Raptorsmania in Quebec shows how much Canada has changed

This week, just steps from where that 1995 gathering took place, Quebeckers finally returned the affection (sort of) as thousands of Montrealers packed a downtown street to show their love for a sports team from Toronto.

As Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante closed off part of Peel Street for outdoor screenings of the NBA Finals, there was no doubting the authenticity of the Raptorsmania gripping Quebec.

The Toronto International Film Festival draws movie stars and the city’s music scene is one of North America’s hottest with Drake, The Weeknd and Shawn Mendes all serving as big Toronto-boosters.

A group of Montreal business types, led by investment banker and former senator Michael Fortier, is even assembling a bid to bring an NBA franchise to the city.

While the Raptors have played a preseason game before a sellout crowd at Montreal’s Bell Centre for the past couple of years, the enthusiasm of Quebec fans in recent weeks can only help their cause.

“This sense of belonging developed by young generations and other fans around Toronto sports teams could contribute, consciously or not, to a continuation of the construction of a national identity that began under Pierre Elliott Trudeau and, thus, could ensure Canadian unity.”

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