[Member spoke in Italian]
Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. It is with great pride that I rise today as the son of Italian immigrants to speak to this motion, which would declare June Italian heritage month.
The motion recognizes the contributions Italian Canadians have made to Canadian society, the richness of Italian culture and history in Canada, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Italian heritage for future generations.
For many Italian immigrants, the Italian Canadian story is one of sacrifice and hard work, achievement and success, and ultimately, integration into this beautiful country. For Italian Canadians, there is a saying that Italy is my native country, but Canada is my home.
This year will mark 57 years that my family is in Canada. My grandparents, along with their seven children, left southern Italy and the province of Calabria with nothing but what they could carry. They sailed from Naples on board the vessel M.S. Vulcania, arriving at Pier 21 in Halifax. Much like many Italian immigrants, they left to find a better future. They settled on the west coast of Canada, where they worked in the construction industry, pulp mills, and fish canneries.
I think humbly of my parents and my aunts and uncles, who came to Canada with little knowledge of English and little or no formal education. What they did have was a sense of pride, a work ethic, and an unwavering commitment to providing a better future for their children.
I think of my father, who like many Italian immigrants, became a tradesman, a carpenter, a roofer, and a sheet metal worker. He taught me the values of integrity, a strong drive to succeed, and a commitment to family.
My mother worked tirelessly in a fish cannery. In the morning, everything would be ready for me and my two brothers, and after a long day at work, she would come home, cook, and make certain the house was spotless. My parents taught me not only the value of hard work but the value of a dollar saved. That was the kind of people they were.
I think of the contributions of the trailblazers who opened the door for many of us: Frank Iacobucci, the retired Supreme Court justice; Charles Caccia, the great environmentalist, social activist, and former MP for Davenport from 1968 to 2004; Pietro Rizzuto and Peter Bosa, both senators, appointed by Pierre Trudeau; Johnny Lombardi and Gaetano Gagliano, whose legacies in the media business continue today.
I think of the success of the Canadian Italian business community that stretches across the country, names such as Bratty, Bosa, De Gasperis, Sorbara, Cortellucci, DeZen, Aquilini, Muzzo, Baldassarre, Saputo, and many more.
I think of the richness and vitality of Italian communites like Commercial Drive in Vancouver, College Street and St. Clair in Toronto, and St. Leonard in Montreal.
I am privileged to represent Vaughan—Woodbridge, which has the largest concentration of Italian Canadians in Canada. My greatest enjoyment as MP is visiting the seniors groups, where many recount their stories of arrival in Canada, the hardships they faced, including discrimination and bigotry, and how much they sacrificed for their children. They are all proud of being Canadian and are thankful for the opportunity for a better future that this country gave them.
I would like to read a quote from the commemorative plaque on the Italian fallen workers memorial in Ontario.
During the Great Diaspora of Italian emigration between 1870 and 1970, thousands of Italians left their homeland in search of a better life for their families. Many of them found their way to Ontario, where they toiled in all of the harshest industries of the last century...
digging the sewer systems of many Ontario cities;
creating the structures for the new hydroelectricity plants;
building the massive bridges and tunnels of our transportation infrastructure;
mining for ores in Ontario's north; and
erecting residential and commercial buildings
It was in a blossoming construction industry, which ultimately built up this beautiful province.
I feel honoured being here today and being part of this incredible group of people who call Canada home. We are so proud of being Canadian, as this beautiful, diverse, and tolerant country has given so much to us.
I thank all the parties in the House for supporting this very important motion. It makes us all proud Italian Canadians today.