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Montreal: an American City?

Updated on April 29, 2013

In 1775, at the beginning of the American Revolution, a Brigadier General name Richard Montgomery was heading north, along with Ethan Allen on the other side, to fight the British in Canada. The main objective was to take Montreal. There were many British soldiers headquartered there and at that time the whole province of Quebec were under British rule. Ethan Allen was the first to try and capture Montreal. Unfortunately, his mission failed but the day after, Richard Montgomery managed to take over the city without any opposition. It wasn't until the lost at the Battle of Quebec did the Americans retreated from Canada and gave back control to the British.

But going back to the fact that Richard Montgomery and the Continental Army have managed to conquer Montreal made me wonder: what would happen had Richard Montgomery won the decisive Battle of Quebec and how would Montreal look like as an American city?

Just to let you know this will be my own imagination and opinion. If anyone will take this too seriously then you should stop reading this article right now. Otherwise, have fun. So what would happen if Richard Mongomery won that battle in Quebec? The obvious answer will be that Quebec would be a state of the United States, but the modern geographical boundaries of the province that we know today would be different. Most likely, the southern portions of Quebec would be the place that America would like to settle because of good arable land and weather climate. The northern part would still be part of Canada but the semi-livable lands would also be available. Next would be the language. In my own imagination, English would be the dominant language and there would be less conflict on the language barriers than the one that is happening right now. I'm guessing there would still be a referendum but it would not have been a big news. It's probable that French Americans would express their feelings of trying to create their own country but the majority of them would not care and they would know that they have managed to assimilate into the American culture, just like the Cajuns down in Louisiana. They would still retain the French language, but they would still be Americanized.

For the city of Montreal, let's divide it into five categories: geography, economy, demography, culture, and religion. We can start with geography. Montreal, as an American city, would most likely have more buildings and heavy road infrastructure. It would also have a huge freeway system. The number of skyscrapers today is minimal but it would be tripled and be on par with New York City and Chicago if it was American. The western island of Montreal is the main suburban area for the city. If it was an American city, more skyscrapers would fill up the land too. The suburban environment would be pushed further west and off the island. Plus, the suburbs would be more vast than it is today. More bridges would have to be built to serve the big population and to control traffic congestion. Montreal currently has two main freeway system serving the suburbs and three of them serving the main city. If it was American, I would guess that five freeways would serve the suburban areas and three more would serve the main city. The freeways would be much wider as with any other major cities in the United States, with five lanes on each side. The subway system would be different where most likely if it was an American city, it would have many lines just like New York City. On a note, since the current subway system is the only one in North America that does not have its trains traveling on the surface, then there would be more trains traveling on the surface if it was American. Roads all over Montreal and the rest of Quebec are one of the worst in North America. Lots of cracks and potholes are making it a big problem for drivers to travel to work and home, fearing that their suspension will be broken. If it was American, the road would be well maintained because there would be more money available through private contractors and more resources available to fix the roads. In general, Montreal would have one of the best infrastructures in the world if it was an American city.

The next category would be the economy. If Montreal was an American city, the economy would probably be the fifth largest in the world and the fourth largest in North America. With many skyscrapers built on the island, many major corporations would be headquartered there. The port of Montreal would be much bigger covering 7 miles of the southern coast of the island, where thousands of ships would travel back and forth and cause heavy shipping traffic. Plus cruise ships would dot the port. The waterfront would have many modern shops and restaurants as it is with many American cities. Currently, Montreal has preserved its old European charm with many old buildings preserved. My guess that if it was an American city, half of them would be demolished and half would be kept preserved. So the port would generate a lot of revenue and millions of tourists would flock to Montreal, most likely making Montreal one of THE top destinations of the world. Probably as an American city, a world class banking center would be established and Montreal would be one of the crux of the world's economy to function, along with New York City and Chicago. World class hotels would be set up also and most likely the city would produce famous millionaires and billionaires. Crowded sidewalks would be a hazard yet be a sign of a city in progress. More businesses and stores would be set up, but maybe the tax would be a little higher. In another area of the economy would be the sports industry. Currently, Montreal has been successful in hockey but has had many troubles with other sports teams mainly with the fated demise of the Montreal Expos. Plus, Montreal doesn't currently own a basketball team yet lot's of Montrealers play basketball on the streets, in schools, and in public fitness facilities. Football is huge but it is only in the Canadian Football League whereas the NFL garners huge ratings among a majority of Canadians. There are rumors of expanding the NFL to Canada and Montreal is looking to be a number one choice alongside its rival city, Toronto. If Montreal was an American city, it wouldn't have a problem with being in all of the North American sports leagues. Sports team executives will know that Montreal is the place to be to make money through sports and with a good money generating revenue comes with competitive sports teams. Heck maybe Montreal might have won five World Series championships, 27 Stanley Cup champions, two NBA Titles, and three Superbowl wins. Economic life, in general, would be electrifying, buzzing with many people creating wealth and opportunity.

The next category would be demographics. Montreal would have as many immigrants from all over the world if it was an American city. Maybe the history of immigration to Montreal would be on par with New York City, with many European immigrants, both western and eastern, Asians, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, etc. A note on the Hispanic side of immigration. Since the United States is getting more Hispanic immigrants, Montreal would have many Hispanic immigrants also. Montreal currently has Hispanic immigrants but it is only a few. There would definitely be a big black population also. At this point, I don't mean to be very mean but I am just being realistic based on my experience and observation. Majority of the black community still live in ghettos in major American cities and since Montreal would have been one, there would be a definite area of low income black families and a rise in gang crime. It's a sad thing to say for me but I believe it needs to be said. Regardless, there have been improvements taking place where small business are springing up and crime rates are going down, mainly in Los Angeles' South Central area. It was a surprise when I started reading about it and for that I hope the very best for that city. Back to Montreal, the next thing I could imagine is that Chinatown would be much bigger and more busier and dirtier, since that is what I see when I travel. But that would be a good sign because that shows progress and people doing good business. Population wise, Montreal would be a very crowded city than it is today. The current population is close to 4 million. My guess is that it would be close to 6 million by the 1990's.

The next one to cover is the culture. Currently, Montreal has a very European feel to the city environment. Another culture that is unique for a city is their rivalry against Canada's largest city: Toronto. In an episode of The Simpsons, Bart and the gang go to Shelbyville to get back their homegrown lemon tree that was stolen by a group of Shelbyville gangs. The lemon tree was stolen because of an argument about which town is the best: Springfield or Shelbyville. That kind of feud feeling is what actually exist in Montreal, but not in a violent way. In Canada, it's a culture for Canadians to hate Toronto. There was a billboard sign erected up one time declaring Hate Toronto Day. And the other city that is on board with that attitude is Montreal. Whenever you talk about Toronto in Montreal, and especially how awesome it is, people will think that you're a traitor and that you should get out of Montreal. There is this sense that Montrealers felt robbed when major corporations in the mid 1970's started to relocate to Toronto and that it passed Montreal as the largest city in Canada. In any case, since there is no real rivalry between major American cities, it would be the same for Montreal, sparing the trouble of trying to make an impression of how awesome a city Montreal is because it will automatically attract many people and observers. Montreal would also be a more friendly place because Americans are generally more friendlier than Canadians. And I speak as a Canadian. Even in New York City there were many friendly people that helped us get along the way of where we were going. With the European feel I mentioned above, I think it would be diminished a little bit because many American cities had to remove a lot of historical heritage building to make way for modern buildings. But I think Montrealers would fight to make sure their heritage buildings would not be demolished and the American way of renovating the city would still be on the tables to engage upon.

Lastly, religion would play a very important role to the city. As of this moment, Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion of the province of Quebec, mainly because of the French European Catholic influence that was brought to the New World. Unfortunately, religious devotion has declined in Canada and Roman Catholicism is continuing to decline. But just because Catholicism is dying in Quebec doesn't mean people are turning into atheism right away. There was a report from Montreal's local news station that while Catholicism was going down, Protestantism was slowly going up. It could be that many former Catholics have switched faiths instead of being faithless. Montreal's history as an American city would either have more Protestants than Catholics or the population would be split in half. The religious devotion in the 19th century would have been so high but it would deteriorate in the second half of the 20th century because of the Supreme Court decision to ban prayers in schools and public life, meaning more Montrealers would just be focused on businesses and art instead of religion. Probably many famous preachers would come out of that city and there would be street revivals during the economic recessions that took place on certain years in the United States. But I believe that majority of American Montrealers would continue to cling to religion in times of need and trouble and that a majority of them would still go to church or synagogue. I truly believe that because at this real present time, Americans are either religiously stable or are becoming more religious. Either way, majority of Americans believe in God.

To sum this up, Montreal would have been much better as an American city. People would be different, and a different view of the city would be grandiose. It is so fun to imagine what some things would be like if the past occurred in a different way. Choices we make would lead to something else whether it would be good or bad. Even little choices we decide could change the course of human history. There are those that want to believe and make it possible that time travel existed, so that they can go back to change things that in the future would make things much better.

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