Portuguese American Journal

Community: Portuguese celebrate 70 years of emigration experience – Canada

The Portuguese community in Canada is celebrating 70 years of its immigrant experience with a series of cultural events.

Starting on May 13, the events will feature performances by invited performers Mariza, Barbara Bandeira, and Pedro Abrunhosa from Portugal, as well as local artists and folklore groups.

The festivities will include food provided by local restaurants in set-up tents, serving Portuguese delicacies.

The first wave of Portuguese immigrants to Canada arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, mainly from the Azores and Madeira islands. For the record, the first official group of Portuguese immigrants landed in Canada on May 13, 1953.

They were attracted by the country’s growing economy and job opportunities in the agriculture, construction, and manufacturing sectors. Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, a second wave of immigrants arrived, fleeing political instability and economic hardship in Portugal.

One of the largest ethnic groups in the country, as of 2021 the Portuguese Canadian population was estimated around 550,000. Today, most Portuguese Canadians are concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area, followed by Montreal and Vancouver.

Additional, vibrant Portuguese communities have been established in Hamilton located just outside of Toronto; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Edmonton, Alberta: Calgary, Alberta; and Ottawa, Ontario.

The Portuguese Canadian communities are home to numerous Portuguese-owned businesses, cultural organizations, and Portuguese-language media such as newspapers and radio stations.

The Portuguese community in Canada is known for its strong cultural traditions, including cuisine, music, and festivals. The most famous festival is Portugal Day, celebrated on June 10, which marks the death of the national poet Luís de Camões and the day Portugal officially became a country in 1143.

Following the model of other Portuguese communities worldwide, the Portuguese community in Canada has established strong ties with Portugal, several language schools, cultural centers, and community organizations that aim to preserve and promote their language and culture.

For more information on scheduled celebration events visit the organization website.

Distinguished Portuguese Canadians

Nelly Furtado, singer-songwriter, actress, and record producer Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter who was born in Victoria, British Columbia to Portuguese parents;

João Barbosa, professional racing driver who has competed in the American Le Mans Series, the Rolex Sports Car Series, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship;

Mary Figueira, lawyer and human rights activist who has advocated for the rights of refugees and immigrants in Canada;

John De Sousa, entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded the TDL Group, which owns Tim Hortons;

Jorge Manuel da Silva, former Canadian Ambassador to Portugal who served from 2013 to 2017;

George Pimentel, celebrity photographer who has photographed some of the biggest stars in Hollywood;

Paulo Morgado, former President and CEO of Siemens Canada who has also served as the President and CEO of Chrysler Portugal and Chrysler Spain;

Danny Fernandes, singer and songwriter;

Joe Silveira, former professional ice hockey player; Anthony De Sa, the author of “Kicking the Sky” and “Children of the Moon”. His works often explore the Portuguese-Canadian experience;

Irene Marques, the author of “My House is a Mansion” and “Wearing Glasses of Water”. Her works deal with themes such as cultural identity and migration;

Elaine Avila, playwright and theatre artist who explores themes of identity, displacement, and the intersection of cultures;

Peter Fonseca, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in Ontario and former federal Member of Parliament (MP);

Sylvia Jones, MPP in Ontario and former Cabinet Minister;

Tony Costa, former MPP in Ontario;

Mario Silva, former MP in Ontario;

Jorge Fernandes, former MPP in Ontario.



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