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

While Comunidade was committed to focusing on the Canadian context and matters that impacted immigrants directly - unlike the other community newspaper that focused primarily on homeland issues - it nevertheless paid considerable attention to the political situation in Portugal. Founded a year after the Carnation Revolution of April 25th 1974, the newspaper followed the political developments in Portugal during the frantic years of the P.R.E.C. (Ongoing Revolutionary Process), 1974-1976; a time when many immigrants began paying closer attention to politics and learning its jargon for the first time. Comunidade's coverage reflected the political sympathies of the editorial board and was influenced by the heavy Marxist discourse in Portugal during the Revolution.

After the Revolution, Portuguese immigrants in Canada began following the day-to-day occurrences in their native country with greater attention, developing closer ties with the homeland than before. The initial revolutionary enthusiasm was soon replaced with uncertainty and worry for their families and possessions in Portugal as they witnessed the critical events that nearly led the country into a civil war in 1975 between communists, social-democrats, and conservatives. This conflict affected Toronto where tensions between supporters of Salazar/Caetano and the outspoken anti-fascists reached new heights.

In its December 1975 issue, Comunidade reported on the visit of General António Spínola, then the exiled leader of the right-wing opposition to the revolutionary Armed Forces Movement (MFA), who spoke at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto: "Invited by the M.L.D.P., General António Spínola came to Toronto on November 23. According to some pamphlets distributed in the community, that General came to chair a "clarification session" with the Portuguese settled in this city...

The Canadian press reported that 700 people attended that meeting and gave a few thousand dollars to the General, who promissed to return to Portugal to "restore democracy".

Outside the building on Front St. there were nearly a thousand people that could not get in. About a hundred belonged to various Canadian and Portuguese orgnizations. They went to protest against the coming of the General who they accused of wanting to restore fascism in Portugal," December 1975, Year 1, n. 6: 8. The photo shows Spínola and his entourage as they exit the building.

The revolutionary period heightened political exchange between Portugal and Canada as representatives of various political movements spanning the entire political spectrum visited the immigrant commnunities in North America to solicit their support. This transational approach to politics would become normal in the democratic aftermath as more local and national Portuguese politicians began canvassing in areas with a heavy Portuguese presence in North America.

In this photo, the President of the Regional Government of Madeira, Alberto João Jardim, speaks at the Toronto restaurant The Boat, at a dinner organized by the Canadian Madeira Club. Photo published in Comunidade, June 1978, Year 3, n. 38: 6.

With the fall of the Portuguese empire in 1974, government officials began reshaping Portugal's national identity. Previously coupled with Portugal's 'imperial vocation', the new identity conserved its global orientation. At this point, the emigrant, previously disparaged, was elevated to a new status in Portuguese national mythology. Emigrants became the bearer of the industriousness, spirit of adventure, and cosmopolitanism associated with the explorers of Portugal's 'golden age'.

This reorientation was accomplished in a number of ways. For example, in 1977 the national holiday became known now as the Day of Portugal, Camões and the 'Portuguese Communities'. Further, the Secretariat General of the Portuguese Communities was created to protect the rights of its citizens abroad, and, amongst other things, to foster the social, cultural and economic cooperation between  emigrants and the homeland.

Other things also attracted the attention of Portuguese officials to the emigrant communities. Beyond interest in remmittances, Portuguese officials and parties also began to establish delegations in the countries of settlement in order to court the emigrant vote. This sarcastic cartoon published in the front page of the Comunidade issue of March 3, 1976 comments on the self-interested praise of emigrants by Portuguese political parties. In it, the various political parties parade a confounded 'emigrant king' on a float, who carries a burning candle representing his vote, as they collect 'electoral funds'. The caption repeats a popular Portuguese idom: "After the procession we put away the saint."

Politics took centre stage in the pages of Comunidade. The editorial team felt it necessary to educate Portuguese immigrants about their political rights and duties under a democratic system that was new to most, as they came from a dicatorial regime where political participation was violently discouraged. Besides assuming informative and educational roles, Comunidade also offered commentary and criticism about the contradictions of the Canadian liberal-democratic political system, including various articles on the struggles of the people of Canada's First Nations.

Some of its casual contributers, such as Jaime Monteiro, were members of the Portuguese Canadian Democratic Association, an active anti-fascist organization in Toronto ostracized by many in the community for its Communist affiliations. The thought-piece below was published in the November-December 1977 issue of Comunidade and it addresses, what the author perceives to be, the political apathy of Canadians.

“CANADA, WHAT FUTURE?

By Jaime Monteiro

In the first article of this series that we set ourselves to write, we made reference to a question by Miguel Urbano Rodrigues “what is a Canadian?” A few days ago, by chance, we came across a quotation from a Canadian writer that said: “Historically, a Canadian is an American who rejects Revolution [sic].” We became interested in reading the work where this phrase had been extracted from, and to those who feel equal desire, we share the information (Northrop Frye in “The Bush Garden” – Editions 1952 and 1971).

Without knowing the book and the ideas of the author, we connected the phrase to our own ideas. Canadian, an American who rejects REvolution. Just because Americans had their REvolution?  We will wait to read the book… In truth, if we speak of revolutionizing anything, the term alone scares Canadians, keeping to generalities. Look at the basic education system. We do not believe that there is a country in the world, from the poorest to the wealthiest, with democratic or totalitarian regimes, where the youth is so distanced from the discussion of political issues as in Canada! And we make this statement without any fear of exaggeration. It is not because there are no teachers capable of  engaging in political confrontation with their students, and at the university level people graduate in Social Sciences and Politics, but generally speaking, the panorama is very poor.

And it’s not only in the domain of politics. Any foreign student as a capacity for discussion that here is not considered practical by force of subject specialization, but jumps the limited horizons of the Canadian student when confronted with problems that may be knocking on their door. And that reminds us when in Portugal mothers hid from their daughters such normal facts as menstruation, which originated a few suicides. What explanation can the technocrats, sociologists, psychiatrists, etc…, to the thousands of youth that can’t find work, that get involved in drugs, crime, prostitution, suicide and so on? They will them that it’s the government’s fault because it is liberal and not conservative, or simply, because it does not know how to govern? The youth do not accept that theory, or accept any other, or fall into situations of despair because the system inhibits forms of action and struggle that the privileged consider revolutionary.

For some time now, even the church, catholic or protestant, has manifested concerns, and in “administrative areas” we start to feel unease that hasn’t assumed the proportions of what happened in the churchs of Rato and S. Domingos, in Lisbon, at the time of fascism, but attracts attention and led the wife of a president of a Bank to affirm that she has been detached from reality.

We have no illusions, and we know that, as the problems aggravate, the witch hunt increases.  And if a new version of Macarthysm hasn’t surged, it is because the conditions are different, and we have to accept the differences between Canadian and American societies. Our fear is not so much a confrontation like we had in the thirties, but a radicalization of positions as a result of the profound alterations that have occurred to this day and the transformation of mentalities. The high society wears different clothing of the much pretentious aristocratic “economic elite” of the depression years, a great portion of the workers have self victimized in the society of consumerism and that youth that respected the values could not care less for moralizing sermons. The problem of national unity no longer only hides the stigma of identity, but questions the country’s entire social-economic complex, raising questions of such magnitude and gravity that involves a total involvement of the population. Multiculturalism was, perhaps, well intentioned, and even thought that it would be a curious experience within the capitalist system, but today we believe that it offers the same dangers as the ones generated by the exacerbated american nationalism of the “melting pot”

In order to resolve the grave problems that our country confronts, we need to seek the reasons at the bottom of the question, in the margins of parties and international “cartels”. There is no soon nor late, but a demand that many and various interests defy comprehension. And there are those who throw dust in the eyes of the unwary.

To continue on affirming that Canada is the best place in the world, with peace and happiness, with high wages, with big cars and plenty of vacations abroad, with many telephones and many televisions, is the policy of the ostrich.

That the territory, the beauty, the immense natural resources and the technology are here is a fact, but the unbalancing factors are starting to weigh in our conscience. A collective effort cannot be sophisticated and cannot ignore any valid contribution.” November-December, 1977, Year 3, n.34: 12 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes)

Comunidade tried to boost interest in Canadian politics among its readers, and inform them about their options. During every election the newspaper published the viewpoints and campaign promises of candidates running in heavy Portuguese ridings. The article in the thumbnail outlines some candidate's positions in Toronto's municipal elections in 1976.

Also, the editors did not shy from expressing their political views and making demands to the government, some of which were quite radical and ambitious, as was the case in the editorial below:

“EDITORIAL

On the 18th of September elections will be held for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Of what importance are these elections for the Portuguese in Ontario? Perhaps it is of little importance, for on one hand, the number of eligible voters is small, and on the other hand, the majority of issues that touch on the Portuguese, as immigrant workers, are not discussed. As we know, from the experience of the elections in Portugal, there are many parties that run in an election, all of them with promises and different opinions about resolving society's problems. Each party represents the interests of a determined sector of the population. Some represent the bourgeoisie, that is the ruling class, others represent the workers interests, and still others try to represent the petit-bourgeoisie and the workers. In general a person votes for the candidate or the party that he feels presents the best solutions for his problems. As I am the newspaper of the Portuguese community, and as such knowing of and feeling many of your problems, I am going to tell you openly what I expect from the new Provincial Government. I expect that this government:

Give the right to vote to all immigrants after having been in Canada a minimum of 1 year, without it being necessary to become a citizen;

Ensure full employment;

Raise the wage of workers in relation to the cost of living;

Pay men and women equal wages for equal work;

Have an acceptable minimum wage;

Inspect the conditions of work in factories, construction sites, and cleaning companies to avoid accidents and illnesses on the job;

Pay accident victims the same wages they received before the accidents;

End the discrimination in education against immigrant children;

Employ teachers who speak the immigrant children's language to help the children's adjustment in school at the beginning;

Offer free English courses to immigrants upon their arrival in Canada;

Recognize the professions of immigrants and give them an adaptation course to exercise their trades or professions in Canada (valid for nurses, electricians, mechanics, carpenters, welders, teachers, doctors, etc.);

Place in every government department and hospitals professional interpreters;

Give assistance (pension or welfare) to all immigrant senior citizens no matter  the length they have been in Canada;

Subsidize centers for seniors citizens;

Make daycare available to all the children of working parents.

As you can see, I am ambitious and demanding but I do not know if all the Portuguese agree with me. In the end, it is all of us who should be demanding,” September 1975, Year 1 N.2: 3 & 7.

Comunidade also encouraged Portuguese immigrants to participate more in electoral politics, and assert the need for a greater Portuguese representation in Canada's democratic institutions. As expressed in this article of June 1978:

“IT’S TIME WE WAKE UP

Generally, every individual that sets his residence in a foreign country does so because he thinks that country has superior qualities than his country of origin, whether is financial opportunities or in freedom of action and expression of ideas.

According to the thinking of the majority of Portuguese, and generally those coming from the so-called underdeveloped countries, America, Canada and the United States, are the countries where we expect to realize our dreams of ambition and liberty. The problem is that complete liberty is not possible nor desirable and if by chance our monetary ambitions are realized, it is with much sacrifice from both husband and wife and in most cases, due to the trade-off of comfort and luxuries in the process of amassing more and more money; but that’s another matter.

We, the majority of older Portuguese, did not involve ourselves in politics in our country of origin, nor should we because we subjected ourselves to undesirable consequences. Thus we were not nor did we want to be versed or active in politics and if we voted was because we were forced to by the regime. The political system made us apathetic and that was the reason why the dictatorship in Portugal lasted over forty years.

In a free country, the situation is completely different, every citizen has the civic and moral duty and the right to vote. The lack of participation in a democratic system is therefore free, so much as it is possible, may cause the formation of political dictatorships and cause an election of governments that can harm the nation in general and every individual in particular.

All of us, some more than others, love our native country, and for this reason some people think it would be a betrayal to the country of origin if they were to become citizens of a foreign country.  According to my thinking, if our patriotic duty is so strong, then we should sacrifice ourselves in every sense and even suffer from privation in that same country and not set residence in another nation where there is freedom and better conditions to live. Fortunately for Portuguese, if the become Canadian citizens they may return to their native country and continue to be Portuguese to the core. As obvious, the right to vote is given solely to Canadian citizens when they are the age of majority. To facilitate the naturalization of emigrants, the Canadian government not only reduced the time of required residence but also decided to designate citizenship judges from different ethnic and linguistic groups.

In Canada, like in other countries, there are certain privileges given uniquely to citizens of this country, beyond the right to vote, which is not given to non-naturalized emigrants.  The emigrants that are not naturalized are not authorized to run for office. The concept that naturalized emigrants do not enjoy the same privileges as other Canadians is wrong before the law.

Once naturalized they have every right as any other Canadian citizen, however, in practice, there are isolated cases of discrimination, but if discrimination is proven the law is rigorous in this matter and if found guilty that person will be punished. It is then convenient for emigrants to naturalize themselves along with their families.

We are soon to have elections, it’s time that the Portuguese community awakes and become knowledgeable of the Canadian democratic system, become knowledgeable of the ideologies that each electoral party has to offer us, and participate with our vote in the democratic system for the good of our Nation where we reside and for us all…

The Portuguese community is already quite numerous but unfortunately we do not have a representative of Portuguese background either at the municipal or provincial or federal level, to help us attain the benefits that we are entitled to.

I appeal to all Portuguese to become good politicians, to naturalize as Canadian and to vote according to how their conscious dictates for the benefit of our own and the Canadian nation. I especially appeal to those Portuguese with the ability to run for office and represent us to become involved in a democratic political system in order that we unite and elect representatives at all levels of the Canadian government.

Manuel Noia” June 1978, Year 3, n. 38: 2 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes).

In this picture, alderman candidate Bill Moniz, running on Ward 4, during the 1978 Toronto municipal elections, canvasses voters on Dundas St. Photo published in the September 28, 1978 issue of Comunidade.

The 1978 Toronto municipal election was a political landmark for the Portuguese community in Toronto, since it was the first time a group of Portuguese-Canadians ran for political office (5 for alderman and 1 for school trustee, all in Ward 4). Up to that point there had only been two candidates who ran for school trustee in separate years. Joe Pantalone and João Medeiros ran together with the New Democratic Party for the two available aldermen positions. They would finish in 3rd (3252 votes) and 4th (1887 votes) place respectively, behind Art Eggleton and Ben George.

The October 5, 1978 issue published a letter to the editor from João Medeiros, written as a municipal candidate, providing information about himself and his political objectives:

“COMMUNIQUÉ

Dear friends and democrats,

I direct this circular to the people I know and the people I don’t know, but who, I am sure, defend the same ideals when it comes to the formation of a municipal government that is truly interested in resolving the problems of workers.

This is the first opportunity I have to let you know a little about my past and the reasons that led me to run in the next municipal elections for Ward 4.

I am 33 years old and married to Filomena Almeida-Medeiros, social worker, working with the Catholic Children’s Aid, on Duffertin Mall. I have a son named Damião, who is one year old. I am a natural of S. Miguel, Azores. I did my secondary  studies in the Terceira island and part of my postsecondary studies in Lisbon where I resided for 6 years. In 1971, I emigrated to Canada, to avoid participating in the disastrous war that the then fascist regime in Portugal led in the former African colonies.

In Canada I completed my studies at York University, graduating in Community Development and Organization. I live and work on Ward 4 since I have come to Canada. My occupation at the West End Y.M.C.A. was always related with social work and community development. In this capacity, I initiated, in 1972, a new method for teaching English to adults, based on the education philosophy of Paulo Freire and, in 1975, organized the group that founded the newspaper “COMUNIDADE” acting as the redactor of this publication until the present.

I am the president of the Movimento Comunitário Português and co-author of the recently published book, “Portuguese Immigrants – 25 Years in Canada.”

Why am I running for alderman of Ward 4? To be honest, I must say that I was not thinking about it until two months ago. It was due to a few friends that encouraged me to propose my candidacy. For some time, I thought about the seriousness of what that means and, in the end, I decided to run, but with one single intention: to serve honestly and uniquely the interests of the working people – among which I include the small businessmen – of Ward 4 and Metropolitan Toronto. For that, if I am elected, I intend to work as an alderman full time, and stay in frequent contact  with the organizations and the people of Ward 4.

I support the municipal programs of the N.D.P., the Labour Council and the ReforMetro, and intend to collaborate with all progressive candidates supported by those three organizations.

In the past June 20, I received the endorsement of ReforMetro and I have already submitted my candidacy for the official nomination of the N.D.P., in a meeting that will take place on August 23.

It is my intention to conduct a serious and educative campaign, focusing the attention of the electorate to the problems of Ward 4 and the Metropolitan Toronto.

To win the next elections and place aldermen who are interested in defending working people in the Municipal Government it is necessary to mobilize many people. This is only achievable with the help and the work of all the democrats united…

Um abraço amigo,

João Medeiros,” July 31, 1978, Year 4, n. 39: 6 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes).

"And they say they are free elections…" says this cartoon, published in the front cover of the May 4, 1979 issue. In it, 'Canaguês', a caricature of the Portuguese-Canadian man, ponders his vote in the upcoming Federal elections, as Prime Minister Joe Clark and the Premier of Ontario Bill Davis entice him with government grants; Trudeau, “the king of Canada and Quebec”, holding the hand of “the inheriting prince Justin”, exclaims, “Don’t be a traitor!!”; and Ed Broadbent, sporting a jacket with the inscription “Good workers vote N.D.P.”, calls for him. The cartoon responded to a political scandal involving multicultural grants, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and the First Portuguese Canadian Club, which was highly publicized in this issue of Comunidade.

“VOTE HUNTING HITS FIRST PORTUGUESE!

The newspapers of April 2, 1979, reported that a high officer of the Ontario Government (Philippe LeBlanc, Director, Multicultural Development Branch of the Ministry of Culture and Recreation) had resigned, accusing the government of political interference in its area of responsibility, and exemplifying how cultural programs (paid for by public monies) are used for political ends in favour of the conservative party to which the government belongs, instead of promoting culture and inter-racial relations in Ontario. One of the examples provided in Mr. LeBlanc’s  letter of resignation (1) involves the First Portuguese Canadian Club.

The accusation is that an officer of the government… “had convinced” the First to offer a dinner in honour of the Minister of Culture and Recreation (Mr. Baetz) on the occasion of granting the subsidy that the said Minister had given the First, and that another government officer… had… asked the First not to invite politicians from the NDP of that area nor sympathizers of the NDP for said dinner. The Globe and Mail said, when contacted by them, the President of the First had denied these accusations… 1. Letter in the author’s possession.

[Fernanda Gaspar]” May 04, 1979, Year 4, Vol. 2, n. 12: 1 & 3 (trans. Gilberto Fernandes).

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