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Where It All Began: A Tour

The original room where the first meeting of the Canadian Medical Association was held will be open for visitors at the following times:

  • Monday, August 21 between 4:45-5:45 pm;
  • Tuesday, August 22 between 12:00-1:00 pm;
  • Wednesday, August 23 between 12:45-1:45 pm.

A 15-minute walk from the Hilton and the Québec City Convention Centre, this beautifully restored room holds all the charm and secrets of 150 years ago. We hope you can make time for this historic pilgrimage.

20, rue Port-Dauphin, Quebec


The first attempt to create a national medical association occurred in 1844, when Dr. Joseph Painchaud and 20 colleagues published a letter in the Montreal Medical Gazette calling for the creation of an association in Canada. The goals were to provide relief for distressed physicians who were unable to practise because of infirmity or old age, and to help their spouses or children. A meeting was held the following year, but enthusiasm for the new body was limited.

A second attempt was undertaken by Dr. Francis Badgley, one of the pioneers of the first creation attempt in 1844. He reignited the proposal in 1849. A meeting was held at Trois-Rivières, Qué., where Dr. Joseph Morrin was elected president. A follow-up meeting was to be held in Kingston, Ont., but it never happened and the project, once again, petered out.

Galvanized by the birth of Canada on July 1, 1867, Dr. William Marsden and the Quebec Medical Society organized a meeting in Quebec City on October 9, 1867, where 164 physicians from across the four-province country met in the Grand Hall of Laval University. Dr. James Arthur Sewell organized many committees to solidify the project, and Sir Charles Tupper was elected as the first president of the newly created Canadian Medical Association.

The following are excerpts from the first meeting on October 9-10, 1867, from the Canada medical journal and monthly record of medical and surgical science Vol. 4, no. 4 Oct. 1867.

  • Second day, October 10
    Nine o'clock this morning was the hour named for the Association to re-assemble; but the dissipation of the previous night made many rise somewhat later, and it was quite ten o'clock when Dr. Tupper, C. B., took the chair, and called the meeting to order.

    Dr. Sangster, of Toronto, rose and said he had observed that the morning papers had stated that the reporters from the press had been re¬fused admission to the meeting of the Convention. If such was the case he certainly thought a mistake had been made, and that no time should be lost in rectifying it.

    At 2 o'clock the members of the Convention assembled, but as the Nominating Committee had not concluded their labours, it was nearly 3 o'clock before the meeting was called to order by Dr. Sewell, who then announced that the members of the convention and their ladies were invited by the proprietors of the Beauport Lunatic Asylum to visit that institution to-morrow at two o'clock. The Convention would meet at the Laval University, at half-past one, when the Quebec Medical Society would provide means of transit to the Asylum.

    In accordance with the invitation given the previous Day, those mem¬bers of the Association whose time permitted, found on the adjournment of the meeting that ample provisions had been made to transport them in ease and comfort to Beauport Asylum. At 2 o'clock, upwards of thirty carriages, in which were a number of ladies, left the Laval University for Beauport. The buildings were toured and nearly all of the 614 patients seen.

    At lunch, Dr. Tupper acknowledged the toast in a happy manner. He had often wondered how so remote a city as Ottawa could have been selected as the seat of Government, but he now saw how desirable it was that the grave business of legislation should be disposed of elsewhere than amidst such continuous scenes of fascination and excitement as had been present in this gay city of Quebec.
  • The Quebec Medical Society’s ball to the delegates
    The ball, which was given to the members of the Canadian Medical Association by the Quebec Medical Society, took place in the evening of the 9th October, in the Music Hall, and was a gathering which did credit not only to the Society, under whose auspices it was under-taken, but to the ancient capital itself.

    Between eight and nine o'clock the guests began to arrive and at half-past nine the Lieut. Governor, Sir N. F. Belleau (who was received at the entrance by a guard of honor from the 9th Volunteer Battalion), entered the room, the Band of the 30th Regiment playing the National Anthem. By eleven o'clock the Music Hall presented a gay appearance, the only drawback being its somewhat crowded state, the bright uniforms of the regulars and the volunteers contrasting well with the more sombre dress of the delegates.

    Dancing was kept up with unusual vigor till an early hour in the morning, 1st aid professors of medical universities, in whose countenance a smile is seldom supposed to appear, tripping the light fantastic toe with an energy that showed how fully they appreciated the opportunity the Quebec Medical Society had afforded them of forgetting for the nonce the weightier matters which occupied the attention of the Association.

    At midnight a splendid supper, embracing everything that the most fastidious could desire, was spread in the large dining hall of the St. Louis Hotel, to which every guest did ample justice, nothing stronger than tea and coffee being supplied.


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