by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.
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Antonella Fanella observes that a number of the individuals
that she interviewed identified the lack of community solidarity as a problem. All
ascribed this to regional dissension and she states: "The immigrants are
extremely competitive and distrustful of those outside the family, and they do not assist
persons or organizations unless there is the opportunity for personal gain."1
She ascribes the lack
of an active "Little Italy" in Calgary to the absence of community
solidarity. She quotes John Fainella's study on Italian organizations in
Calgary: "Italians from eastern Canada tended to expect the same amount of
ethnic services and cooperation from the community as they were accustomed to receiving in
the ambiente of St. Clair in Toronto, or in Montreal's 'Little Italy.'"2 She mentions that public-spirited individuals tried to do this with
respect to the community of Bridgeland but were unsuccessful.
Again, the experience in Edmonton is quite different.
The regional divisions in Edmonton are very marked but they, in fact, stimulated the
growth of societies. The earliest ones were church-related (for example, the Women
of the Holy Rosary, the Catholic Youth Club, the first radio and television
programs). Then, came the Dante Alighieri Society and language school in the
1960s. In 1974, when the National Congress of Italian-Canadians was begun in
the East, this was followed by the development of the National Congress of
Edmonton District, in 1979. This year also marked the
establishment of the Italian Cultural Society in Edmonton and, afterwards a range of
societies developed along regional (for example, Fogular Furlan, Club Calabria, the
Abruzzo Society, the Alpini) and special service and interest lines (Il Congresso
newspaper, Junior Appenini Dancers). See the Il
in Italian for a report on the first home-made wine competition in
Edmonton sponsored by Club Calabria and the Il
article on the Italian Women's Society of Santa Maria Goretti
In Calgary, a Calgary District of the National Congress did
not develop even with the stimulus of Eastern Italians coming to reside in the city.
There has been a collegial relationship between the Edmonton and Calgary societies.
Edmonton has always included Calgary in Congress activities and a representative is
designated to attend the federal biennial conference from Calgary and Lethbridge. As
well, a nominal "Alberta" president is designated alternately between Edmonton
and Calgary. The Il Congresso newspaper has, almost from its inception in
1984, included Calgary content.
Perhaps the differences between Edmonton and Calgary with
respect to Italian societies has less to do with Italian regional differences and
divisions than with the characters of the two cities. An often-cited statement is
that Edmonton has more festivals because it doesn't have the mountains. While this
is a gross generalization, there may be a kernel of truth. Edmonton has over 50
ethnocultural societies and an extremely popular Heritage Days Festival run on the
July/August long weekend; Calgary does not. The Italian community has had an
involvement in that festival since the first year that it was run by a group of volunteers
headed by the Italian community's own Sabatino Roncucci. The next year, the Edmonton
Heritage Days Association was incorporated and has grown the festival to its present size
where it attracts about 400,000 people in its three-day span (Saturday through
Monday). The National Congress of Italian-Canadians, Edmonton District has run the
Italian pavilion at the festival since 1979.
In 1992, Sabatino Roncucci and Adriana Albi Davies were
contracted by the City of Edmonton Parks and Recreation Department to create an
ethnocultural profile for the Italian community. A survey of societies was
undertaken and this forms the basis of the section of this website dealing with Edmonton