How Montreal's climate strike stacks up against major protests of the past

Montrealers have never been afraid to take to the streets, en masse, to demonstrate their opposition to — or support for — government policies.

From the 1917 conscription crisis to 2012's Maple Spring, Montrealers have never feared taking to the streets

Friday's climate protest is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to march through Montreal today, as part of the Global Climate Strike.

Montrealers have never been afraid to take to the streets, en masse, to demonstrate their opposition to — or support for — government policies.

Here is a look back in pictures at some key protests.

1917 conscription crisis

This photograph of an anti-conscription parade at Victoria Square was likely taken May 24, 1917, according to the McCord Museum. (National Archives of Canada)

More than a century ago, while Canada was embroiled in the First World War, Montrealers demonstrated their opposition to the 1917 Military Services Act.

Then-prime minister Robert Borden had promised not to compel Canadians to enlist. As the war drew on, he changed his mind — and Montrealers took to the streets in protest, en masse. 

Similar, but smaller, protests took place during the Second World War as Quebecers again resisted being enlisted.

1995 unity rally

Canadians came to Montreal from all across the country for this rally for the No side, three days before Quebec's second sovereignty referendum took place on Oct. 30, 1995. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Just days before the 1995 referendum, federalists from across Canada descended on Montreal to show their support for the "No" side as Quebecers pondered whether they wanted to separate.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at Place du Canada on Oct. 27, 1995.

Three days later, the "No" side won by a slim victory, with 50.58 per cent of the vote. 

2003 anti-Iraq war protest

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Montreal against the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. (CBC)

In the days leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, more than 100,000 people took to the streets of Montreal as part of an international anti-war movement.

Canada ultimately did not join the United States in providing soldiers for the invasion in March 2003.

Earth Day 2012

This Earth Day gathering on April 22, 2012 brought together both environmentalists and students protesting against planned tuition fee hikes. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

An estimated 200,000 people attended this protest at Jarry Park, where environmental activists converged with students protesting against the provincial government's planned tuition fee hike. 

The youth-led movement can be seen as a precursor to today's Global Climate Strike, but environmental activism in the province goes back even further.

Maple Spring protests

Students opposing Quebec tuition fee hikes demonstrate on August 22, 2012. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Student protests against the planned tuition fee increases continued through the spring and into the summer of 2012, with "days of action" organized on the 22nd of each month.

The government of then-premier Jean Charest passed a special law restricting public demonstrations, but the size of the protests only grew. 

2018 anti-racism protest

Opponents of Coalition Avenir Québec's proposed religious symbols ban filled Montreal's streets after the CAQ won a majority government in October 2018. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

After the election of François Legault, an anti-racism demonstration brought about 50,000 protesters to Montreal's streets. They sought to denounce the government's plan to ban religious symbols worn by some public servants.

That ban was passed this summer. The government continues to defend the secularism law, saying it has wide support across the province, and it passed the legislation in order to settle Quebec's secularism debate once and for all. 

2019 Global Climate Strikes

Tens of thousands of Montreal students attended the Global Climate Strike in May. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Young people marched last spring in weekly global climate strikes, like this demonstration in May in which tens of thousands of people participated.

Today's march is expected to exceed that turnout. Organizers expect about 300,000 people to attend.


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