Lachine Canal

Montréal, Québec 

Photo Credit: Parks Canada


Initial Research by: Zoe Goldman

Continued Research by: Nicole Brekelmans

Edited by: Samantha Miller

Case study compiled in 2018



Project: Lachine Canal

Type of Urban Strategy: Water  

Type of ProjectWater Canal Revitalization / Recreational Boating 

LocationMontréal, Québec 

Date Designed/Planned: 1997

Construction Completed:  2002

Designer: Parks Canada 


The Canadian Government initiated the revitalization of the Lachine canal in 1974 and partnered with Parks Canada to begin a design starting in 1997. The revitalization of the canal was after its closure for over 30 years due to new road infrastructures and the opening of St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, allowing for greater lake access. Lachine Canal urban redevelopment focuses on the recreational potential of the space and the operation of the water, with its reopening for small boating in 2002. 


The recreational aspect of the Lachine Canal involved the development of a park and trail providing space and activities for the dense population of the area. The reopening of the canal for recreational boating increased tourism and job opportunities from the additional visitor and service centres constructed at the docks. The revitalization fosters economic development in the areas nearby, more efficient accessibility, and highlights the importance of this historic place.


The Lachine Canal is located by the southeast of the island of Montréal and is a designated National Historic Site under the management of Parks Canada. The Lachine Canal was opened in 1825 to facilitate the flow of goods and services along the St. Lawrence River and trade between Europe and the USA. The areas adjacent the Lachine Canal quickly became Canada’s first industrial corridor, and many working-class neighbourhoods nearby developed (Desaulniers, 2012). The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 led to the rapid decline of this industrial corridor, resulting in the closure of the Lachine Canal in 1970.

The Government of Canada initiated the revitalization in 1974 and then handed the project over to Parks Canada for completion in 2002. The reopening of the Lachine Canal fostered economic development in the areas nearby and provided an extensive recreational corridor to residents and visitors. The canal’s multi-purpose path allows residents to access the water and its park system, as well as connects to the extended Montréal Bicycle Paths.


The Lachine Canal passes through the southwest section of the Island of Montréal, from the Old Port to the Borough of Lachine and flows into Lake Saint-Louis. The canal is currently 14 kilometers long, approximately 50 meters wide and changes elevation from 12-15 meters through a series of 5 locks. The Lachine Canal is a major destination for recreational boaters, attracting 4,500 boaters each year.

A system of linear parks and public spaces fill the banks of the canal, which provide Montréaler's with a green corridor within the city. The multi-purpose path along its banks is one of the most popular paths in Canada, attracting over 1.2 million people per year. The path offers connections to Montréal's Cycle Network and South Shores Cycle Network (Parks Canada, 2018).


The history of the Lachine Canal dates back to the 1820s when Montréal began to realize its role in Canada’s economic development. The project would help build a significant North American economic empire in the St. Lawrence River area. The Lachine Canal allowed Montréal to take advantage of its strategic location along the St. Lawrence River that connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, allowing for continental penetration (more than 1500 kilometers inland Canada and USA). The construction of the Lachine Canal began in 1821 and was completed four years later in 1825 and was 14.6 meters wide, 13.4 kilometers long and 1.4 meters deep. The Lachine Canal underwent two phases of expansion between 1849 and 1885, resulting in an average width of 45 meters, and an average depth of 4.3 meters (Desauliniers, 2012). The Lachine Canal was declared a National Historic site in 1929 for its contribution to the economic and industrial development of Canada. Following the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, the use of the canal quickly declined until it was closed in 1970.

Beginning in 1974, the Government of Canada started transforming the unused canal, through a series of small interventions including the creation of a linear park system along its banks and a paved multi-purpose path for pedestrians and cyclists. Between 1997 and 2002, the Lachine Canal underwent an extensive restoration process to prepare it to reopen for recreational boating use. The Government of Canada and the City of Montréal invested over $100 million to restore and reopen the canal and enhance the adjacent green spaces and neighbourhood connections (London, 2003).

In 2015, the Government of Canada announced a $130 million infrastructure rehabilitation project that would span over five years. This project aims to fix the deteriorating infrastructure of the canal, upgrade its public realm elements, and ensure the sustainability of water management structures (Parks Canada, 2018).


The goal of the project is to improve quality of life for nearby residents and visitors while protecting the value of the canal’s heritage. The revitalization aims to transform the canal and its banks into sites for recreation, tourism and economic development, while creating connections to surrounding neighbourhoods, improving public access to the water and preserving the canals industrial character (London, 2003).


The revitalization of the Lachine Canal began four years after its closure when it became clear that this former industrial landscape could become a beautiful public amenity. The Government of Canada led the first canal revitalization and completed it over four years. It involved a series of small interventions such as removing the fill at the eastern end of the canal, restoring locks 1 and 2, landscape renovation, and the creation of a linear park system and a multi-purpose path along its banks.

The major revitalization from 1997 to 2002 happened in two parts: restoring the canal and improving public spaces. The Canal restoration phase focused on preparing the canal for recreational boat use. This involved rebuilding locks 3, 4 and 5, raising several bridges 2.8 meters for boating clearance, rebuilding Peel Basin, restoring the walls of the canal, installing interpretative signage and providing additional boat service amenities. The public space phase aimed to reconnect the canal to the city and surrounding neighbourhoods through the improvement and creation of canal-side parks and public spaces. The existing multi-purpose path was extended farther into the surrounding neighbourhood and underwent some renovations. The public spaces were strategically designed to penetrate the surrounding neighbourhoods, and create new connections to the canal (London, 2003).

In 2015, the team introduced the most recent updates to the Lachine Canal, through the $130 million infrastructure rehabilitation program. A primary focus of this program is upgrading the Canals deteriorated masonry walls and lock overflow weirs (Parks Canada, 2018).


An essential role of the designers was to preserve the canals industrial heritage. Many of the industrial structures that once stood along the Lachine Canal have been demolished or repurposed, making it more challenging to recognize the significance of the canal as an industrial corridor. The designers used remnant pieces of the industrial landscape to shape the canal side public spaces and reference the history of the site (London, 2003). The linear park system on the canals banks juxtaposes green space and industrial heritage to create a vibrant and exciting place to gather, wander, and relax.


Desaulniers, Francis. "Lachine Canal." The Canadian Encyclopedia. October 25, 2012.

London, Mark. "Heritage Preservation and the Lachine Canal Revitalization Project." The Plan, Summer 2003, 33-35.

Parks Canada Agency, and Government of Canada. "Lachine Canal National Historic Site of Canada Management Plan 2018." Parcs Canada. June 07, 2018.


This project provides an example of the widespread benefits of creating unique public green spaces in the heart of an urban center. The Lachine Canal is one of Montréal's top tourist destinations, attracting over 1.2 million people per year and has helped the south-west portion of the island of Montréal regain its economic opportunities. The revitalization enabled the surrounding neighbourhoods to redevelop and attract significant private investment for nearby projects. Within the first year of the canal’s reopening, over $350 million in investments helped in residential and commercial development projects near the canal (London, 2003).


One of the biggest challenges facing the City of Montréal was revitalizing the Lachine Canal after its closure, nearly 30 years earlier. Following the closure of the Lachine Canal in 1970, many industries, businesses and nearby neighbourhoods began to decline, and many of these places became abandoned. Parks Canada undertook the revitalization of the Lachine Canal to help Montréalers reclaim this space and recognize its significant role in Canada’s economic development. The restored Lachine Canal will provide a waterway for recreational boaters, a linear park system, public spaces, recreational opportunities, and it will catalyze the revitalization of the adjacent neighbourhoods (London, 2003).


The Lachine Canal has been a part of Montréal's history for over 150 years, playing a vital role in Canada’s industrial and economic history, being declared a National Historic Site in 1929 and now providing a green corridor in the heart of the city. The Government of Canada and the City of Montréal recognized the potential of the canal following its closure in 1970 and began its transformation soon after. The revitalization leveraged the canals industrial past to create a unique identity for the site.

Today, the Lachine Canal is utilized for recreational boating, while its banks consist of an assortment of parks and public spaces, as well as a heavily used multi-purpose path. It also offers itself a vibrant space to host both local and significant events alongside the canal (Parks Canada, 2018).


Some of the programmed elements of the design include:

-Local/larger events held along canal

-Recreational boating

-Lockage/mooring services

-Linear park system along banks

-Multi-purpose paths

-Old Port (attracts over 5 million visitors/year)


Public investments of $110 million (City of Montréal, Federal Government) were provided for reopening in 2002. In 2015, they launched a rehabilitation program for its infrastructure, highlighting a plan to receive funding over five years with federal investments of $130 million.