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Edmonton's Little Italy

by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.

1  |  2  |  Page 3

Italian Club building in Calgary, Alberta.  Photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives. NA-5620-7418-a.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 Italian-Canadians, Ida and Carlo Borin, first winners of the Club Calabria home-made wine competion in 1987.  Photo courtesy of Il Congresso newspaperEdmonton 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 Congresso article in Italian for a report on the first home-made wine competition in Edmonton sponsored by Club Calabria and the Il Congresso article on the Italian Women's Society of Santa Maria Goretti Parish.

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.

Italian Pavillion at Edmonton's Heritage Days Festival 2002.  Photo copyright of Cindy Ewanus and the Heritage Community Foundation 2002.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 Italian societies.

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Copyright © 2002 Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D. and The Heritage Community
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