Montreal: Church bells rang out across Montreal on Wednesday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Philippe Couillard helped celebrate the city’s 375th birthday.
The bells chimed for several minutes prior to a mass at the Notre-Dame Basilica attended by Trudeau, Couillard, Mayor Denis Coderre and several hundred other guests.
“For decades now, people from different cultures and from all over the world have contributed to our success,” Trudeau told the gathering inside the historic church.
“Montrealers, more than anyone, know that our diversity is our strength and this mass is a testament to that.”
That sentiment was echoed by Couillard.
“The gathering this morning expresses the best of ourselves,” he said. “Montreal is a city of diversity, with beautiful projects, attracting people from all over the world to put down roots and chase their dreams.”
At a homage to the city’s founders, Jeanne Mance and Paul de Chomedey, which included a performance from the Ecole superieure de ballet du Quebec and Mohawk singers and drummers, Coderre paid tribute to those whose lands on which Montreal was founded.
“We have a duty to remember and recognize the native people, who’ve also suffered over the centuries of this grand European migration and who have contributed to the edification of society that we live in and who continue to contribute today,” Coderre told an audience at an Old Montreal square.
Coderre said that’s why the city recognizes it is on unceded Iroquois territory.
“On this day to mark our 375th anniversary, we cannot rewrite history, but we can certainly contribute to the reconciliation between our peoples,” he said.
Trudeau told reporters his birthday wish for Montreal, which was known as Ville-Marie when it was founded on May 17, 1642, is another 375 years of diversity, pride and openness.
He said he is a proud Montrealer even though he was born in Ottawa.
Trudeau said his father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, made it clear where the family came from.
“I grew up in Ottawa, I was born in Ottawa, but my father was a Montrealer and he would bring us here quite regularly,” he said. “He would tell us, ‘No, you live in Ottawa but you’re Montrealers. You just don’t really know it yet.’”
“So when I arrived here at the age of 13 after my father left politics, it was like coming home.”