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  Alberta's Italian Community:  World War II and After

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Fascism and
Internment

Immigration

 

by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.

This period was important for two reasons:  the challenges to the legitimacy of Italian immigrants and second and third-generation descendants on Canadian soil as an aspect of the war in Europe and the post-war wave of immigration. An important issue was the impact of the rise of Fascism and how it played out as Italy declared war on Canada (June 10, 1940) and Italians, even some born in the country, became enemy aliens. The issue had arisen briefly in the First World War but Italy had sided with the Allies and that ended the discussion. However, it was demonstrated how the Canadian government would react to "enemy aliens" or suspected enemy aliens on our soil-Ukrainians were interned. 

As Europe struggled with unemployment Attilo and Stella Gatto aboard ship in 1949 enroute to Canada.  Photo courtesy of the Gatto family. and lack of food as an aftermath of the war and the devastation of the economies of Europe, the Canadian economy began to boom and there was an impetus to increase immigration. In 1947, the "enemy alien" designation for Italians was removed. The Italian government supported the immigration and, in 1948, the Canadian government opened a Rome embassy. While reconstruction work had begun in Italy, there were insufficient jobs in both urban and rural communities. According to oral history interviews, for one civil service or teaching job there might be up to 10,000 candidates who sat exams. Thus, emigration did not come just from the pool of unskilled labour but also from educated people who felt that their talents and skills were not appreciated in the homeland. Within Europe, France, Germany and Switzerland were favoured but other emigrants chose to go further afield to Canada, the US, Australia and South America. 

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