This history offers a fascinating glimpse at the creative tension that resulted when French and English speaking Irish Roman Catholics, divided by language but united by faith, clashed in a struggle of wills. It is the story of stubborn bishops, dynamic pastors, and colourful parishoners who contributed to the evolution of the basilica from a branch-chapel of Nôtre-Dâme, to the parent church of Montreal’s 250,000 English speaking Roman Catholics.
What We Choose to Remember features a cast of more than 30 characters, whose families arrived in successive waves of immigration. The oldest families arrived during the period of ‘two solitudes’ when Montreal’s population was more than 50% English. They share firsthand accounts decades of political upheaval. The most recent immigrants arrived believing linguistic conflicts were ancient history.
Our story takes place on the Indigenous lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Tiotià:ke (known as Montréal) has existed as a meeting place of many First Nation peoples, including but not limited to the Abenaki , Anishinaabeg (Algonquin), and the Huron-Wendat. We extend our deepest respect to the elders of these nations and to all Indigenous peoples who carry the history of this island’s land and waters. We also call upon all levels of government to adopt and implement the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation commission.