Portuguese have an incredibly special reason to celebrate Portugal Day in Canada. Among all the immigrants that form the Canadian nation, Portuguese have a long and ancient history in this territory that today bears the name of Canada. A statue erected in the city of St. John, the provincial capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, serves as a testimonial of the Portuguese presence in Canada since 1501. The statue of the Portuguese navigator Gaspar Corte-Real was donated, in 1965, by the Canadian Portuguese Fisheries Organization. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, the National Immigration Museum have other records of the Portuguese presence in Canada. The Labrador seaway, region exhibits the fact, that it was named after the Portuguese explorer João Fernandes Labrador. Still in the Museum, we can find a reference to the Portuguese Pedro da Silva, who was the first postman in Canada.
With so many connections to the past, the Portuguese community has become one of Canada’s most active immigrant communities. Across the country, there are countless associations and many press agencies in Portuguese. According to the 2016 Canadian statistics, more than half a million Portuguese and their descendants live in Canada today. That accounts for about 2% of the country’s population.
In the Portuguese community of Canada today, there is an increasing participation of the new generation of Portuguese-Canadian. At the end of last year, for example, a traditional association was conquered by a group that illustrates this change. Founded 63 years ago, the First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Center (FPCC) is chaired by 32-year old Carina Paradela.
It is also worth mentioning the initiative of the Consulate General of Portugal in Toronto to honour young artists from the Portuguese community. In the months of February and March of this year, Galeria Almada Negreiros ,(Almada Negreiros Gallery), located in the Portuguese Consulate, promoted the exhibition “Young Artists of the Portuguese Community”, with works by plastic artists Carla Antunes and Daniel Ramalho. At the exhibition’s opening ceremony, Consul General Rui Gomes stated that the idea is to repeat this project with other young talents from the Portuguese community. The diplomat also cited the example of the Mississauga Portuguese Cultural Center (CCPM), which has encouraged young artists and publicized their work during the multicultural Carassauga festival. The CCPM vice-president, Jorge Mouselo, took the opportunity to highlight the importance of supporting these new generations, in order to give continuity to these Portuguese traditions and legacy.
On June 10, Portuguese in Canada and around the world celebrate Portugal Day. Last year, the Portuguese community promoted activities in dozens of Canadian cities. In Toronto, thousands of people participated in the already traditional Dundas West Fest.
The date, June 10, is a reference to the day mentioned as the death of Luís de Camões, considered one of the greatest figures in Portuguese literature. Portugal Day also incorporates a tribute to its communities spread around the world. Thus, since 1978, the 10th of June officially became the Day of Portugal, of Camões and of the Portuguese Communities. A curiosity on the date is that, unlike other countries, Portugal dedicates its day to a cultural fact, and not to an event of its political history.
This year, however, the celebrations will follow a new rite. Without being able to occupy external spaces due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, Portugal Day will be remembered and celebrated indoors, both by the countless associations of the Portuguese community and by its diplomatic representation.