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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 Commons. According to the Congress, nearly 700 Italians were interned. I further note:
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. 4
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.
As is often the case, wartime policy is controversial in
retrospect and many feel that the internment of Canadian
citizens, Italians and otherwise, during both world
conflicts of the twentieth century was one of the saddest chapters in
See the Canadian
Overview for a discussion of internment in other parts of
Book Excerpt: Stan Carbone discusses
the impact of World War II on the Italian communities of
Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.