Mr. Speaker, it is such an honour to speak to this great motion that my colleague from King—Vaughan has put forward. I could not be more proud of the fact that she has done this. It is so well deserved and long overdue that we make the month of June national Italian heritage month.
Italians have a rich heritage in Canada, going right back to the original European arrivals with Giovanni Caboto who arrived in Newfoundland in 1497 and claimed it for England. Then Giovanni da Verrazzano also came to Canada and explored Atlantic Canada for the French. Therefore, we have a rich history of exploration within Canada and of helping to open up the frontiers to settle our great country.
They served in senior positions for New France and for the Jesuits all through the colony at that time. They made our country great. We even had an Italian contingent that fought for the British in the War of 1812. There is some great history that I gleaned from The Canadian Encyclopedia, which I remember reading as a kid. I am so proud of my heritage which comes from my father.
There were two waves of Italians who came to Canada. The first wave was from 1900 to the First World War when about 120,000 Italians came to our country. They held a very broad range of different positions, from craftsmen to artists to musicians to teachers, etc.
The second wave came between 1950 and 1970 when about 500,000 Italians came to our great country. This has led now to the census in 2006 declaring there are 1.4 million Canadians of Italian descent who are now part of the great mosaic of Canada.
Seventy-five per cent of those Italians came from southern Italy, where my father is originally from. He is from Calabria, from a very small rural village on the side of a cliff in Calabria.
Could I please get consent, Mr. Speaker, to share my time with the member for Steveston—Richmond East?