought together 54 concerned merchants during an economic recession that was sweeping the country. They wanted to join forces to defend and promote economic activity in Montréal and Canada and to strengthen the community’s cooperation.
Initially, the organization was involved in transport, communications, finance, and trade. Over the years, it expanded its efforts, but continued to be a bridge between its members, governments, and the business community by pooling everyone’s talents to encourage the development of Montréal.
Over the centuries, the city’s businesspeople have rolled up their sleeves to find solutions to the challenges of their times, support and educate society, and open the city’s doors to the rest of the world. The business community’s historic mobilization efforts include:
- Support for dredging the St. Lawrence and the construction of port facilities to accommodate heavy tonnage ships in 1857
- Interventions and position statements on historic issues such as the World War I efforts and Montréal’s EXPO ’67
- Participating, in 1863, in the creation of the Port Warden’s Office and the Corn Exchange. The Chamber would remain involved in the port administration for over 100 years, until 1992
- Participating in the creation of HEC Montréal in 1892
- The 1960 creation of the Oeuvres de la santé, one of the organizations that would go on to found Centraide
- The participation in the creation of Aéroports de Montréal in 1992, to support the air transport sector in Quebec and the international attractiveness of the province
Thomas Blackwood, first president, Commitee of Trade
Joseph-Xavier Perrault, founder, Chambre de commerce du district de Montréal
Visit of women members to Manic 5
Merger of the anglophone and francophone Chamber
Archives : HEC Montréal, fonds de la Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain, fonds du bureau de commerce, fonds du directorat
The francophone business community develops a structure
At the initiative of Joseph-Xavier Perrault, the Chambre de commerce du district de Montréal was founded in 1887 to meet the francophone business community’s need to have an organization dedicated to promoting and defending its interests.
Merger of the anglophone and francophone chambers
The two chambers merged to become a single, bilingual association and an important site for all economic actors in Greater Montréal to come together to take action to foster their city’s vitality.
An equally remarkable recent history
The Chamber has hosted speakers that include prominent leaders from near and far, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and Chris Hadfield. Chamber events make a significant contribution to collective reflection on issues of the day.
In addition to its role as megaphone and mobilizing force for the business community, the Chamber offers services to Montréal businesses. Every year, it helps businesses make their presence felt at home and around the world.
Promising initiatives to restore the city’s economic momentum
To give Montréal new momentum, as part of “I see mtl,” the Chamber and BMO invited Montrealers to submit projects in every sphere of activity to restore confidence and pride in the city and its economy. Close to 100 projects were developed, including:
- A 6.7 km artwork between the airport and downtown – Bleu de bleu by artist Alain Paiement
- A collective space in Petite-Bourgogne – Le Salon 1861
- A tool library in Villeray – La Remise
The Chamber has played a key role in the mobilization to relaunch the Montréal economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. It launched the Relaunch MTL movement with the development of 11 sector action plans in partnership with 17 clusters and mobilization platforms.
As part of “I love working downtown”, 14 creative and sensory-based experiences designed by local artists and creators came to life downtown for the enjoyment of workers and tourists, as well as the entire commercial fabric of downtown.
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc., 2015
I love working downtown, 2021
I love working downtown, 2022
I love working downtown, 2022
Celebrating 200 years of the Montréal business community’s commitment
Initiatives that showcase the history of the business community and its positive impact on the city’s economic vitality were deployed in 2022.
An anniversary worthy of big celebrations
The Chamber kicked off festivities for its bicentennial by unveiling a plaque commemorating 200 years of commitment by the city’s business community at Montréal’s city hall on April 11, 2022, with Mayor Valérie Plante and the council member responsible for economic and commercial development and design, Luc Rabouin, in attendance.
The anniversary also generated a news report on TVA Nouvelles, ecorded at the site of the Chamber’s founding, at the corner of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul streets. The first woman to head up the organization in 1986, Manon Vennat, the President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal, Yves Lalumière, the Chamber’s Chair of the Board, Pierre Laporte, and Michel Leblanc spotlighted the legacy of the city’s business community.
Then, on April 13, 2022, a motion was read by the Minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, and adopted by Québec’s National Assembly:
“That the Assembly recognize the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal’s bicentennial celebrations in 2022 as a historic milestone. This anniversary represents 200 years of commitment and achievement for the Montréal business community.”
A memorable gala
Over 850 people from the business community and politics participated in this memorable evening at Windsor Station, where the business community’s major achievements of the past, current positive impact, and aspirations for the future held a place of honour. Guests enjoyed a performance by the group The Lost Fingers, got a sense of the legacy of the 200 years and our ambitions for the future with a presentation by actor Didier Lucien, enjoyed a gourmet meal, and danced to the rhythm of DJ Abeille.
As challenges become increasingly urgent, we hope to continue our role as a mobilizing force of a community to respond to issues for the common good. May these 200 years of success inspire us for the next 200 years!
About the Chamber’s 200th anniversary
To celebrate 200 years of commitment by the city’s business community, the Chamber organized a series of initiatives produced thanks to its Diamond partners: Desjardins, Molson Coors and Aéroport international Montréal-Trudeau. Activities for the event also benefited from contributions from Platinum partners: Allied, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), CGI, le CN, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, La Presse, Lavery, Le Devoir, Montreal Gazette, the Port of Montreal, Québecor, Rio Tinto and Ubisoft Montréal. They were also made possible with the support of its Gold partners: BMO, le Brivia Group, Fasken, Osler Avocats and Sun Life. Finally, activities to mark the anniversary were possible thanks to its Silver partners: Aecon, Air Canada, Aldo Group, Scotiabank, the BDC, Bombardier, CF Cadillac Fairview, Deloitte, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, Ivanhoé Cambridge, Jarislowsky Fraser, Pomerleau and Skema Business School. Their participation made this series of initiatives, including the Chamber’s 200 light-years gala, possible.