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Beyond the influence of the immigrants themselves, there was the broad espousal of Italian cultural products as a part of the global economy. While in the 1950s and 1960s, immigrant children were ridiculed for their "smelly" sandwiches, beginning in the 1970s,ethnocultural products and traditions became important to the general public.
The Canadian centenary in 1967 and American bicentenary in 1979 resulted in general public awareness of the importance of immigration in nation building.
Multiculturalism as a vehicle for celebrating cultures from the homelands became an official government policy in Canada. Scholars have attempted to separate American policies of assimilation that resulted in a cultural "melting pot" from Canadian policies that promoted tolerance of
diversity through the "cultural mosaic" model.
A standard Italian-English grammar, Vincenzo Grasso's Grammatica
Ragionata della Lingua Inglese (Palermo: Libreria
Marchese, 1st edition, 1938, revised edition 1951), in 1951
already has a description of "The
Melting Pot" as
one of the translation exercises.
This means that the
consciousness of the politics of assimilation was linked to
the post-World War II wave of immigration not only in North
America but in southern Italy. The early date for the
use of the term is startling since it did not become current
until the 1970s.
While immigrants prior to this period felt an enormous pressure to conform and become like everyone else, post 1970, acceptance of other cultures has been not only tolerated but encouraged in Canada. The federal government as well as some provincial governments has provided and continues to provide funding support for such initiatives.
With respect to the larger issue of "racism," while Italian-Canadians experienced discrimination, they had no choice but to get-on-with it. There was no legislative protection as exists today through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the late 1970s, the National Congress of Italian-Canadians was established with loose chapters in other parts of the country. This organization, at the national level, took on the responsibility of promoting Italian identity and rights.
They also took on the issue of reparations for Italians who were interned during WW II at a time when Japanese-Canadian claims were addressed. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney gave an official apology to the Italian community at the National-Congress of Italian-Canadians biennial conference in Toronto in
November, 1990, addressing a lunch gathering of community
leaders on November 4th, but stopped short of awarding reparations. The Congress has also looked at some issues pertaining to the way in which people of Italian ancestry are represented in television and film, but the larger Italian community is not interested in this kind of "protectionism."