History in the making: 5 Montréal historical highlights

published on August 31, 2021
Tourisme Montréal: News and People

Montréal has always been an international place of gathering, from epic-scale celebrations to the Olympic games. And as a host city, Montréal has welcomed millions of attendees for monumental events with real significance – making history in the process. Here’s a look back at five history setting events (and a look at more to come)!


In 1967, the world turned its eyes to Montréal for the International and Universal Exposition. Known simply as “Expo 67,” the event was a benchmark not just for Montréal but also for large-scale events. With 62 participating nations and nearly 55-million visitors, the global event is recognized as the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century – and also changed the face and fabric of Montréal into an international city ready to host the world.


Infrastructure created for Expo 67, including the métro system, the island oases of Parc Jean-Drapeau (also receiving an epic transformation) and the hotels – played a part in securing the city the world’s largest sporting event: the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. Over 6,000 athletes from 92 countries competed in 27 sporting disciplines, in the gold medal architectural wonders that are Montréal’s Parc Olympique.


Welcoming over 10,000 delegates, making for one of Canada’s largest international events to date, the 2005 UN Climate Change Conference set the bar for environmental meetings. As the first meeting of participants of the Kyoto Protocol since its signing in 1997, the conference also saw the birth of the Montréal Action Plan’s extension and widening of the Kyoto agreement past its initial 2012 expiration.


Hosted at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, the Fifth International AIDS Conference welcomed doctors and scientists from around the world facing the HIV/AIDS crisis. Unlike previous years, however, the 1989 edition was punctuated by the arrival of over 300 protestors from organizations like ACT UP (Michael Hendricks, a founder of which, is shown above second from the left), AIDS Action Now! And Réaction-SIDA stormed the conference carrying protest signs. Rather than being turned away, however, this event is still remembered as a vital example when activists, allies and people living with AIDS took their rightful place in the conversation related directly to their own health and survival.


For only the second time in its history that Alcoholics Anonymous’s international convention was held outside of the United States, the group marked its 50th anniversary in Montréal with an event still upheld by the organization as a high-water mark. Breaking all previous attendance records with over 45,000 A.A. members, this gathering made for a truly golden anniversary.


As one of the world’s top events cities, Montréal is set to welcome some major international events – and here’s just two:


Also known informally as AIDS 2022, this event marks the return of the International AIDS Society to Montréal after the groundbreaking 1989 meeting discussed above. With a projected 39,000 hotel room nights and an estimated $20.7 million in tourism spending, AIDS 2022 is already set to be one of the biggest events on next year’s international meetings calendar.


As one of the biggest events of its kind worldwide, the 2022 Lions Club International Convention will welcome over 10,000 delegates from its membership in over 200 countries. And it’s not the Lions Club first rodeo in Montréal by a long-shot – both their 1979 and 1996 annual meetings (their 62nd and 76th, respectively) were held in the city, and the 2022 edition marks their 104th gathering (following the Covid-19-related cancellation of their 2020 event, originally scheduled in Montréal).

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