This month entered history after Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa made his first official visit to Canada.
The Portuguese delegation travelled through the cities of Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto and Montreal. During the state visit, Costa met up with Justin Trudeau, as well as other prominent Canadian policy figures such as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Governor-General Julie Payette.
In 1982, Prime Minister Francisco Pinto Balsemão visited Canada at the invitation of Canadian leader Pierre Elliott Trudeau, being the first and only with this title to visit the country ever since.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Trudeau offered a lunch to Costa and his entourage in Toronto, where he expressed his admiration for the Portuguese-Canadian community.
“Portuguese culture has shaped our cities and towns in many ways,” Trudeau said. “From your unshakable family values, to incredible work ethic, to passion and love for football – Portuguese-Canadians are a key part of Canada, Canada.”
Costa was also meeting with the Portuguese-Canadian deputies Alexandra Mendes and Peter Fonseca and also Julie Dzerowicz, all members of the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group.
“We wanted to show Prime Minister Costa that there is a genuine interest of all Members … in strengthening ties with Portugal,” said Dzerowicz, who was appointed co-chair of the organization last week.
Dzerowicz represents in the federal parliament Davenport, the district with the greater percentage of constituents of Portuguese origin. In an exclusive interview with CMC, he shared one of the moments he liked most about Costa’s visit – when he “proposed a toast and said how grateful he was” for the law he introduced last year.
“For the first time in history, we will celebrate the month of Portuguese Heritage in June (…) as well as June 10 as the day of Portugal in Canada,” explained the deputy. “It has meant a lot to me for the recognition of Prime Minister Costa.”
One of the highlights of the visit was the signing of the Youth Mobility Agreement between the Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, and the Secretary of State of the Communities, José Luís Carneiro.
The agreement will allow 2,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 35 to come to Canada to study or work a year. Providing the same opportunity for the same number of young Canadians.
“This is a way of deepening relationships so that our young people visit the two countries and understand different cultures,” explained Dzerowicz. “It’s a way of learning with the methods of others.”
But cultural growth is not the only benefit of this agreement, said the deputy, who added that it will strengthen business relations between the two countries.
“It will allow two thousand Portuguese to come to Canada to work,” she reaffirmed. “They can then decide to stay … or … take the Canadian work experience and return to Portugal and use it as an advantage to work in companies that want to do more business with Canada or expand to North America.”
If the benefits are cultural, economic or otherwise, it does not matter, since the main objective is to strengthen the ties between the two countries, Dzerowicz said. A sentiment propagated by Costa during his visit to Toronto.
“Our two countries have extensive experience in integration, citizenship and multiculturalism, as well as promoting international cooperation through multilateral organizations,” said Costa. “We strongly believe that the world we want to build needs bridges that connect people, countries and continents.”
According to the Canadian Immigration Ministry, the mobility agreement will take effect in 2019, with the government accepting applications this fall.