Portugal Day in Canada
Julie Dzerowicz became on October 19, 2015, the first female Member of Parliament for Davenport. She believes in the importance of engaging the community, listening to her constituents, and truly reflecting their priorities in her work at the House of Commons. Julie champions issues that are important to them – including the economy, immigration, gender equity, the environment, infrastructure, and the arts.
A leader in her community for decades, Julie brings extensive business and grassroots activism experience to her role as an MP. She is currently the Chair of the Canada-Brazil Friendship Group, Co-Chair of the Canada-Mexico Friendship Group, Vice-Chair of the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group, and Vice-Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Friendship Group. As Davenport is home to many talented artists, Julie was proud to become a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in 2017.
Julie is a daughter of immigrants and has a personal appreciation for the value that immigrants bring to Canada. Her parents’ sacrifice contributed to her strong work ethic and belief in education. 52% of those in Davenport were born outside of Canada, so immigration and multiculturalism are important matters in the riding.
Her Private Member’s Bill M-126 to declare the month of June as Portuguese Heritage Month and June 10 as Portugal Day was passed unanimously in the House of Commons, on 9 November, 2017, thereby recognizing the contributions that Portuguese-Canadians have made to Canada, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Portuguese heritage and culture for future generations.
Revista Amar: Julie, what inspired Bill M-126, recognizing June as Portuguese Heritage Month and June 10 as Portugal Day in Canada? How important was it for you to propose Bill M-126 to the House of Commons?
Julie Dzerowicz: As the Member of Parliament for Davenport, the riding with the largest Portuguese population in Canada, it was incredibly important for me to find a way to honour the hard work of the Portuguese community in keeping their culture, language and traditions alive in Canada and to recognise their important contributions to Canada.
This is what I said in the House when introducing the Private Members Motion: “I’d like to thank all the Portuguese leaders, Portuguese clubs, associations and the Portuguese media in my riding of Davenport and across the country that have tirelessly promoted the Portuguese culture, language and community – and who serve as an inspiration for this Private Members Bill; it is to honour them and their aspiration for the Portuguese to be recognised at the highest level of our nation and be celebrated for its many contributions to Canada and equally to set the stage for the preservation and promotion of the Portuguese language, traditions and culture for many decades and centuries to come.”
Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau often says, “Diversity is our strength,” and the Portuguese diaspora is a prime example of how a community can positively contribute not just to their own neighbourhood, but to our entire country. There are over 400,000 Portuguese in Canada (including third and fourth generations) with many incredibly accomplished business leaders and professionals. The Portuguese community have a Walk of Fame that recognises the many Portuguese leaders that have served as an inspiration not only for the Portuguese but for all Canadians! It was time that Portuguese Heritage Month and June 10 as Portuguese Day be recognized at the federal level.
R. A.: Last Summer you went to Portugal. Was it important to make this trip to consolidated Bill M126 or the trip was a way to know the Portuguese roots and traditions from a different perspective?
J. D.: As one of the leaders on the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group (currently serving as the Co-Chair), I’m always looking for ways to build stronger Canada-Portugal relations in general, so this was a key objective of my trip to Portugal last August/September. I also wanted to speak with Portuguese leaders on how we can maximize to our mutual benefit the Canada Europe Trade Agreement. Other issues I raised were related to immigration, environment and youth.
Finally, I wanted to visit cities that the Davenport Portuguese community come from to better understand Portuguese history, culture and traditions. I started in the Azores visiting São Miguel, and Terceira; then flew to the continent to visit Porto, Viana do Castelo, Braga, Guimarães, Lamego, Viseu, Coimbra, Fátima, Nazaré, Peniche, Óbidos, and Lisbon. I had the chance to meet two parliamentarians, nine mayors and two regional government ministers. The welcome and warmth of the Portuguese political leadership and community were amazing. I loved the food and wine, the weather, the cities, the countryside and even had a chance to catch a Sporting FC event when I was in Braga. It was a phenomenal trip and I look forward to returning again after the next election!
R. A.: Portuguese Community is growing but also “moving” from Davenport. What is, in your opinion, the reason or reasons for this?
J. D.: As of now, Davenport is still home to the largest Portuguese community in Canada, with over 25% of Portuguese in Canada calling the riding their home. While many have moved to Mississauga, Brampton and other areas in the GTA, there is still a very strong and active Portuguese community in Davenport. We still have the majority of Portuguese casas – including the Casa das Beiras, Casa do Alentejo, Casa dos Açores do Ontário, Casa da Madeira among many others in the riding. We have Portuguese churches, small businesses, banks, bakeries, service centres (Abrigo, Terra Nova) also in the riding so I believe that the Davenport community will continue to be the heart and soul of the Portuguese community for many years to come.
“We should be doing all we can to share the Portuguese culture with Canadians and so the more parades, the merrier!”
R. A.: Portugal Day Parade has been held for many years at Dundas St. West. Is it the right location (street) for it?
J. D.: Absolutely! A good part of Dundas St. is named Little Portugal. There is still an active Portuguese community and many Portuguese organisations, media, businesses, bakeries and restaurants that serve the local and broader community. I believe it is still the place to be for Portugal Day. But that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be other Portugal Day Parades in other parts of the city, province and country. We should be doing all we can to share the Portuguese culture with Canadians and so the more parades, the merrier!
R. A.: We would like to invite you to leave a message to our readers.
J. D.: As the child of immigrant parents, who sacrificed everything to come to Canada and create a new life for their family and children, I understand how hard it is to start a new life in a new country. And so, I am proud to serve as the Member of Parliament for the largest Portuguese community in Canada, and to honour all the sacrifices made the community to keep their love of language, culture, traditions alive by introducing the Private Members Motion to recognize June as Portuguese Heritage Month and June 10 as Portugal Day in Canada. Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister António Costa last month, also mentioned how proud they were that 2018 will be the inaugural year for this national recognition.
Many Portuguese in Canada who have been here for over 10 years are still permanent residents. I would like to encourage them to become Canadian citizens. In Canada, you can be a proud Portuguese and proud Canadian without any conflict. Having the ability to vote and have a voice in who our local leaders are is an important, crucial feature of our democracy – and I encourage the Portuguese community to become citizens so they can fully participate in our democratic process. I will be hosting citizenship clinics this fall to facilitate this process, please listen for more details.
For most of the year, I am usually in Ottawa from Monday to Thursday working in the House of Commons; but always in the riding on Friday and Saturday. I will also be back for the summer from mid-June until mid-September, at my community office at 1202 Bloor Street West. I would love for you to stop by so I can hear what more I can do to support the Portuguese community at the local and national level.