MP-1978.107.53 | Church basement soup kitchen, Montreal, about 1930

Church basement soup kitchen, Montreal, about 1930
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
12 x 17 cm
Purchase from Napoleon Antiques
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  crowd (32) , depression (3) , elder (2) , event (534) , event (101) , figure (1849) , group (644) , History (944) , history (162) , Photograph (77678) , soup kitchen (1) , Trappist monk (1)
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Keys to History

In Quebec, social assistance was traditionally channeled through denominational agencies: Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. The challenge that unemployment relief posed to these groups in Montreal was staggering. More than 200,000 Montrealers depended on relief during the winter of 1932-33, close to a quarter of the city's population of 874,000.

Nowhere in Canada were private charities able to cope with the numbers of Depression-era unemployed. In August 1933, Montreal municipal authorities were forced to assume the task, even though the city's finances, like those of many Canadian towns and cities, were in bad shape. Religious agencies continued to help, but in Montreal they had ceased to be the last line of defence.

  • What

    This basement soup kitchen was typical of many in Montreal and across Canada, as churches pitched in to help the unemployed and desperately poor.

  • Where

    Montreal was one of the cities most afflicted by unemployment. Manufacturing was hit hard and so was transportation, throwing many thousands of rail- and dockworkers out of work

  • When

    In the spring of 1935, Canada's mayors met in Montreal to call for "relief from relief," hoping that the senior levels of government would assume the burden.

  • Who

    Most of those being fed are men, possibly single men and the elderly, who found social services harder to obtain than family heads.