The self-cleaning toilets in Toronto. Montreal's new public toilets are expected to be similar. Photo: City of Toronto

Montreal: a place to pee, for free

(comments open on all RCI stories – scroll to bottom)

Once again a major North American city announces plans to create public toilets.

Unlike many cities in Europe and Japan, North American cities have lagged behind in offering public toilets.

Montreal has announced it will spend $3 million to install 12 self-cleaning public toilets.

Three of the facilities, which will be free to use, are planned to be completed in coming weeks.

One of Montreal’s new public toilets is nearing completion outside the Papineau subway station Photo: Kristy Rich-CBC

It’s not the first time, nor the first promise for Montreal. A similar proposal was promised in 2014, but  came to nothing.

Montreal however did have free public toilets back in the 1930’s.

Then Mayor Camillien Houde had a number of the buildings put up near highly frequented public spots in the city and two other larger ones built underground at Place D’Armes and  Phillips Square.  It was both a make-work project in the era of high unemployment, and to improve the city smell amongst other things.

Montreal’s original above ground public toilets in the 1930’s copper roof, fluted semi-columns, architectural elegance. This was originally in Viger Square, but is now moved to Square Saint-Louis. Photo: City of Montreal Archives

All were built to be simple yet elegant and certainly the octagonal  above ground facilities were designed to be architecturally pleasing to the eye.

Originally called “vaspasiennes” after the Paris tradition where they were named by the inventor in honour of Emporer Vaspasian who created public toilets in ancient Rome. ( He chose that name to avoid having his own name attached to his “pissoirs”.  In spite of the official name however, they quickly became knicknamed by Montrealers as, “Camilliennes” after Montreal’s mayor, Camillien Houde, who had them built.

The new Parisien “vaspasienne” are called “Sanisette”. This one on Rue Sebastapol, Photo: Agateller-wikicommons

Another Mayor later had them closed citing high maintenance and cleaning cost and apparently also due to some allegedly dubious behaviour in the two large underground facilities.

Although many European cities have very hi-tech and functional designs and materials for public urinals and facilities, this heritage one in Braunschweig Germany shows attention to architectural aesthetics and was restored in 2013: Photo TeWeBs-wikicommons

Toronto and Vancouver, are the other Canadian cities that do have public toilets, However, Toronto, as Canada’s biggest city, had promised 20 such facilities, but only three are operating.

Vancouver has nine self-cleaning public facilities and over 90 others in public parks.

One of Vancouver’s self-cleaning public toilets. Photo: CBC

In the U.S, New York had promised 20 in 2005, but only five are functioning. Seattle was a pioneer in 2003 spending $5 million on five automated toilets, but sold them off a few years later saying they had become filthy and used by drug dealers and prostitutes.

One of Montreal’s three remaining “vaspasiennes” has been converted to a small cafe. Another one is an ice cream shop, and the other is a flower shop.  Photo: Radio-Canada

Many other cities around the world are leaders in providing necessities especially in major cities thoughout Europe, such as Paris with its 400 “sanisettes”.

Additional information-sources

Categories: Health, Society
Tags: , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *