by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.
| Page 2
The National Congress of Italian-Canadians, assisted by
regional congresses, spearheaded an effort to have the
Government of Canada address the issue of the internment of Italians during WWII.
It was discovered that about 700 people were interned. Various position papers were submitted and presented to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney addressing the need for both an apology and reparations. The community had seen that the Government had done this with the Japanese community. In 1988, Japanese-Canadians received an apology and $330 million in compensation. However, within the Congress
membership nationally, there were those who felt that an apology was sufficient, since there were few cases of the seizure of property
unlike the Japanese community.
As a result of these efforts, at the National Congress of Italian-Canadians biennial conference in Toronto, on November 2-4, 1990, Prime Minister Mulroney apologized to the Italian community. He took the opportunity to do this at a luncheon in Concord, Ontario, on November 4th, organized by the Congress. In an article in the
Il Congresso, Adriana Albi Davies writes:
The apology came as the culmination of a campaign on the part of the National Congress, headed by President Annamarie P. Castrilli, a Toronto lawyer, to research and make known the history of this dark chapter in the history of Italian immigration to Canada. The researches determined the number of Italians arrested and interned, confiscation of property, loss of jobs and other related events. A brief was presented to the Government and, eventually, the Prime Minister invited to address delegates to the biennial meeting of the National Congress. The 150 Congress delegates were joined by 450 other community representatives at the luncheon, as well as representatives of other ethnic communities.
The Prime Minister noted that he would be making a formal apology in the House of
In his address the Prime Minister referred to two internees by name, one who was a young shoemaker at the beginning of the war and the other, Dr. Julius Molinari, who is now Professor Emeritus of the Italian Department at the University of Toronto. Dr. Molinari told me that his father came to Canada in 1913 and his mother in 1917; he himself was born in Canada.
The effect of this was that the national media, for the first time, reported on this issue and this hitherto unknown aspect of the Italian community's history was communicated to all Canadians. Some were disappointed because the issue of reparations had been ignored but, for the rest, it was felt that a moral victory had been won.
- Book Excerpt: Fascism
Scholars of Italian history have generally taken an unfavourable view of the Fascist regime, pointing out the negative effects of its policies on Italy and its people. Yet perceptions of scholars and those of the masses are not always one and the same.
Reprinted from With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian
Community by Antonella Fanella, with permission from the
University of Calgary Press and the author.