Archives of longtime mayor reveal Montreal's secrets
TORONTO -- Montreal’s historical secrets are being brought to light through the vast archives of former mayor Jean Drapeau, who ran the city for nearly 30 years.
Drapeau, one of the most well-known leaders in Canadian history, meticulously collected around 700 boxes’ worth of documents, photos and letters during his reign.
Twenty years after his death, his personal archives -- spanning from the 1950s through to the 1980s -- are now being shown to the public.
The collection documents the time Drapeau was at the helm of the city and serves to show Montreal’s growing place and influence in the world as he steered it through Expo 1967 and the 1976 Olympic Games
Included in the mountain of memories are newspaper clippings -- including from British broadsheet The Daily Telegraph -- about former French president Charles de Gaulle's speech during his visit on July 24, 1967.
During the speech, which he gave two years before his death, de Gaulle controversially said “Vive le Québec libre” – a comment in support of Quebec sovereignty. Although at the time, many in France supported Quebec nationalism, de Gaulle was heavily criticized for breaching protocol.
Drapeau also kept letters from celebrities he invited to come boost the profile of the city and the Montreal Expo. Many celebrities wrote back, including famed crooner Frank Sinatra.
Curators of the archive told CTV News that Drapeau even took his efforts to the then-massively popular Ed Sullivan Show, which was where The Beatles made their U.S. debut.
Some of the documents also offer insight into the Richard Riot, which broke out during a Montreal Canadiens game in 1955. Fans were outraged by then-NHL president Clarence Campbell's suspension of superstar Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.
It turns out Drapeau had warned Campbell to stay away from the game that night.
Digital versions of the archives are available online. The public can check them out in person by making an appointment.
Other parts of the archive include photos and documents of the construction in the lead-up to the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Drapeau even held onto a report blaming him for much of the cost overruns and the corruption of the event.
The mayor wrote a rebuttal that rejected the criticism and blamed inflation and strikes on the issues. But Drapeau never delivered his response to anyone.
Now, it’s simply stored away among the boxes of newly revealed secrets.