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From Île Jésus to the City of Laval
celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. To commemorate the event,
more than 500 historical documents were published on the city’s official
website. Being the third largest city in the province after Montreal and Quebec
City, Laval’s creation story is worth learning about.
Laval History & Heritage, a new series brought to you by Laval Families Magazine, is sure to offer its readers fascinating facts and stories of our city’s past to its present.
Before becoming a seigneury, Île Jésus was known to the First Nations peoples as a resting place. During long voyages, the island was used as a place to recoup. Quebec’s territory, then called New France, was colonized by the French. In 1636, Île Jésus was given to the Jesuits as a seigneury, hence its name.
At that time, the seigneury wasn’t well exploited, and over time it passed through the hands of several individuals and institutions. It belonged to François Berthelot, counsellor and secretary to King Louis XIV. Three years later, in 1675, Berthelot passed it over to François Montmorency de Laval, a bishop, in exchange for a small island on the St-Lawrence River called Île d’Orléans near Quebec City. Under Montmorency de Laval, Île Jésus grew in population. In 1680, the island was ruled by the Quebec Seminary until 1854. By 1702, the Saint-François de Sales, Sainte-Rose de Lima, Saint-Martin and the Saint-Vincent de Paul parishes began to take shape. In 1823, Île Jésus had a population of 6500 on its primarily rural territory.
With the abolition of the seigneurial system in 1854, the first municipal system was created here permanently in 1855, also called the town system. This new system of land management called for each group of 300 inhabitants to become a municipality. At that time, populations were grouped by parish. In 1855, the municipalities of Saint-François de Sales, Saint-Martin, Sainte-Rose de Lima and Saint-Vincent de Paul were created. That same year, the Corporation du comté de Laval was created, a form of government that permitted the mayors of the municipalities to discuss issues of common interest.
By 1953, Île Jésus had 17 municipalities on its territory before finally coming together to form a total of 14 with the creation of the City of Laval in 1965.
Becoming the City of Laval
By 1950, much had changed in the perception of Île Jésus. Suburban neighbourhoods were popping up, thanks to the increased popularity of the automobile. Residents could commute to Montreal for work while living on Île Jésus. With Île Jésus’s proximity to developed roads, bridges and highways, the shift from an agricultural community to a residential one took place.
The various sectors became their own towns, governed independently, even though they shared the same territory. Some towns had more resources than others, and some had more services than others. To alleviate this situation and to allow the towns to progress and share municipal services, the Corporation du comté de Laval became the Corporation interurbaine de l’île Jésus in 1959. It was believed that the island would benefit by becoming one city, and despite some opposition, the Quebec Government announced the fusion of the towns.
On August 6th, 1965, the City of Laval was officially inaugurated, bringing together Auteuil, Chomedey, Duvernay, Laval-sur-le-Lac, Saint-François and Sainte-Rose. Jean-Noël Lavoie became the first mayor of Laval on August 16th, 1965.
To find out more or to access the historical documents, visit Laval’s website at laval.ca/histoire-et-patrimoine.
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