Toronto
2 min

When the old country evolves…

Straight immigrants still cling to old attitudes

LOOK OUT. Rui Pires says hate crimes against Portuguese homos are on the rise. Credit: Jeremy Maude

Acts of hate over the summer show that members of Toronto’s straight Portuguese community are living in the past, says a spokesperson for an association of gay men and lesbians.



“What is hard for the Portuguese community is that a lot of them left Portugal when it didn’t recognize civil rights,” says Rui Pires, co-ordinator for the Portuguese Arco Iris.



He says people in the with homophobic attitudes transplanted them from their birthplace — and are stuck in a timewarp, even though Portugal is democratizing itself. “People are now pointing out that things [like a gradual acceptance of human rights] didn’t stop,” Pires adds.



According to Pires, three separate and unrelated incidents — all of them vicious — prompted the 200-member group to hold a recent press conference at Toronto City Hall to decry the bashing.



Arco Iris board member Paulo de Lima said at the Jul 15 press conference that the group will pursue all legal channels available to put a stop to hate-related acts targeting gays and lesbians in community media.



A flyer believed to have originated in Toronto and signed by the Portuguese Catholic Charismatic Group, warns Portuguese youth to beware of a man whose name they print.



The flyer says he calls himself “paneleiro #1” — meaning fag — and

that he is telling the public that Portuguese young people are also “paneleiros.”



Distributed possibly as far as Montreal, the flyer says the man

contaminated a Mississauga youth group with AIDS and gives contact names to find out more about this person.



“Again we warn the public to watch out for this pernicious paneleiro,” it states.



The second and third incidents occurred on CIRV, a Portuguese radio station (at 88.9FM).



According to Pires, on May 21, a person called into a phone-in show and said that although he couldn’t kill anyone himself, he would be willing to accompany anyone who would want to go out and murder all the gays.



On Jun 25, another caller said all the Pride Day participants should be given some kind of drug and marched into Lake Ontario.



The radio station, which has a seven-second delay allowing it to screen caller’s comments before they go on air, failed to use it, Pires says.



Pires says the radio station has apologized to Arco Iris for the first

call, but has made no comments about the second one.



Pires says the hardest thing about being Portuguese and gay is that it is a small ethnic community.



“It feels different than in a larger context,” he says.



When homophobic comments are made in the Portuguese community, Pires says it makes him think “twice about walking down College St. There are safety issues because it’s more personal.



“You are either Portuguese or gay, but you’re not both at the same

time.”