Symposium delves into Portuguese-Canadian identity issues

Negotiating Portuguese-Canadian identities, especially in the multicultural and transnational context, are just two of the topics that will be discussed at an upcoming symposium looking at issues affecting Portuguese-Canadian immigrant descendants.

Identity, Civic Engagement, Multiculturalism and Transnationalism: Portuguese-Canadian Immigrant Marie Rickard Descendants in Canada symposium will take place Oct. 11 and 12, from 9am to 8pm, in the Senior Common Room, 021 Winters College. Everyone is welcome to attend this free event. Refreshments will be served.

Fernando Nunes Julio Vilela, consul general of Portugal in Toronto, along with Martin Singer, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and Marie Rickard (right), master of York’s Winters College will be on hand for the introduction and welcome address Tuesday morning.

Professor Fernando Nunes (left) of Mount St. Vincent University’s Department of Child & Youth Studies and a project partner, will then deliver the keynote address, “Perspectives and Directions in Portuguese-Canadian Studies.” York languages, literatures & linguistics Professor Maria João Dodman and history Robert KenedyProfessor Ivana Elbl of Trent University will respond with York sociology Professor Robert Kenedy (right) moderating.

Music Professor Judith Cohen of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts will present and perform, “Caminhamos e Andamos: Music in the Lives of Portuguese Crypto-Jews,” following the keynote address. Over the course of the two days, several panels and round tables will discuss various aspects of the Portuguese-Canadian experience. Day one will end with an evening reception and performance by York music graduate student Nuno Cristo, while a reception and film launch will bring day two of the symposium to a close.

Judith CohenLeft: Judith Cohen

As part of the symposium, the Portuguese Canadian History Project (PCHP) will also launch its new online exhibit and website Oct. 12, from 11:45am to 12:30pm, in the Winters College Senior Common Room, sponsored by York’s Department of History. A complimentary lunch will follow a few brief presentations. The exhibit features research produced by York history graduate students and archival material donated from members of the Portuguese community.

Nuno CristoRight: Nuno Cristo. Photo by Karl Beveridge

The PCHP was founded in 2008 to locate and access historical records in the hands of private collectors that related to the Portuguese immigrant experience in Canada. Partnering with the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections at York University Libraries in 2009, the PCHP now works to facilitate the donation of archival materials to the archives so it will be available to future generations. For more information, visit the Portuguese Canadian History Project blog or e-mail

The symposium is part of the Understanding Canada: Canadian Studies International Research Linkages Project, which looks at Portuguese emigrant descendants. The idea is to analyse their identity negotiations, sense of belonging and civic engagement within the frameworks of multicultural Canada and modern Portugal to better understand and ensure their greater inclusion in both Canadian and Portuguese societies.

Black and white picture of people

Although Canadians of Portuguese background – about 1.3 per cent of the total population or some 412,000 people – now comprise one of the largest minority groups in Canada, they continue to be largely marginal to the mainstream of Canadian life in economic, educational, political and cultural terms. Many have returned to Portugal to begin lives in what is, to many, a foreign nation.

The symposium is presented by Winters College Office of the Master. It’s funded through the International Research Linkages program by The International Council for Canadian Studies, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, the Office of the Master Winters College and The Ontario Metropolis Centre.

To register or to see the symposium schedule, click here.  For more information, contact Robert Kenedy at