Buongiorno, signor Presidente.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to discuss Motion No. 64, Italian heritage month.
Italian Canadians have contributed immensely to Canadian society, and that is something that our party has always acknowledged. By recognizing the month of June as Italian heritage month, we are acknowledging the importance of educating and reflecting upon Italian heritage for future generations, because Italian history is also Canadian history.
Many people do not realize that the second European to discover North America is generally agreed to be an Italian explorer by the name Giovanni Caboto, or as many kids learn, John Cabot. We now believe his first landing was in Nova Scotia, and so we could argue that the first European to set food in Canada was an Italian.
Many people do not know that Canada boasts the sixth largest Italian population outside of Italy, which is 1.3 million Canadians. We cannot talk about Canadian culture and heritage without talking about the richness and warmth of Italian culture and heritage.
I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the Italian community in my riding of Oshawa.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Oshawa Italian Recreation Club. I would like to take a moment to share a little bit about who the members are and what they do, because they are such an important part of my community.
Today, the president, Tony Rizzuto, oversees a vibrant organization. As a matter of fact, I start off many of my mornings with a friendly cappuccino, usually made by Michelle, who since last week has been on maternity leave so Johnny has taken over now. I will drop by for lunch, and they have even named a sandwich after me. They call it “The Colin”. They are always welcoming at social events.
We have a vibrant bocce club, and Nick and Francis take charge of that with all of their members. They actually took a park in Oshawa, Radio Park, which is by the Oshawa Centre, and beautified it. I do not know if members have ever played bocce, but if they have the opportunity, they should come by, because our bocce club is so vibrant and friendly.
At our annual barbeques, for example, Nick, Francis, and all their members come out and share their hospitality. They also share their homemade soppressata, which is always a great hit. I really enjoy it.
However, it was not always like this. We had to start somewhere and they had to start somewhere.
In 1954, a group of newly arrived young Italians created the Oshawa inter-football league. It was an amateur soccer team to remind them of Italy. The team was extremely successful, and the enthusiasm from their accomplishment was the beginning of the Oshawa Italian Recreation Club, which promoted not only sport activities, but social and cultural events as well.
The club is a part of my community today, and it is one of the reasons why I feel that Italian Canadians deserve this recognition we are talking about today. Their warmth and hospitality makes everyone feel welcome.
The Oshawa Italian Recreation Club is the product of two Italian clubs: the Oshawa Italia Club and the Italian Social and Recreation Club of Oshawa. They came together in times of need and ultimately decided to amalgamate, and I will elaborate a little bit.
In 1966, the city of Florence was devastated by a flood that destroyed numerous historical buildings and works of art. In order to help, the two clubs came together and started a fundraising campaign, which raised tens of thousands of dollars for Florence. Unfortunately, a year later, a massive earthquake hit Sicily, leaving thousands homeless and hundreds dead. The two clubs again came together and set up a joint fundraiser committee where Colonel Sam McLaughlin, the founder of General Motors Canada, was the honorary chairman. The success of these two fundraising campaigns and the fact that these two clubs clearly worked together well was a great reason for them to join together into one, and they were named the Oshawa Italian Recreation Club, or OIRC.
This club began as a way for Italian immigrants to feel more at home by doing such things as opening a social agency to help Italian immigrants better integrate into Canadian society, helping with Italian passports, pensions, etc. However, its sole objective was not to only help Italian immigrants. The club has also organized many successful activities and fundraisers throughout our community, such as for the Oshawa General Hospital. It established an after-school program for elementary school-aged kids, and sponsors local minor hockey and soccer teams. It continues to fundraise and donate to local, national, and international charities.
What I am trying to get to is that Italian Canadians have made a tremendous contribution to Canadian society through local communities and internationally. OIRC was established as a meeting place for Italian immigrants. It was a place where they could feel at home. I have to say that, today, they make everyone who walks through their doors feel at home. The Italian community is so well integrated and well established in Oshawa and the club continues to promote Italian culture and recreational activities.
Every year, in June, Oshawa celebrates a great festival called Fiesta Week. It is one of the oldest multicultural festivals in Canada. Every single year, our Italian community opens up its doors to share its culture through dance, dining, and very good cheer. Everyone is welcome.
If members come to my community and it is not during Fiesta Week, they do not need to worry about it. Within walking distance from my office, they can drop into one of our many fine Italian restaurants, two of them owned by the Fazio family, called Fazio's and Tutto's. They will see Tino, Nicholas, Rosalie, and Martin. They always welcome people with their great hospitality. They work hard and they contribute to our community. Around the corner, Avanti's is run by the Albis family. Tony, Ida, Dominic will always make their customers feel at home, and they serve a great meal as well. Their wood-burning oven makes awesome pizza within a couple of minutes, and I would recommend it to anyone. We have a great Italian community in Oshawa.
This is one of the reasons we support the motion, which suggests that the government recognize the contributions that Italians have made to Canada by sharing their culture and language through education programs and community clubs, such as the Oshawa Italian Recreation Club.
I would like to take a moment to make a brief aside. On my 10th wedding anniversary, I had to think of something really special. Any woman who could spend 10 years with me deserves something special. I thought of one of the greatest surprises that I could do. She loves cooking, and I wondered where I could take her to allow us to enjoy a week together away from the kids. There is a famous Canadian cooking school in Tuscany. A gentleman named Umberto Menghi has great restaurants throughout the Vancouver area. He also has a culinary retreat in Tuscany. I kept everything secret. I packed her bags, and I picked her up on time, and we took off for our 10th wedding anniversary. It was one of the best holidays we ever had. We would wake up every morning to a lovely breakfast. We would then go to the cooking class. These guys did the impossible. They did something they thought could not be done. They taught me to cook. I learned how a bit of sale e pepe makes a difference. Everything we cooked up was bene, molto bene.