Expo 67, held in Montréal from April to October 1967, was a World’s Fair that formed the centrepiece of Canada’s celebrations for the centennial of Confederation. The International and Universal Exposition drew more than 64 million visitors from Canada and around the world, generated widespread pride in the history, accomplishments, and future prospects of Canada, and enhanced the city’s and Canada’s prestige on the international stage. Expo was an artistic and cultural marvel. Its theme, Man and his World, inspired dramatic pavilions, impressive architecture, modern design, cinematic and technological innovations, and leading artistic performances from across Canada and more than 60 other countries. Built on an ambitious site, which included a new island created in the St. Lawrence River and another expanded, Expo’s enduring legacy includes such landmarks as Habitat 67, the Biosphere, and Parc Jean-Drapeau. Illustrating the optimistic outlook of many in Canada in the 1960s, yet foreshadowing the social upheaval to come, Expo 67 left an imprint on all who attended, even as it highlighted important emerging questions of Indigenous identity and the future of Quebec in Canada.
Since the mid-19th century, world’s fairs have showcased innovation as well as the cultural and other achievements of nations, and Expo 67 did just that. The event welcomed dignitaries and engaged in the usual pomp and ceremony of international events. Visitors enjoyed stunning architecture, new films and cinematic techniques, exhibits, rides, and world class artistic performances. Over 60 national pavilions were built, many of them exceptional. The American pavilion featured a giant, spherical bubble, or geodesic dome; Germany’s iconic pavilion resembled a 15-storey free-form tent; and Canada built a nine-storey, inverted pyramid called Katimavik. Technology was also on display with the United States and the Soviet Union exhibiting their competing space programs and the National Film Board’s Labyrinth Pavilion featuring a multi-screen, three-storey theatre. Artistic performances showcased Canadian and international cultures. When completed, Expo seemed like the future brought to life with its landscaped, urban, automobile-free environment, and the connections created by the walkways, bridges, canals, and mass transit.
Despite the fair’s theme of unity, Expo had its share of problems including cost overruns, construction problems, and political controversies. The Indians of Canada Pavilion, for example, told a story of broken promises, confiscated land, and the destruction of culture. Tensions between English and French-Canadian communities were immortalized in the controversial visit of French president Charles de Gaulle, who shouted “Vive le Québec libre!” to a gathered crowd outside Montréal’s City Hall. Overall, the fair was considered an outstanding success, and thousands of Canadians flocked to Montréal to see it.