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Camillien Houde (13 August 188911 September 1958) was a Quebecmarker politician, a Member of Parliament, and a four-time mayor of Montreal.

Political career

Houde was born in Montrealmarker on 13 August 1889 and died there on 11 September 1958. He was nicknamed "l'imprévisible" -- the unpredictable. He was the only surviving child of Azade Houde and Josephine Frenette. He is descended from the first Houde ancestor, Louis Houde, who came from Manou (La Loupe, Eure & Loirmarker, Francemarker) to Quebec in 1647. Louis Houde's son was Louis H. who married Marie Lemay in 1685.

He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec as a member of the Conservative Party for the riding of Montreal-Sainte-Marie in the 1923 election. He was defeated in the 1927 election, but re-elected in a by-election on 24 October 1928. He was elected leader of the Conservative Party on 10 July 1929, led the party to defeat in the 1931 election, and failed to win a seat in Montreal-Saint-Jacques after vacating his previous seat. He resigned as Conservative leader on 19 September 1932.

He moved to federal politics and lost in a bid for election as a Conservative candidate for the Canadian House of Commons in a 1938 by-election in the Montreal riding of St. Mary. In 1940, he was arrested and charged under the Defence of Canada Regulations. He was imprisoned at Camp Petawawamarker in Ontario until the end of the war. He ran again in St. Mary, this time as an independent candidate, in the 1945 federal election, but was again defeated. He won a seat as an independent candidate in the riding of Papineau in the 1949 federal election by less than 100 votes. He did not run for re-election in the 1953 election.

Houde became a figure of ridicule in parts of English Canada because of his conduct in opposition to conscription. During the 1949 federal election, the Toronto Star, which openly supported the Liberal Party, attempted to link the unpopular Houde with George Drew, then leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada even though Houde was running as an independent candidate against an official Progressive Conservative candidate. The Star accused Drew of making a secret pact with Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis to appoint Houde to the Cabinet as Drew's Quebec lieutenant should the Tories win the election. The newspaper's campaign reached its culmination the Saturday before the election with a banner front page headline reading:




(in later editions, the last line was changed to "VOTE ST. LAURENT").[58456]

Concurrent to his career in provincial and federal politics, Houde was mayor of Montreal from 1928 to 1932, from 1934 to 1936, from 1938 to 1940, and from 1944 to 1954.

World War II controversy

When World War II came, Houde then campaigned against conscription.

In its 20 February 1939 issue, Time Magazine quoted from Mayor Camillien Houde's speech to a YMCA audience on the subject of War in Europe:
If war comes, and if Italy is on one side and England on the other, the sympathy of the French-Canadians in Quebec will be on the side of Italy. Remember that the great majority of French-Canadians are Roman Catholics, and that the Pope is in Rome. We French-Canadians are Normans, not Latins, but we have become Latinized over a long period of years. The French-Canadians are Fascists by blood, but not by name. The Latins have always been in favour of dictators.

On 2 August 1940, Houde publicly urged the men of Quebec to ignore the National Registration Act. Three days later, he was placed under arrest by the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker on charges of sedition, and then confined without trial in internment camps in Petawawa, Ontariomarker and Minto, New Brunswickmarker until 1944. Upon his release on 18 August 1944, he was greeted by a cheering crowd of 50,000 Montrealers, and won back his job as Montreal mayor in 1944's civic election.


On his death in 1958, Camillien Houde was interred in the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neigesmarker in Montreal, Quebec in an Italian marble replica of Napoleon's tomb.

Mayor Houde was a reform-minded mayor in the areas of patronage, unemployment, and organized crime. He was also responsible for some of the major public park improvements in Montreal including the park on Mont Royalmarker with its man-made lake and park facilities.

After his death, Mayor Jean Drapeau named a new road over Mount Royal after Houde, an act many considered ironic, as Houde and many others had long opposed building roads over the city's famous mountain.

See also


  • Tard, Louis-Martin (1999). Camillien Houde, Le Cyrano de Montréal, XYZ éditeur: Montréal, 214 pages, ISBN 978-2-89261-263-9
  • Marsolais, Claude-V. et al., (1993). Histoire des maires de Montréal, VLB Éditeur, Montréal, 323 pages
  • Grenon, Hector (1979). Camillien Houde, Stanké: Montréal, 319 pages, ISBN 2-7604-0007-7
  • Lévesque, Robert, and Robert Migner (1978). Camillien et les années vingt, suivi de Camillien au goulag, Éditions des Brûlés: Montréal, 183 pages
  • La Rocque, Hertel (1961). Camillien Houde, le p'tit gars de Ste-Marie, Éditions de l'Homme: Montréal, 157 pages
  • Rumilly, Robert (1958). Histoire de la province de Québec. Tome XXX Camillien Houde, Fides: Montréal, 256 pages

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