Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2017-11-01 18:34 [p.14855]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to support the member for Davenport’s Motion No. 126. It seeks to declare June 10 each year as Portugal day and the entire month of June as Portuguese heritage month. This, I believe, would pay tribute to the important contributions of Canadians of Portuguese descent in building the Canada that we know today.
In my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood, there are approximately 815 citizens of Portuguese descent. Granted, it is not a huge population, but they are a vibrant, close-knit community with very strong ties to their heritage.
According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Portuguese explorers were among the first Europeans to see Canadian soil way back in 1852. Subsequently, Portuguese fishermen fished for cod on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, but the big wave of immigration to Canada began in the 1950s, with immigrants coming mostly to work on farms and CNR railway back then.
I am going to cite a number of people from my city of Saskatoon. I know there are different pockets of Portuguese around this country and we welcome them all here. One such man from my city of Saskatoon was Mr. Manuel Neves. He said the first Portuguese immigrants to Saskatoon came in 1957. They came from the Azores and mainland Portugal to work on the railroad. It was the CNR back then. It was a terrible situation at first. Let us face it: they came from Portugal to Canada, they were homesick and missed their families, and they had difficulties back then with the language and different customs, and the isolation caused many of them to go back home. Manuel still remembers the hardship and bitter tears, but the will to succeed was great.
He said he had left his wife, along with his two daughters, back in Portugal. Can anyone imagine his first winter? It must have been miserable. The temperatures in Saskatchewan in the winter are usually in the -30s and -40s. He was working in those temperatures and said that they were unbearable. He said none of them had imagined those temperatures and that they had felt demoralized. However, back in 1959, more families arrived from the Azores and, according to Manuel, the first roots of the Portuguese community started then and became stronger. In fact, by the late 1960s, there were about 45 Portuguese families in my city of Saskatoon.
The Portuguese community continued to grow in my city and in 1988 the Saskatoon Portuguese Canadian Association was formed. The association generated a lot of interest, holding social events and celebrations. One of the goals of the association was to plan the annual religious event, the Our Lady of Fatima celebration. Sadly, Mr. Manuel Neves passed away a few years ago. However, he did leave us with this interesting history of those precious Portuguese immigrants who came to my city of Saskatoon. We certainly thank him for his contribution and tonight I salute him and all Portuguese in my city of Saskatoon.
I also heard from two sisters, Maria Zalashak and Edweena Silvaida, who arrived in Saskatoon when they were very young. They were only 12 and nine at the time and arrived in Saskatoon with their parents, Juszai and Maria Silvaida, and their brother, Juszai Carlos. They started their lives here living in their uncle’s basement. Imagine that. They were only nine and 12 years old. Maria wrote that at school they were forced to go out during recess, but just stood by the building because they did not know anyone and, of course, they could not speak English. They wanted to stay inside the school, but the teachers would not allow that. They arrived toward the end of September, and we know what happens in September: school starts right away, and then winter arrives.
They had never seen snow or experienced this kind of cold. It was very hard to adapt, especially since they did not have a car. They walked or took the bus. They remember that when they rode the bus, they never made eye contact. Maria said she looked down. She was afraid if someone started talking to her she would not understand, and not be able to answer.
Maria went on to say it was in grade 10 that she learned proper English. Her teacher was a nun. She did not remember her name but it was due to her professional dedication as a teacher that she learned the language properly and was able to become a teacher. Maria teaches English as an additional language. What a wonderful story to hear of a teacher and her student, and then the student becoming a teacher.
Another member of my Saskatoon Portuguese community, Tony Bairos, shared his family’s story of immigration to Canada saying that his parents, Jose and Ines Bairos, came to settle in Saskatoon in the fall of 1970. They wanted to make a better life for themselves and their future children. They came with two suitcases. That was quite common back then.
He said that it was his mother’s sister and her husband, Jose and Emilia Cabral, who sponsored his parents and helped them get on their feet. They came filled with hope for a new life in a new world with opportunities. They came from a small island called Santa Maria in the Azores Islands belonging to Portugal. They brought very little with them, but they did bring a willingness to work hard, a strong sense of family, and a faith in God.
His father Jose found work as a labourer with a construction company, while his mother found work as a seamstress in Saskatoon. Shortly after their arrival, they started their family and raised three children, Antonio, Dino, and Nelia. They worked hard to build a life in their new country. They would often work two jobs to provide for their family and their continued success. We often see this today. Jose developed his skills in the construction industry and soon become a skilled mason and foreman for the jobs that he would take on in Saskatoon.
Family is an extremely important part of Portuguese life. As well, the Portuguese work ethic is outstanding. The Portuguese family story is no different than that of many other immigrants who have adopted Canada as their new home. They are very proud of being Canadian and Portuguese.
Manuel Neves, Mrs. Zalashak’s family, and Tony Bairos’ family came to Canada hoping for a better life. They went through went through many hardships, but persevered. They have contributed greatly to Saskatoon and their Portuguese community, similar to many other Portuguese from coast to coast to coast.
At least two past members of Parliament, Dr. Keith Martin from Esquimalt —Juan de Fuca, B.C. and Mario Silva, from Davenport, Ontario were of Portuguese descent.
Two popular singers in this country, Nelly Furtado and Sean Mendes, are also of Portuguese descent.
Two professional hockey players, John Tavares of the New York Islanders and Drew Doughty, a talented defenceman from the Los Angeles Kings, are both of Portuguese descent and currently playing in the national hockey league.
Those people are just a small representation of the Portuguese community who have made contributions to entertainment, politics, and sports. They even have their own walk of fame in downtown Toronto.
The Portuguese are very proud of their culture and have a strong work ethic. Their family and their faith are the cornerstones of the Portuguese culture. They love to sing and dance when they get together for religious festivals.
It is my belief that we should have a Portugal day and a Portuguese heritage month to celebrate these and the many other contributions they have made to make Canada a better place for us all. I hope my colleagues will support this motion.