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is located in the
Elk Valley of south-east corner of British
Columbia within the larger region of the East Kootenays. It
intersects with the
Crows Nest Pass which is the lowest and
southern-most corridor across the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The region is dotted with small communities established by
people who arrived in different waves of immigration from
Europe. The spectrum of cultural backgrounds includes:
Slavic-speaking people of Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech and
Slovak heritage; Italians; and Anglo-Europeans from England,
Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Eastern Canada and the US.
Through their labour, these immigrants established industries
throughout the Crowsnest Pass. Many worked in the
worked on the railways or in sawmills, some some cut timber,
made roads and established businesses. Cycles of boom and bust
have tested the resilience of residents in the region. Some
communities, such as Michel-Natal,
Morrissey and Coal Creek have
been relocated in response to shifting demands of industry.
Other populations fluctuated in response to War and immigration
According to Statistics Canada, BC has the highest population
in the western provinces of people whose language and heritage
are Italian. The Elk Valley has a significant Italian community.
In Sparwood (previously Michel-Natal) many immigrated from the
North of Italy. In Fernie, Italian residents are primarily from
the southern region of Calabria, where, at various times, local
conditions were difficult. There were three major waves of
immigration from Italy to this region. The earliest arrived in
the late 1800s; another influx occurred between 1920 and into
the 1930s. The last major move of Italians into the Elk Valley
occurred after World War II into the 1950s. Since this time,
relatives and friends continue to arrive in smaller numbers.
Noi andiamo a Farnie bee chi
This article is adapted from the Summary Report for the
Elk Valley Italian Oral History Project prepared by Leslie
(Unpublished Report: Fernie and District Historical Society, November, 1999). The
Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium would
like to thank Leslie Robertson and the Fernie and District Historical Society
for permission to reprint this material.
Listen: Silvio Tona talks about his wine making (oral