Portuguese explorers were among the first Europeans to see Canadian soil.
Portuguese explorers were among the first Europeans to see Canadian soil. It is believed that Diogo de Teive (1452), João Vaz Corte-Real (1470), Joao FERNANDES and Pedro de Barcelos (1493) touched on the eastern coast of Canada, and conclusive evidence exists about explorations by Miguel and Gaspar CORTE-REAL, who were lost in Newfoundland waters in 1501 and 1502 respectively. That Portuguese subsequently fished for cod on the GRAND BANKS is attested to by numerous place names. Labrador, likely from the Portuguese lavrador ("small landowner or farmer") indicates that the Portuguese knew of this territory. During 5 centuries of intermittent contact, however, only a handful of Portuguese fishermen settled on the Atlantic coast. The Portuguese in New France were descended from a few families founded by immigrants of 1668 and later.
From a trickle in the 1940s (some 200), Portuguese immigration to Canada increased rapidly after 1953. Immigrants arrived from the Azores (comprising 70% of Portuguese immigration to Canada) and Madeira archipelagoes and from continental Portugal. Many of the 1950s arrivals were recruited to work in rural and isolated locations in Canada, but soon established themselves in the larger cities. Between 1951 and 1957, 8115 persons immigrated; between 1958 and 1962, 16 731; between 1963 and 1967, 32 473; between 1968 and 1973, 54 199; and in 1984, 869. Portuguese have immigrated to Canada for the same reasons many other nationalities immigrated - economic opportunity, underemployment at home and a desire to escape political oppression. By 2006 the number of Portuguese in Canada was estimated to be 262 230 (single response) and 148 625 (multiple response) for a total of 410 850.
Most Portuguese Canadians reside in Ontario (69%), followed by Québec (14%) and BC (8%). The majority of Portuguese live in urban centres, although there are pockets of rural concentration such as in the southernmost Okanagan Valley of BC (fruit farmers). The centre with the highest percentage of Portuguese relative to the total urban population is Kitchener, Ont. Winnipeg, Hamilton and Vancouver also have large Portuguese communities.
Migration and Settlement
Portuguese is the mother tongue (first language learned) for 219 275 Portuguese Canadians (2006 census). Almost half of the population of Canada who report Portuguese as their mother tongue live in Toronto (108 180), primarily in city-core areas, a residential pattern evident also in Montréal (29 310).
Social and Cultural Life
For the first generation of Portuguese, community cultural life was largely bound up with popular entertainments; eg, soccer matches, dances, picnics and music. Recreational activities were sponsored by clubs with Portuguese regional affiliations, or with particular parish congregations or Portuguese political parties. Today, Portuguese formal culture and language is taught in after-hours schools and in various schools and universities across Canada where numbers permit.
Many of the first generation prefer to attend social activities in Portuguese, but this is not true for their Canadian-educated children. Economic advances followed urbanization. Most of the labourers first worked in Canada as farmhands or railway labourers. When they transferred to the cities, they sought out janitorial, construction and factory work. Women were employed as cleaners or as textile or food-processing workers. During the 1960s, increasing numbers of families opened variety and clothing stores, fish shops, bakeries and restaurants. The minority with secondary education often became realtors, travel agents, or driving-school instructors, or provided other services for the community members. By the 1970s a second Canadian-trained generation included high-school teachers, lawyers, social workers, engineers and civil servants. Many more entered semiskilled and skilled trades.
Most Portuguese are Roman Catholics, but some have converted to other Christian denominations; eg, Pentecostal, Baptist, Jehovah's Witness and Seventh-day Adventist.
The first generation of Portuguese are concerned to maintain their Portuguesismo, "Portugueseness" - but regional loyalties to the Portuguese area of origin are equally compelling. At the local level emphasis on individual and family economic advances, heightened by class distinctions based on education and ways of life, induces rivalries which serve as a barrier to community-wide co-operation. Among the second generation, intermarriage with a non-Portuguese spouse occurs occasionally. Several Portuguese newspapers have been published in Toronto, Montréal, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
Grace M. Anderson and David Higgs, A Future to Inherit: The Portuguese Communities of Canada (1976).