Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act

An Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Massimo Pacetti  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of Dec. 9, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

The purpose of this enactment is to recognize and apologize for the treatment that persons of Italian origin received in Canada during the Second World War in spite of the contribution that they have made and continue to make to the building of Canada.

The enactment also provides for restitution to be made in respect of this treatment. The restitution payment is to be applied to the development and production of educational materials relating to Italian-Canadian history and promoting ethnic and racial harmony, and to other projects agreed to by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and an educational foundation established for this purpose.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

April 28, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 3, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak again about this private member's bill.

When we last spoke, I had the opportunity to outline some of the over 70 years' worth of time where the previous Liberal governments and Liberal prime ministers had completely ignored the Italian Canadian community. I had mentioned it was divisive to bring the bill forward at this time.

I was also asked about some of the problems with the bill and why I had not brought forward some amendments during the committee stage. I want to point out some of the really big problems with the bill.

It is a short bill. It is not a very indepth bill. Perhaps that is one of the problems with it. Obviously not a lot of time or care was put into the drafting of it. The member who introduced it did not take the opportunity to speak with those of us on this side of the House, who are Italian Canadian, to get our thoughts so we perhaps could have drafted something a bit better.

One of the initial problems was the bill directed responsibility to the wrong minister, the minister of culture. Historical recognition is now in the hands of Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Right at the outset, we would have had to modify the initial part of the bill.

Then it asked that only one organization be responsible for the funds as outlined in the bill. The one organization, the National Congress of Italian Canadians, would be responsible for negotiating with the government how these funds would be distributed.

There are many different Italian Canadian organizations across the country. Organizations in my home town of Richmond Hill, in Stouffville, in Markham and in B.C. and across the country do a lot of good work. This bill, if adopted, would ignore what they have asked for and would see the government only negotiate with the National Congress of Italian Canadians.

During the testimony, I asked a past president of the congress a question. I said that I was concerned because I believed the bill was very divisive. I asked him, specifically, if I was any less of a proud Italian because I did not support the bill. I had hoped I would get a quick answer, but unfortunately I did not. It showed the level of frustration and the level of divisiveness. I was told that I had to look at my own conscience. He could not quite say the word no, that just because I disagreed with him on this bill, I was still a proud Italian Canadian. This is one of the other major problems with the bill.

Let us look further into another big problem with the bill. It also talks about restitution. It does not go indepth as to what an apology or what restitution would entail. Does this leave the Government of Canada open for other challenges? Are we open to court challenges from other groups?

As I mentioned earlier, there is 70 years' worth of time when previous Liberal governments ignored the Italian Canadian community. There are no survivors of that time left.

The language in the bill leaves Canada extraordinarily vulnerable to a charter challenge.

Another part of the bill called on the minister responsible for Canada Post to issue a postage stamp commemorating this time. We have heard from Canada Post officials that the minister has no such power, and that this could be a problem. The hon. member who introduced the bill did say that he would be willing to modify that.

However, we have a very short bill with a problem or a mistake on almost every line that would make the committee completely change the impact of the bill.

When we talk about something like this, when we talk about an apology to the Italian Canadian community, we have to take the time. We have to look at more than just an apology to the Italian Canadian community. We have to put the Government of Canada first. We have to look at the implications such a bill would have, not only on the Italian Canadian community but on all other things the Government of Canada does. Clearly, this bill did not do that. It left us vulnerable to charter challenges. It did not define the form of an apology.

I spend a lot of time at committee, talking about the differences in apologies and how they should be handled. Again, I want to focus and centre on what I think is the major problem. The bill has been brought forward without consultation with other members of the House. It does not identify the correct minister. It ignores all other Italian Canadian organizations, to the exclusion of the preferred organization of the member opposite. It leaves Canada vulnerable to court challenges. It is completely divisive. It does absolutely nothing to reflect on all the amazing things Italian Canadians have accomplished in our country.

As I said at committee, my parents came to Canada in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. They accomplished a tremendous amount. Unfortunately, my parents have passed away. They did not have the opportunity see me sworn in as a member of Parliament.

When I ask my uncles and aunts whether they think the Government of Canada owes them an apology, they tell me Brian Mulroney, the Conservative prime minister, apologized to Italian Canadians, and they respect that. They respect the Office of the Prime Minister and they respect that apology. They are extraordinarily grateful to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and to this government for recognizing this and, through the historical recognition program, finally providing funds so we can educate Canadians and Italian Canadians on why this is such an important thing.

If we look at the testimony of people who testified, they said that the most important thing was education. We have the funding. We have the apology. This is nothing more than a bill that seeks to divide the Italian Canadian community for partisan political points. I certainly will not be supporting the bill.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the merits of Bill C-302, which is about recognizing and redressing, albeit in a small way, the injustice done to our fellow citizens of Italian ancestry during the second world war, I have very personal reasons for rising here today and supporting it.

Since several members of the Italian community are no doubt listening to this debate, I would like to begin by saying a few words to them in their mother tongue.

[Member spoke in Italian ]

[French]

For the benefit of my hon. colleagues who are not bilingual, I will translate what I just said in Italian.

I was raised, both during and after the war, in Ville-Émard, Montreal. At that time, there were many residents of Italian descent in that neighbourhood, as there are today. These people were our neighbours. We children all played together. Our parents were all from the same social background—labourers like my father or small business owners, people who worked hard. When my parents spoke about the internment of Italians during the war, it was always with sympathy and indignation. I think that my parents, if they were alive today, would be proud to see their son speaking in the House about legislation to acknowledge the injustice committed against our fellow Canadians of Italian descent.

In a 1957 book in Italian, Father Guglielmo Vangelisti described what the Italian community experienced when war was declared between Italy and Canada. Here is my translation of a passage from his book titled Gli Italiani in Canada.

Faced suddenly with such dreadful news, our compatriots in Montreal were dumbfounded and had scarcely enough breath to exclaim, “Poor us.” From then on, against their will, they became enemies of their beloved country. And even though they had previously been held in high esteem and loved as cousins and brothers, they would be looked on as enemies and traitors worthy of the utmost scorn. The RCMP swung into action immediately. With a list of our compatriots in hand, they ran here and there, like hounds on a trail. They went into homes, stores and offices and picked out the heads of family and the most prominent people in our community. Once they had found them, the RCMP handcuffed them and loaded them into the van, as their appalled wives and children looked on, crying and wailing.

Meanwhile, other police officers searched the house from top to bottom. They searched clothing, beds and cupboards, leaving nothing untouched. Once a good number of our compatriots had been rounded up, the van sped them away to the city's jails, where they were kept prisoner under close watch. This process was repeated until hundreds of people were being held.

In the jails of Montreal, our poor prisoners remained isolated in cells for days before being transferred to the concentration camp in Petawawa, without knowing how or why they were to stay there for months or even years, separated from their families and the rest of the world.

In this city without women, as Mario Duliani described it in one of his books, the men were constantly filled with fear and anxiety. They yearned to be free and gave up hope even when freedom was within their grasp.

As the detention camps filled up, the government ordered the seizure of Italians' assets as enemy property. The Casa Italia was seized. Our compatriots' property was seized along with what little money they had scrimped and saved to put in the bank. How did their families manage to support themselves? They had to wait and try to save money as best they could. By the end of it, they were up to their ears in debt.

Mr. Vangelisti went on to say—I am still translating from Italian—that while the second world war had disastrous consequences for many of our families, it was just as bad for our churches and parishes. Cherished popular celebrations were no longer held, processions and concerts were prohibited, raffles and all organizations were banned, even for charitable purposes. We were not allowed to gather, even just a few of us at a time. Although Italian was not banned in church, many people at Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel in Montreal felt it was prudent given the overheated atmosphere to speak French instead. In Ottawa's Saint Anthony church, people began speaking only English.

We have come a long way. I believe that we are not always aware of just how fragile the protection that is supposed to guarantee our rights and freedoms is. Nothing will correct the injustices perpetrated on our fellow citizens of Italian origin some 70 years ago. Nevertheless, the bill introduced by our colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel will, among other things, make succeeding generations more aware of just how precious and fragile that protection is and of how important it is to defend and broaden it.

That is why I, like my Bloc Québécois colleagues, will vote for Bill C-302.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-302.

At the outset, I want to congratulate the member for his perseverance in bringing forward this bill. A lot of work goes into a private member's bill. He has gone to considerable lengths and efforts to get the bill this far.

I recognize there is some disagreement between the supporters of the bill and the Conservatives, but that is to be expected in a House such as this. However, I encourage him. We in the NDP certainly support the bill. We are strongly behind it.

I also want to congratulate the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River and the member for Vancouver Kingsway who made excellent presentations on this bill. I have read most, if not all, of the other speeches on this bill in Hansard.

This bill is an act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their enemy alien designation and internment during the second world war, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian Canadian history. As I indicated before, my party is universally in support of the member's efforts in this regard.

On September 3, 1939, the Government of Canada issued regulations that empowered the minister of justice with the full authority to act as he chose to destroy any subversion during the time of war. This allowed him to detain without trial any person and created a class of aliens who were not foreign nationals but were Canadian citizens.

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Canada. That very evening, Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that he had ordered the internment of hundreds of Italian Canadians identified by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as enemy aliens. That order was applied to Italians who became British subjects after September 1, 1922.

The government also established a judicial mechanism to administer internment proceedings. It passed an order in council which ensured the registration of all people of Italian birth. Furthermore, the office of the custodian of alien property was authorized to confiscate the property of enemy aliens.

Like the internment of Japanese Canadians, Ukrainian Canadians, German Canadians and others, the forced registration and internment of Italian Canadians is a sad chapter in our history. In some respects it is a forgotten chapter because people my age and younger only learned of this history many years after the fact. It is very appropriate that legislatures across the country have dealt with these issues over the last few years. It is certainly better late than not at all.

The RCMP rounded up approximately 700 Italian Canadians. Often, parents were separated from their children and husbands from their families. There were 17,000 people designated as enemy aliens for no other reason than their birth. There was no reason to suspect that those interned posed any threat to Canada or Canadians. In fact, many of them were first world war veterans who had fought for their adopted country. That is a very hard fact to come to grips with and swallow, that someone who had served this country during the first world war, some 20 years later would be part of a group that was interned. It is very hard to get one's mind around that.

Presumably there were records. We have dealt with that. Everyone knew from the records who was who. It is hard to think that the RCMP would just simply take somebody who had been in this country for 20-plus years, who had served in the first world war and, after exemplary service and an exemplary work record, would round him up and take him away. It was not uncommon for men in uniform to come back home only to find that family members had been interned. I cannot think of a worse situation than that.

The roundup of Italian Canadians was virtually completed in October 1940 and, as we all know, most of them were sent to Camp Petawawa situated in the Ottawa River Valley. It is difficult to establish how many Italian Canadians were interned, although estimates range from 600 to 700. I read a lot of very good information on Italian community websites, which explain the history of what happened during that period.

Although the majority of those interned were from areas with the highest concentrations of Italian Canadians at the time, Montreal, Toronto and other centres in Ontario, there are also documented cases in western Canada.

The internment was brutal. Families could not visit or write interned people for the first year. They had to go a whole year without knowing where their family was. Italian Canadians were penalized financially. A spontaneous boycott of Italian businesses, whipped up by the prejudice of the times, took place throughout Canada. Provincial governments ordered municipalities to terminate relief payments to non-naturalized Italians. Travel restrictions were imposed on Italian Canadians and their ability to occupy certain jobs was prohibited.

We were half a world away from where the war was at. For Italy to be a threat to the North American continent at that time I would think would be absolutely non-existent. Why there would be so much concern about interning people on such a big scale in a vast country like this does not make any sense, certainly not in the context of the times. However, those were different times and people obviously had different attitudes.

Italian Canadians were forced to report on a monthly basis to the RCMP. Activities, such as teaching the Italian language and meetings of the Roma Society, were declared illegal. As a matter of fact, the previous Bloc speaker indicated how the Italian language could not be spoken in churches in Quebec and that French had to be used.

Internment was up to three years and the average interned person was held for almost 16 months. To put some feelings on this, these are not just numbers we are talking about. Some of the people interned were doctors, lawyers, carpenters, bakers, contractors and priests. I believe a doctor from Sudbury was interned at the time.

It was just as bad for families because these actions added to their psychological scars. They suffered constant harassment and ridicule from neighbours and co-workers and the fearmongering being perpetuated by elected officials of the day.

The federal government went even further. It froze bank accounts. It forced Italian Canadian families to subsist on $12 a month. Many Italian families were forced to sell their homes, businesses and valuable assets.

If we were to face something like that right now, I can imagine what our overwhelming reaction would be. We would find this hard to believe.

The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP members can be cats and dogs in this House some days, but without getting into a political fight, the fact is that members should note that it was New Democrats under the CCF who stood alone for decades against internment and against the War Measures Act and in favour of civil liberties. The forefathers of our party stood up against the erosion of civil liberties at a time when the Liberal Party was in power and was doing things like this. We have a very pristine history and a good position when it comes to issues like this.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, a serious topic like this one requires a much more thoughtful and methodical approach than what is normally given in debates.

Today, we are looking at a part of Canadian history. Contrary to what some of my colleagues opposite have been saying, this is about Canadian history, and the actions of a Canadian government against some of its own citizens. It is about remembering what we should not do against those who are for the moment much more vulnerable, when we have a position of responsibility.

For this, I want to give a special thanks to my colleagues who just spoke a moment or two ago.

The member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, who spoke in French, was able to recognize all the good, the harmony and the productivity of his fellow citizens, even at a young age.

I wish to thank my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, for giving us some of the historical events that related to a very serious part of Canadian history.

When a Canadian government, as we have seen happen at other times, issues the War Measures Act and under its cover determines to move against its own citizens by labelling them as enemy aliens, completely ignoring whatever history they have built up in this country prior to that, is not something that we should again allow to happen.

Regrettably, this happened again more recently. Some will always find a reason to justify it but we in this place should never tolerate it. I acknowledge that we live in a different time and we share different values. I also acknowledge that our society and our government have established a different infrastructure of law and rights than those that existed in the 1940s.

However one of the principles that we have established over the course of the last couple of generations is that governments are prepared and willing, notwithstanding the challenges, to look back, to reflect, to remember and to reconcile.

This is an issue that needs reconciliation. It does not require partisanship. Colleagues opposite have been talking about those people from a different party who did some things at another time and so on. I feel a little pained by that.

On a personal basis my grandfather and my great grandparents came here in the 1880s. My grandfather left this country after 35 years as a Canadian citizen and his children followed him back here immediately after World War II. There was an interruption of about 10 years. Many of us felt ourselves to be Canadian even though we did not live here at the time.

Therefore, when people say that we are being divisive, that my colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel is being divisive, by introducing legislation that calls on the government to remember and calls on all Canadians to reflect on those issues, and those actions that were very un-Canadian by today's standards that says that we have a model for reconciliation, let us reconcile, I feel disturbed by those who would suggest that that is somehow divisive.

I am not here to trumpet my own values or to beat my chest about the culture into which I was very fortunate to be born and which generated some of the values that I bring to this place. Good, bad, or indifferent, they are values that allow me to make a contribution as a Canadian.

Those Canadians who found themselves at the mercy of a government that was determined to vilify them during World War II deserve, at the very least, the thoughtful approaches of today's legislature, a Canadian Parliament that looks back and says, “That was wrong”. We know it was wrong. No charges were ever laid against any of the individuals who were interned.

It matters not that the number might have been 700, 7,000 or whatever the number one wants to find historically accurate. What matters is that not one of them was charged with anything, let alone sedition and betrayal of Canada, the country that was theirs. This is not a bill that came out of the blue. It is a bill that talks about what happened in the past and how governments have taken a look at this. They have simply asked for some of those records to be expunged.

Maybe the people are not alive anymore, but their children and grandchildren are and they live with the stigma of having their family identified as enemy aliens, undesirables and a people whose lives as a result were separated away from the growth of the community, not for just those two to three years where it took place, but for virtually a generation afterwards and more.

They asked for that. They did not ask for money. They asked for a simple recognition and apology. It is fine and maybe it is fine to say that it was a particular party with prime ministers in power who were indifferent to these people. I remember talking to some of those prime ministers. They had a particular view of the way the world should have worked and might have worked, except that all of that changed.

Prime ministers from both parties changed all of the rationale for not doing anything and for not recognizing that they had slighted their own citizens, jailed and detained their own citizens, disrupted family life, interrupted community and severed growth without saying so much as, “We apologize”. Today, we do that. It is done. In the government of which I was a part, there was a negotiation with all the representatives of that particular community. A foundation was put together, a coordination of all of those groups, and asked how we can reconcile. It was their decision on the processes that took place.

Today's government said no. I am sorry about that. I do not want to engage in partisanship, but as I said, I am sorry that the Government of Canada today hides behind two members whose parents fit the profile. The member for Peterborough and the member for Oak Ridges—Markham talk about dividing the Italian community. This is not about the Italian community.

This is about the Government of Canada reconciling itself with the citizens of Canada, citizens it valued and it values today, citizens who asked for nothing but respect and the opportunity to integrate and contribute. They asked for the records to be expunged and for an apology to be made in the House of Commons, because it was the House of Commons where the government of the day sought the authority to detain them.

They asked for an opportunity to build that into the history, not as those who have been vanquished, but as part of the victors of the new Canada so that their tale, their story and their history can be part and parcel of the history that we are building and that we all love. It is the history that we today call Canada and it starts with remembering, reconciling and vowing not to do it again. That is why this bill has to be supported.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the facts are in. We just heard speakers from all parties and the issue is pretty well decided, that this legislation is quite clear, events in the past happened and it is time to turn the page and move forward.

It is true that Italian Canadians were interned, detained and enveloped in a cloud of suspicion during the second world war because the government of the day decided to succumb to fear instead of granting these Canadians, for they were Canadian, the same consideration as other Canadians.

Over 60 years ago, our government allowed itself to be guided by fear rather than facts. That was wrong. Clearly, the government's actions destroyed families, reputations and communities, and debased our moral sensibility. These facts are undeniable. Clearly, the government took those measures based on some Canadians' ethnicity and a fear of that ethnicity. We all know that this is true and we all know that it was unfair.

Bill C-302 takes these facts into account and what it is proposing is quite simple. It calls on the Prime Minister to make an official apology here in the House of Commons to the Italian community. It proposes making Canadians aware of this chapter in our history in order that we may never commit the same mistake again. It proposes entrusting the task of deciding how to achieve the bill's educational goals to respected community groups that are closely linked to this issue. Bill C-302 proposes that we commit to facing this issue directly once and for all instead of sweeping it under the rug.

The government is opposed to the bill, but it has not been able to present one witness. Not one plausible reason has been given to justify voting against it. The only thing it claims is that an apology already was issued by a former prime minister to the Italian community to address the wrongs of the past. This was done at a dinner banquet in front of a small crowd and is not comparable to an official apology in the House of Commons. That is what this bill is asking for.

It is similar to those apologies we have seen under previous and current Conservative governments, for residential schools, the Chinese head tax and the Japanese internment during World War II. The proper setting for an apology by the government to address a wrong of the past is in the House of Commons and not in a banquet hall.

I have also heard that this bill is divisive, but nothing could be further from the truth. The bill seeks to unite Canadians. The bill is about Canadians apologizing to other Canadians. When a Canadian apologizes to another Canadian, it builds a bridge of respect, understanding and friendship.

I have heard that the bill is divisive because it singles out one cultural community, the Italian Canadian community. I argue that we were able to bring several witnesses before the heritage committee, and not one spoke against this bill. We were able to hear from all the important predominant organizations representing the Italian community, including the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association, la Fondation Communautaire Canadienne-Italienne du Québec, the Order Sons of Italy of Canada, the Casa d'Italia, and of course the National Congress of Italian Canadians.

I want to thank everybody who spoke in favour of this bill. I want to thank the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher who spoke more Italian than he ever has spoken English in this House. I have never spoken Italian in this House, so I want to compliment him on his Italian, which is very good. I also want to compliment and thank every other member who spoke on this bill.

As the debate on Bill C-302 comes to a close, I want to thank my colleagues. As I said earlier, this is a very emotional issue that has been ignored for far too long.

I would like to conclude by simply asking my colleagues to consider the history of this issue, the facts that have been stated, the intent of this bill and the essence of what it means to be Canadian. I ask them to consider all of this and to vote in favour of Bill C-302.

Let us turn the page on a sad chapter in our history once and for all, so we do not repeat it in the future.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, as you said, this bill seeks to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their enemy alien designation and internment during the second world war, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

It is a pleasure for me to rise on this bill. This is the first hour of the third reading.

It is a parliamentary tradition that debates in the House tend to be repetitive, but today I will try not to repeat what I said during my speech to Parliament at second reading. That will be difficult.

The summary does a good job of explaining the bill:

The purpose of this enactment is to recognize and apologize for the treatment that persons of Italian origin received in Canada during the Second World War in spite of the contribution that they have made and continue to make to the building of Canada.

The enactment also provides for restitution to be made in respect of this treatment. The restitution payment is to be applied to the development and production of educational materials relating to Italian-Canadian history and promoting ethnic and racial harmony, and to other projects agreed to by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and an educational foundation established for this purpose.

I want to begin by saying that this apology is long overdue.

Here it is a question of the injustice that was done to Canadians of Italian origin through their enemy alien designation during the second world war.

There is no question about the internment actually happening. There are some questions as to the actual number of Italians who were interned. If we do some research and a bit of reading, not all the documents are in order. So there are different numbers that have been thrown out there. There are numbers of up to 6,000 people who were arrested after the internment happened.

No one was ever charged.

Not one person was ever charged. Some people were arrested and were simply held overnight, and some were held up to three or even four years in prison camps. So there are extremes from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some people were fingerprinted and then had to report to the police station on a weekly basis. Some of these registers were lost. That is why we cannot have an accurate account of how many were actually affected. The only count that we actually have is of the ones who were held in Petawawa. They were taken as young as 16 years of age and as old as 70.

Most of the people arrested were men, but there were also some women.

In some cases, some were picked up in the middle of the night and taken 3,000 miles away. Imagine that. Of course, not all were Italians. Some were arrested simply because they had a name ending in a vowel.

The exact number of people held in internment camps is unknown, but we know that roughly 700 were held in Petawawa alone. Others were detained in three other camps. There was one on Saint Helen's Island near the island of Montreal, and there were two other camps in Atlantic Canada. My understanding is there was one in Fredericton and one in Nova Scotia.

Just to put the whole item in context, Canada versus the States, the war happened and Canada reacted in the fashion it did, but in the U.S., only 228 were interned out of a possible 300,000 U.S. citizens of Italian origin. In Canada, those of Italian origin were estimated to number about 112,000, roughly 40,000 of whom were born in Canada, and as many as 30,000 were on an undesirable list.

We are talking about 40-odd years ago. We can imagine the impact the internment would have had on people's lives. We have to understand Italian culture and how they would have taken something like this.

I have something to read, right out of a magazine or newspaper article in Il Postino, in English, from May 2007. I will read an excerpt, which says:

But my grandmother didn't speak with her daughter about the internment until the 1950s, and then only briefly. “There was no reason to discuss it,” my grandmother, [a]...citizen of English descent, says unquestioningly. “We put it out of our minds and behind us. I didn't tell any of the children until they were grown. We were so ashamed.”

Imagine. There are families out there who do not even know that this happened to them. It is probably explained best as the article goes on to say:

When my grandfather died in 1957, the story of precisely what he was thinking [at the prison camps] died with him, as he wanted. My grandmother will say only that he was terribly depressed during his weeks there, that he feared the ruin of his career, that his health declined.

It goes on and on, talking about how this single family just kept it secret from the rest of the family. Many who were interned were just sons of Italian parents. Of course, the Italians who came to this country were not the most educated. Many were illiterate, and they were accused of being spies. Imagine a spy not being able to read.

Families were receiving mail that was marked “POW”. Imagine people going down the street to pick up their mail and receiving a big envelope marked “POW”. They could just imagine what their next door neighbours thought of them.

Think again: 40 or 50 years ago, the people who were arrested were primarily males, which meant they were the breadwinners. In those times, people did not necessarily have money put aside but were just living day to day, if not week to week. If they did not have a paycheque, the family could not pay the rent or for groceries. The families had to go and live with another family. Families were directly impacted.

Some were fairly well off. The males were arrested and their family businesses were lost. There are tons of stories about that. If people go on the Internet, there is actually a film by the National Film Board on the internment that shows well-to-do Italian families that lost their businesses.

Even if they were just arrested for a week or a month, rumours and stories continued after they were released. This destroyed families. It destroyed people's character. More importantly what it destroyed was the community, a community of people, some of whom, because of their embarrassment, came home and decided to change their name, to get rid of that vowel at the end of their name, and they decided not to be associated with anybody in the Italian community.

This was 50 years ago, and we can imagine how many of these individuals would have been professionals today, whether it be accountants, my favourite type of profession, or lawyers, doctors, dentists, and so forth. There may have been even a few politicians along the way.

Simply put, their liberty was taken away.

This is a private member's bill. It is very simply drafted with the limited amount of resources we have. I am hoping that we can work together to get this bill passed, as it is supported by members of every party in this House.

What we are doing, very simply, is requesting an apology in the House of Commons. Some people thought this would be a problem. It would be on the record. The bill is asking the Parliament of Canada to hereby acknowledge the unjust treatment received by persons of Italian origin. Obviously that apology would be given by the Prime Minister.

In fact, I do have to be up front here and say that there had been an apology to the Italian community about what happened 45 years earlier, by the then prime minister, Brian Mulroney. It was at an Italian dinner. He did call the event legally wrong and immoral, but the problem was that he never officially apologized in the House of Commons. It is on the record that he was going to apologize in the House of Commons.

Nonetheless, he never did.

The purpose of this bill is to recognize the injustice that was done to Canadians of Italian origin. It is not complicated. This is not a precedent setting measure. This has already been done in the House. This was done during the Brian Mulroney years for the Japanese community. And a few years ago, the current Prime Minister made an apology to the Chinese community.

I also have some of the bills and they are on the record, so this is not something that is made up. The Library of Parliament prepared a report, a research paper. So there were official apologies. We could even include the official apology that was made to the residential schoolchildren.

The other thing that the bill is asking for is compensation. The compensation is not the important part. The compensation is mainly to educate Canadians, and I am not just talking about Canadians of Italian origin, as to what happened in the past, because it is a way to correct the mistakes of the past. We need to keep those, I will not say memories, alive, but we need to find a way to educate our young people. That is what I am getting these days in my office, Italians of third and fourth generation asking me about the internment. They understand that I have a private member's bill. A couple of students have actually won awards across Canada for doing a project on the internment, and they are astounded that most people my age are not even aware of what happened with the internment. Older Italians just want to forget about it. Here we are, as I said before, having lost a couple of generations and not being able to understand what happened to us before.

In terms of the compensation, basically I will just read from the bill what we are asking for:

Restitution

The Minister of Canadian Heritage, in cooperation with the Minister of Finance, shall negotiate with the National Congress of Italian Canadians an agreement for a suitable payment to be made in restitution for the unjust treatment described in section 3, which agreement shall be proposed to Parliament for approval.

The proposed agreement is more or less the same as the one that was reached with the Italian community in another parliament.

I do not think there is any controversy here. We have people from all parties supporting it. I want to put on the record that I thank the Liberals. Pretty well everybody from the Liberal Party supported it, although I think there were a few missing. The NDP, of course, and the Bloc Québécois were very supportive of the bill, not only through their voting but also in committee and through issuing press releases trying to force the government to get its act together and get this bill through so that we can send it to the Senate and move on with history.

I did attend a couple of meetings when this particular bill was studied in committee. We heard from different Italian associations or organizations. There was the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association, the national chapter and some local chapters. We had la Fondation communautaire canadienne-italienne du Québec. We had the Orders Sons of Italy of Canada. We had the National Congress of Italian Canadians, the national and the Quebec chapters. Those were the four organizations that actually signed an agreement with the Government of Canada three or four years ago for some type of restitution in the ballpark of around $12.5 million, but the Minister of Canadian Heritage can negotiate that part of the deal.

Not only do we have full support from these four national organizations, we added another one, Casa d'Italia, which was the first community centre in Montreal where the Italians congregated and they were probably the most affected during the time of the internment.

Oddly enough, we also had a partisan organization, the Italian Canadian advisory committee on this new program that the Conservatives decided they would have. There were three Conservatives on that advisory committee and they were all for the bill.

There is no question that the bill should be put forward. We also had the immigration minister come forward. I am not sure why he came forward. I asked for the heritage minister . I think the immigration minister , no disrespect to him, does not understand the file, and I do not think he should be in charge of the bill. I would like to see the heritage minister pick up the file and push it along so we can get this bill through the Senate.

Again I would like to thank all the MPs who spoke in favour of the bill during the second reading. I look forward to questions and comments from the members.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member knows quite well that, as an Italian-Canadian, I voted against this bill and I will vote against it again. As I mentioned before, this bill does not seek to unify Italian Canadians. It seeks to divide the Italian Canadian community.

The last time this bill came before this House I asked why the member felt that no less than seven Liberal prime ministers turned their backs on the Italian Canadian community. Under those different prime ministers, a number of Liberal majority governments never felt it important enough to reach out to the Italian Canadian community at that time and bring forward an apology bill.

As the member mentioned in his speech, we also know that an apology did come from former Conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney, when he came to the Italian community and apologized for the internment.

I have two questions. First, why does the member think the Liberal Party, for so many years, so many prime ministers and so many majority governments, turned its back on the Italian Canadian community?

Second, why did he choose a minority Parliament to bring forward such a divisive bill that he knows would divide the Italian Canadian community and that does nothing to recognize all of the hard work that the Italian Canadian community has done to build this country?

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not address that before because I knew the member would ask that question. It is only about the 100th time that he has asked me the question on and off the record.

Basically, the Liberals have never apologized, and I am not so sure I agree with that philosophy that previous Liberal governments never decided to apologize. With consistency, the Conservatives have decided to just pick and choose who they will apologize to. They have chosen to apologize to the Japanese and the Chinese community but not the Italians. Therefore, if anybody is going to be divisive, it will be the Conservative government.

With the help of the hon. member across the aisle, we can make this bill bigger and better. We can do it with or without his help. I understand that he may not want to participate and that he had a lot to say during committee, but he was one of the few who did not present any amendments to make this bill better.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members know, I spoke in favour of this bill basically on principle, which is something some of the other members opposite may not appreciate. However, we have a circumstance that is purely Canadian. It involves Canadian citizens who were at the time known as British subjects and who were subjected to an indignity and some duress by a Government of Canada. When charges were not laid, nobody's record was expunged. People have asked for a recognition that there was a tort committed against Canadian citizens.

We have put a label on some of those Canadian citizens. They are called Italian Canadians. What this bill really asks for is a recognition that this indignity was put forward and there is a solution proposed, a solution that was negotiated by all the stakeholder organizations in the Italian community, not only on behalf of the people who had suffered those torts, but by extension, on the community that has dedicated itself to building this country.

There is nothing more that is being asked other than simply to recognize those events, to move forward on a negotiated agreement and to implement that negotiated agreement.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence has been a great defender of this bill, so I do not know if I can put it any better, but the bill is not about Italians. The bill is about Canadians apologizing to Canadians. Two wrongs do not make a right and in this case we have an opportunity to make a right a right. Let us do it and let us move on.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reason I did not bring any amendments forward is because I cannot amend what is an incredibly flawed bill from the beginning to the end.

The member again fails to answer the specific question of why it is that the Liberals have turned their backs on the Italian Canadian community for so long, why he has chosen a minority Parliament to bring forward a very divisive bill, and why he has chosen to ignore the current--

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not think he would have a second go-around but typical again where I have answered his question. Since I have been a member, I have tabled this bill on repeated occasions. The member chooses to ignore it and the government may choose to ignore it. The bill is very similar and almost a complete copy of other apologies that were given in the House of Commons. Therefore, if the bill is flawed, the Conservative apologies to the Chinese community and the Japanese community were also flawed.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill, a bill that, when it was before committee, certainly stirred up strong emotions on all sides. When the bill was up for second reading I rose from my seat and voted against the bill because, while the bill has good intent, it is actually a very poor bill.

I am pleased to speak to an issue that concerns one of Canada's largest cultural groups. The last census indicated that there were about 1.4 million Canadians of Italian descent. I do not have an English name but I have never looked at myself as anything but a Canadian. I suppose I am a Canadian of Italian descent but I always object to the title “Italian Canadian”.

Italians were among the earliest Europeans to migrate to this continent. They have unquestionably contributed significantly to Canada and to North America if we look to our partners to the south in the United States. Americans of Italian descent have contributed significantly to that country. We can go back as far as 1881 when there were literally cascades of Italians immigrating to Canada and they were contributing toward massive construction projects, like the Canadian Pacific Railway.

This year will mark the 70th anniversary of the Italian internment in Canada. I would like to take members back to when Italy declared war on the Allies in 1940. The prime minister of the day ordered the internment of hundreds of Italian Canadians identified as enemy aliens. The prime minister invoked the War Measures Act known as the Defence of Canada Regulations. Today we look at the War Measures Act, which was repealed, by the way, by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1988, the same Brian Mulroney who apologized to Canadians of Italian descent in 1990. I will get into that in a little while.

However, we look at that time and we look at the prime minister and Parliament invoking the War Measures Act at that time and wonder how they could do that. How could they have done that to Canadian citizens? The government also passed an order in council calling for the registration of all persons of Italian birth and for the confiscation of enemy aliens' property.

Despite the financial hardship and the shame suffered by some of their countrymen, hundreds of Italian Canadians enlisted in the Canadian armed forces because they felt the war against Fascism and Nazism was justified. The most decorated veteran from my city was a Canadian of Italian descent. He actually went to war serving in Italy on a battlefield where he met family members on the other side, but felt passionately enough about the cause to fight for Canada. It is an incredible story. There can be no doubt that Canadians of Italian descent have made enormous contributions to our nation and these historical facts constitute one of the saddest and most dramatic chapters in the annals of Canadian history.

As I said, the hon. member who brought forward Bill C-302, Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act, in relation to this dark chapter in our nation's history, has done so I believe with good intent, but it does not change the fact that it is a very bad bill and divides Canadians of Italian descent. In fact it looks backward at a time in Canadian history, but not backward enough to see that the apology that was offered some 20 years ago had a very profound effect on the Italian community.

I just want to reference something from a friend of mine, Annamarie Castrilli, who was the president of the National Congress of Italian Canadians. She was instrumental in obtaining the courageous admission of an apology by the then prime minister, Brian Mulroney. She wrote to me and said, “As you know, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the internment. To commemorate this, I have been asked to write a book which deals with what led up to the apology and the circumstances that existed in 1940. I am one of only two commissioners left who actually talked and corresponded with internees. There is only one left to my knowledge. The book is an analysis of the situation in Canada during World War II and the noble act of one prime minister where all else had failed. Whatever else may be said of Brian Mulroney, this was a significant achievement that set the record straight and profoundly changed the life of a community”.

She goes on to include a copy of the speech given by the then prime minister, Brian Mulroney.

This bill calls for an apology on behalf of Parliament, the Government of Canada and the Canadian people. The problem is that it suggests that there was an injustice, that the government acted illegally. We can look back at that time and ask how they could have done this. How could we actually have a law like the War Measures Act in place in a country like Canada that believes in rights and freedoms? We have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was a Conservative prime minister in 1958, I believe, who brought in the bill of rights protecting the rights of all Canadians.

We look back and wonder how that was possible but, unfortunately, it was not illegal. The then Liberal government acted within the law in enacting the War Measures Act. Bill C-302 calls for restitution to Italian Canadians in the form of educational projects that provide information on Italian Canadian history and promote ethnic and racial harmony. However, it also opens the door for unlimited liability from the Crown to persons who would seek damages from the Crown.

The member referenced other apologies. I acknowledge that we did have an apology for the Chinese head tax. I know that an injustice is an injustice and a crime is a crime, but the scale of what happened to Chinese Canadians or Canadians from the Chinese community occurred over decades of discrimination by the Crown. It was profound. It was unquestionably a sad time in our history. I know that we as Canadians are proud that we have moved beyond that but the scale of it was much larger. However, an agreement was arrived at.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

I am pleased to hear that the member for Eglinton—Lawrence is interested in what I have to say.

This government has moved forward where other governments have failed. We have moved forward where every Liberal government, including the one in which the member for Eglinton—Lawrence served, failed.

They had opportunities. While the community was celebrating, healing, coming together, moving forward and celebrating the fact that they were Canadian citizens of equal standing after the prime minister of the day had apologized, then Liberal MP Sergio Marchi came out and berated that apology. He said that it did not matter. He said that there had to be an apology in the House of Commons. Successive Liberal governments, including the one in which the member for Eglinton—Lawrence served, did nothing about it.

Once I was older and knew about this, I often talked to my grandfather about coming to Canada. He grew up in a place called Carpino and he came to Canada in 1927. He arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax after a very difficult trip. He lived through this. He was in Canada for it and was proud to be Canadian.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand the Liberal members taking offence at the comments by the hon. member for Peterborough. He is often more partisan than anything else.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill of the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

Bill C-302 asks three things of the Conservative government: to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the second world war; to provide for restitution; and to promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

I am not the one who chose the term “Italian-Canadian”. I do not really see the difference between Canadian of Italian origin and Italian-Canadian.

If Bill C-302 is passed, Parliament would recognize this injustice. And I emphasize “Parliament” because that is what was discussed in committee.

It is important to mention that it is Parliament. Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney has already made public apologies, but that was at a gathering held outside Parliament. It was not as solemn as it might be if the current Prime Minister rose in the House and apologized on behalf of the Canadian government.

In committee an attempt was made to study the bill. At least three groups came to testify. First there were three Canadians of Italian origin or Quebeckers of Italian origin, who are members of a committee created by theMinister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and who were hand-picked by the minister and who represented only themselves. These persons came to tell us that all this was unnecessary and that Italians did not want these apologies. I was quite surprised at this, but three persons who seemed to me quite credible came to tell us that.

At the following meeting of the committee on November 24, a great many Quebeckers and Canadians of Italian origin testified: the National Congress of Italian Canadians, Casa D'Italia, the Order Sons of Italy of Canada, and the Italian-Canadian Community Foundation of Quebec. All of these people told us that Brian Mulroney’s apologies were not enough and that they absolutely wanted to make known the history of Canadians of Italian origin. So be it.

Also in committee, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said that it would be undignified for the government to apologize too often. I do not recall if I had time to tell him, but I certainly remember this. I am pleased to have the opportunity to say this now. I wanted to respond to the minister that I do not believe it is undignified for a government to apologize too often. Instead, I think it is always dignified to recognize one's mistakes and apologize until our victims are satisfied. Whether in the case of a government or an individual, this shows dignity.

Of course, this bill is not perfect. We would have liked to amend it in committee, adding a suggestion to Canada Post Corporation to issue a postage stamp, rather than instructing it to do so. It seems that that corporation does not take instructions from anyone, especially not the Minister of National Revenue, as set out in the bill. It seems this is not within the powers of the Minister of National Revenue.

To accurately translate the wishes of the people who appeared before us and the sponsor of the bill, perhaps we should have insisted that it be amended in order to make it very clear that any apologies should come from Parliament, through the Prime Minister here in this House.

In the end, however, we ran out of time, because the Conservatives obstructed the committee's work for partisan reasons, forcing us to wrap up our work before we were done.

Despite these imperfections, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the bill introduced by the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, because it is a way for us to pay tribute to all Quebeckers of Italian heritage and thank them for their support over the decades, particularly in Montreal, and for enriching our culture.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all Quebeckers of Italian ancestry in my riding, especially the Italian senior's club in Saint-Hubert and its energetic and brilliant president, Guiseffina Vetri. In closing, I say grazie!

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity once again to speak in support of Bill C-302, An Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history. The New Democrats are pleased to support this bill and to assist with its movement through Parliament.

Our great nation has a history as colourful and as varied as its people. Like many countries, however, Canada has experienced some dark points in its 143 year history or, as Canadian author Kenneth Bagnell would say, this chapter in Italian Canadian history is known as the days of darkness or the days of despair. These dark days took place during the second world war.

The entry of Italy into the second world war brought considerable disruption to the Italian Canadian community. While these communities were able to withstand a number of economic challenges due in large part to their strong family networks, there was one challenge they could not overcome.

In 1935 the actions on the other side of the ocean began to be felt by thousands of Italian Canadians and all Canadians who had settled in Canada, and that year Canadian hostility toward fascism had reached its climax. With Italy joining Germany in the war, Canadians became increasingly antagonistic toward Italian Canadians.

As a consequence of Italy's alliance with Germany in World War II, Italian Canadians were designated as enemy aliens and, as such, were the victims of widespread prejudice and discrimination. Canadian authorities believed that these strong family ties among the Italian community posed a serious potential threat to national security. Men lost their jobs. Shops were vandalized. Civil liberties were suspended under the War Measures Act. Hundreds were interned at Camp Petawawa in northern Ontario.

One of the Italian Canadians who would later be interned at Camp Petawawa was Italian-born Sudburian Dr. Luigi Pancaro. Dr. Pancaro was born on July 8, 1897 in Cosenza, Italy. After graduating with his medical degree from the University of Rome at the age of 28, he made his way to Canada where he became the first Italian-born medical doctor in Canada's north.

During the early 1930s Dr. Pancaro and his wife settled in Sudbury with the large Italian community and became a member of the staff at St. Joseph's Hospital and at the Sudbury Regional Hospital. In addition to joining the hospital staff, Dr. Pancaro also opened a private practice and became the family doctor for many members of the Italian community.

Dr. Pancaro's life dramatically changed on June 11, 1940. That day, Dr. Pancaro was suddenly pulled away from the patient he was seeing, placed in the back of a police van and transported to the Sudbury jail. In his cell, Dr. Pancaro met other Italian-born men, most of them his patients. Dr. Pancaro's abduction happened one day after Italy entered the second world war.

The evening before Dr. Pancaro was taken away in a police van, Prime Minister Mackenzie King ordered the internment of hundreds of Italian Canadians identified by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as enemy aliens. The roundup of Italian Canadians continued until October 1940.

Camp Petawawa was made up of 12 large barracks which housed 60 or more people in each. The entire camp was surrounded by two large barbed-wire fences. Those interned there were boys as young as 16 to men in their 70s. The internees were made to wear jackets adorned with a large red circle on their backs, a target for guards to shoot at if any tried to escape.

While at the camp, none of the internees saw their families. Letters from their loved ones were censored. Some men would stay for months, while others would remain for years. Dr. Pancaro remained at the camp for two years.

After that bitter experience, Dr. Pancaro returned to Italy. He ultimately returned to Sudbury in 1956, where he continued his successful medical practice until 1981.

These men, like Dr. Pancaro, as well as their families, who were denied relief bore the brunt of hostilities during this dark time in Canadian history. As a result, many Italians later anglicized their names and denied their Italian background. It is because of this hostile and hurtful treatment that many second generation Italian Canadians do not know nor fully understand their history.

The fact that this dark chapter in Italian Canadian history has led many to deny their Italian background makes it imperative that the government take the steps outlined in this bill; that is, provide for restitution and promote education on Italian Canadian history.

While our communities wait for governments to do the right thing, many in my riding of Sudbury have proudly carried forth and shared their Italian heritage and achieved success. In fact, despite being one of the city's hardest hit by these days of despair, Sudbury's Italian community has continued to make significant steps toward preserving and passing on its Italian culture and traditions to its future generations.

Nowhere are these Italian traditions of hard work and dedication to family and community more visible than in the vibrant Italian community in Sudbury. Sudbury is home to the Caruso Club, one of the largest Italian associations in all of Ontario. I had the distinct honour of being a guest at the club's membership meeting this past Saturday. Formed in 1947, the club is a not-for-profit organization that promotes, enhances and preserves Italian culture and heritage within the Canadian multicultural mosaic.

For those who are in the Sudbury area in the first week of July, I encourage them to come to the Italian festival and have a fantastic porchetta sandwich.

Something which is very important is that the club also renders assistance to persons of Italian nationality in need. It also maintains a library and archives of Italian heritage.

I would once again offer my thanks to the current board of directors of the Caruso Club, Sav Doni, John Santagapita, my cousin Egidio Manoni, Linda Zanatta-Beaudoin, Danilo Monticelli, Lina Sanchioni, Bob Armiento, Ugo Rocca, and board president Tony Nero, for the club's continued contributions to and support for the local community.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the Caruso Club's umbrella groups, which also make significant contributions to the Sudbury Italian community and to the overall community: Associazione Marchigiana di Sudbury, whose president is Ezio Campanelli; Associazione Veneta, whose president is Leo Silvestri; and the Calabria Social Club, whose president is Sav Doni. There are many others organizations, such as the Caruso Club Choir, the Caruso Club Children's Choir and the Caruso Club Ladies Auxiliary, to name a few.

We have a vibrant Italian community in Sudbury, and that is something I am very proud of.

For documenting and preserving this rich local history and sharing it with me, I would like to thank Diana Iuele-Colilli, who kindly supplied me with her book, Italian Faces: Images of the Italian Community of Sudbury.

Given that official apologies in the House of Commons have been offered for past actions of the Canadian government, I urge all members to join me in voting in favour of sending Bill C-302 to committee.

We will stand again in support of this bill so that the wrongs committed against Italian Canadians in the past can be made right.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I welcome the member's interventions. However, on three separate occasions, he said this is a dark chapter in Italian Canadian history. I am sure that what he meant was that this is a dark chapter in Canadian history, because there is not yet a recognition that there was an Italian Canadian history. This all happened in the context of Canadian history, where some members of Italian origin were victims of the War Measures Act.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of the bill. I want to thank my colleague for putting forward the bill.

I do not want to go into too much detail, as my hon. colleague and others who have spoken in favour of the bill have gone into great depth as to the impact on the individuals and the community at the time.

I myself became involved with this particular issue when I was the president of the National Congress of Italian Canadians. In fact, I lobbied and held this file for quite some time, trying to get it approved by the government at the time and by the Conservative government as well.

Many things have been said about what happened. We all know that these were innocent people who were interned, put into military camps, called prisoners of war. Imagine that. The whole community at that time was also fingerprinted, which I think is important, and declared enemy aliens. In other words, in essence they were called enemies of the state. Imagine being a child growing up in that environment, in that community, at that time and how difficult that was.

Many of the people were not only interned, but sometimes after about a year or so, depending on how long, they would come out and be sent to the front to fight in the Canadian military. They would go off to the front lines with a uniform for Canada. So they were good enough to go and get killed serving the country, but at the same time they were not good enough to maintain their freedom, which is rather strange.

Nonetheless, that also happened. It is another element of what went on at the time.

The most important thing is that these were Canadian citizens, all of them. They were never charged with anything. Some them were born here.

The Conservatives have apologized to the Japanese Canadians a decade ago and the Chinese Canadians with respect to the head tax more recently, and then they have worked out arrangements with the Ukrainian Canadians and so on, but not for the Italian Canadian community.

Here they have a problem, and later I will identify what their problem is. It seems the Italian Canadians only deserve an apology in a ballroom somewhere, and maybe that was a mistake because they are not prepared to repeat it in the House of Commons.

That is the apology part, and I think it is high time it happened for that community, given all that has happened.

However in terms of the other aspect, which is the financial settlement issue, the community representatives from the Italian community negotiated on November 12, 2005, with the Government of Canada. The agreement was a settlement of $12.5 million at the time to be administered by a foundation of the community represented by the National Congress of Italian Canadians and other organizations, which I will mention in a moment.

However the government did not think that was good enough. It gave the Ukrainian community a fund and it could administer its own funds, but not the Italians. Italian Canadians somehow are just not good enough or at least are not capable. Therefore the government then set up, according to the minister, what it called a community historical recognition program, which is to be administered by a committee of three, chosen by the government with no consultation with the community at all.

Think of the insult. The Ukrainian community and other communities can administer their own funds, but not the Italian Canadians. No, that is not possible.

I am going read excerpts from a letter from the National Congress of Italian Canadians. It is important to put this on the record.

The National Congress of Italian Canadians (NCIC) deplores the manner in which the minister of immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism...has chosen to bypass the legitimate community organizations who have been negotiating with the Government in good faith to arrive at a fair and equitable resolution on the issue of redress for the internment of Italian Canadians during World War II.

It goes on to say:

That agreement, reached within the parameters of the ACE program, provided a settlement in the sum of $12.5 million to be administered by the community through the NCIC Foundation. This would be in keeping with the administrative process, which has been put in place for the Ukrainian-Canadian community. Unfortunately, the current Canadian Government unilaterally breached the Agreement without notice nor consultation and introduced a new program which is totally unacceptable to our community.

This program clearly indicates the lack of trust by the current minister towards the Italian-Canadian community and its legitimate representatives. Is there any other reason why the Ukrainian Canadian community can be trusted to administer its own program funds while a government administration, with the advice of an appointed committee, is required for the Italian Canadians? The establishment of an advisory committee made up of people who do not represent the community and who cannot pretend to give advice on behalf of our community is an insult. We question the motives of the minister and find his approach to this very sensitive issue repugnant, divisive and insulting.

That is the reaction of the Italian Canadian community leadership with respect to the government's actions thus far on this issue.

I should say that in addition to the National Congress of Italian Canadians, which is an umbrella organization of Italian Canadian organizations across Canada, Casa d'Italia was also involved in supporting this and was a witness at committee. Order Sons of Italy of Canada, the Italian-Canadian Community Foundation, and all of the regional chapters of the National Congress of Italian Canadians right across Canada were the community that was totally bypassed by this government.

However the insult does not stop there. There was no consultation on the so-called committee that the government set up in the community to advise on the use of these funds. At committee, when I asked the minister who he asked, who he consulted to get these people appointed, there was no real answer because obviously no one was consulted.

I will tell members who they are, however. One of them is the president of the Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel riding for the Conservative Party, so I see why he was appointed. Another one works in the Italian Canadian community but has never been involved with this issue, and I believe he is a Conservative as well. Again I see why he was appointed, but the kicker, the real insult, is the third person. This is where it comes right down to where it really is. I do not even know how to say it.

One of our colleagues read to the minister what this man has written with respect to the issue of internment. This is what this gentleman, this third appointee, has written:

We have watched with concern the campaign of Canadian redress. Its leaders are guided by simplified versions of events, drawing on selective evidence, ignoring contrary views and glossing over the fascist history of the Italian communities.

This is what the third gentleman wrote, and when the minister was asked if that was his position, he said,“Well, I think as much as possible we should take the politics out of redress...”.

Excuse me, politics out of redress? They appoint a man who actually believes this was a fair thing, this should have happened? This is what he is saying. Does that mean that is what the minister believes? I have to ask the government. I do not know. The minister never gave me an answer at committee.

Is this what the government truly believes? Is that why this man is on that committee? This guy is Mr. Perin. Is that why he is on the committee? I know what the guy might have written, but why does the government choose him? It totally ignored the elected people from the Canadian community right across this country and arbitrarily appointed three people, one of whom in fact believes maybe there was some truth or some reason why these people were interned, and this is a way to justify, without evidence of course. None of them was every charged or convicted of anything, but one never knows. Therefore, there is no apology, no funds, no respect, and the final insult is maybe we have this committee.

I would ask this House to make it right. I have to ask the House, because it is not going to be done by the government, to make it right, to support this bill and put this behind us once and for all, and to show respect to a community that has done a great deal to build this country.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 30th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could say I am happy to be rising today to speak to this bill that I mentioned earlier is flawed in so many different ways. But it is actually quite nice to follow the member for Beaches—East York because her comments identified just how divisive this bill is.

The member opposite had an opportunity to approach government members of Italian Canadian descent before drafting this bill, but he chose not to do so.

Let us talk about what we have here. The member for Beaches—East York actually mentioned that on November 12, 2005, a mere two weeks before an election was called, after a number of Liberal majority governments between 1993 and 2005, the Liberals magically came to realize that there needed to be some recognition for the Italian Canadian community and some funds needed to be apportioned to it. On the back of a napkin, they showed the ultimate disrespect to the Italian Canadian community. They put forward this election goody to the Italian Canadian community after ignoring it for some 70 years.

The member who sponsored this bill has asked why I keep bringing up the seven Liberal prime ministers who completely ignored the Italian Canadian community for so long. I bring them up because of the 70 years that the Liberals ignored the Italian Canadian community. The fact is that no Italian Canadians who were put in these camps are alive. By ignoring them for 70 years, the Liberal government has ensured there is nobody around to accept this apology that they want. Thankfully, Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney took the apology right to the Italian people. He apologized to them for the injustices of the internment.

Our Prime Minister brought in the community historical recognition program. We took our time with the community. We came to realize that some funds were required to remember what Italian Canadians suffered. I was extraordinarily pleased when the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced a $5 million program to recognize everything the Italian Canadian community has gone through and also all the good things Italian Canadians have brought to Canada.

It is interesting to hear so many Italian Canadian Liberal parliamentarians get up and speak to this bill. They alone carry the burden of the fact that they have been here for many years and have failed the Italian community over and over again, to the point where they are now bringing forward a divisive bill in a minority government at a time when there are no Italian Canadians who were interned alive today. They alone shoulder that blame.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this bill and I do so somewhat with mixed feelings. I am always proud to get up in this House and speak to the successes of Italian Canadians over the years and everything that they have accomplished in Canada. However, today we are also being asked to remember and to speak about what I think is one of the darkest days in Canadian history with respect to Italian Canadians and their treatment while in this country. I think it is important that we take a look back at some of the history with respect to Italian Canadians and their internment.

It is important to note that it was at the onset of World War II that then Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King decided that Italian Canadians, despite everything they had accomplished in this country for the many years they had been here, all of the successes, somehow should be deemed as enemy aliens. Some 632 Italian Canadians were interned and placed in camps. Others were forced to identify themselves with local police. This was the treatment of Italian Canadians for many years.

Following the end of the war, Italian-Canadians waited for an apology. They waited through many different governments. They waited through Liberal Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, and still no apology. They waited through Liberal Prime Minister Pearson, and still no apology. They waited through Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau, and still no apology. They waited again until, finally, in 1990, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, addressing the National Congress of Italian Canadians, apologized.

On November 4, 1990, speaking to the biennial convention of the National Congress of Italian Canadians, Prime Minister Mulroney acknowledged the injustices committed against Canadians of Italian origin during World War II and apologized to all Canadians of Italian origin on behalf of the Government of Canada for the injustices perpetrated on a quiet, law-abiding community. In his speech, he pledged that the violations of democratic rights so apparent during World War II should never happen again; and finally, he accepted the principle of redress for the wrongs committed to the Italian people and he suggested, again, that this should never happen again.

Italian Canadians have accomplished so much in Canada. There are over 1.4 million Italian Canadians. They are leaders in business. They are leaders in industry. They are professionals. They are tradespeople. It has often been said, in the greater Toronto area where I am from, that the first generation of Italian Canadians built Toronto and the second generation owned Toronto.

Over the past weekend I had the pleasure and the privilege of being in Halifax. I was able to visit Pier 21, where my father and my mother entered Canada with my aunts and my uncles at that time. These are proud Italian Canadians: my father Tony Calandra, my mother Franca, my uncles Peter, Ross and Carmen. They came to Canada to build a better life for themselves. They did not come to look back. They came to be productive members of society.

Italian Canadians identify themselves not by the injustices perpetrated against them by previous governments in World War II, but by what they have accomplished since coming to Canada. They identify themselves as strong family people, people who helped construct the streets that we came to work on, helped on this building, helped build Toronto, helped build Montreal, helped accomplish so much across Canada. That is how Italian Canadians identify themselves.

Earlier today I was speaking to my uncle, Peter Salvino, who came to Canada a little more than 34 years ago. I asked him how he felt about this, and he said he was not here at that time, but it did have an impact on Italian Canadians all those years that they waited, because people used the fact that there was no apology until 1990 as a reason to be racist in many instances toward Italians.

My uncle has ultimately built a great life here in Canada. He celebrated in 1972 when Paul Henderson scored that goal. He was proud when we launched the Anik II. He remembered when Terry Fox started his run and was sad when it ended. He remembered 1996, because he was in Atlanta when Donovan Bailey won the gold medal for Canada. He could not stop cheering. He lost his voice when the Canadian team won the relay. He was at the Olympics in Canada in 1976, and again in 1988. He was also one of the proud Italians who in 1982, when the Italian team won the World Cup, flooded onto the streets of Toronto to celebrate.

Italian culture is strong, but first and foremost, they are Canadians. They are Canadians who have moved on. They are Canadians who have accepted the apology by Brian Mulroney, then Conservative Prime Minister, for the wrongs of previous Liberal governments. They have accepted the apology on behalf of all Italian Canadians.

We have done so much more as a government, and we are moving on, just as Italians have moved on. But we are not ignoring what Italians suffered. That is why our government recently provided funding in recognition of what Italian Canadians went through, so that we could educate other Canadians on the Italian Canadian experience during the internment.

One of the reasons I am so opposed to this legislation is because, indeed, it looks back. Wrongs were committed. Italian Canadians, as I said earlier, waited a long time, but in 1990 they received an apology.

I object to this legislation because we have already done so much. Not only did we apologize in 1990, but as I said recently, we have provided, through the community historical recognition program, $5 million in grants and contributions over four years, which will begin in 2008-09. This money will fund projects to commemorate and recognize the experiences of the Italian Canadian community in relation to the second world war internment in Canada.

I want to focus as an Italian Canadian parliamentarian not on the injustices of the past, but on the accomplishments of the Italian Canadian people. I want to focus on the things that my parents accomplished, on the things that my aunts and uncles accomplished. Most Italian Canadians want to focus on that.

We can look at the bill and ask, as I would suggest the opposition has done, how can we gain cheap political points? How can we seek to divide the Italian community? Where can we get some seats? How can we use Italian Canadians to break into communities where we have not been successful? That is why the bill is so shameful. We need to focus on what we have accomplished.

A Conservative government recognizes the accomplishments of the Italian people. A Conservative government apologized to the Italian people. A Conservative government provided the millions of dollars that will be spread across this country to help the rest of Canadians understand what was perpetrated against Italian Canadians in World War II by a Liberal prime minister. A Conservative government will help Italian Canadians move on and will help share with the rest of Canadians why Italians have been so successful, why I am proud to be an Italian Canadian.

I simply will not support a bill that seeks to divide the Italian community, that seeks to earn cheap political points over what has been the darkest period in Canadian history.

I hope that all those Italian Canadians who are here today recognize the fact that on this side of the House there is a Prime Minister and there is a minister who appreciate everything that Italian Canadians have done. I as an Italian Canadian and member of Parliament will continue to stand up for them every day that I am privileged to be here.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-302 is an act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their enemy alien designation and internment during the second world war and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian Canadian history. This is the fourth time the bill has been introduced. It was previously introduced in three sessions of Parliament. I am very glad to see that it is back, and I am prepared, certainly, to support it.

I will give some historical background. In 1939, special wartime powers were given to the Canadian Minister of Justice to prevent the subversion of Canadian interests and loyalties. Italian Canadians were designated enemy aliens by the Government of Canada, and following Italy's declaration of war on June 10, 1940, our government ordered the internment of many of these so-called enemy aliens.

Between 600 and 700 Italian Canadians were reportedly interned as a result. Most were sent to Camp Petawawa on the Ottawa River.

Italian Canadians were required to register with the RCMP and report on a monthly basis. Travel restrictions were imposed. The teaching of the Italian language was declared illegal, as were various Italian organizations. Boycotts of Italian Canadian-owned and -run businesses started and many Italian Canadians lost their jobs.

In 1990, as my hon. friend who spoke just before me indicated, the National Congress of Italian Canadians briefed then Prime Minister Mulroney on these injustices and called for an apology and compensation. An apology was delivered and the money was announced but was not delivered.

Funding was announced again in June 2008 through Citizenship and Immigration Canada's community historical recognition program. I heard my hon. friend who spoke before me say that the Conservatives say the bill is shameful. I think that was his exact description. He was talking about money to come, but to date, the program's website lists no funds granted for projects related to the treatment of Italian Canadians during World War II.

I will talk briefly about Thunder Bay. Italian Canadians have a very long history in Thunder Bay. In fact, the Italian community was established in the late 19th century. The 1901 census shows 197 persons of Italian origin in Port Arthur and Fort William combined. By 1931, that community had grown to 2,500 people. Italian Canadians remain one of the largest ethnic communities in Thunder Bay, indeed one of the largest ethnic communities right across my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

I am a proud member of the Societa' Italiana Di Benevolenza Principe Di Piemonte. I am very happy to say, just to illustrate the longevity and how important Italian Canadians have been to Thunder Bay and to my riding, that this society started in 1909. This is the 100th anniversary of that society. It was started by a small group of Italian immigrants who wanted their heritage to stay alive in this new country that they had come to call their own.

The goal of their society was to promote and maintain good fellowship and the highest level of citizenship within members and the community.

A further goal of their society was the promotion and enhancement of Italian custom and culture in all its endeavours. This society and I am sure Italian societies right across this country have lived up to these ideals and continue to live up to these ideals and show how valuable their community is to Canada.

I would like to note that in September 1939, three days after German troops had invaded Poland, the Principe di Piemonte passed a motion pledging its loyalty to Canada. I have already outlined the historical background of what happened after that.

I would also like to mention the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association of Thunder Bay that was incorporated in 1993. It promotes the recreational, cultural, social, artistic business and professional activities of Italian Canadians in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. It encourages the participation of Italian Canadians in the economic and public affairs of that region and Canada.

What I am really trying to get at with this description is the importance and value that I am sure all of us in the House and right across this country see, not only in our immigrant population in general, but in particular today with our Italian immigrants. I believe that Canada would be a much poorer place without the contribution of Italian Canadians.

I would be willing to speak with the member later as to whether in fact the funds have flowed. I do not believe they have. As I said on the website, no funds are listed relating to projects associated with the treatment of Italian Canadians during World War II.

The Conservatives say that this bill is shameful. We can easily pass it with the co-operation of everyone in the House and, with the apology that has already taken place, we could ensure that the money that has been announced on numerous occasions is finally delivered.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will forgive me in anticipation of some errors that I might make in the course of my presentation. I feel so passionate about this that I know I will lapse into my mother tongue. I do not mean any disrespect to parliamentarians who may be listening or, indeed, the translators, but I hope everyone will forgive me in anticipation thereof.

I would like to begin in French, because I wish to thank some of the members who spoke before me, particularly, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, a Bloc member. He talked about this bill a few weeks ago. He said it was the fair thing to do and that this bill needed the support of all members of this House. How incredible that a member of the Bloc, a self-described sovereignist party, and some might say one that is less Canadian—although I would disagree—but someone who defines his Canadian identity by the fact that he lives in Quebec. He defines himself as a Quebecker, and he believes that this bill should be supported by all Quebeckers and all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Why? Because Canada wronged its citizens, not others, but its own citizens. One needs to read the bill in French in order to grasp what the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie was trying to get across. My colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel deserves congratulations from all hon. members for introducing this bill. In English, we talk about Italian Canadians having been victims of the War Measures Act, while references to this in French make it clear that the Canadian government of the day felt that Italian Canadians should be treated as enemy aliens. They were Canadians. What does it mean to be Canadian? To be considered as subjects of another country, an enemy country? They had been here for over a hundred years, they were here as Canadians, as subjects of Canada.

My colleague from Oak Ridges—Markham spoke of wrongs that need to be forgotten. I know all about forgetting and putting things aside, but we need to keep in mind the rights that individuals acquired by birth or residence, their identity as Canadians. They were British subjects, they were Canadians.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think it is important to note that at no time in my speech did I say that we needed to forget what happened to Italian Canadians. What I did say was that we apologized to Italian Canadians in 1990. The Conservative prime minister—

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I spoke in French and I may have made some mistakes, but I said nothing that was seriously wrong. I spoke of the wrongs done by the Canadian government to its citizens, not citizens of another country, but its own citizens.

They are citizens. One becomes a Canadian to become a Canadian. One is either born here, like many of my cousins and aunts and uncles, or they acquire citizenship by virtue of their residence, their responsibility and their civic duty toward this country. That is how one becomes a Canadian. One does not then become a subject of an enemy nation.

When my colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel proposes this legislation, my compliments go to him. My compliments also go to my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway who also stood on behalf of the NDP and said that he and his party supported the legislation because they understood the basic concept behind it and that they applaud the initiative of the member from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel”.

I had the privilege of being around the cabinet table when this proposal, enunciated in Bill C-302, was put on the table. What the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel says is that the Government of Canada should honour the commitment that it made to the four representative institutions of the Italian Canadian community in the country. There was the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association and the Congress of Italian Canadians.

There was also the Italian-Canadian Community Foundation in Quebec.

Finally, there was the Order Sons of Italy. All four organizations negotiated for the better part of 10 months in order to come up with what is called the ACE program.

The Government of Canada fell in 2006 and the current government took up this and said that it would not give them what they signed on to. It was not going to respect the contract the Government of Canada signed with the representatives of the community, the contract that called for a sum that was considerably higher than what has been proposed by the government, and, by the way, it would flow through this organization in order to establish a foundation to achieve the educational objectives, to achieve the commemorative programs and to gauge awareness for all of the country.

However, it did not close the door to individual considerations by the estates of the 632 individuals who were unjustly interned. They were never charged and no laws were broken. They were never given any indication as to why they were there except that they were citizens of an enemy nation. They were Canadian citizens.

I ask to be forgiven if I get excited about this but it is because we are talking about the human rights and the citizenship rights of everyone.

[Member spoke in Italian]

[English]

The Government of Canada has made excuses to others and has apologized. It is not a novel thing. We are not leaving ourselves open to any kind of legal liabilities by making an apology.

[Member spoke in Italian]

If a person is a Canadian citizen, it is of little importance where one came from or what political party one belongs to. One is a citizen, and that is all. So if apologies have already been given to other citizens, there is a need to apologize to the Italians as well. Why?

We should think about this for a moment. Six hundred and thirty-two families were disrupted during the war because the political situation in the world at the time dictated a circumstance that nobody here wanted, and yet the people of Italian origin who were here were automatically put on guard as subjects of an enemy nation.

A cousin of mine was in the Royal Navy and yet the entire family was under police surveillance for the duration of the war.

A former member of this House, whom we know well, had a brother enlisted in the RCAF and a family under police surveillance.

Nobody said, “Sorry, we made an error”. Nobody said that we were enemies of Canada. Nobody ever said that the Italian community committed an injustice toward the people, the country and the Government of Canada but they were interned and jobs were lost.

[Member spoke in Italian]

[English]

It is right that this legislation calls, at the very least, on the Government of Canada to respect the agreement signed by the Government of Canada in 2005 with the four institutions that represent the Italian community in Canada. That is the starting point. It is not the closing point.

I compliment the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for having brought this legislation to this point in the House. He deserves compliments and he deserves support, not negative criticism.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this bill with great pride. I consider myself to be one of the most fortunate people in the whole world. I am very fortunate because of my ancestry. I am very fortunate to have come from such a strong family that taught me everything that I believe makes me successful today.

I want to talk about a number of people during my speech. I am going to make this very personal, because I do believe that this is a personal issue. I am going to go way back. I am going to go back to 1927, the year a young man named Arcangelo arrived at the port in Halifax from Italy. He came here with no money, but he came to a land of hope where he believed things would be better and where he could build a better life.

Over the years he sent money back to Italy. He brought his family over. He brought his sister and brother. His father came. They built a life and they built families. He landed in northern Ontario at a place called Britt, close to Parry Sound. He worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He married a woman named Marguerite. They had a family of nine children.

The War Measures Act came into place in 1939. They had been living in Canada for 12 years at that point. It had been 12 years of working, 12 years of building, 12 years of serving and 12 years of being a Canadian, but at that point, they became enemies of the state. It was a sad time in our history and it never should have happened. What did that cause? What came from that? They were under police surveillance. The people who lived in those neighbourhoods in that small town all knew that they were the Italian family. That was the Italian family and they were to be hated because they were enemies of the state. I will talk about the effects of it.

A young man was born on September 28, 1942. His name was Enrico Giuseppe. He grew up in that small town. He went to those small schools, where people knew that he was of the Italian family. They were the Italians. One did not want to be Italian in Canada then because of what had happened, because we shamed them, because we made them feel like they were lesser Canadians who should not be respected.

Arcangelo was my grandfather. Enrico Giuseppe was my father. He changed his name to Henry. He is one of the proudest Canadians I have ever known and he taught me to be proud of this country. He did not harbour any ill will, because the Italians of this country overcame that incident. They overcame that travesty and injustice that was committed against them by demonstrating a work ethic, a commitment and a love for this country that is to be celebrated by all Canadians.

What is disgraceful about this legislation is that it divides people. It tries to conjure up old wounds to make them look like they will never heal. Italians forgave. My family forgave. They went through a horrible situation. My father's family were beaten up. They were in fights. They had a tough childhood. They went through difficulty. It was hard getting jobs because of what they were, not who they were. They suffered discrimination the likes of which is similar to what one would hear for any other race or group living in Canada or anywhere else. It was because of this travesty that was committed against them.

My grandfather, Arcangelo, worked almost 50 years for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was so proud. In the late 1950s, he learned to speak English. He had to teach himself. My grandmother spoke five languages, as a matter of fact. He learned to speak English. People always ask me why I cannot speak Italian, given that my grandmother could speak five languages. In the 1940s the last thing people wanted their kids to be was an Italian in Canada, so they hid it.

My father never said his name was Enrico. It was Henry. In fact, everybody knew him as Hank, because if he said his name was Enrico, and Enrico Giuseppe especially, he probably would not have much of a future. His father never even spoke to him in Italian, and my grandfather could barely speak English. My grandfather's English was so bad that when my wife first met him, she thought he was speaking Italian to her, but he was speaking English.

My grandfather and grandmother raised their nine children as Canadians, proud Canadians. They spoke English. They worked hard. They built lives. They contributed to this society and they are one of many families who did. There are millions of Canadians of Italian origin living in this country. The overwhelming majority of them have forgiven for this. They do not want to go back. They are proud Canadians.

When the Prime Minister speaks I think a lot of people listen. I know I listen when the Prime Minister speaks.

In 1990 Prime Minister Mulroney did something that nobody had done before. I think even my Liberal colleagues across the floor who have brought forward this legislation, which is very divisive, would acknowledge that when they were in power in the 1940s, when the Liberals were in power in the 1950s, in the 1960s, in the 1970s, in the 1980s, in the 1990s, when the Liberals were in power in the current millennium, they did not do this. Now there is a private member's bill on the issue. Where were they for the almost 70 years that occurred? Where were they?

In 1990 Brian Mulroney said, “On behalf of the government and the people of Canada, I offer a full and unqualified apology for the wrongs done to our fellow Canadians of Italian origin during World War II”. That was a full acknowledgement that what had been done was wrong, that what had been done should never have happened, and frankly, what that meant to the Italians who lived in this country, who called this country home, what that meant to them in their lives from the years that extended beyond that.

When my father met my mother, my mother was forbidden to see my father because he was an Italian. That is awful, but that was the reality. That was the situation.

What is wrong with this bill? Why will I not support it? My name is about as Italian as it gets, and when a person runs for office with an Italian name in a city like Peterborough, it is quite an accomplishment to get elected. It would not have happened back in the 1940s. Why will I not support this bill? Because it takes the country backward, not forward. It does not represent the Italian community of Canada. This comes down to money. The Liberals are trying to boil this down to making an issue of, “The Government of Canada says it will give us $5 million. We want $12.5 million”. That is nonsensical.

I started out by saying that I feel that I am the most fortunate person in the world. My grandfather felt he was the most fortunate person in the world. My father felt that he was the most fortunate person in the world. His brothers and sisters felt that they were the most fortunate people in the world because this country was their home and they were proud this country was their home.

They do not like this because they are Canadians. They are not Italian Canadians. They are not Canadians from Italy. People do not say that I am from Italy. I am from Peterborough. I was born in St. Joseph's Hospital. I am as Canadian as it gets. They do not want to be broken down and divided into chunks by someone saying they are Italian Canadian, they were discriminated against and they should get $12.5 million. They do not want it.

This is a disgraceful piece of legislation. It divides Canadians at a time when we need to pull together, fight together and combat everything that is coming toward us, whether it is the economic crisis we are going through or all the other uncertainties in the world. Canadians of all cultural backgrounds need to pull together. This bill divides them.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, this is a very serious topic and when I spoke on it I never made one reference to a partisan affiliation. It is important to keep in mind that the legislation calls on the government to honour what a previous government signed in a contractual arrangement. It is important to keep that in mind even though people get emotional.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Peterborough for a very passionate and a great speech tonight. I may disagree with some of the opinions on what this bill would do, but I truly appreciated what he had to say.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak tonight to Bill C-302, An Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history. The New Democrats and I are pleased to support this bill and to assist with its movement through Parliament.

Let me begin my speech this evening by telling the story of an Italian born Sudburian who was the victim of the government's internment policy.

Dr. Luigi Filippo Pancaro arrived in Canada in the late 1920s after graduating with his medical degree from the University of Rome. During the early 1930s, Dr. Pancaro and his wife settled in Sudbury with the large Italian community and became a member of the staff at the Sudbury regional hospital. In addition to joining the hospital staff, Dr. Pancaro also opened a private practice and became the family doctor for many members of the Italian community. On June 11, 1940, Dr. Pancaro was suddenly and without reason pulled away from a patient he was seeing, placed in the back of a police van and transported to the Sudbury jail.

Dr. Pancaro's abduction occurred a day after Italy had declared war on Canada. The evening before he was taken away in a police van, Prime Minister Mackenzie King ordered the internment of hundreds of Italian Canadians identified by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as enemy aliens. Once Dr. Pancaro reached the Sudbury jail, he was locked in a cell with many other Italian born men, most of them his patients. Dr. Pancaro was part of a group of Italians that were sent to the internment camp in Petawawa, situated in the Ottawa Valley, where he remained for two years.

The roundup of Italian Canadians was virtually completed by October 1940. Most of them were sent to Camp Petawawa. It is difficult to establish exactly how many Italian Canadians were interned, although estimates range from 600 to 700.

After that bitter experience, Dr. Pancaro returned to Italy to practise medicine. He did ultimately return to Sudbury in 1956 where he continued his successful medical practice until 1981.

The facts are simple, that people of Italian origin like Dr. Pancaro were subject to internment at the hands of the government during World War II and that this act of persecution was carried out upon these people for no reason other than their Italian origins. The internment of Italians during World War II has been acknowledged but never redressed officially in the House of Commons. This bill provides an opportunity to do what should have been done long ago with dignity.

To be clear, there have been steps taken to make amends for the disgraceful treatment of Italian Canadians. In 1990, the National Congress of Italian Canadians outlined the injustices in a brief sent to then Prime Minister Mulroney. The brief outlined the desire for an acknowledgement of the injustice, compensation paid and an apology. The PM did indeed apologize in 1990. He mentioned repatriations, and former Prime Minister Paul Martin also promised repatriations. Sadly, many of the commitments were empty promises. Despite these words, money has never really flowed and although money was announced with great fanfare and media attention, successive governments did not follow up on honouring their pledges and ensuring that Italian Canadians could access these funds.

Though Italian Canadians had to endure tremendous hardships 70 years ago, they were not thwarted in their drive to incorporate themselves into Canadian communities across the country and to become leaders in their own right in the promotion of Italian heritage and culture.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize some of the tremendous contributions that certain organizations and individuals have made in my riding of Sudbury toward the promotion of Italian heritage and culture.

Sudbury is lucky to host the Caruso Club, one of the largest Italian associations in all of Ontario. Formed in 1947, the Caruso Club is a not-for-profit organization with a goal to promote, enhance and preserve Italian culture and heritage within the Canadian multicultural mosaic, to render assistance to persons of Italian nationality in need and to establish and maintain a library and archives of Italian heritage.

I would like to offer thanks to the current board of directors: Sav Doni, John Santagapita, Egidio Manoni, Linda Zanatta-Beaudoin, Danilo Monticelli, Lina Sanchioni, Bob Armiento, Ugo Rocca and board president, Tony Nero for the club's continued contributions and support for the local community. Felix Santacapita, who passed away a few years ago, is another one of the many committed community members who gave countless hours at the Caruso Club.

One of the largest events the club organizes is the annual Italian festival. During this four day event, Sudburians have the opportunity of participating in a variety of events and presentations, including sporting events like cycling, soccer, and bocce tournaments and the Ms. Caruso pageant, an event my daughter Trinity is excited to take part in this year. She is able to do that, as my wife is from Italian ancestry.

A key organizer behind this event is Ms. Benita Dellece. Benita has played a tremendous role in increasing the community's awareness and appreciation of Sudbury's Italian community through her efforts in organizing this event. In addition to the Italian pageant, she has played a huge role in educating hundreds of Sudburians about the city's rich Italian heritage and culture.

Another important member of the Sudbury and Italian community is John Fera, who was recently re-elected as president of the United Steelworkers Local 6500. Mr. Fera has spent many hours around the bargaining table advocating for his union brothers and sisters, and he continues the legacy of outspoken and community-driven Italians in Sudbury.

There is precedence for official apologies in the House of Commons. Given that official apologies in the House of Commons have been offered for past actions of the Canadian government to Canadians of Japanese origin, first nations, Canadians of Chinese origin and other communities, I urge all members to join me in voting in favour of sending Bill C-302 to committee.

The New Democrats have stood against internment and the War Measures Act for decades. We will stand again in support of this bill to ensure that Italian Canadians are given the formal apology that is so long overdue and that the wrongs committed nearly 70 years ago can be righted.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the members who spoke in favour of my bill. The hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence already mentioned a few of them. The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said he would be in favour of the bill, as did the members for Vancouver Kingsway, Beaches—East York, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Thunder Bay—Rainy River, my colleague and friend, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence and, more recently, the member for Sudbury.

I would also like to thank the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and my colleagues in the Liberal Party who have indicated their support for this bill.

I have some prepared notes, but I am going to try to summarize this. I know it is an emotional bill for people of my origin. I am a Canadian of Italian origin. I was born in this country, so I have a different perspective on how this bill is going to affect my community.

There has not been any contradiction of whether the internment ever occurred, so at least that is clear in everybody's mind. We do not have the actual numbers of how many times they were actually interned because the record keeping was never properly controlled. We are not really sure how many were interned. We know how many were interned in Petawawa, but there were three other prison camps, and we are not sure of the numbers. There were various studies done by different organizations and the actual number never came to light. There were a lot of people arrested when the internment started. They were imprisoned in different jail cells around the country, such as in Hamilton and mainly in the area of Montreal.

This is a regrettable chapter in Canadian history, and basically the bill is to provide for an official apology in the House of Commons for the injustices visited upon persons of Italian origin and the Italian community in Canada during World War II.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that there is a precedent for the Government of Canada to offer apologies in the House of Commons for past injustices that have occurred under previous governments. The immediate examples that spring to mind are the apologies offered to Chinese Canadians for the head tax, to first nations Canadians for the treatment of their people in residential schools, and a strikingly similar example of the apology offered to Japanese Canadians for the internment of persons of Japanese origin in World War II. It is roughly in the same time frame and circumstances that persons of Japanese origin and Italian origin were subjected to similar persecution by the same government for the same reason, namely their ancestry.

In one case, that of Japanese Canadians, an apology was offered in the House of Commons for the transgression. In another, that of the Italian Canadians, we are still debating whether or not an apology in the House of Commons is necessary or desirable. What makes one group deserving of an apology and another group less deserving?

I was talking with a member of the Italian community, Dominic Campione, who worked quite hard, and he said, “All you have to say is that it is a double shame”. The issue is a double shame because it was a shame that this actually happened then, and it is a shame now if we do not recognize what happened and we do not come to terms with apologizing. I cannot choose any better words than saying it is a double shame. It was a shame then and it is a shame now.

I am requesting an apology. There is no dollar amount in the bill, so if people are scared about dollar amounts, I do not think they have to be afraid. There is a clause for some type of restitution for educational purposes. That is up to the Italian communities. There are representatives. We had an agreement that was signed by the four major organizations: the National Congress of Italian Canadians, the National Federation of the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association, the Order Sons of Italy of Canada, and la Fondation communautaire canadienne-italienne du Québec.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

May 28th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

And the federal government.

Casa d’Italia is also quite active on this problem because of its involvement during the internment. It actually helped a lot of Italian families during the internment process.

I want to get to two quick points. The member for Peterborough mentioned the part about the Italian community forgiving. I understand that the Italian community has forgiven. The problem is that they have forgotten. The idea of this bill is to remind people that we can forget, and if we do not learn from our history we are not going to learn for our future.

Again, I want to thank the members for their support and the community for its support.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

moved that Bill C-302, An Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present my private member's bill, Bill C-302, An Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

The historical context of this bill is broad and complex, but I will try nevertheless to explain briefly, despite the little time I have, the importance of passing this bill.

Needless to say with a surname like Pacetti and a first name like Massimo, my Italian origins are no secret.

This bill is not just about Italians; it is about making a wrong into a right for all Canadians. The purpose of this bill is to demonstrate that Canada's history is not much different from one era to another, including the stories of one immigrant group versus another.

Canada was and continues to be the promise of a land that offers opportunity, where the principles of peace, order and good government triumph over the chaos of war, corruption and poverty. Ours is a country that offers hope, freedom, prosperity, or simply a better life to thousands of people who just need to be given a fair chance to succeed.

Without history we have no future, and to ignore our history is even worse in that we deny our existence.

My bill, this bill, claims, simply, recognition of the injustices committed in the 1940s and the restoration of justice.

On June 10, 1940 Italy declared war on the free world. Though it was painful for some Italian Canadians to think of Italy as the enemy because of the family they left behind, their loyalty was to Canada, but to the Government of Canada this did not matter. Italian Canadians were still designated as enemy aliens in spite of the fact that a year earlier a report by Norman Robertson to justice minister Ernest Lapointe in 1939, the year before the internment of Italian Canadians commenced, made several recommendations against internment claiming that a large majority of Italian Canadians were not disloyal to this country. Robertson felt that it would not be in the public interest to recommend their immediate arrest at the outbreak of an eventual war between Canada and Italy and that any arrest on the grounds of disloyalty must be based on evidence and must be corroborated with proof that the individual in question was likely to act in a manner prejudicial to public safety. However, it has become clear over the years that individuals were in fact arrested on speculation alone.

What happened next was that the prime minister of the day, W. L. Mackenzie King, invoked the War Measures Act and took to the airwaves to issue the following statement: “The Minister of Justice has authorized the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to take steps to intern all residents of Italian origin, whose activities have given ground for the belief or reasonable suspicion that they might, in time of war, endanger the safety of the state”.

It was with these words that the nightmare began for many. Imagine, Canadians, some of Italian origin, others whose names sounded Italian, or just because they had Italian friends were designated as enemy aliens. They were forced by the RCMP to register their names and report to the RCMP on a monthly basis. In some cases travel restrictions were imposed upon them. Others had their assets seized by the state, while various Italian organizations were declared illegal, as was the teaching of the Italian language.

It was common for police forces to arrest and detain individuals they deemed to be security risks for no reason. These actions were enforced randomly based solely on ethnicity and affected anyone whose name ended in a vowel. This meant that Italians and non-Italians alike had to spend nights in jail.

These measures caused severe damage to the psyche of Italian communities in Canada. Within the Italian community there was a tremendous respect for authority and therefore a tendency to defer to authority figures, even in incidents where there were abuses. This was compounded by the fact that Italians simply wanted to fit in to their new homeland and be viewed as good Canadians by their compatriots. While there was a certain degree of indignation within the community, they mostly felt shame, so they suffered in silence.

But this bill does not only speak to those individuals. This bill speaks to the most tragic part of the story. It is the story of over 1,000 persons of Italian origin. I speak of those who were subjected to internment in prison camps, mainly in Petawawa, picked up in the middle of the night, put on a train and sent to prison camps. To those who were never charged, just detained and harassed, the toll that internment took on those individuals and their families is too great to do justice in such a limited amount of time, but their story must be told.

One may ask, what are a few hundred or a thousand people?

First, it is the untold story of an entire community that suffered, a story where many professionals of Italian origin at that time were too embarrassed or scared to be seen as they were, which is Italian, causing many of them to change their names. This dealt a crippling blow to the burgeoning Italian community as a generation of leaders was lost to them.

Second, let us remember the time in history that we are dealing with. During the internment most of those arrested were males, many of whom were the head of their household and the sole breadwinner for their family, which in the late 1930s and early 1940s was far more crippling to a family than it would be today. They were taken away from their families without reason. Mothers and children were left behind to fend for themselves in a land they were still trying to comprehend. They were left on their own with no social programs, no community based organizations, no charter of rights. There was a language barrier. Many were illiterate. There was no government to turn to. Such a dire situation befalling Canadian residents is unthinkable to Canadians today, but this was not the worst of it.

While the detainees were put to work on forced labour projects, such as the construction of roads and the clearing of land, many of their families, already stigmatized by the broader community, isolated themselves from other people of Italian origin as well. In order not to be viewed as a family in dire straits, many families turned inward to avoid further shame. The burden they bore was the heaviest of all, and I ask this chamber, for what reason?

Why? That the government of the day was shaken by the war is understandable, but it cannot justify the fact that people like James Franceschini were taken from their family. When Mr. Franceschini arrived in Canada in 1906, at the age of 15, he was penniless and spoke no English. He found work and saved what it took to set up his own excavation firm. He became Canada's largest road contractor.

When Canada went to war, Mr. Franceschini founded Dufferin Shipbuilding Company in order to build for the government what was probably the least expensive minesweepers in the country. When Italy declared war with Canada, the government seized the business, arrested James Franceschini and interned him in a camp as the subject of an enemy country.

Like Mr. Franceschini, most of the internees were people who were important in their community. Their arrest was to serve as an example to other Italian Canadians. The government's action also led ordinary citizens to attack Italians. Italian Canadian businesses were boycotted and employees were ostracized by their colleagues and fired by their employer. Even Italian gravestones were vandalized.

However, despite the blows to Italian Canadians during the war, there is no doubt as to their loyalty to Canada. The community made a significant contribution to the war effort. Many young men volunteered for combat in the Canadian armed forces, and young Italian women supported the war effort through their work for the Canadian Red Cross.

Since World War II, and in the decades after the internment, Italian Canadians continued to embrace Canada just as they had prior. The dream of integrating into their new homeland was pursued anew and the contributions they have made to Canadian society in fields such as arts, politics, business, sports, science, the humanities and any other sector one could think of has been of great benefit to Canada.

It is also true that Canadians have become aware of issues pertaining to human rights and cultural diversity over the years and, as a result, the inherent injustice of the actions taken against people of Italian origin as a result of being designated “enemy aliens” is evident to all Canadians who are aware of this issue.

As we are more enlightened now than we once were, I think that resistance to addressing this issue is nothing short of ridiculous. We know what happened and we know that what happened was wrong, so I have one question. Since 1940, why has a Canadian prime minister not stood in this chamber and apologized?

The Government of Canada has issued official apologies through the prime minister and this House of Commons to groups such as Chinese Canadians, Indian Canadians, Aboriginal Canadians and Japanese Canadians who were also interned during World War II, and our country has been strengthened in each instance because we did the right thing. Why will we not do the same for Italian Canadians? Why does the government continue to pit groups against each other for justice and recognition? Is there a moratorium on doing the right thing that I am not aware of or does the government believe that the injustice visited upon Italian Canadians during World War II was too insignificant to warrant a proper apology?

This is an apology for Canadians by Canadians. It is time for the Government of Canada to do the right thing and offer an apology in the House of Commons for the internment of persons of Italian origin during World War II.

This is why, in essence, we must pass this bill. As the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, a riding that has the highest concentration of people of Italian extraction in the country, I can assure you that my electors and my community feel the situation has gone on long enough and must be resolved once and for all.

The Italian community is united on this issue. They have been patient, and perhaps too patient as there are very few, if any, individuals alive out there today who were interned, but many of their children who also bore the brunt of this injustice and experienced this firsthand are still with us. Any action taken to address the suffering caused by the internment of their parents would be more meaningful if we could look them in the eye when that action is taken.

It would be tragic if we continued to allow a generation of Canadians to remain unaware of their own history. For better or for worse, it is our history and we must claim ownership of it. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to reclaim it. Soon it will be lost to us forever and with this the opportunity to better ourselves. Time is not on our side in this instance.

Again, this would not only be for the benefit of one ethnic community but for our entire country. If history has taught us anything, it is that those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.

One wonderful thing about Canada is that it is a brave country. We have always had enough courage to look at ourselves objectively, recognize our flaws, own up to our mistakes and take up difficult challenges before they become too immense to handle. Every time we have done so, our country has benefited immensely.

This is why my bill proposes that the Government of Canada officially recognizes, apologizes and provides restitution that should be based on the agreement in place, signed on November 12, 2005 between the Government of Canada and the Italian Canadian community of which the signatories were the National Congress of Italian-Canadians, the National Federation of Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association, the Order Sons of Italy of Canada and La Fondation communautaire canadienne italienne du Québec which called for the Government of Canada to pay $12.5 million in restitution to the Italian Canadian community for the internment of Italian Canadians during World War II.

I am sure we can correct the error that the internment of Italian Canadians represents. To this end, I propose the production of educational materials relating to Italian-Canadian history and promoting ethnic and racial harmony and also providing an account of internments during the second world war and of the contributions Italian Canadians made to the advancement of Canada.

I propose as well that a stamp or series of stamps be issued by Canada Post. This would be the ideal way to make this story known across the country, since the process is simple, established and requires no additional investment.

I will close on a more personal note. My personal story is but a footnote in the ever-growing book of Canadian history but it is indicative of the progress Canadians of Italian origin have made over the years as a result of living in such a wonderful country.

This story does have a dark chapter that stands starkly in contrast with all the others. I say it is time to write a new ending to this chapter. Even if it is 69 years after the fact, we must acknowledge, apologize and redress the wrongs of the past so we can turn the page once and for all on this dark chapter in Canadian history.

I am a proud Canadian, born and bred, but I do not see this as being my battle but my country's battle to win the war against the most insidious enemy there is, and that is apathy. It is what stops a good person from being moved to fight against what they know is wrong. I have the honour of going to work every day and serving my country while honouring my heritage. My constituents and community have put their faith in me and I must always be willing to stand up against what I know is wrong to justify their trust.

All I am doing here today is standing up against what I know is wrong and I hope the good people who fill this chamber choose to stand with me.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I was the president of the National Congress of Italian-Canadians, I spent a great deal of time trying to get the Government of Canada, at the time and subsequently, to address these issues.

I must say that when the previous government decided to apologize to the Japanese community, and then the current government to the Chinese-Canadian community, I was angry and hurt. When I asked a member why, on the day when the government chose to apologize to the people on the ship, Komagata Maru, and others, that it did not include the Italian Canadians and the member looked blank.

I want to ask my colleague a question. Last week the government announced that it would be setting up an advisory committee with members of the Italian community for historical recognition and to set up some projects. It has chosen three members of the community and so on but none of it has to do with apologies. Is this belated action on the part of the government as a result of his private member's bill, which I think it is? Also, what good does it do when—

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the announcement that was made last week it was in typical Conservative fashion. One of the members chosen to be on the advisory board is the president of the Conservative Party association in my riding. The government was supposed to name seven people but it was not able to find seven people so it named three.

I have a press release put out by the National Congress of Italian-Canadians which reads, “A shameful attempt to divide and conquer”. That explains everything.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 1990, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney actually apologized to Italian Canadians on behalf of the government. He further pledged that we would not go down that road again and he accepted the principle of redress.

I also note that it was a Liberal prime minister who actually identified Italian Canadians as enemies--

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the hon. member would withdraw his comments and I will give him an opportunity to do that.

I wonder if the hon. member could outline for me the progress that was made during the St. Laurent government, the Pearson government, the Trudeau government, the Chrétien government and the Martin government. I know that hon. gentleman was elected in 2000. I wonder what initiatives he brought forward and what initiatives previous Liberal governments brought forward with respect to redress.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will take back the comment I made. I just cannot handle this partisanship.

This apology is long overdue. There have been Liberal governments and Conservative governments. An injustice was done in the past. The Italian community has not been up to par in handling the situation. We are now asking for redress.

I must correct the member. I was elected in 2002 and tabled a private member's bill on this subject in 2002.

In fact, I will give him credit. Forty-five years later, Brian Mulroney said that it was legally wrong and immoral ane he was asked to repeat that in a public place. He said that in a private meeting. I have an excerpt of that speech, but nothing has been done. I do not understand why I need to table this bill when there was recognition made by the previous Liberal government, but an election was called.

All I am asking is for the Conservatives to continue doing that work. That member, who is of Italian origin, should be ashamed of himself for making partisanship an issue on this.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I know this is a passionate issue for the member who has moved the bill. The government has shown over the last few years, in terms of redress, apology, and acknowledgement of where we as a country. In some dark moments, we have made some mistakes and we have acknowledged those mistakes. I would ask him only the same that he has asked of everyone in this House, and that is to treat this as an issue that is not partisan but as an issue that is a private member's bill.

I will note that in his speech he did certainly point out a number of issues that were critical of the government, so while he did respond in his answers in a way that suggests non-partisanship, it may do him a bit of good to have a look at his speech, reread it, and have a clear understanding that it too holds facts regarding partisanship. If we are going to work through this issue, it has to be the same on all sides.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak to Bill C-302, an act to recognize the historic injustice done to Italian Canadians who were interned during World War II.

Let me begin by saying that, with over 1.4 million members, the Italian Canadian community has made an enormous contribution to the building of our nation. In the trades, in the professions and through their rich and colourful culture, Italian Canadians have made an indelible mark on our vibrant, ethnically diverse society.

The internment of 632 people of Italian origin as enemy aliens during the second world war was unquestionably a dark moment in our country's history. Families were separated and civil liberties were denied. Even those not interned were required to register with the local police.

Measures have already been taken to recognize the historical experiences of this community related to the second world war internment. We have chosen to take a comprehensive, forward-looking approach to recognizing the historical experiences of communities affected by wartime measures, including the Italian Canadian community.

That is why on June 22, 2006, our government announced that it would create the community historical recognition program and the national historical recognition program. This government is taking an inclusive approach. We have created a program that will provide funding to all groups that were subject to unjust wartime detention or immigration restrictions.

Formally established in 2008, the community historical recognition program is a grants and contributions program, funded by $29 million over a period of four years. It supports projects, for example, that acknowledge and commemorate the experience of ethnocultural communities affected by wartime measures and immigration restrictions or prohibitions that were applied in Canada; increase awareness and educate Canadians about the experiences of these communities; and finally, highlight the contributions the affected communities made to the building of our country. Projects eligible for funding include: monuments, commemorative plaques, educational materials and exhibits.

The national historical recognition program is a $5 million program that funds federal initiatives focused on increasing awareness and educating all Canadians, especially our youth, to educate them about Canada's history linked to wartime measures and immigration restrictions or prohibitions. This is twice the amount the previous government agreed to in the agreement in principle signed in the final days of that government.

Our government is focused on working with members of all communities that were affected by discriminatory measures. We welcome input from everyone and we are happy to work with our community partners. Since elected, this government has become more open and inclusive. Everything from our measures to increase accountability and transparency to our active outreach to members of cultural communities has shown that all of us in this House are committed to working with Canadians from all backgrounds.

Many years ago, when my parents immigrated to this country, they were accepted by the Canadian people and they had the opportunity to work hard, build their lives, and raise their children in a welcoming environment. Native-born Canadians respected the culture of our newcomers.

To this day, in my region of Niagara we celebrate our cultural diversity during the annual folk arts festival, which our government has contributed to generously. Indeed, last year it gave it the largest federal contribution it has ever received. With the help of this government, all of the people of the Niagara region have the opportunity to celebrate their diverse cultures, from Dutch to Scottish, from Polish to Somalian, to Italian, representing the mosaic that is my community.

On the national level, our government has been solidly committed to celebrating Canada's multicultural heritage. Whether native cultures, settler cultures or those who immigrated later, our government is committed to celebrating the accomplishments of everyone who has helped to build our country.

We are also committed to recognizing instances when in fact we did not live up to our high ideals and treated people poorly based on their ancestry or culture. That is why we launched the community historical recognition program and are committed to recognizing past instances of concern, and working with members of affected communities to give appropriate recognition to these instances.

Since the announcement of this program in 2006, representatives of this government have met and been in discussions with the Italian Canadian community. For instance, the former minister of Canadian heritage met with representatives of the community in November 2006, provided an overview of the community historical recognition program, and gave the community an opportunity to express its views on historical recognition.

The current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, in his previous capacity as secretary of state for multiculturalism, has also had several discussions with Italian Canadian representatives and through the community historical recognition program this government has made available over $5 million in grants and contributions over four years to fund projects that commemorate and recognize the experience and experiences of Italian Canadians in relation to the second world war internment in our country.

This $5 million is twice as much as was in the agreement in principle of the previous government. This program is currently accepting funding applications. In fact, the deadline for submitting an application is May 22 of this year and I would encourage any interested groups to submit their applications in terms of their requests.

One more important component of this program is the establishment of individual advisory committees composed of community representatives. These committees ensure that the program is responsive to the sensitivities of communities and that their views are reflected in the types of projects that are selected for funding.

I am pleased to observe that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has appointed an advisory committee of Italian Canadian community representatives to provide advice to him on the merits of the projects. I heard from the member and if there are concerns or if there is work to be done on this committee, I offer it to him today. I extend my hand to try to work with him to make that advisory a strong functioning entity. I am certainly prepared to meet with him on that issue.

Through programs such as the community historical recognition program and the national historical recognition program, we are working to ensure that our nation's history is reflective of the valuable contribution that all ethnocultural communities, including Italian Canadians, have made to the building of our country.

It is important and imperative that at the end of the day we are an inclusive government and whether we sit on the government side or in opposition, that we work together to ensure that we are an inclusive group that leads our country from Ottawa.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on Bill C-302, An Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history. Bill C-302 is intended to right the wrongs that were done through the internment of Canadians of Italian origin during the second world war. The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-302 and will also support the necessary restitution.

Italians started to migrate to Canada around 1880 and settled all over the country. Many came to Montreal and that is why Our Lady of Defense parish was established in 1910 to serve the community in its own language.

Our Lady of Defense church is located in the heart of Little Italy in my riding of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and is considered the oldest church still standing that was built expressly for the Italian community in Montreal. More than 2,000 Quebeckers of Italian origin still live in the riding of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and their community has made many contributions to it over the years.

The RCMP began to investigate Italians living in Canada in 1935 when Mussolini invaded and occupied Ethiopia. At the time, there were as many as 3,000 members of the Italian fascist party in Canada.

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Canada. Immediately thereafter, Prime Minister MacKenzie King ordered the internment of many Italians living in Canada, using the War Measures Act. This legislation allowed the government to take all measures necessary to ensure Canada’s national security against enemies within our borders. The Minister of Justice could therefore detain anyone who posed any kind of threat to national security. This decision by the federal government enabled the Canadian authorities to intern all nationals or immigrants from enemy countries.

After Canada entered the war against Italy, the RCMP quickly took steps to restrict the liberties and activities of Italians in Canada. All persons born in Italy had to register with the authorities. Some were forced to report monthly. They could not move about freely within Canada and had to carry identity cards with them at all times. All Italian associations were closed. As many as 700 Italian Canadians were interned in camps for the duration of the war. Most of these internees came from towns in Ontario and Quebec. Some spent two or three months there, others several years.

It is important to remember our history. In addition, there was a general boycott of Italian businesses all across Canada.

The Italian Canadians affected by these measures were never accused of anything or found guilty of anything. They were greatly penalized even though they were innocent. The measures taken by the government of the time were an injustice to Italian Canadians. I want to say that today.

This is why the Bloc Québécois feels that this community deserves apologies. What is more, there is already a precedent for it: the Canadians of Japanese origin who were interned during World War II.

The internment of Italian Canadians is similar to the treatment of Canadian citizens of Japanese origin during the second world war. Like the Italians, their first waves of immigration date back to the 19th century. These immigrants were often poor, and spoke neither French nor English. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government's immediate reaction was to confiscate the fishing boats of the Japanese Canadian residents of British Columbia.

On February 26, 1942, the Canadian Department of Defence declared that all Canadians of Japanese origin, regardless of whether they were or were not recent arrivals, were considered enemy aliens. People of Japanese origin were relocated to detention camps in the B.C. interior, in Alberta and in Manitoba.

Because of this injustice, in September 1988, the federal government decided to offer its apologies to Canadians of Japanese origin who had been interned in the detention camps.

Of course there were far more Japanese Canadian internees than Italian Canadians . Nonetheless we feel that what is good for the one has to be good for the other. The Japanese precedent leads us believe that apologies must in fact be made to Italian Canadians. What is more, that case can serve as an example for the compensation to be offered to a foundation for commemoration purposes.

The Bloc Québécois is therefore in favour of Bill C-302 in principle. We recognize the wrong done to Italian Canadians during the second world war. The war measures legislation sent numerous innocent people to the internment camps. We therefore support the principle of an apology and some compensation for Italian Canadians.

However, on November 12, 2005, the Government of Canada and the Italian community in Canada reached an agreement in principle.

That agreement in principle was drafted jointly by the Canadian government and the Italian community, and acknowledged that there would be no apology or compensation. According to that agreement, the government set aside $25 million over three years for the Canadian Heritage multiculturalism program. The purpose of that program is to encourage the recognition and commemoration of ethnocultural communities affected by wartime measures.

In addition, the government planned to provide the National Congress of Italian Canadians Foundation with $2.5 million under the acknowledgement, commemoration and education program

Bill C-302 does not specify the amounts of compensation to be paid. This is why we would like to see this bill studied in committee in order to determine the amount to be paid, taking into consideration what the Canadian government has already paid out.

Our party is very pleased today to support Bill C-302. We are anxious to have an opportunity to debate it in parliamentary committee.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight to Bill C-302, An Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

The New Democrats are pleased to support this bill and to help move this through Parliament.

On September 3, 1939, the Government of Canada issued regulations that empowered the minister of justice with the full authority to act as he chose to destroy any sign of subdivision during a time of war. This allowed him to detain, without trial, any person and created a class of aliens who were not foreign nationals but were Canadian citizens.

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Canada. That very evening Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that he had ordered the internment of hundreds of Italian Canadians identified by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as enemy aliens. That order was applied to Italians who became British subjects after September 1, 1922.

The government also established a judicial mechanism to administer internment proceedings. It passed an order in council which ensured the registration of all people of Italian birth. Furthermore the office of the custodian of alien property was authorized to confiscate the property of enemy aliens.

Like the internment of Japanese Canadians, Ukrainian Canadians, German Canadians and others, the forced registration and internment of Italian Canadians is a sad chapter in our history.

The RCMP rounded up approximately 700 Italian Canadians, often separating fathers from their children and husbands from their families. Seventeen thousand people were designated as enemy aliens in our country for no reason other than their birth.

There was no reason to suspect that those interned posed any threat to Canada or Canadians. In fact, many of them were first world war veterans who had fought for their adopted country. It was not uncommon for instance for men in uniform to come back home only to find that family members were interned.

The round-up of Italian Canadians was virtually completed by October 1940. Most of them were sent to Camp Petawawa situated in the Ottawa River Valley. It is difficult to establish exactly how many Italian Canadians were interned, although estimates range from 600 to 700.

Although the majority of those interned were from the areas of highest concentrations of Italian Canadians at that time, Montreal, Toronto and other centres in Ontario, there were also documented cases from western Canada.

Internment was brutal. Families could not visit or write interned people for the first year. Italian Canadians were penalized financially. A spontaneous boycott of Italian businesses whipped up by the prejudices of the times took place throughout Canada and provincial governments ordered municipalities to terminate relief payments to non-naturalized Italians. Travel restrictions were imposed on Italian Canadians. Their ability to occupy certain jobs was prohibited. Italian Canadians were forced to report on a monthly basis to the RCMP. Activities such as the teaching of the Italian language and meetings of the Roma Society were declared illegal.

Internment was for up to three years and the average interned person was held for almost sixteen months. To put some feelings to this, these are not just numbers. The people interned were doctors, lawyers, carpenters, bakers, contractors and priests. For families, of course, it was just as bad if not worse. These actions added to the psychological scars inflicted by constant harassment and ridicule from neighbours and co-workers and the fearmongering being perpetrated by elected officials.

The federal government went further. It froze bank accounts. It forced Italian Canadian families to subsist on $12 a month. Many Italian families were forced to sell homes, businesses and valuable assets.

Despite this, a number of Italian Canadians enlisted in the Canadian armed forces, some in an attempt to remove the stigma associated with the term “illegal alien”. Not one person was ever charged with sabotage or any act of disloyalty. We must acknowledge and make amends for that black chapter in Canadian history.

In 1990 the National Congress of Italian-Canadians outlined these injustices in a brief sent to then Prime Minister Mulroney. It wanted the injustice acknowledged, compensation paid and an apology.

Various steps have been taken to acknowledge and make amends for this disgraceful treatment. Former Prime Minister Mulroney did indeed apologize in 1990. He spoke about reparations. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin also promised reparations. Sadly, many of these commitments were simply empty promises. Despite these words, money has never really flown.

Money was announced with great fanfare and media attention, but successive governments did not think it was worthwhile to dedicate the time and energy to follow up on honouring their pledges and ensuring that Italian Canadians could access these funds.

In June 2008, just prior to the election I might add, the minister of Canadian heritage announced $5 million through a community historical recognition program that was specifically targeted to the Italian community for monuments, plaques, and community recognition projects around this issue.

I have spoken to members in the Italian Canadian community and to the National Congress of Italian-Canadians. Many did not even know about this fund; even fewer have applied for access to it. I cannot locate anybody who has received $1 from this fund, despite the fact that it was announced.

New Democrats support the bill because it seeks to raise awareness, educate our young people, and ensure that we never forget the terrible steps that we took in the name of national security. We must remember our actions during times of war because we face similar issues today.

It is not very long ago that we saw the actions of former President George Bush in the United States, in fact, actions that were copied by the previous Conservative and Liberal governments. We are well advised to guard our civil liberties today and in times of war or apprehended insurrection, because those are the times when our civil liberties are at risk.

These Italian victims would want this and their descendants today want this. We have a new term today for what happened in 1940, it is called racial profiling. People were rounded up simply because of their ethnicity. There is a lesson in that, when racial profiling is going on in 2009 in this country. We had better be vigilant to make sure that we stop it here today.

I would like to mention a few people who have done a great amount of work in this area. Mr. Elio Quattrocchi is a tireless and respected member of the Italian Canadian community in Vancouver. I want to speak about the people who work at Casa Serena, a home for seniors who come together in culture and recreation. I want to mention the thriving businesses on Commercial Drive, run by the same Italian entrepreneurs who were rounded up in 1940. I would like to mention the tireless efforts of the National Congress of Italian-Canadians.

There are other people, too. I would like to mention Mr. Victor Wong from the Chinese Canadian National Council, who has fought for redress and is still fighting for redress for full and adequate compensation for the families of Chinese head tax payers.

I was not in the last Parliament, but I understand the power of apology, redress and acknowledgment. I am told that during the residential schools apology, this was one of the most moving moments ever felt by members of Parliament.

The New Democrats and the CCF have stood alone in this country over the decades against internment and the War Measures Act and in favour of civil liberties. We New Democrats will do so again today and are proud to do it. We will stand and support this bill to ensure that Italian Canadians--

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that the major issue is not about money but it is about recognition, acknowledging what has happened and apologizing to the community.

Some members on the government side earlier pointed out the fact that there was nothing done when the Liberals were in government.That is true.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true that over the years Mr. Caccia and some of us tried but it did not happen because the government at the time agreed with the legal advice that this would cause problems. However, on November 12, 2005, under Mr. Martin's government, there was an agreement with all of the communities, not just one but all of them, for retribution, acknowledgement and an apology.

That is not what the Conservative government has done. It has chosen one group over another. When it decided to apologize to the Chinese Canadian community, I was pleased but also very hurt and disheartened that the Italian community was left out. When it apologized to the people who had been on the Komagata Maru ship that was moored off the shores of Vancouver, I was pleased but again, the Italian community was left out.

This is not a new issue. The CBC has done a major documentary on this. As the president of the National Congress of Italian Canadians, I held this file for quite some time. Everyone knows some of the facts. Men lost businesses. I know an individual whose business was taken away from him. He was arrested and the business was sold for $1 to someone else, obviously not of Italian background, and he was never ever convicted of anything. People were never charged for anything. In fact, men were brought in front of a judge who eventually resigned. He thought the whole thing was a sham because there was never any evidence of any kind against any of these people.

Canadian citizens, people who were born here, were held. One whom I knew personally was a professor at the University of Toronto. People were fingerprinted. The women and children who were left in the city and declared enemy aliens were fingerprinted, treated like enemies of the state. They were spat on. They were treated horribly. They could not get jobs. Think of the shame and humiliation they felt. When I came to this country in 1957, Italians who were here before me would not talk about themselves or their past.

Canadian-born children were held because they had parents of Italian origin. I remember one child in the documentary who was maybe 15 years old when he was taken to Petawawa. Illiterate people were accused of being spies. Imagine that. Families would receive mail stamped “POW“, prisoners of war. The stories continued even after the war was over. The charade continued for a long time. The names of these people were kept in archives as if they were criminals.

I worked on this file for a very long time. For the information of hon. members across the way, I worked with the German community, the Ukrainian community, and the Chinese Canadian community. After the Japanese Canadian community received its apology, we decided that we would work together to try to get the Mulroney government to do the same for the rest of the communities as he had done with the Japanese Canadian community. That was not done.

As a member of the Italian Canadian community, I spent 20 years working as a volunteer for immigrant rights in the city of Toronto. A large part of that work was with Italian Canadians. There was extreme shame felt by those people. Most Italian Canadian kids did not know their heritage. Their parents would not tell them because of the shame they felt. I did not know about that until I became the president of the congress. I was in my thirties.

This is not about money. It is about apologies. It is about taking away the shame and acknowledging the people who were born here. They were all Canadian citizens. They were not foreigners. They were citizens of this country. This is about Canadians apologizing to Canadians. What happened should never have happened and it is high time we did that.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActPrivate Members' Business

March 24th, 2009 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am quite honoured to rise to speak on Bill C-302, which was introduced in the House by my colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel. As an Italian citizen, I am proud that a member of my caucus has introduced this piece of legislation.

I would like to read a statement that was issued yesterday, March 23, 2009, in Montreal, by the National Congress of Italian Canadians, responding to the Conservative government's announcement regarding the community historical recognition program. It is entitled, “A Shameful Attempt to Divide and Conquer”.

The National Congress of Italian Canadians (NCIC) deplores the manner in which the minister of immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism...has chosen to bypass the legitimate community organizations who have been negotiating with the Government in good faith to arrive at a fair and equitable resolution on the issue of redress for the internment of Italian Canadians during World War II. The establishment of an advisory committee within the Community Historical Recognition program is an attempt to create division within the Italian Canadian community.

“The NCIC does not in any way consider that this program and the establishment of an advisory committee settle the community's historical claims on the issue of internment,” said Michael Stante, President of the National Congress of Italian Canadians.

The Agreement in principle of November 12, 2005, between the Government of Canada and the Italian Canadian Community, as represented by the National Congress of Italian Canadians, the National Federation of Canadian Italian Business and Professional Associations, the Order Sons of Italy and the Fondation communautaire canadienne-italienne, did answer the concerns of our community. That agreement, reached within the parameters of the ACE program, provided a settlement in the sum of $12.5 million to be administered by the community through the NCIC Foundation. This would be in keeping with the administrative process which has been put in place for the Ukrainian-Canadian community. Unfortunately, the current Canadian Government unilaterally breached the Agreement without notice nor consultation and introduced a new program which is totally unacceptable to our community.

Mr. Speaker, you have told me my time is virtually up. In the next part, where I am able to complete my time, I will finish reading this statement. However, I would like to take five seconds to underline the contribution of the Liberal member for Etobicoke Centre, who worked on the development of the ACE program.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActRoutine Proceedings

February 10th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-302, An Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a bill to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history. The history is too long to explain and get into details at this time but that will be done at second reading.

However, during the Second World War, immigrants and Canadians of Italian origin were incarcerated and designated as enemy aliens. I tabled the same bill in 2005 prior to the Liberal government signing a deal with the Italian community to create the well-known ACE program, which would have righted these wrongs, but, in typical fashion, the Conservative government denied the existence of the program and decided not to honour the signed deals.

I re-tabled the bill in 2007. This bill is not unique or unprecedented in comparison to deals made with other cultural communities. Why do we not do the right thing and apologize to the Italian community for past injustices? Why does the government favour one community over another and pit Canadians against each other?

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)