by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.
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As has been noted by historians, immigrants, whenever possible, retained very close ties with the homeland. Italians in Canada, even those who were second and third generation, were aware of the rise to power of Mussolini. The influence of the Fascist government was felt through the consular agents, vice consuls or honorary consuls who were assigned to Italian communities. It was felt, as well, through the priests who were sent by their order from Italy to serve immigrants.
It is interesting that, while Edmonton and Calgary, did not have an Italian church at the time, the community of Venice did.1 In 1924, they began to build Il Redentore Church [Holy Redeemer] with the site being contributed by Oliva John and Angelo
Biollo, and lumber and labour contributed by the community and prepared in the Biollo
sawmill (check out the Mike
Biollo and Mary
(Biollo) Doyle oral histories). Father Fabris, who came from Italy to be the Pastor,
according to some oral interviews, established the Fascio de Venice. The Hylo-Venice history book
mentions that, in November 1925, officials from the Fascist headquarters in Calgary came to Venice and the party flag was blessed and all of the Italians became members.
It is further stated that Father Fabris, by doing this,
had hoped to obtain a subsidy from the Italian government to build a convent school.2 This did not bear fruit; however, Mrs. Mary (Biollo) Doyle in an oral history interview mentions that she taught Italian language classes with materials from Italy.
According to Antonella Fanella, there was an active Fascist party, the
Fascio, in Calgary from the 1920s, which seems to have existed outside of the Giovanni Caboto Loggia. She confirms what Mr. Bonifacio notes that it was a social club. However, it must be said, that there were likely some among the members who, because of their commitment to the Italian government (for example, Father Fabbris and the honorary consuls), were truly Fascists. Fanella writes:
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 constitutions and laws."
While her observations are, on the whole, probably
accurate, her final assertion that Italians are "apolitical" is
questionable. The range of political nuances in Italian party
politics, historically and in contemporary life, is evidence that Italians take their politics seriously and want a very close "fit" with their own views.
For further information check out the Fascism
sections of our site.