Consul-General for Brazil in Toronto.
By Cristiana Moretzsohn
Exactly one year and ten months ago, Ambassador Afonso José Sena Cardoso arrived in Canada and took over the post of Consul-General for Brazil in Toronto, accompanied by his wife, the artist Solange Escosteguy Cardoso. With over 40 years in a brilliant diplomatic career, Afonso Cardoso has represented Brazil in very distinct countries and now tells us a little about his experience of living and working in Canada, in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto.
Wave: You will soon have completed two years as the head of the Brazilian Consulate in Toronto, how would you evaluate this initial period?
Cardoso: Solange and I have really liked our experience in Toronto which we feel is passing by so quickly. The Brazilian community in Toronto is well differentiated, but all have in common the ability to integrate, as well as competence and a willingness to work. It’s not surprising, therefore, that, in my contacts with local authorities, I always hear the recognition for the peaceful and positive contribution that the Brazilian community brings to this multicultural city.
WAVE: You have 44 years in a diplomatic career representing Brazil in countries with very distinct cultures; Hungary, Uruguay, Chile, USA, and Angola. Which one had the biggest impact on you?
Cardoso: We never compare countries or cities. Solange and I are always looking for the best that we can have in each new destination. And, sincerely, we learn a lot at each new post and we have great memories from each of them.
WAVE: Did the cultural similarities between Brazil and Angola facilitate your job at the Brazilian Embassy in Angola?
Cardoso: In the last census, over half of the Brazilian population defined themselves as African descendants. Years ago, when I had the honour to represent Brazil at a meeting for economic integration in South Africa, I was, to my surprise, welcomed as the participant from the second largest African country in the world: Brazil.
More than in our blood, Africa is in our culture: our way of being, of seeing and understanding the world. Because of this, I always say that for a Brazilian to visit Angola or black Africa is like going to a meeting of important aspects of our identity.
In the specific case of Angola, with 500 years of common history, music and literature bring Brazilians and Angolans even closer.
WAVE: Brazil is the sixth largest economy in the world (recently surpassing Great Britain) and a priority market for Canada. Have you seen an increase in work visa requests for Brazil?
Cardoso: It is very good that we became the sixth largest economy in the world. It is even better to know that, very soon, we will be the fifth. But above all to be certain that this progression occurs in large part because of our internal market increases, due to the fact that annually millions of Brazilians are incorporated into the middle class, into the society and the citizenship. This is an essential factor for advancing with a truly sustainable growth.
Brazil’s growth in a world still severely affected by the 2008 crisis in the world financial market makes this country and its economy a hope for jobs and a better life for thousands of people around the world. This has also substantially increased the number of work visas for Brazil worldwide, in some places more than others: the sad and shocking level of unemployment for youths in Europe threatens them with a lost generation. Many Brazilians who today are expats had to leave Brazil, years ago, because of the lost decade. We know what emigration means and we sincerely hope that many of the young and not so young victimized by unemployment the world over, can find their lost hope in Brazil and in other countries that have weathered the international crisis better.
WAVE: From a multilateral point of view, Brazil and Canada are partners in many areas. Which one do you believe is a priority for Brazil at the moment?
Cardoso: Brazil and Canada have been together in several campaigns in multilateral forums and, still are together, for example, in Haiti seeking to help our Haitian brothers to alleviate the development deficit that they have faced for decades. Bilaterally, we have an equal contribution in relation to dialogue, cooperation, business, and investment. The good news is that Canada and Brazil now coincide in attributing to each other even higher priority in their interaction in the world. And the lists of areas that call for greater attention from both partners are the same: clean energy, health sciences, nanotechnology, marine science…
“Canada is the main destination for foreign exchange students….the province of Ontario has been the number one choice for these students.”
WAVE: The two countries share close cultural and academic ties. What can Brazilians expect from this important alliance?
Cardoso: Brazil and Canada recently signed a new scientific, technology and innovation cooperation agreement. Under this instrument, various memoranda of understanding have been signed between Brazilian and Canadian institutions, such as the University of Toronto and the University of São Paulo, and common projects have begun to be developed in some of the areas defined as a priority by both sides.
Further, as you know, Brazil started an ambitious program called Ciência sem Fronteiras (Science without Borders) whose objective is to let the hundreds of thousands of Brazilian students, in technical schools and universities, complete at least one year of their course in the areas of science and technology in foreign institutions. Canada, together with the USA, Germany, Great Britain, France and other countries will receive thousands of these young Brazilians.
“…..various memoranda of understanding have been signed between Brazilian and Canadian institutions, such as the University of Toronto and the University of São Paulo.”
WAVE: Today, Canada is the preferred destination for exchange students. Which Canadian provinces are most sought after and why?
Cardoso: Canada is the main destination for exchange students who want, by immersion, to learn well the English language abroad. It surpassed Australia who was the leader in this regard. In Canada, until now, the province of Ontario has been the number one choice for these students.
WAVE: Is there a defined profile of the Brazilian immigrant in Canada?
Cardoso: If we look at Canadian statistical numbers, we see that the flow of Brazilian migrants to Canada – important for us but small when compared to the flow that comes from Asia and came years ago from Europe – it was intense until 1991 and picked up again in 2001. It is probable that the first one had to do with the lost decade, mentioned before. And, the second one is more related to the internationalization of the economy and the Brazilian professional. All these are conjectures because there is only one profile: serious people, hardworking, who have a distinct ability to integrate. These are our best diplomatic representatives.
“The Brazilian community in Toronto well differentiated, but all have in common the ability to integrate, besides competence and willingness to work.”
WAVE: What is your opinion about Brazil in the eyes of Canadians? Canada in the eyes of Brazilians?
Cardoso: In order to perfect and concentrate even more these bilateral relations we need a better mutual understanding. In fact, Brazilians don’t know Canada very well, and vice-versa. We are all responsible for this up to a certain point: when we accentuate stereotypes or when we conform to the gaps. I am however convinced that joint projects, educational cooperation and cultural promotion of Brazil in Canada and of Canada in Brazil will help us all discover the richness and diversity of the Brazilian and Canadian souls.