That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the important contributions Canadian Portuguese have made to building Canada and to Canadian society in general, the cultural diversity of the Portuguese communities in Canada, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Portuguese heritage and culture for future generations by declaring June 10 as Portugal Day and the month of June as Portuguese Heritage Month.
Madam Speaker, it is with enormous pride and a sense of privilege that I rise in this venerable House to support my private member's Motion No. 126, celebrating the contributions of Portuguese Canadians to this great nation.
My riding of Davenport is blessed to have the largest Portuguese community in Canada. I truly believe that Canada and Canadian society is enriched by Portuguese culture, traditions, history, and language.
It is with enormous pride and privilege that I rise in this venerable House to support my private member's motion, Motion No. 126, celebrating the contributions of Portuguese Canadians to this great nation.
However, any discussion on settler community in Canada cannot start without first acknowledging and thanking the traditional stewards of this land. We are grateful to the indigenous peoples as we are gathered here today on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin people.
It is a pleasure to be back in the House this week with all of my colleagues. I want to thank members from all parties for supporting my motion. I would like to thank the Minister of Canadian Heritage, my Liberal colleagues, and especially the members of the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group, for all their encouragement and support. Of course, I would like to thank my staff for its hard work over the last few months and days.
It is also important to mention that the province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and the public and Catholic school boards of Ontario all took the lead in recognizing June as Portugal heritage month and/or June 10 as Portugal day in their respective jurisdictions. I am building on their great initiatives and accomplishments, and I want to thank them for their leadership.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the Portuguese leaders, Portuguese clubs, associations, and the Portuguese media in my riding of Davenport and across the country. They have tirelessly promoted the Portuguese culture, language, and community and serve as an inspiration for this private member's bill. It is to honour them and their aspiration for the Portuguese to be recognized at the highest level of our nation and be celebrated for its many contributions to Canada, and equally to set the stage for the preservation and promotion of the Portuguese language, traditions, and culture for many decades and centuries to come.
[Member spoke in Portuguese]
There are approximately 16 million Portuguese around the world, from those who live in Portugal, including the Azores and the Madeira Islands, and other parts of the Americas, Europe, India, and Africa. However, when we consider Portuguese-speaking people, that number jumps from 16 million to 220 million.
Indeed, the Portuguese language evolved form Latin and became a compulsory language in Portugal under King Dom Diniz in the 14th century. For the following two centuries, the 15th and 16th, the Portuguese were known global explorers, such as Vasco de Gama, who discovered far off lands that at the time were unidentified and who discovered, in 1497, the first ocean route between India from Europe, connecting for the first time ever the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
There is also Fernão de Magalhães, born in the northern part of Portugal, who, in 1519, led the very first expedition by ship that circumnavigated the world.
Poet Luís Vaz de Camões wrote the epic poem Os Lusíadas that interprets this exciting age of exploration and discovery of the Portuguese. Camões is known as Portugal's greatest poet and, indeed, the day of his death, June 10, is celebrated as Portugal's national day.
It was also around this time period, the 15th and 16th centuries, that the Portuguese were first identified as coming to the shores of Canada to fish off the coast of Newfoundland. In subsequent centuries, a number of Portuguese explorers made their way to Canada.
There are two great stories I want to share. The first is the story of Pedro Da Silva, Canada's first official letter carrier, who, on behalf of New France, delivered parcels and letters between Montreal and Quebec, beginning in 1705.
Then there is Portuguese Joe Silvey, born in Pico, Azores. Portuguese Joe came to Canada in 1860 via whaling schooner, and decided to stay, trying his hand at goldmining. He married an indigenous woman from the Coast Salish nation, became one of the founders of Vancouver's Gastown, and had 11 children, with many of his descendants still populating the B.C. coast today.
Just last year a monument was erected to honour him in Stanley Park. It honours the link between Portuguese and Coast Salish first nations cultures, marking the land's rich heritage and symbolizing unity for Vancouver's present-day diverse inhabitants. I love this wonderful connection between the Portuguese and Canada's first nations.
The first official group to come from Portugal, in terms of immigrants, arrived at Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 13, 1953. They came aboard a boat called the Saturnia steamship. Three to four more full boatloads came the year after. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Portuguese immigrated to Canada to escape the poverty they experienced under the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, considered the most oppressive and longest-serving dictatorship of Western Europe. Many also left to flee the Portuguese Colonial War, Portugal's war against the nationalist movements in Portugal's African colonies.
In the early 1970s, our then prime minister Pierre Trudeau introduced the policy of multiculturalism, the first country in the world to adopt such a policy. It was this policy that paved the way in the early 1970s for Canada to create a pathway to citizenship for many of the tens of thousands of Portuguese who to this day are forever grateful to have been given a chance to start a new life in a country that has given them their freedom without having to give up their language, culture, traditions, and identity.
Indeed, now over 40 years later, the Portuguese are 500,000 strong, which includes up to their fourth generation. While their population is largest in Ontario and Quebec, they have vibrant communities right across this great land from the west coast in B.C., right to the east coast in Nova Scotia.
Members will also be very happy to know that many universities across the country now offer Portuguese studies, from the University of British Columbia, University of Winnipeg, York University, University of Toronto, and Brock University, to Université de Montréal. The University of Toronto celebrated 70 years of Portuguese instruction just this year. I want to thank and acknowledge university academics right across this country, including Manuela Marujo, Inês Cardoso, Maria João Dodman, and Carlos Teixeira for their tireless efforts to promote Portuguese studies in Canada.
More locally, in my riding, the First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto has been teaching the Portuguese language since 1956. I want to give a shout-out to Celina de Melo, the current principal, for her tireless years of service to the school.
Today, it is gratifying to see Portuguese taught in schools right across the country. There are over 16 jurisdictions in Ontario, and a number of public schools right across the country, from B.C. through to Manitoba through to Nova Scotia.
Finally, I want to recognize the heroic work of Portuguese clubs right across the country. They work tirelessly to provide a space for their members to come together, to practise their language, and to celebrate their culture and traditions. There are over 150 clubs in Canada, and more than 20 in my riding of Davenport alone. I wish I had the time to mention each one of them, because they work hard and they deserve the recognition.
I want to thank each casa. I want to thank each organization, leader, board member, and all tireless volunteers for all that they do to keep their clubs active and relevant. It will not come as a surprise that so many Portuguese groups do a lot of fundraising to raise money for different initiatives in the community.
Two of my colleagues, the member for Brampton South and the member for Brampton West, told me of their great pride of the Amigos Portugueses do Peel Memorial for their extraordinary fundraising efforts for the William Osler Health System and for the Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness.
I know that my Mississauga colleagues would tell me that they are so proud of the Luso Canadian Charitable Society Centre, headed by Jack Prazeres, that supports families and adults living with developmental and physical disabilities. Of course, I have to give a shout-out to the many female Luso groups, such as the Amigas de Toronto, raising money for cancer research and support.
We cannot talk about Portuguese clubs in Canada without mentioning ACAPO. The Alliance of Portuguese Clubs and Associations of Ontario does such an extraordinary job of bringing all the clubs together, doing the most ambitious programming for Portugal Week, and organizing the second-largest street festival in Toronto. I want to acknowledge José Maria Eustáquio for his leadership, and the leadership of their board and volunteers.
The Portuguese are highly established and very integrated into the Canadian diaspora. Many of the Portuguese when they arrived in Canada took construction and cleaning jobs. These honourable jobs helped hard-working Portuguese to support their families, buy homes, and contribute to their church and community. The Portuguese also raised citizens and leaders who currently serve in important roles and who are an inspiration to all Canadians. We know of many of them today.
There are two in the House. We have the MP for Brossard—Saint-Lambert and the MP for Mississauga East—Cooksville. We have two provincial financial ministers: the hon. Charles Sousa and the hon. Carlos Leitão. We have a provincial member of Parliament, Cristina Martins and wonderful municipal leaders in Ana Bailão in Toronto, Frank Monteiro in Cambridge, Martin Medeiros in Brampton, and Nelson Santos in Kingsville.
The Portuguese even have their own Portuguese Walk of Fame, created in 2013 by Toronto-based community leader Manuel da Costa to recognize Portuguese Canadians in all fields for their outstanding achievements to our country.
From cleaners and construction workers who have built much of the infrastructure in Toronto and across Ontario, a very successful professional class of talent has emerged. The Portuguese business community is super-active.
A group called the Federation of Portuguese-Canadian Business Professionals was created to promote business activities, leadership, and Portuguese culture. This group has inspired an impressive list of civic leaders, including two of its founders, Armindo Silva and Fernando Dias Costa, and businessmen such as José Pinto and Louis Louro Jr. I have no doubt that under the current leadership of Michelle Jorge, the federation will play an integral role in building stronger economic ties to Portugal through the Canada-Europe trade agreement, which was just ratified today by the Portuguese parliament and which comes into force tomorrow.
I cannot mention groups in Canada without mentioning the fact that I have a very strong building trades union and construction union in my riding. There is no Portuguese fundraiser that is not supported by Local 182 and Local 506. I want to thank Jack Preset as division manager for his extraordinary leadership.
Our Prime Minister never tires of saying that diversity is strength. One could be a proud Portuguese and a proud Canadian and there is no conflict. Indeed, the Portuguese Canadians have shared much of their culture with us including their fado music; their great love of football, whether a Benfica, Porto, or Sporting FC fan; their amazing cuisine, whether it is the baccalhau, churrasquiera, quejos, amazing pastéis de natas; and their amazing world-class wines from Douro, Alentejo, or Dão regions.
Portuguese media is like no other I have ever seen. They are unbelievably strong for a community of its size, particularly in Montreal and Toronto. I would like to give a huge shout-out to Sol Português, Antonio Perinu; Correio da Manhã, Eduardo Viera, ABC, Fernando Cruz-Gomes; and PostoMilénio.
We also have wonderful TV programs with Omni, Sergio Mourato; and GenteTV, Nellie Pedro; and of course Portuguese radio CIRV that was created by Frank Alvarez.
The motion to enshrine June as Portugal heritage month and to designate June 10 as Portugal day in Canada is important not just for the obvious reason of ensuring we recognize the contributions of the Portuguese to Canada at the national level, and not just to promote the culture and language in years to come, but because by doing so we also reinforce and promote our Canadian values and serve as a model to the world.
This is especially important at a time when there is increasing racism and anti-immigration sentiment in too many countries globally. It is much easier to see our differences than our similarities. In Motion No. 126, we remind ourselves that we are stronger because of our differences and not in spite of them. Canada is a light and model for the world for showcasing that diversity is a strength.
The Portuguese have always been a people open to the world, a people who came to Canada and have successfully integrated into Canadian society, achieving great things and setting an example for the leaders of today and tomorrow.
I have no doubt that the Portuguese from every part of Canada will continue to play a key role in creating a better Canada. It is an absolute honour to be able to present Motion No. 126 today, celebrating the contributions of Portuguese Canadians to this great nation.
I am thankful for the opportunity to do so.