Born in Toronto.
Based in Mississauga and Ottawa.
I am very proud to be Canadian but I am also very proud to be Portuguese, and those are equal to me. But it is important, it is important for my children. Because they don’t want to lose the language of their grandfather, who came here to start a new life, new opportunities for them, ultimately – Charles Sousa.
Charles Sousa is one of the most high profile Portuguese Canadians, as former Ontario Minister of Labour, of Citizenship and Immigration, and of Finance with the Liberal Party. The son of one of the first and most prominent Portuguese families to settle in Toronto’s Kensington Market in the 1950s, Sousa has kept close ties to the Portuguese community throughout his private life and public career.
Anthony Charles Sousa was born on September 27, 1958, in Toronto. His parents, António and Maria Rocha, and his older brother Júlio, were among the first Portuguese families to settle in Toronto’s Kensington Market at the outset of the postwar mass migration movement. António arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax aboard the Saturnia on May 13, 1953, as part of the first group of Portuguese workers to arrived under the labour migration agreement negotiated between the governments of Portugal and Canada. In order to escape the PIDE – the dictatorship’s political police – after having supported the presidential campaign of General Norton de Matos in 1949, António applied for Canadian immigration as a bogus carpenter, having no real experience in the trade. Before settling in Kensington Market, he had a typical sojourner experience. His first job was at the U.S. air base in Goose Bay, Labrador, working as a kitchen helper. While there he made extra money by selling soda pop cans to other workers, along with products ordered from the Eaton’s catalogue and retailers in Montreal. A few years later, António settled in Kensington Market and called for his wife and son to join him. The Sousas then opened a restaurant and boarding house – the first Portuguese-owned businesses in Canada – on the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Nassau Street, which became the hub of Toronto’s Portuguese community. A savvy businessman, António would open various successful businesses throughout his life, including a bakery and a food import company, among others. He was also involved in the administration of various Portuguese clubs and associations in Toronto, including the First Portuguese Canadian Club (FPCC).
Charles Sousa was born and raised in this context, spending a great deal of his childhood surrounded by Portuguese immigrants and frequenting their community organizations, including the FPCC’s Portuguese school on Saturday mornings. The Sousas moved to Mississauga when Charles was in his youth. Influenced by his father’s business acumen, he pursued an education in business administration, first completing an undergraduate at Wilfrid Laurier University in 1982, and later a Masters from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University o Western Ontario in 1994. Afterwards, he opened a financial services company. A few years later, he was hired by the Royal Bank of Canada, where he worked for over 20 years. During that time, he became Director of Commercial Banking and Director of Marketing at RBC Dominion Securities. Charles also took on several prominent roles in multiple civil society organizations, including the Federation of Portuguese Canadian Business and Professionals, Toronto Board of Trade, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the International Chamber of Commerce, among others. In 2003, he received a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his community service.
Before entering provincial politics with the Liberal Party, Charles was one of the chairs for John Tory’s campaign for Toronto mayor in 2003, as one of the “was a prominent member of the Progressive Conservative Party, who served as one of the chairs for John Tory’s campaign for mayor of Toronto in 2003 “Grits for Tory.” In 2004, Charles sought the federal Liberal Party nomination for the riding of Mississauga South, but lost against the incumbent, the socially-conservative Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Paul Szabo. He tried and lost again in 2006 in riding of Mississauga-Erindale, held by the Liberal incumbent Omar Alghabra. The following year, he ran for the Liberal Party in the Ontario Provincial Elections in the riding of Mississauga-South, and defeated the Progressive Conservative incumbent Tim Peterson by 5,000 votes. He would be re-elected in 2011 and 2014 with comfortable margins. In 2010, Premier Dalton McGuinty appointed Charles as Minister of Labour, replacing the Portuguese-Canadian MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville Peter Fonseca. The following year, Charles moved to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
Charles resigned his cabinet position in November 2012 to run for the Ontario Liberal Party’s leadership the following year. After coming in fifth place on the second ballot, he withdrew and endorsed the progressive candidate Kathleen Wynne, which helped secure her victory. When Wynne became Premier of Ontario, she appointed Charles as Minster of Finance. During his tenure, Charles introduced five budgets.
In the 2018 provincial election, Charles lost against the Progressive Conservative candidate Rudy Cuzzetto in the newly created riding of Mississauga-Lakeshore. Four years later, he won the federal riding of Mississauga-Lakeshore in a December 2022 by election, following the resignation of the Member of Parliament (MP) Sven Spengemann. Sousa became the fourth Portuguese-Canadian to be elected MP, after Mário Silva, Alexandre Mendès, and Peter Fonseca, all of them with the Liberal Party. In the interim, Charles held the position of chair of the Magellan Community Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to building and operating a Portuguese-centric senior long-term care facility in Toronto.
Hora dos Portugueses
Photos & Video
See 3D version here.
Short description: Cameras
Owner: António Sousa
Place of origin: Canada?
Description: Three cameras owned by António Sousa, including a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye.
These cameras belonged to António Sousa (the father of Charles Sousa), an immigrant from the fishing town of Nazaré, in central mainland Portugal, who landed at Pier 21 in Halifax aboard the steamship Saturnia on May 13, 1953. He was part of the first group of workers who arrived under a “bulk order” labour migration agreement between the governments of Canada and Portugal. António would become one of the most prominent Portuguese immigrants in Canada, as a successful businessman and community organizer in Toronto.
Like António, many of the early Portuguese migrants who arrived in the 1950s (the “pioneers”) took photos of the places they worked and lived in, and the people they met along the way, so they could send them to their loved ones in Portugal. In their letters home, some migrants left out their difficult situations and harsh realities encountered in Canada so not to upset their families or tarnish their masculinity as resilient “breadwinners.” These photos and letters home helped construct the myth of emigrant fortune that prevailed in Portugal since the 19th century, which in turn prompted many to try their luck abroad.
Some of the “pioneers” photos were published in the first books written about the history of Portuguese immigrants in Canada, including David Higgs and Grace Anderson, A Future to Inherit: The Portuguese Communities of Canada (1976) and Domingos Marques and João Medeiros, Portuguese Immigrants: 25 Years in Canada (1978). But it was the book by Domingos Marques and Manuela Marujo, With Hardened Hands: A Pictorial History of Portuguese Immigration to Canada in the 1950s (1993) that most contributed to introducing and popularizing the “pioneers’” photos and stories.
In these publications, the “pioneers” testimonials tended to focus on their hard work, initial struggles, isolation, and sacrifices, but also the camaraderie and mutual help between them. Their photos, in turn, showed them smiling, playing musical instruments, socializing, and having fun. Many of Sousa’s and other photos from the immigrants who arrived in the 1950s were donated to the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers and the the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections through the Portuguese Canadian History Project.