City of Montreal honours businessman, philanthropist Charles Bronfman

Charles Bronfman and Valerie Plante at Montreal City Hall. Tuesday May 21, 2019. Global News

The City of Montreal invited businessman and philanthropist Charles Bronfman to sign the city’s book of honour on Tuesday, making him an honorary citizen.

Bronfman, an illustrious businessman who led Seagram spirits for 50 years, is being honoured for his contributions to the city of Montreal during his lifetime.

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Mayor Valérie Plante lauded Bronfman’s decision to keep the company’s headquarters in Montreal.

“He didn’t have to, but he made the unselfish decision to help his city,” she said. “He committed himself, his time and his money.

“Your family and yourself have contributed so much to Montreal that today, it is now our turn to say thank you,”  Plante said.

Bronfman also dedicated a big part of his life to philanthropic endeavours.

For 30 years, Bronfman was chairman of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, a group of foundations operating in Canada, Israel, and the United States.

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He was also co-chair of Historica Canada, which is responsible for producing the Heritage Minutes — a series of 60-second videos depicting important people or events in Canadian history.

Bronfman also co-founded Birthright, a foundation that provides educational travel experiences to Jewish youth.

But perhaps what he is best known for is for being the first owner of the Montreal Expos.

Even though the team was sold in 1991 and moved away from the city, people still have the Expos very much in mind — especially as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the team.

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During her speech, Plante brought up the first Expos game and how it was the first time an anthem, other than the American anthem, was sung at a baseball game.

“It was that day, 50 years ago, that our love affair with the Montreal Expos began,” she said. “It was the day the name nos amours was inaugurated.”

WATCH: Montreal celebrates Expos’ 50th anniversary

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Montreal celebrates Expos’ 50th anniversary

Bronfman admitted he had fond memories of that day.

“I have to say, Madame Mayor, you brought tears to my eyes, remembering April 8, 1969,” he said. “Mayor Drapeau was sitting next to me. It was a cloudy day, there were 40,000 Americans sitting in the stands at Shea Stadium and Maureen Forrester and the band from the College militaire Royale were on the field.

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“Maureen sang O Canada and the tears came down. It was quite a wonderful afternoon.”

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A very humble Bronfman thanked the mayor for making him an honorary citizen.

“I would like first of all to thank all of you for coming, it’s very sweet of you,” he said. “And I accept your gesture, Madame Mayor. Not on my behalf, but on behalf of my family.”

Bronfman noted the contributions of family members who came before him and those who are following in his footsteps.

His son Stephen, who hopes to one day bring the Expos back to Montreal, expressed his gratitude as well.

“The city has been great to the family and vice versa,” said Stephen. “Everything is done as a team effort. Life is a team sport and we’ve been playing together for a long time — Montreal and the family.”

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