In preparation for the 100th anniversary of this country’s formation as a nation, a local women’s service club proposed the development of a space where different ethnic groups could “glorify Canada” by creating gardens representative of their native land. It was through this effort that the International Friendship Gardens was launched in 1967.
Since then, the humble Centennial Project of Soroptimist International of Thunder Bay grew from the initial eight memorials to 17. On September 19, 1992, a dedication ceremony took place to unveil the Portuguese community’s contribution to this effort to promote good citizenship and honour their mother country.
The Portuguese Pavillion at International Friendship Gardens is approached by a pathway of interlocking bricks. The monument, which measures 14-ft high and 17-ft across, has columns that represent the sail of ships from Portugal’s Golden Age of discovery.
The murals, formed of pictured tiles, shows Prince Henry the Navigator, under whose leadership much of the 15th-century naval exploration took place. Also depicted is Portugal’s greatest poet, Luis Vaz de Camoes, whose epic poem Os Lusiadas (The Lusiads) commemorates the voyages of Vasco de Gama, who sailed around Africa and opened a sea route to India.
Manuel Covas, the Portuguese garden chairman, echoed the sentiment of the other groups that had constructed a memorial, when he said: “The Portuguese community of Thunder Bay has dedicated this monument to the people of the city of Thunder Bay in the hope that the International Friendship Garden will promote a sense of tolerance, understanding and respect amongst all of Canada’s people.”
The Portuguese Pavillion at International Friendship Gardens is located on Thunder Bay’s south side along Victoria Avenue near Chapples Park and Fort William Stadium.