Maria Teresa Linhares de Sousa
Ontario Superior Court Justice
Born in Madeira.
Lived in Toronto.
Based in Ottawa.
My cultural background gives me glasses with which to interpret what I am hearing and then be able to apply to a law that applies to everybody… Having a culturally diverse judiciary, I think, is a good thing for a country like Canada – Maria Teresa Linhares de Sousa.
Maria Teresa Linhares de Sousa is a retired Judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario (Family branch). The daughter of one of the “pioneer” migrant workers who arrived in Canada in the 1950s, Sousa was among the first Portuguese children to settle in this country. She has seen her immigrant community develop over the decades, much like her fellow Portuguese-Canadians have witnessed and celebrated her achievements as one of their own.
Maria Teresa Linhares de Sousa was born in Madeira. Together with her mother and brother, she immigrated to Canada in 1954, where she joined her father, José, who had arrived in Halifax the previous year aboard the steamship Saturnia as a migrant farm worker destined for a mushroom farm north of Toronto. They settled in the working-class neighbourhood of Cabbagetown, in the East end of Toronto, far from the areas where most Portuguese immigrants would later settle. Her father, who had worked at an auto shop in Madeira and descended from a fisherman, was not used to farming. He soon found work washing dishes at the St. Regis Hotel, where he worked seven days a week for five years, until he became a janitor with the Toronto Hydro until retirement. Sousa’s mother first worked doing laundry at a hotel until she found a job in the Princess Margaret Hospital’s nutrition department, dispensing food for the patients. On Sherbourne Street, the Sousas, one of the first Portuguese families to settle in Canada, also ran a rooming house. Although she never lived in Kensington Market or other Portuguese areas, Sousa frequented those neighbourhoods regularly with her family for shopping and attending community functions. Her father was also one of the first members of the Madeira Club and Madeira Park in Georgina, Ontario.
Sousa attended the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and St. Joseph’s College School. She became one of the first Portuguese immigrants to attend university in Canada, starting in 1968 at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. As a student of Prof. David Higgs, Sousa became interested in Portuguese history. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in History and English, she pursued a Master’s in History under Higgs supervision. After completing her graduate studies in 1973, she married and moved to Ottawa, where she enrolled in law school. During her first year in Ottawa, Sousa worked for Higgs as a research assistant while he was writing the book A Future To Inherit, which he co-authored with Grace Anderson in 1976. At the national archives she read Portuguese-Canadian newspapers published across Canada and interviewed Portuguese immigrant families in Montreal.
Initially interested in criminal law, Sousa eventually decided to pursue family law, which she had been exposed to during her articling year. She was called to the bar in 1978 and appointed as a Family Law Commissioner and Official Referee of the Supreme Court of Ontario. In 1989, Sousa was appointed Justice to the Ontario Court of Justice. Ten years later, she was appointed to the Family Branch of the Superior Court of Ontario in November 1999. She retired twenty years later, in November 2019. During her career, Sousa published multiple articles and gave numerous lectures in Family Law.
Hora dos Portugueses
MY CHOICE OF ARTIFACTS, MY FATHER’S RUSTY HOE AND MY JUDICIAL GOWN AND WHY I CHOSE THEM.
I chose these two artifacts because they represent the bookends of my family’s immigration experience to Canada. I emphasize bookends because those two bookends encase many books that could be written about one family’s story and journey from Funchal, Madeira, Portugal across the ocean to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The courage of my parents and sacrifices endured by them to do what they did, leaving behind their families, their society, culture and country has never ceased to touch me deeply, and will remain for me a constant source of personal gratitude. It is a gratitude that extends to Portugal, my country of birth, for the formation of the true grit and resilience of the Portuguese immigrant.
Portugal’s sons and daughters have been emigrating to other lands for centuries. What really changed over the years was the destination. My father, José Linhares de Sousa, was no different. Within his own family there were 2 generations of relatives that had emigrated overseas. When my father read in the local newspaper that Canada was seeking agricultural workers, he applied and soon found himself on the Saturnia headed for Pier 21, Halifax. He understood that the agricultural workers should bring their own tools so he brought with him a shiny new hoe which he used in his farm work in Canada. That hoe is my first chosen artifact. It is the original and it was the beginning of my parent’s immigration to Canada. From the picture, it is clear that the shiny hoe has turned to a rusty one with age. My father soon gave up agricultural work in Canada. He was no farmer! I am not sure why my father kept his hoe all those years but I found it among his things when he passed away in October of 1996. I have it on my desk at home and use it as a very priced and precious paperweight. It reminds me of him.
My second artifact, is my judicial gown, now hung up permanently upon my retirement in 2019. I chose that because I believe the career and life that I, that scrawny immigrant kid that one sees in the pictures taken at Alan’s Gardens in Toronto, was able to live in Canada, somewhat fulfilled and realized the hopes and dreams of my parents when they chose to undertake that long immigration journey to Canada. Hopes and dreams for their children to have a better life, or at least a life that might not otherwise have been possible for me, if my parents had said no to the chance of immigrating to Canada in the 1950s. My parent’s courage and sacrifices gave me, as one author put it, a “Future to Inherit.” And so to my parents, to Canada and to Portugal, I say a profound and deeply felt “Obrigada.”Maria Linhares de Sousa,
Ottawa, May, 2023