Saint-Jean-sur-RichelieuSaint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Qué, City, pop 37 386 (2001c), 36 435 (1996c), 37 607 (1991c), area 47.06 km2, inc 1856, is located on the west bank of the upper portion of the RivièreRICHELIEU, some 40 km southeast of MONTRÉAL. Across the river is the smaller, adjoining site of Iberville, long known as Saint-Jean, and popularly as Saint-Jean d'Iberville.
Saint-Jean originated as one of a series of forts along the Richelieu during the French regime. After the AMERICAN REVOLUTION, numerous LOYALISTS joined the local families. Through the 19th century, Saint-Jean became increasingly French Canadian and Catholic. Politically, it was a Liberal stronghold; one of its inhabitants, Félix-Gabriel MARCHAND, became premier of Québec in 1897.
Railways and canals were introduced early in the region to accommodate a thriving commercial trade between Canada and the US and to avert the cumbersome rapids just below Saint-Jean. In 1836 the first railway line in Canada, the CHAMPLAIN AND ST LAWRENCE RAILROAD, connected Saint-Jean and LA PRAIRIE. The Chambly Canal was finished in 1843. Owing to the success of rival railway interests and a failure to achieve industrial growth, however, the town declined in the latter 19th century.
In the 20th century, several large industries (notably American multinationals) were attracted by generous incentives and the CN and CP rail routes. A decline of secondary manufacturing since the early 1980s, however, has contributed to increasing unemployment in the region. A nearby military base provides some employment and a military college opened its doors to academic training in 1952. Agriculture Canada has a horticultural research centre in the city.
Saint-Jean has experienced physical growth in recent years. Tall buildings have begun to dot an otherwise flat landscape. The original town, "Vieux Saint-Jean," is experiencing a cultural rejuvenation.