At one point in time, Portugal was the largest empire in the world, as well as one of the wealthiest countries. Its influence can be seen in many places across the globe, including Canada . The spread of influence is most often done by people — immigrants, to be exact. A good example of this is the Canadian province of Newfoundland, where many islands, foods and famous ships have names influenced by the Portuguese.
If you grew up or currently live in a major Canadian city like Toronto, you have most likely come in contact with the effects of immigration. The Portuguese community is one of the largest immigrant communities in the city today. How did it all start? What made the Portuguese want to emigrate?
The first major wave of Portuguese immigration to Canada began in 1953, where nearly 80 men from mainland Portugal and the Azores islands boarded the Saturnia boat to Canada. They later docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At the time of immigration, Portugal was in what is referred to today as the Second Republic. Leader of this Republic (or “Estado Novo”) was António de Oliveira Salazar. His leadership was described as fascist, and according to some scholars, the policies he introduced in the 1930’s to the 1950’s, led to economic and social stagnation, and education of the public being viewed as a potential threat the regime due to the rise in popularity of democratic and communist ideas. Salazar feared that the more educated the people grew, the greater the likelihood of his regime being challenged. The people felt stifled by Salazar’s policies, which led to a rush of emigration. This served to ultimately impoverish the once prosperous Portuguese economy (Portugal had been benefitting from maintaining a neutral position during WWII, and from exporting raw materials to countries that had suffered damage during the war). In the years that followed, Portugal underwent many more changes, and Canada saw the flow of Portuguese immigrants both persisting and increasing.
** I will be contributing to the blog in English every other week, while Mauro Antunes will be writing an entry in Portuguese on the alternate weeks. Stay tuned for my follow-up post on October 26th!