It goes without saying, both Montreal and Toronto make a big deal of St Patrick’s Day, patron saint of the Irish. Both cities have significant populations of Irish heritage dating back to the first colonization of North America by European settlers. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certain that it’s not possible to be more than 2nd generation Canadian and not have some Irish heritage somewhere in the mix. They’re a welcoming, friendly, and inclusive bunch.
It follows logically that the parade dedicated to celebrating them would reflect those traits. Both Montreal and Toronto shut down major streets on the Sunday closest to the 17th of March, both cities have floats with music and dancing, both cities display their heritage loud and proud with marching bands and flotillas.
However, and this is just my personal experience, there is a distinction in the level of public drunkenness in both cities, with, predictably, Montreal leading the way. While I did not witness a single open container in Toronto (granted, I did not cover the whole route), my experience in Montreal in 2016 was one of general acceptance by the authorities that everyone and their grandmother would be nursing some kind of alcoholic beverage. I distinctly remember ordering a coffee “with room for Bailey’s” and adding it in from a freshly purchased bottle in the street to the total indifference of nearby police officers.
That’s another distinction I’ve been taking for granted but am coming to learn is specific to Montreal. On any given beautiful summer day in Montreal, you can have a picnic with alcohol, provided you remembered to also bring food. This is a luxury afforded to no other Canadian city, I was shocked to learn.
A friend of mine moved to Vancouver and was astounded to learn that you cannot have an open container of alcohol on the very scenic and picnic-able English Bay (while other questionably illicit substances somehow completely seem to escape the notice of the authorities however).