by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.
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The Italian government was active in facilitating the immigration of many Italians to Canada after the end of WWII. Stan Carbone quotes the following confidential dispatch from the Rome Embassy to Ottawa:
Surplus population is the fundamental Italian economic and social problem. . . . Overpopulation means extreme poverty for a great many Italian people, with a consequent large recruiting ground for the Communist Party. The unemployed in November, 1948 numbered almost two million. . . Any increase in emigration to Canada would be of practical help to Italy in tackling her gravest problem. It would also be a small but distinctly Canadian contribution to strengthening the present democratic 'Western' government and in making less likely its replacement by Communists or by extremists of the right. 1
This is a fascinating shift in the rationale for promoting immigration to Canada: from the need for workers to the consolidation of the western alliance in the fight against the Communist threat that was going to signal the start of the Cold War. Whatever the motivation, this spurred the coming to Canada of a large number of
immigrants who moved beyond the traditional resource-based communities to reside across the country. Census figures suggest that there were 150,000 Italian-Canadians in 1951 and this jumped to 450,000 in 1961 and 747,970 in 1981. Franc Sturino notes: "In 1981, 65% of Italian Canadians lived in Ontario, 22% in Quebec and 7% in BC. About 95% of Italian Canadians live in towns and cities. The most significant concentrations are in Toronto, where in 1981 Italian Canadians numbered 297,205 (10% of the population), and in Montreal, where they numbered 156,535 or almost 6% of the population."
2 He, further, notes that the following Canadian cities had over 10,000 Italian-Canadians: Hamilton, Vancouver, St. Catherines, Windsor, Ottawa, Sault St. Marie, Calgary and Edmonton.
The 1950s saw a flood of immigrants from Italy coming to Canada. Stanislao Carbone, writing in
Italians in Winnipeg, notes: "Between 1946 and 1961 southern Italians made up 60 percent of the 250,000 Italians who entered Canada, and 20 percent of those were from the regions of Calabria and
This is a piece of information that has been used to imply that the majority of immigration to Canada
(and, by extension, Alberta) from the earliest part of the 20th century, was from the south. Based on the
evidence of Alberta family histories as well as oral histories, immigration from northern Italy to the various mining areas was significant. In fact, in the early part of the 20th century more people appeared to have come from the north than from the south. Antonella Fanella echoes Stan Carbone's findings for Calgary:
Roughly one-third of the Calgary Italian community is from Abruzzo-Molise. Another one-third comes from Calabria, while the final one-third is composed of families from the regions of Campania, Puglia, Veneto, Friuli and Piemonte along with several individuals from Lazio, Basilicata, Sicilia, Sardegna,
Trentino-Alto Adige and Emilia Romagna. Analysis is based on interviews, the marriage registers of St. Andrew's Italian Prish and Our Lady of Grace Italian and English Catholic Church, and membership records of the Calgary Italian Club. 4