The socio-economic data from this study reveal that most Italian immigrants in Calgary, at the time of arrival, were young peasants who had escaped a world of poverty. Most of them had been tenants or owners of small plots of land that in many cases were of poor quality. About half of them had had previous experiences as immigrants in other countries.
For most of these immigrants, life in Canada has not been easy. The reported hard work as manual laborers and as small business owners has nevertheless paid well enough for more than 85% of them to own their houses outright. They have, then, significantly improved their economic position.
Family data tell us that a third of first-generation immigrants had parents who had also had immigrant experiences in other countries. First-generation Italian immigrants had mostly chosen Italian spouses. They loved to have big families and managed to maintain their own languages or dialects at home. Second-generation Italians have been less successful at maintaining their parents' languages or dialects, and only 46% of them have chosen an Italian as a spouse.
A pioneer study[¹] of first-generation Italian immigrants shows that in the process of improving their lives and those of their families in the new setting, their sons and daughters have become progressively detached from the original cultural values of family and
patriarchalism. Italian immigrants in Calgary are not different in this regard. Many old-timers complained bitterly that their children had distanced themselves from the most cherished values of their culture. How much of the old has survived? I do not have a clear answer but hope that the publication of
this research will encourage further studies that will address the important subject of Italian immigrant experience in Canada, using an expanded comparative data base.
The article is reprinted with permission of the author
David Aliagu and the publisher Canadian Ethnic Studies /
Études ethniques au Canada Journal, Faculty of Social
Sciences, University of Calgary.