When daily bread wasn't a given (or very fresh) in Montreal

Getting bread delivered on a Sunday or Monday? It wasn't happening in Montreal -- at least legally -- for many years.

For more than 30 years, bread could not be legally delivered at the start of the week in Montreal

No delivering bread 2 days a week

37 years ago
In 1984, The National's Tom Kennedy provides an overview of an unusual regulation for bread delivery in Montreal. 1:56

For a long time, it could be a pain to get your pain in Montreal at the start of the week.

That's because a regulation was in place for years that prohibited bakeries from delivering fresh bread to stores on Sundays or Mondays.

"Back in 1959, Quebec set up a committee to oversee the bakery industry. It was made up of labour and industry people," the CBC's Tom Kennedy reported on The National in June of 1984, a quarter of a century after the regulation had been in effect.

"The committee believed that delivery drivers were being overworked, so it passed a regulation that can only be described as unusual."

Kennedy further explained that baking bread was legally permissible any day of the week, but delivering it on Monday or Sunday could mean fines for the baker, the delivery agent and the retailer involved.

'[An] attack on common sense'

The regulation that prohibited delivering bread in Montreal on Sundays and Mondays did not prohibit bread from being made on those days. (The National/CBC Archives)

"It's a frontal attack on common sense," said Mark Rost, a Montreal bread retailer, expressing his exasperation with the regulation that caused problem for his business. 

Some retailers rebelled by having bread delivered on the prohibited days anyway and accepting the consequences of disobeying the regulation.

"They regard the fines, usually between $50 and $100, simply as part of the cost of doing business," said Kennedy.

A man is seen moving a batch of freshly baked challah loaves away from an oven at a Montreal bakery in June of 1984. (The National/CBC Archives)

According to Kennedy, the break with the law was widespread when it came to small- and medium-sized bakeries.

Ten years later, the controversy hadn't gone away and neither had the regulation that put the halt on delivering fresh bread two days a week.

'A bizarre game of hide and seek'

In 1994, Joan Melanson reports for Sunday Morning on strange rules for bread deliveries in Montreal. 12:25

"Montreal is famous for its bread, be it bagels, baguettes or buns," Joan Melanson told listeners on CBC Radio's Sunday Morning in the spring of 1994.

"But, in order to break bread, some bread makers in the city have to break the law."

The Sunday Morning audience got a recap on the bread regulation, which had been intended to protect workers at a time when many were not represented by unions.

Times had changed, but the regulation had not.

"The law has turned bread deliveries in Montreal into a bizarre game of hide and seek," Melanson said, as she went on to describe efforts bakeries and their customers undertook to avoid being caught by inspectors on the lookout for illegal deliveries.

No deli wants stale bread

Bakery owner Nick Arcolakis did not see any other option, given that fresh bread is not a product that can be held and handed out at a later time.

"You cannot give to the delicatessens two-days-old rye bread,"  said Arcolakis, who had to take his chances when delivering those loaves to his customers.

The Globe and Mail had interviewed Arcolakis a few months earlier and reported that he had paid more than $10,000 in fines the previous year.

Sunday Morning mentioned there was talk of allowing bread delivery to occur on Mondays, but Arcolakis and his fellow opponents of the regulation indicated they would only be satisfied with legal seven-day-a-week delivery.

They got what they wanted in April 1996, when CBC News and other media outlets reported those bakeries could finally get their bread to their customers on Sundays and Mondays, without facing a fine.

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