And just like that, 2023 has come to a close.
As news can come and go at a rapid-fire pace these days, we thought we'd do the work of digging through an entire year's worth it and bring you the biggest headlines from this past year.
Herein lies a time capsule of the city's biggest headlines from the past year, a collection of rising trends, spectacular events, shocking revelations, municipal mutations, and everything in between.
From a relatively easy-going start to the year of journalists playing with AI and bagel-themed sneakers to wars on orange cones, topics either arrived with a bang and fizzled out or smouldered long after they caught on: Housing was an immense headlining topic, natural disasters touched down in every season of the year... but we wouldn't blame you if you didn't keep track of it all.
So here it is, a collection of stories that should make you go oh yeah, THAT happened! and appreciate not only how far we've come, but also how far we have to go.
The year started out strong with the launch of Nike's Bagel Dunks, and while the shoes officially launched at Montreal’s Off the Hook boutique on Jan. 13, the first people to line up arrived the night before at around 7 p.m. to guarantee their purchase, waiting outside in the cold.
Postmedia also announced it was slashing 11 per cent of its roughly 650 editorial staff across the country, including journalists at the Montreal Gazette.
“It’s a gong show, the next quarterly results will be announced soon and it’s almost certain there will be more layoffs,” said one Postmedia employee to the Rover, who would not go on the record for fear of reprisals. “Everyone is exhausted and afraid and Postmedia seems totally detached from how bad things are on the ground.”
Also of note:
- The iconic Van Horne warehouse in the Mile End faced changes to accommodate a hotel, offices and businesses. No one loved—or even liked—the idea.
- Never forget this “Fargo-esque” wild ride of a story about of a couple guys who stumbled into the world of Montreal’s Calabrian mafia.
- The #1 restaurant in Montreal on TripAdvisor didn't exist.
- RIP Saint-Sulpice.
- A $3.6-million Montreal property with 13 rooms, 1 bedroom and a diner came onto the market.
- Montreal's all-night party project that would let bars stay open, well, all night started to really kick into high gear and would continue to do so throughout the year.
- The city said it would crack down on vacant storefronts along Montreal's St-Laurent Boulevard, but we still haven't seen much on that front.
- The Eastern Townships made global headlines as a top place to travel to with the New York Times.
In this sweeping report covering the exploits of one Robert G. Miller, founder of an electronics parts distributor, tales of young girls allegedly paid large sums of money for sexual favours are told. It’s a harrowing read of seedy behaviour, hush money, and dropped investigations. The investigation lasted throughout the year, with reports still coming out even now.
- We loved this retrospective on the neon signs of Montreal.
- Montreal advocated for a high-speed train to connect Quebec to Toronto.
- Downtown's Bell Centre almost got a casino of slot machines, but that plan was axed about seven months later.
- Merchants in Montréal-Nord looked to join forces to attract shoppers, and boost their local economy.
- The SQDC got beef jerky. That was fun.
- The Montreal Insectarium's redesign to emulate the experience of being a bug landed itself in headlines for its architectural approach.
All eyes were on a five-alarm blaze that left two dead, five missing, and nine injured (including two in critical condition) in a heritage building hosting illegal Airbnb-style short-term rentals. Tensions flared well beyond what a single paragraph here can contain; here’s an in-depth look, as journalists investigated complicit culprits.
Also, there was the announced reopening of Le 9e, a restaurant located on the ninth floor of downtown's Eaton Centre. Closed for almost a quarter of a century, its 1930s art deco architecture achieved heritage status.
- An entire hoax festival hit Instagram in Montreal, and media was more than intrigued.
- Giving someone the middle finger was deemed a "God-given" right that belongs to all Canadians, a Quebec judge decided in a case with a Montreal man.
- Montreal’s upcoming Royalmount complex announced it will be the home for the Aquarium de Montréal in 2024.
- Lachine experienced some growth at last thanks to the arrival of the REM and an eco-park.
- Montrealers had to begin to adapt to the single-use plastic ban.
- Illegal taxis at the airport were a thing for a while.
- Canadian law prohibited conversion therapy, but several churches in the city were carrying it out (RIP, Metro Media! More on that later).
- A proposed class-action lawsuit over infamous brainwashing experiments at a Montreal psychiatric hospital was before Quebec's highest court.
- The Jaeger building and its neo-Gothic facade dating back to 1914 began crumbling.
City streets littered with trees and wires, hundreds of thousands without power, carbon monoxide poisoning, and death: It was the worst power outage in Quebec since the 1998 ice storm brought on by toppled power lines and blocked roadways.
During April Fool's Day, politicians took time to tell us about their album releases, Twitch streams, and beer launches—you know, instead of doing their jobs.
Also of note:
- Designers of Chabanel start getting some major attention, and would each a zenith at SOUK later in the year.
- Calls to save Montreal's Village from the brink of disaster begin.
- This journey to the heart of darkness that is Berri-UQAM station.
- The possibility of buried treasure in Parc Jean-Drapeau.
- Celine's mansion (one of them, anyway) went up for sale.
- It was the beginning of the end for Metro Media.
- Montreal got a new catchphrase that doesn't seem to be catching on: The « Métropole francophone des Amériques »
Big news covered by just about every outlet was the abrupt closure of the alt-smoked meat restaurant The Main Deli, the latest likely victim of our perfect storm of labour shortages, gentrification, high food prices and pandemic closures squeezing the restaurant industry.
The blaze lasted for more than 42 hours: The Monastère du Bon-Pasteur, a 19th century former monastery, quickly became a five-alarm fire requiring 150 firefighters, and barely anything was salvaged except for a Fazioli concert grand piano and a Kirkman harpsichord from 1772.
- Ye Olde Orchard announced that it would have to change its name to Maison Publique Old Orchard because of the OQLF—and it happened in November.
- After 73 years selling deli meats prepared in their own smokehouses, Quebec Smoked Meat closed up shop.
- There was so many accounts of arson that it amounted to one a day since the beginning of the calendar year... and it was only May.
- The land that was once the site of the Hippodrome racetrack saw an incoming residential development plan with prerequisites for housing, public housing, and transit. No idea if anything will come of it yet.
- Using one of the latest engines for 3D visualization, Moshe Safdie and his architecture firm digitally recreated Habitat 67 based on its original concept that was first envisioned 56 years ago.
- Part of a larger, five-year urban development plan to attract businesses and people, north end Montreal's La Prairie Louvain hoped that 10,000 sunflowers would draw us all in to the Ahuntsic–Cartierville, and it did, and then they had to decide what to do with said 10,000 sunflowers.
- After 60 years, the Champlain Bridge was being taken apart piece by piece, but would live on as wristwatches, public art, a greenhouse, a bicycle, and other items.
Smoke and haze lingered over North America, with polluted air spreading from hundreds of wildfires burning throughout Canada including northern and western regions of Quebec.
A Mile-End book store that faced closure because of a massive rent hike in 2021 announced it would close its doors at the end of July. Signs thanking the community and announcing a closing sale were splashed across S.W. Welch Bookseller.
- On June 1, Bill 96 came into effect, and it was less than stellar out of the gate: Court battles were underway, similarities to Big Brother were cited, there were administrative issues, threats of mass exoduses—and none of it got any better.
- Built in 1885, the Belgian-made Le Galopant carousel in La Ronde was one of the oldest in the world, and it was decommissioned due to massive debts from the amusement park.
- Bill 31 was proposed, causing homeowners to be able to more easily refuse a lease transfer request from their tenants.
- Two contemporary wings were added to the century-old Maisonneuve library, completely renovated to adapt it to the real needs of the population of this neighbourhood in Montreal's east end.
- Does this explainer of Montreal's housing crisis still hold water?
As fears of a tornado in the Montreal area subsided and dramatic rainfall abated, the city began wading through some of its aftermath, with flooded homes and underpasses, and closed roads.
Environment and Climate Change Canada reported that between 50 and 100 millimetres of rain fell over the city in the space of a couple hours, calling it a torrential downpour in an assessment of the storm.
The REM launches with an “open house weekend” on July 29 and 30. Here's everything you need to know about the new system, from its cost and operating hours, to how it will affect bus lines from way back when.
Street artist Raymond Pilon, known as Zïlon, died. Considered a leading figure in the Montreal underground punk movement of the 1970s and '80s and a pioneer of Quebec street art, his death is a valuable lesson in how we venerate what we have (or don't).
- After 35 years at the same address, the family behind one of McGill students' best known cheap eats decided to close up shop due to rent increases going up by 50%.
- Much of what the public has been told about the government’s $25-million sale of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital site in 2016 was reportedly false.
- Investors plan to convert Sherbrooke St. office tower into residential units.
- “For the moment, the STM leaves me alone,” says Tibor, a 67-year-old homeless man living in a Mile End bus shelter.
- On the St. Lawrence between the shores of Pointe-aux-Trembles and Île Sainte-Thérèse, Sébastien Mignault was shown living—get this—on his 42-footer sailboat throughout the year.
- Mont-Royal's transformed commercial drag, in what may be "the world’s longest pedestrian street at 2.5 kilometres long, has a 90%+ approval rate.
- At a Montreal forge, historically accurate axes are being fashioned to carve logs of red oak into roof trusses for Notre-Dame-de-Paris, the world's most famous cathedral.
- Pinkydoll took off.
- Lester's Deli in Outremont underwent a shift in ownership: Montreal restaurateur Kevin Fung of spots like Imadake took over the Jewish deli destination with plans to take the brand worldwide.
- Montreal's Diving Bell Social Club, a popular event space on Saint-Laurent Blvd., announced it would shut its doors in December after repeated complaints from neighbours over noise.
- From the 1950s to the 1970s, Montreal was the bank robbery capital of North America.
Métro Média, which includes the Journal Métro and 16 local weeklies, announced the immediate suspension of its activities. The closure was in part due to the phasing out of Publisac, but there was more to it than that.
With 15,500 people having participated in its annual parade, Montreal Pride announced that it had experienced "a record year".
Scrambling with a labour shortage and inflation pressures on rent and food, Montreal restaurateurs are finding it even more difficult to be away from their loved ones: Maison Publique and Chez Sophie restaurants close.
- The Indigenous Health Center of Tiohtià:ke opened an urgent care clinic for Indigenous people, the first of its kind in Montreal.
- Back in the 1920s, Montreal was known as Sin City thanks to offering booze while the States turned off the tap, and our jazz scene all started in Little Burgundy.
- Bell Media announced it would cease operating VRAK, a French-language television channel based in Montreal, as of Oct. 1. The channel had been offering programming geared toward Quebec's youth for the past 23 years.
- A warehouse basement in an industrial area of Montreal was where Opercule decided to set up shop to produce between 25 and 30 tonnes of Arctic char per year.
- Four months after the fatal fire in Old Montreal, hundreds of apartments were still available on the Airbnb platform, but a new municipal squad prepared to flush them out.
- In the basement below Café Monk in Côte-Saint-Paul was transformed into a refurbished bunker named Ferme Fortuna.
- The Saint-Armand paper mill in the basement of an old linoleum factory in Ville-Émard on the banks of the Lachine Canal had a storied past, but decided to close.
- The landmark diner Momesso's, purveyors of some of the most fabled Italian subs in the city, went up for sale .
- One week before school started, and Quebec had 8,558 teaching positions to fill—1,859 full-time and 6,699 part-time, to be exact.
Claude Cormier, the celebrated Canadian landscape architect who helped design some of Montreal's best-known public spaces like the Ring and the 18 Shades of Gay art installation in the Village, died at 63 following complications from Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a rare genetic condition that predisposes patients to multiple cancers.
A heavy truck spilled a load of paint across Highway 40, staining the road white and prompting a massive cleanup and traffic jam.
- An unauthorized exhibition on Banksy opened in Montreal with a long line that turned the corner of Saint-Laurent Blvd and Ontario Street. Lack of works, lights, and general organization made way for a disastrous event.
- Platforms like Uber Eats continue to not only be used, but grow as well, and not all of those names are the real deal. In fact, in this case, a restaurant in Montreal was found to be making its sushi in the basement of a residential building.
- One of Montreal's biggest video game publishers mandated a two-day-a-week minimum return to work (RTO) policy on-site, but reports suggested this seemingly innocuous move had far more insidious underpinnings.
- St-Viateur Bagel shipped nearly 5,000 golden rings to the Vancouver International Airport less than 24 hours out of the oven.
- A shortage of affordable housing, the opioid crisis and the lingering effects of the pandemic have contributed to a rise in visible homelessness. Ten Montrealers share their stories.
- The Centre for Montreal Memories opened in the Quartier des spectacles between the Café Cléopâtre and the Le Centrale food hall.
- Montreal's last rental video store shuts down.
Since the Hamas attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 and the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the demonstrations that have followed—both in favour of and against Israel, or in support of Palestine—the city continues to reel from when it all started.
Headlines across the country turned an eye to Quebec since the province announced it would be effectively doubling the tuition costs of English-speaking and international students going to anglo-centric post-secondary institutions.
- The city says there are about 800 derelict buildings in Montreal, spurring a bylaw update that aims to crack down on property owners who let buildings sit abandoned and unused for a year or more.
- Truffles are found in almost every forest in the world. In Quebec, they were discovered for the first time in the 1980s. Since then, the craze has grown to the point where we have even started to cultivate it.
- Montreal bagel royalty, the Morena family, took on some Ontarians on Family Feud.
- The Régie des alcools won a case against a restaurant permit holder after calling into question how it was putting more emphasis on wine than food, even though bottle shop-restaurant hybrids like it are multiplying in the province.
- Workers say point-of-sale terminals are making it easier for employers to pocket their hard-earned cash.
- The Parti Québécois, the analysis concludes Quebec “has the financial capacity” to leave the Canadian federation and fly on its own.
- On the outskirts of Montreal, there’s an imposing 6,500-square-foot Georgian mansion in Châteauguay, Quebec you should see.
- After two years of inactivity, Montreal will increase the amounts paid to real estate developers to facilitate the construction of social and affordable housing on its territory.
More than 80,000 nurses and other health workers went on strike across Quebec to demand higher pay and improved working conditions, and that's just the start. It followed a strike by more than 420,000 teachers and other public-sector workers who are part of a common front.
Montreal’s Bonaventure Autoroute—a major traffic corridor with 20 million drivers on it a year—is set to become an urban boulevard along the St. Lawrence River that'll include space for pedestrian walkways, bike paths, and places to sit and enjoy the view – but would maintain its existing lanes.
- La Banquise, Montreal's Plateau poutine destination that's rarely without a queue, is sold to Chez Ashton owners Emily Adam and Jean-Christophe Lirette.
- Kwetiio, a member of the Mohawk Mothers, speaks about about the court ruling that has reinstated the archeologist panel helping to search for possible unmarked graves at the former Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.
- The worst of the pandemic may be over but its negative impact on businesses lingers: A coalition of business owners and associations came together to ask for an extension on loan repayments.
- There are nearly six million rats in Montreal and they are increasingly present in public places, says the official opposition at City Hall.
- This piece explores the impact of material characteristics and locations in film, highlighting Montreal's versatility and unique locations, and notes how location managers and scouts play a crucial but often unacknowledged role.
- The number of cases of trespassing into Montreal's metro tunnels reached an 18-year high likely closely linked to vulnerable populations who are experiencing homelessness and addiction.
- The National Assembly on Wednesday adopted a motion to defend Christmas after the Canadian Human Rights Commission cited celebration of the holiday as proof of Canada’s “colonialist” religious intolerance.
- The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal found that 22% of construction cones in the city center have been abandoned or are “useless”.
Public sector workers have been striking for weeks now to pressure the Quebec government into negotiating new collective agreements.
The major union federations, the Fédération autonome de l'enseignement (FAE), Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), and the common front, a coalition of unions representing more than 420,000 public sector workers in health-care and education, among other areas, are still on strike.
The future of a historic theatre in Montreal's Latin Quarter, which has stood for over 110 years, is in jeopardy due to a lack of federal funding for major renovations. Built in 1913, it says it has been trying to do renovation and restoration work to solidify its long-term survival.
- Montreal tables its first policy on nightlife, where it would have its first zone open 24 hours a day in 2024. The Latin Quarter is being considered for the pilot project.
- Hundreds of Montreal families could one day live on the site of the former National Film Board headquarters.
- The Montreal Casino will soon have an on-site luxury hotel. Set to open in three years, it will have 200 rooms and comes with a $150-million price tag, fitting in with the city's plan to revitalize Parc Jean-Drapeau, but some say it'll disrupt the island's tranquility.
- Construction on the new Montreal Holocaust Museum has begun. Work is expected to continue until the end of 2025, with the official inauguration planned for early 2026.