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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Celebrating Montreal Moving Day…Since 1750

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Photograph | Moving day, Montreal, QC, about 1930 | MP-1984.105.21
Moving Day circa 1930 took place May 1st (note that the trees are still bare).

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.

Photograph |

Photograph |

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.



  1. Great post – I’d always wondered what the root of all the moving day craziness was. Love the photos too.

  2. It’s the most nonsensical practice imaginable – it makes moving extravagantly expensive and a logistical nightmare, and it makes moving at any other time of year extraordinarily difficult.

  3. Moving day was May 1st in London, Ontario because university classes always ended by April 30.   

  4. Remember Montreal was once overrun with ex-pat Scots both rich and poor. Flitting Day, what you call Moving Day, is a tradition they brought with them. The legislation came later.

  5. Moving Day was also May 4th for a long time in Montreal.
    I think The modern convention of July 1st had more to do with children not finishing school.

    That’s what the old folks told me anyway.

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