Comunidade newspaper, 1975-1979. Part 1: Records and commentary

Comunidade claimed to be different from the other community papers in a number of ways. One way was the attention it dedicated to the daily problems confronted by Portuguese immigrant workers in Canada, as opposed to the more homeland-oriented content and excessively erudite language of its competitors. Besides delivering the news, every newspaper provided a range of useful information for its immigrant audience. Furthermore, Comunidade often remembered and celebrated the achievements and sacrifices made by immigrants in Canada, including those made by the pioneers of Portuguese mass migration.

As an example, on the cover of the February 1977 issue of Comunidade, one could read headlines like, "Who is tricking the immigrants?" about members of the community taking advantage of unsuspecting immigrants who lacked English language skills. One would also admire the photo of an early group of Portuguese migrants buiding railway tracks in Thunder Bay in 1954. The caption says: "A group of Portuguese immigrants who came in 1954 to work on the railways in the Thunderbay region stole a moment from the job to take a picture with a priest who was visiting them. See the interview with one of these workers on page 8." This photo would eventually be published in the book With Hardened Hands (1993).

 

Comunidade shed light on the many dangers associated with the types of work done by immigrants in Canada - a counterpoint to the romanticized notion of immigrant's success in the land of opportunity. Comunidade reported accidents that involved Portuguese immigrants, especially those who worked in construction.

On March 30, 1978, Comunidade reproduced a story that was originally published in the Toronto Daily Star about the death of three railway workers in Milton, two of whom were Portuguese: "Three workers... were killed under a locomotiv, in the morning of March 14. The tragedy happened during coffee hour at the railwiay construction site, in Milton.

52 year old José Carreira, resident of Clinton St., 50 year old João Pereira Tavares, resident of Oxford St., and the 55 year old engineer Vic Newcombe, of Burlington, Ont., died.

Apparently Newcombe left the locomotive running and joined the 25 workers around the coffee van.

The victims were working for Penvidic Contracting Ltd. of Burlington, which is building an 8 kilometre line for Ontario Hydro.

The police said that Newcombe apparentely saw the locomotive moving towards the workers, tried to climb in and stop it, but it ran him over. Three cargo vans, parked near the lines, were also damaged in the collision.

Mr. Carreira who had immigrated to Canada in 1954, had been working for two weeks, after spending a long period of time unemployed. He had previously worked underground on the Spadina subway, and in very tall buildings. "He thought this work was not at all dangerous and so was very happy to be working again", his eldest son, Joe Carreira, said.

Mr. José Carreira is survived by his 47 year old widow, and three sons of 23, 16 and 7 years old" Comunidade, Year 3, n. 37, March 30, 1978: 1 & 9 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes).

“VIEW POINT

Wrongs that afflict us

We left our Land and belongings. For baggage, a pile of illusions: a better future for our children, comfortable houses, abundant tables, a paradise of everything.

The hours weaved in the unstoppable loom of time, only stopping immeasurable illusions that once quieted fears and longings.

The children do not have that bright and dreamed future, and if that happens it's by accident. If not even the school treats them in an equal footing with those born in the land, and segregates them just for being foreign! Or, they are sent to trade schools trying to secure a large job market, trying to serve this capitalist society as cheap manual labour. They are sent to special schools not because they lack intelligence. Simply because they do not know English, or they did not have the fortune of being born Anglo-Saxon. Thus, they will be second-rate citizens, having to come “after the others.”

In regards to comfortable houses, another dream nourished in the eve of departure, we know how that goes. Too much work, many times night and day, to pay never-ending mortgages that suffocate and take away everything. And it will be an entire life paying a house that the buyer can never call “his”. And if we live under rent, soon we realize that not only we must pay a hefty sum, but we have to maintain the children quiet and dreary, and make sure we please the landlord. Otherwise, sooner or later, we may have to carry the brats on our back, going door to door looking for shelter. Or, it will be a small cubicle, which we call apartment, that barely holds the cheap furniture, and where no one can move comfortably.

There are also people that dreamt with abundant tables, but the cost of life has become so high that not even a ladder can reach it. At the same time that rocks are being thrown at inflation, trying to conjure it with spending cuts in the health services, social services and pay freezes, prices continue to grow even in first necessity goods. No matter how much gymnastics we do, that which the body sweats and suffers vanishes in Friday shopping. And that’s that. It was not a sad day meditation, but a reflection that demanded reality.

I cannot find a solution, and I don’t think there is one. Better would I be had I not emigrated and had found in my country that decent minimum that everyone has a right to. Unless in this land of emigrants, emigrants would unite in such a way that they could impose their opinion, which I also don’t believe will happen.

J. F.” June 10, 1976, Year 1, n. 15: 2 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes)

 

"NEW IMMIGRATION LAW CONTESTED

Around 600 people marched from Christie Pitts to City Hall on June 24 to protest the new immigration law that is currently being discussed in the Federal Parliament.

Section C-24 is particularly targeted, which, according to the protesters, "contains clauses that may have seriously dangerous consequences for the future of immigrants in Canada." The most important points that the organizers of this demonstration mention as being dangerous in the new law are the following:

* measures that allow the deportation of immigrants invoking reasons of security without the possibility to contest those same reasons (section 39 and 40).

* vast powers to arrest without a warrant.

* elimination of some protections presently guaranteed to people residing in Canada as immigrants for over five years.

* measures that allow, through regulations, the identification of all non-Canadian residents.

* does not give the right to refugees to present their complaints orally to the entities that will pass a final decision.

* measures that will allow the deportation of people for being simply related with members of groups that may be involved in violence (section 19 (1) (g.).

* does not improve nor change any of the laws established with respect to contract workers.

Subscribing this document are forty religious, communitary, legal, ethnic and labour organizations"

(trans. Gilberto Fernandes), June 1977, Year 2, n. 29: 8.

The July 1977 issue of Comunidade reported that “The Portuguese Community Movement which publishes this newspaper received a grant from the Ministry of Culture and Recreation (Wintario), to research and publish a book on the 25 years of Portuguese in Canada. This book, an idea developed by us and Festival Portugues (TV programme) will be published in Portuguese and English.” The excerpt attached was published in the following issue and asks for Portuguese immigrants who have lived in Canada for over twenty years to participate in the making of this study through oral interviews.

 

The 25th anniversary of the arrival of the first cohort of Portuguese immigrant workers to Canada was the main story in the Comunidade issue of June 1978. The tribute to the pioneer immigrants of the 1950s was part of that year's Portugal Day celebrations, which included the unveiling of a Portuguese padrão, dedicated to the first migrants who arrived in 1953, in Toronto's High Park.

The photo on top shows the head table at a community dinner dedicated to the pioneers held at the Harbour Castle, with a line-up of Portuguese dignataries and other elites. Below is a group of pioneers gathered in front of the High Park monument during its inauguration.

See Gilberto Prioste's exhibit for more pictures of the 25th anniversary celebrations.

To mark the special occasion, Domingos Marques and João Medeiros published their commemorative study of Portuguese immigration to Canada, which contained a number of oral accounts by some of the pioneers. The book was first published in Portuguese under the title Imigrantes Portugueses: 25 Anos no Canadá. An english version, Portuguese Immigrants: 25 Years in Canada was published in 1980. This advertisement ran in Comunidade.
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