Natural Resources Canada seismologist Allison Bent said it was a magnitude 4.5 quake and was centred southeast of Montreal.
"The epicentre is 21 kilometres west-northwest of Saint Hyacinthe and that's about 37 kilometres from Montreal," Bent said in an interview from Ottawa.
There were no reports of damage although the quake did create jitters that had some people scurrying briefly from their houses. The temblor lasted just a few seconds, causing buildings to rumble.
Bent said any serious damage was highly unlikely.
"Based on the size of the earthquake, I wouldn't expect there would be any. It is possible it's big enough (to) have shaken objects off tables or it's possible there's a little bit of damage."
Bent also said there have been reports that a few people in the Ottawa area felt the quake as well as residents in the Montreal region.
Montreal police spokesman Simon Delorme said there were no reports of damage resulting from the quake.
He also said the quake prompted a large volume of calls to 911.
Numerous people took to Twitter to report feeling the quake, including Dominique Anglade, a senior executive of Quebec's Coalition party.
A member of Montreal's large Haitian community, Anglade lost her parents who were the first Canadians confirmed dead in Haiti's devastating earthquake two years ago. She wrote that the quake evoked "very bad memories" for her.
In Montreal’s west end, a couple of people rushed outside as their windows shook in a four-storey apartment building near the former site of the old Forum arena.
"Did you feel it? It was bad," said one woman who had run out.
The residents quickly returned to their dwellings after it was clear that the incident had passed without damage.
Bent said the quake occurred in an area known as the West Quebec seismic zone and temblors are not uncommon in the area.
"So the fact there have been smaller earthquakes in that region doesn't necessarily mean that the big one was coming ... they happen quite frequently in that region."
Bent said there are several earthquakes of this size around the world every day and this one just "happened to be in our neck of the woods."
"It’s just a reminder that this is a seismically active area."
_ By Alan Black in Toronto.
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