by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.
| Page 2
They worked on the railways, road construction, mines and factories but also went directly to cities and moved
into retail. While notions of
"Italianità" had been around for a century, in the 1960s, this took on a particular flavour that showcased
Italian culture, life style and products. Joint projects between Hollywood and the Italian film industry made
available a series of Italian films that exposed North Americans to Italian ways of doing things with humour
and charm. Tourism to Italy further exposed visitors to Italian products including wines and cheeses.
This created a niche for Italian grocers and wholesalers. As well, Italian vice-consuls and consuls were
able in the area of trade and helped to promote Italian products. The result of this was not only the
assimilation of a large number of workers and their families through the facilitation of family reunification
immigration but also the coming to prominence of Italian culture as expressed through the range of goods, both
luxury goods and foodstuffs.
While Italian immigrants prospered in Canada, by the late 1960s, reconstruction of the Italian economy had
been sufficiently successful to virtually end the flow of immigrants to Canada. In fact, some reverse
migration began to happen through retirement. In terms of oral histories done with immigrants who came to
Canada post-1950, the question frequently arises of whether they would have done better by remaining.
In terms of the Italian economy, the monies sent back by immigrants to family members was sufficiently
important that when it began to decline, the Italian government convened a series of immigration conferences
to explore the relationship with Italiani a l'estero [Italians Abroad]. While these immigrants and their
children, might no longer be contributing dollars to the Italian economy, with the establishment and
entrenchment of the European Economic Market, the reclamation of Italian citizenship by Italians abroad
could give the Italian government a population boost that could give it greater clout within Europe.
Those of us who have been involved in this process have pondered on the significance of this rapprochement
between the Italian government and immigrant communities and there is a range of opinion as to its significance.