Temas de Capa

“The richness of the Portuguese Canadian culture is extraordinary” – Julie Dzerowicz

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The initiative was taken by Julie Dzerowicz. It is to the Liberal MP for Davenport that our community owes the honour that Canada, host country to nearly half a million Portuguese, has a month dedicated to its Cultural Heritage. Thus, since 2017, June has taken on an even deeper meaning for each of us, Portuguese residents in Canada.

In this edition of Milénio Stadium, which is dedicated to everything that distinguishes us and everyone who values the preservation of our culture and traditions, we could not miss an interview with this woman who is well known to all of the GTA’s Portuguese residents. Julie Dzerowicz explains that her close contact with our community made her take this initiative in Federal Parliament. This has made it possible to give due prominence to what she considers to be “amazing cultural traditions of the Portuguese community in Canada”.

Milénio Stadium: Portugal has a month dedicated to its cultural heritage, in Canada, thanks to your initiative. As an MP, what led you to take this initiative?
Julie Dzerowicz: It is truly an honour for me to represent as a Member of Parliament for Davenport the largest Portuguese community in our country. There are a number of Portuguese casas right across my riding, right across the City of Toronto and in many parts of the country. For 70 years the Portuguese have been immigrating to Canada and today the community is almost 500,000 strong.
We now have Portuguese Canadians as leaders in virtually every sector of the Canadian economy and in our social and cultural spheres. The Portuguese-Canadian leaders that have been inducted into the Portuguese Walk of Fame are but a few of the thousands of leaders that not only serve to inspire Portuguese-Canadians with their courage and achievements but who also serve as an inspiration to all Canadians.
It is due to the thousands of hours by Portuguese-Canadian volunteers who every week for years and in some cases decades promote the Portuguese culture, language and tradition at Portuguese casas that inspired me to request at the national level that June be recognized as Portugal Heritage Month in Canada, and to also recognize June 10th as Portugal Day in Canada. I introduced a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons in 2017 and it was unanimously adopted by all parties. 2023 is the 6th year that we celebrate nationally June as Portugal Month.
It’s important for us to mark a period of time where we can specifically honour the contributions of Portuguese-Canadians to our country, where we can put a specific spotlight and focus on the amazing cultural traditions of the Portuguese community in Canada and share it will all Canadians.
In Canada, diversity is our strength, and the contributions of the Portuguese-Canadian community have made us a stronger and better country.

MS: As we mark the 70th anniversary of the first official Portuguese immigrants arriving in Canada, what is your assessment of the progress of the Portuguese community living here?
JD: Parabéns! Congratulations on 70 years of Portuguese immigration to Canada. Portuguese-Canadians are Canadians! They have taken advantage of the many opportunities that Canada offers – and have worked hard and are now leaders in every sector and field.One only has to look at the Portuguese Walk of Fame to see but a few of the examples of achievement and inspiration.
Jack Oliveira union leader with over 29 years of experience in the construction industry and 28 years as a member of LiUNA Local 183.
Nelly Furtado a singer, songwriter and actress who has sold 20 million albums worldwide and more than 20 million singles, bringing her total sales to over 40 million records around the world.
The Honourable Madame Justice Maria Linhares de Sousa appointed a Justice to the Superior Court of Justice (Family Branch) in November 1999.
John Tavares currently serves as the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL). He was selected first overall by the Islanders in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Jack A. Prazeres owner of Senso Group Building Supplies and Publisher of Portuguese Post Newspaper and Senso Magazine.
Paula Palma is a trailblazer in her field of Technology, Oil and Gas, Nuclear, Construction and Infrastructure Industries. Paula is one of the very few women in her field who has reached the height of her positions in global companies within such incredibly male dominated fields. Portuguese are successful in every sector. We are proud of their achievements.

MS: Does the good image that the Portuguese community has achieved in this country, largely thanks to its commitment to work and its peaceful insertion in Canadian society, make the path easier for new immigrants who wish to come here to build their personal and professional lives?
JD: Canada has a long history of welcoming immigrants and providing opportunities for newcomers to build their lives and contribute to society. The Canadian government continues to develop immigration programs that prioritize attracting skilled individuals and fostering economic growth. These programs consider various factors such as education, work experience, language proficiency, and adaptability, which can provide opportunities for individuals from the Portuguese community and other backgrounds to pursue immigration to Canada. It is much easier to work in Canada, study in Canada and live here.
The International Experience Program – there are 2000 spots for Portuguese nationals between the ages of 18 and 35 to come to Canada. It is easy to apply! And there is no limitations on where you work or study. The program is for two full years! Visit the site here: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/work-canada/iec1.html?adobe_mc_sdid=SDID%3D7223FB557F9D2A81-251A5160EC737FDD%7CMCORGID%3DA90F2A0D55423F537F000101%40AdobeOrg%7CTS%3D1685641056&adobe_mc_ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F
There are also many other ways to legally come to Canada – you can study in Canada and as an international student work in any number of fields and sectors. You can apply for a work permit. You can apply through the express entry program as a skilled workers. Learn more on Immigration Canada website: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada.html
Canada is the most open country in the world for immigrants – we need immigrants to grow our economy and to fill the jobs that we are not able to fill. We also truly believe that diversity of cultures and backgrounds – gives us the best ideas and makes us not only a more interesting society but a stronger, smarter and more prosperous country.

MS: From your knowledge of the Portuguese community living in Davenport, what are their greatest needs today?
JD: Portuguese-Canadians are Canadians. Their needs are they same as all other Canadians across the country.
Taking care of our seniors. Canada has an aging population and so there is a need within the community for affordable spaces for our seniors to live independently and also for nursing home spaces for when our seniors reach an age when they need supports in their later years. This is why the Magellan Centre is so important to build. Many more Magellan Centres are needed!
Cost of Living. After economic impacts of the pandemic, the impact of Russian aggression on Ukraine, and the changing power structures in the world have lead to inflation and a higher cost of living. Food and transportation prices have been high
Housing. We have a housing crisis in Toronto and across our country; and Portuguese Canadian families like all Canadians want better access for housing that they can afford and allow them to live close to their family and their community. These are among the greatest needs in the Portuguese Canadian community today.

MS: What message would you like to leave for this Portugal Heritage Month in Canada?
JD: It is the biggest honour and privilege of my life to represent the largest Portuguese-Canadian community in Canada – in Ottawa as the Member of Parliament for Davenport.
The richness of the Portuguese Canadian culture is extraordinary – let’s share the best of the food, traditions and culture will all Canadians this month.
Let’s also take time to appreciate the tremendous contributions of Portuguese-Canadians to Canada, and to thank all of our silent hard working heroes who every week work hard to keep the Portuguese language traditions and culture strong and to create spaces for the Portuguese Canadian community to celebrate.
Let’s also remember those who have left us but have had a outsized impact on the Portuguese Canadian community and on Canada. For me they include Tony De Sousa, Fernando Cruz Gomes, and Bernardino Nascimento.
I look forward to celebrating this month at the many events with the Portuguese community in Davenport and across our city.

Madalena Balça/MS

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