Mr. Speaker, it is truly a privilege to rise today to again acknowledge the importance of the Italian Canadian community in Canada and to thank all those who have participated in the debate on my motion to designate June as national Italian heritage month.
I would like to especially thank all my colleagues on the Liberal Italian caucus, many of whom had a chance to tell their very important stories during this debate. I would also like to acknowledge you, the Assistant Deputy Speaker, representing Nipissing—Timiskaming, for also being part of today's proceedings. It is a very special day.
It was nice to hear all the speeches in support of the motion. This broad support speaks to the importance of the Italian Canadian community all across Canada. We have heard speeches that have mentioned the early explorers from Italy who helped to discover Canada, and then heard about those who came to do battle here, first with the French and then the British, and stayed. We have heard about the craftsmen, the artists, the musicians, and the teachers who came in the 19th century, then the builders who helped to build our railways and our cities, and the farmers in the Niagara Peninsula and the Okanagan Valley who helped create the orchards, the vineyards and the vegetable farms.
We have also heard that it was not easy for many Italians who came to start a new life here, especially after 1935 when Italian Canadians were designated enemy aliens because Italy allied with Germany during the Second World War. Men lost their jobs. Shops were vandalized. Civil liberties were suspended and hundreds were interned at Camp Petawawa in northern Ontario. Many suffered. However, after the Second World War with the Canadian economy booming, Canada began again to be receptive to Italians.
Italians brought with them a rich cultural heritage, a dedication to family, and a strong work ethic that helped many to succeed. In cities where they settled, they tended to create ethnic neighbourhoods, little Italys, where the distinctive shops, restaurants, churches, and clubs were a magnet for other Canadians wanting to get a taste of Italy.
Italian Canadians have contributed greatly over the past century to growing this country. They have become community leaders, successful business entrepreneurs, and well-known artists. We have heard many of them mentioned today in the debate. I can think of many successful well-known Italian Canadians, including some from my own community. The mayor of Vaughan, Maurizio Bevilacqua, came to Canada as a young boy with his family from Sulmona, Italy, with very little. He became an MP at the age of 28, and served until becoming mayor of Vaughan in 2010.
For Italians, their families, religion, and close connection to their cultural history are at the core of their identity and a source of strength and pride. I live in a riding with the second highest percentage of Italians, and I am very proud of their hard work and their contributions. They have helped Vaughan grow into the very desirable community it is today.
Italian Canadians have the highest rate of home ownership, reflecting the importance of family and home as its centre. They are also exceptionally generous when it comes to those in need, building seniors facilities, donating to hospitals, and supporting many causes, helping not just Italian Canadians, but all Canadians.
We have many active Italian senior groups that work hard to keep seniors engaged and supported, and many of our community organizations have those same seniors on their boards and as volunteers.
The Italian Canadian press and media have also been strong promoters of social cohesion, and have brought their Italian constituency and the wider society together through the decades. Today we have the Corriere Canadese and several other Italian community newspapers. We have OMNI TV and the national cable system Telelatino Network that promote Italian culture and news. Italian and Chinese are the most widespread non-official languages in Canadian television and radio broadcasting.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring forward the motion and I am honoured to have the support of the Liberal Italian caucus, many of whom are here today. I want to thank all those who have spoken during the debate and for all the support received from both sides of the House. I also want to acknowledge the strong support from the National Congress of Italian-Canadians, the National Federation of Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association, the Order Sons of Italy of Canada, and the Canadian Ethnocultural Council.
I look forward to June when we will celebrate across this great country the contributions and accomplishments of Italian Canadians. On June 2, Italian Canadians will celebrate Festa della Repubblica, Republic Day, which is the Italian national day. On June 6, the Canada-Italy Interparliamentary Group will have its second Italian Day on the Hill, which will be a wonderful celebration of Italian culture and heritage right here on Parliament Hill.
Again, I thank all those who have supported me in bringing forward the motion. Grazie.