Timeline: First Portuguese business opened

António Sousa was part of the first group of migrant workers who arrived on Pier 21 in Halifax aboard the Saturnia on May 13, 1953, under the labour migration agreement between Portugal and Canada. The owner of a fishing supplies store in the central mainland town of Nazaré, António applied for Canadian immigration as a bogus “carpenter,” having no real experience in the trade. Before settling in Toronto, António worked as a kitchen helper at the Air Force base in Goose Bay, Labrador, where he learned English from a Russian cook. He made extra money by selling soda pop cans, playing card decks, jewellery, clothing and other goods ordered from the Eaton’s catalogue and retailers in Montreal.

In 1956, António settled in Toronto and sent for his wife Maria Rocha and son Júlio – their Canadian-born son Charles would become Ontario Minister of Labour, of Citizenship and Immigration, and of Finance. The Sousas opened the first Portuguese business in Canada, a restaurant and boarding house on the southeast corner of Nassau St. and Bellevue Ave., in Kensington Market. At the restaurant, Portuguese newcomers found familiar food, temporary lodging, and fellow immigrants with whom they shared information. Their business also became a point of reference for taxi drivers as a drop off point for Portuguese immigrants recently arrived at Union Station, and for mailman who dropped off mail for those immigrants without fixed address or who were working in the hinterland. Bellevue and Nassau became the hub of the Portuguese community in Toronto until the 1970s, as the original location of the First Portuguese Canadian Club and the Portuguese Bookstore.

A savvy businessman, António opened various successful businesses throughout his life, including a bakery and a food import company, among others.