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     Calgary:  World War I and Interwar Period

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Introduction

Early Years

World War I and
Interwar Period

World War II
and After

Cultural Life

Pioneers

 


In 1920, Calgary received a second influx of Italian immigrants.  By 1921 the Italian community had grown to 425, and a large number had come directly from Italy.  Most of the migrants were farm labourers from the town of Antrodoco in Lazio, from various places in Abruzzi, and from northern Italy, primarily Veneto and Piemonte.  A substantial number also came from Nordegg, Alberta, when its mining operations went into decline.  They boarded with family and paesani in Bridgeland/Riverside.  Through family connections, they found employment with CPR, the City of Calgary (waterworks division), the Burns Meat packing Plant and the Calgary Brewery. Angelina Regaudengo, Calgary, Alberta. Some of the women worked in the dairy department of Burns or at the Palliser Hotel, where Mario Grassi was the assistant maitre d'.  Two women, Cesira Di Paolo and Angelina Rebaudengo, worked as furriers.  None were professionals, but a few enterprising individuals started their own businesses.  The children of the Italian immigrants generally attended St. Angela's or St. Ann's Catholic schools, and those who went on to high school graduated from St. Mary's.

During the 1920s and the 1930s, there was also an active Fascist party in Calgary called the Fascio.  It seems to have existed outside the Giovanni Caboto Loggia, but it is not known whether it was a chapter of the Canadian Union of Fascists.  Little is known about the activities of the Fascio, but it was probably more a social club, whose members admired Mussolini and the glory he was bringing to Italy, than a political organization.  At a convention in Calgary in 1926, the Fascisti outlined their objectives: among other goals, they sought to improve the well being of Italian immigrants in Canada and to promote a better understanding of Italo-Canadian culture.  Claims that it was a subversive organization are doubtful, since Italians are apolitical by nature.  In fact, at the convention members pledged to "love, serve, obey and exalt the Dominion of Canada and to teach the obedience to and respect for its constitution and laws."

Mr. Antonio Rebaudengo in the Kananaskis, Alberta, internment camp in 1941.  While a supporter of Mussolini and responsible for setting up Fascist societies, there is no evidence that he was a risk to Canadian security.  Photo courtesy of Glenbow NA-5124-22Although support for the Fascio was exclusively Italian, it is not known how many immigrants belonged to the party.  Some Italo-Canadians did not join because they were anti-Fascist, while others were just not interested.  The head of the Fascio was Antonio Rebaudengo, the honorary Italian consul.  After he was arrested by the RCMP in 1940, his wife destroyed all the documents relating to the Fascio, including the names of members.  Mr. Rebaudengo had instructed her to do so in order to prevent other Italians from being interned.

Italian immigration to Calgary virtually ended in 1927.  This was partly because Italy's Fascist government restricted emigration, but also because the Canadian government, reacting to the wave of xenophobia and radicalism that was sweeping the country in the mid-1920s, had begun to curtail immigration from southern Europe.  With the onset of the Depression, further restrictions were added to Canada's immigration policy.  After 1931, Canadian immigration law permitted entry only to "British persons, U.S. citizens, wives, fiancées and dependents of these and agriculturalists having sufficient means to farm in Canada."  During the 1930s, the Italian community's growth came from natural increase and internal migration.

Reprinted from ”With Heart and Soul: Calgary’s Italian Community“ by Antonella Fanella, with permission from the University of Calgary Press and the author.

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