Geste Luso-canadienne  Gesta Luso-Canadiana



Cá nada! (Nothing here!)
The frustration upon facing the inhospitable and frozen land might have been contained in this remark by the first Portuguese navigators who arrived upon the shores of present day Canada.
Regardless of the remark being fable or not, the Portuguese presence at New Foundland and along the North Atlantic coast of Canada is historically backed by the immense cartography of the period as well as by the Portuguese origins of some of the named places on the East Coast of Canada. According to credibly Historians,the Portuguese presence in Newfoundland goes back to the XVI century, or perhaps even earlier, and marked the beginning of the the cod fish sagas.

It is likely that the first Newfoundland church, in the Placentia region, has also been founded by the Portuguese.

The navigator João Vaz Corte-Real probably arrived at New Foundland in 1472

Until recently, when the fishing banks seemed inexhaustible, the presence of the Portuguese fishing fleets in Newfoundland harbors were cause for celebration. Ships such as Gil Eanes and Creoula will stay forever imprinted on the collective imagination and the memory of their accomplishments will not be forgotten. The statue of Gaspar Corte-Real, erected in 1965 on Prince Phillip Drive, as well as the image of Our Lady of Fátima gifted, in appreciation, by the Portuguese fishermen to the people of Newfoundland.


In 1918 Professor Edmund Burke Delabarre, from Brown University, stirred controversy by defending a theory that the various inscriptions on the notable Dighton Rock, found on the Taunton River, proved the presence of Miguel Corte Real in North American land.

Read too the fantastic legend from Acadia of the boat phantom of Gaspar Corte-Real who, since a few centuries, appears in storm eves.


Through the centuries various explorers traveled through Canada on behalf of the kings of France and England. The most famous was a certain Pedro da Silva, born in Lisbon, having arrived on an unknown date. On 1677 married Jeanne Greslon, and fathered numerous children. He died in 1717 in Quebec City. Nearly all the present daSilva, Sylva and Dasylva are believed to be his descendents.

Canada Post will issue a stamp on June 6th 2003 honouring Pedro da Silva

Many others left behind their name and historical mark, such as a certain João Afonso a famous pilot who accompanied Lord Roberval on an expedition to Canada, as well as Mathieu da Costa, who participated in the colonization of Acadia, and even a certain João Rodrigues, who died in Beauport in 1720 and of whom it is said to be the ancestor of many of the present Rodrigue.

Jacques Cartier

Did you know that Jacques Cartier learned the art to sail with the Portuguese sailors and that he was interpreter of Portuguese language?

It should also be noted that the first Jewish people of Portuguese ancestry arrived in Montreal in 1760, having in 1768 founded the first synagogue in Quebec and in Canada.

By the way, do you know that the romantic history of port wine in Canada began by chance in 1679?


Many more Portuguese continued to settle in Canada including Francisco da Silva (1841-1920), a known painter who lived most of his life in Hanstpont, Nova Scotia. Another well-known Portuguese, António da Silva, arrived in Newfoundland in 1920, at the age of thirteen, where he lived until his death, leaving behind many descendents. The story of his life has been immortalized in the movie "The Stowaway".


Nevertheless the Portuguese emigration to Canada only reached significant numbers on the second half of the XX century, particularly after May 13th of 1953, with the first contingent of 85 Portuguese immigrants (67 from mainland Portugal and 18 from the Azores Islands). The emigrants had departed Lisbon on the 8th of May and arrived at the Halifax Port aboard the Satúrnia ship, entering Canadian territory through the now famous Pier 21.

Soon after, on the first of June, another contingent of 102 Portuguese, this time from Madeira Island, arrived in Halifax aboard the Nea Hellas. At present, from coast to coast, it is estimated that Portuguese-Canadians are four hundred thousand strong.


The most important community of Portuguese-Canadians is based in Toronto, in the province of Ontario, where about 200 thousand Portuguese-Canadians live and work. Recently, a 2001 by-law officially recognized June 10th as the day of the Portuguese community of Ontario.


I n Montreal, the beautiful French-speaking City of North America, in the province of Quebec, is home to about 50 thousand Portuguese-Canadians, the great majority originating from the Azores Islands.


Vancouver, British Columbia, is home to nearly 10 thousand Portuguese-Canadians. They began settling the city mostly after the Sixties.

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, there are nearly 8 thousand Portuguese-Canadians. They gather in an area already considered "the heart of the Portuguese community", and around institutions such as the Church of Imaculada Conceição and the Portuguese Association of Manitoba.

In Calgary, Alberta, a growing city, live 6 thousand Portuguese-Canadians. Their main organizations are the Portuguese club of Calgary and the Church of Our Lady of Fátima.

The Portuguese accomplishments are presently well documented in the vast bibliography produced over the last 50 years by various Portuguese and Canadian authors.

In the past half a century, as the Portuguese community expanded across the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, in search of a better life, there have been many Portuguese-Canadian authors sharing their experiences and feelings through an increasing number of Portuguese books, newspapers and magazines.
In the last few years there have also been a few Canadian authors inspired by the Portuguese experience and which they depict in their works.
Occasional newspapers in Portugal publish articles that cover the Portuguese-Canadian experiences.

More recently, with the advent of modern technologies and mass media, it is possible to catalogue and register the Portuguese-Canadians connected to the letters and the arts working in promoting the Portuguese culture.
is also possible to find on the seas of the Internet a vast and indispensable number of academic works that aid us in understanding the socio-cultural trajectory of the Portuguese community.

Thanks to the effort and dedication of the Portuguese-Canadian communities, the teaching of Portuguese to the young second generation takes place across Canada through the successful "Escolas de Sábado" (Saturday Schools).
As a consequence of the larger visibility of the Portuguese-Canadian community and the growing importance of the Portuguese experience in the world, the teaching of Portuguese has taken a larger role in several Canadian universities..

During the celebration of the 50 years of the official arrival of the Portuguese in Canada, the Portuguese community will face the challenge of finding its IDENTITY. So far the community has been condemned to isolation, caught between the deadly vertigo of the ghetto and assimilation. Now thanks to the present technological revolution, the community has seen its ties to the vast Portuguese speaking world strengthened (resumed). This will allow the community to dream a more promising destiny where the Portuguese language will simultaneously become a measure of identity and a means of communication and will become is primary crystallizing factor.


Under construction-Author: Manuel Carvalho- English version: Paulo da Costa