Newcomers to Montreal often remark that July 1st Moving Day rush is nonsensical. But I’m pleased to say that this tradition is rooted in 260 years of advocacy for tenants’ rights.
The moving day tradition goes back at least as far as 1750, when a bylaw was put in place to prevent landlords from evicting tenants during the winter. However, this meant that come spring, many families who’d been unable to make rent were forced to move on.
As far back as 1903, it was recommended that moving day be changed to July 1st so that children would not have to change schools at the end of the school year (see Gazette archive). The fickle weather at the beginning of May was another concern. And while I’ve heard folks hypothesize that moving day was scheduled July 1st in order to overshadow Canada day festivities, tenants rights groups argued that since it was a statutory holiday, workers would not have to sacrifice wages in order to move.
A 1973 legislation ‘officially’ moved moving day to July 1st and in 1974, tenants benefited from an extra 2 months on their leases that year. While the July 1st lease-start date is not a legal requirement, the number of moves that take place this day increase with every decade.
Interestingly, this Toronto Star article from 1945 also refers to Moving Day on May 1st, although the tradition must have fizzled out some time since.
Photos from the McCord Collection, all taken in the 1930s.