The President of the Republic spoke on Saturday night before Portuguese emigrants and Lusodescendants in Toronto, whom he told that they are “the pride of Portugal” for keeping the Portuguese identity alive for decades in Canadian territory.
“They showed what we are: of course, we are fado, we are cod, we are caldo verde, we are cozido à portuguesa, we are vira and corridinho and fandango. We are all this, we have a soul. We are Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, on the penultimate day of his official visit to Canada dedicated to Portuguese emigrant communities.
These words elicited applause and a few shouts imitating Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal celebration among the audience of around 400 people – according to the organizers – scattered around the huge hall of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) in Toronto.
“We are so many champions in so many areas. But Portugal’s greatest champions are you, the Portuguese people. Each and every one of you is a champion. Sometimes you don’t know it, but you are champions, because of what you have done over these 70 years,” said the head of state, who was speaking in English.
According to Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, if “the President represents all Portuguese people”, each Portuguese person abroad “represents the whole country”, and those who emigrate to Canada are “also Canadians, Portuguese-Canadians, but above all Portuguese, and represent Portugal”.
“Portugal is made every day inside and outside – and often more outside than inside,” he said.
“You are the pride of Portugal. And I feel happy to be President of the Republic of a people like this, of a diaspora like this, of a community like this,” he added in Portuguese.
The President of the Republic said that the first Portuguese to emigrate to Canada came from the islands of the Azores and Madeira and a little from all over the continent and were “generally very poor”, because “Portugal was a poor country in 1953”.
“You started life with almost nothing. Then you brought your families, or formed your families here,” he continued, concluding: “It was a long and difficult past, but a prestigious one.”
On stage, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called an eight-year-old boy close to him, the youngest Lusodescendant he had met among those present, a symbol of the “great future” he foresees for this Portuguese emigrant community.
As he usually does at these meetings, the head of state praised the Portuguese, proclaiming them “the best”, and Portugal, as an ancient nation with a global projection, “with the strength of almost nine centuries” and “the fifth most spoken language in the world”.
“We respect everyone, but we’re the best,” he said.
The meeting, which followed the speeches with performances by folkloric groups and a buffet dinner, was attended by Canada’s Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen.
Jack Oliveira, a Portuguese emigrant and executive president of the Toronto union LIUNA Local 183, was the first to speak about the history of this union branch, founded in 1952, which is the largest in the construction sector in North America, with around 70,000 member workers and families, many of whom are of Portuguese origin.
The union LIUNA Local 183 organized this meeting together with the Alliance of Portuguese Clubs and Associations of Ontario.
Some of those present had their entrance fee paid by their union or association, while others paid 75 Canadian dollars – around 52 euros – to attend this “tribute to President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa”.
The President of the Republic thanked the Canadian authorities for the way they “welcomed the first Portuguese” and for “70 years of friendship”.
Earlier, the head of state visited the Portuguese Pioneers Gallery in Toronto, inaugurated in 2000, which tells the stories of the first Portuguese emigrants who arrived in Canada from 1953, following the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1952.