[Member spoke in Italian.]
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in this historic chamber today to support the bill introduced by the member for King—Vaughan, which also has the support of all members of the Italian-Canadian caucus.
As the son of Italians and as an MP, I am proud that this motion has been introduced in the chamber in order to recognize the important contribution of Italian Canadians to this country throughout the years since their arrival. My colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel eloquently told their story with pride and passion. I would like to say that it was a pleasure to work with my colleagues from Quebec, the members for Alfred-Pellan and Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.
Over the years, the Italian community, composed of Italians from several waves of immigration, has changed the face of the country. With this motion we are taking a first step to recognize this historic fact. Other steps will have to be taken. Above all, we must address the internment of Italian Canadians in Canada. The House will have to take that next step in the future.
The Italian experience in Canada cannot be reduced to clichés, but should be reduced to the very real contributions that Italian Canadians have made in a wide variety of places. I will speak to the experience of my family.
My father came from the province of The Marches in 1951 as a skilled labourer, a carpenter. He worked in a factory context for much of his life, but then left the factory and branched out on his own to found his own construction company in Port Colborne, Ontario.
My fondest memories as a child are of tagging along with my father and hanging around on construction sites, learning how to use a hammer and saw, skills that I still have today. My mother, after my father's early death, became well known in the Niagara Peninsula as a caterer at a number of the different Italian-Canadian clubs and halls that were so important, and still are so important, to the Italian-Canadian culture.
There are a number of historic Italian Canadians, but I would like to underline one who has been a mentor to me, the hon. Justice Frank Iacobucci. In a number of different contexts, Frank was a groundbreaking Italian Canadian, first as an academic at the University of Toronto in law. There are many Italian-Canadian lawyers, but Justice Iacobucci was the first great Italian-Canadian legal academic. He went on to become a university administrator at the University of Toronto, then a deputy minister of justice for the government at the federal level under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and then the first Italian Canadian to be the chief justice of the Federal Court of Canada as well as the first Italian Canadian named to the Supreme Court. This pathway was groundbreaking for Italian Canadians, and Justice Iacobucci served as a model to many of us moving through Canadian society.
I am honoured to represent the riding of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun in Montreal, which has a large population of Italian Canadians, many of whom are from my region of Italy, The Marches, but also from Sicily, Calabria, and other parts of Italy as well. I can assure everyone that it is a vibrant community, with a number of different organizations and events, and people are very proud of their Italian heritage and traditions, as I see every time someone offers me a glass of homemade wine.
I would also point out that in Port Colborne, the city of my birth, there is a large Italian-Canadian population, as well as in the Niagara Peninsula, as the members for Niagara Falls, Niagara Centre, and St. Catharines will attest. These are vibrant populations that continue to thrive and promote the Italian heritage in Canada.
We should speak about the values that Italian Canadians brought. They brought faith, a progressive faith. They brought the value of family and continue to reinforce that in their daily lives.
Of course there is food. I like to joke by saying that I never knew that most Canadian kids did not eat pasta every day until I went to school and saw what other kids were eating. I am proud of that, as I am proud of the many recipes that my mother brought, and I am proud of the language that I have passed on to my children, but I would also like to move beyond those and say there were values of intellect and ingenuity that came with Italian-Canadian immigrants. It is a vibrant, intelligent culture that applied its knowledge in a variety of different sectors in Canada, as well as its business acumen and know-how in order to help grow the Canadian economy.
Finally, I want to point out that it is the future that this motion points us toward. We need to be thinking about continued collaboration with Italy. Italy has an excellent record in terms of its universities and its innovative sectors. I had the good fortune, as a legal academic, to be a fairly common lecturer and professor in a number of Italian universities over the course of my academic career, with particular ties to the universities in Trento, Perugia, Torino, and Rome. Here I was witness first-hand to the ongoing collaboration between Canadian and Italian academics, scientists, and lawyers, etc. It is these innovative collaborations that will help us develop a variety of different sectors that we deem important in our economy as we move forward in this century.
My parents worked exceedingly hard. They made a number of sacrifices for their children. We in this House know how hard we work as MPs. I know how hard I work as an MP, but let me say frankly that I do not work half as hard as my parents did. For those of us in this House who had or are still fortunate enough to have Italian-Canadian parents, that example is critically important to the way we orient our lives and the service we give to our family, to our faith, to our community, and to our country. For that reason, I am so proud to support this motion brought forward today.