Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues in the House. I am so proud and honoured to rise today to speak to Motion No. 64 that recognizes the month of June as Italian heritage month. I must say, Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see you in the chair this morning for this debate.
Growing up in an Italian household, the Marchigiano and Abruzzese household, was absolutely amazing. My parents and my grandparents embodied that robust Italian culture and values. They passed these values and lessons down to me and my siblings. Growing up in an Italian household taught me the true sense of the words “hospitality” and “love”.
The doors to my parents' home were always open to whomever wanted to visit, and strangers and family were treated equally. There was always a meal waiting and ready, and there was always acceptance and love to be shared. In fact, my nonna set up a permanent table on her back porch which she decorated with a beautiful tablecloth. She had the sugo on the stove always ready, and was ready to boil that pot of water for a stranger or family member who came by to share a meal. It was her pride and joy. She took great love and joy in those times.
Family is an integral part of Italian culture. The love for children, grandchildren, and all family members is absolutely incredible. My parents dedicated their lives to ensuring that I had the best possible upbringing. They sacrificed and worked tirelessly to provide me and my siblings with what we needed to flourish. Whether it was my father balancing shift work to make sure I and my teammates made it to the games on time, or setting aside time to coach, or helping to put me through school, the list goes on and on.
However, above and beyond all of that, the most important thing to me was the love that my parents showed me, my siblings, my children, and all their grandchildren, the love that is healing, encouraging, energizing, rejuvenating, the love that is the key to success. The love my parents showed me made me feel that I could attain any dream that I wanted to. I had their support, their confidence, and I knew that I could do it. This is a true gift to be treasured.
It was from my Italian family that I learned kind and caring and generous faith. It was from them that my Liberal progressive Catholicism grew: an acceptance of warm religion, of forgiveness, and second chances. It was beautiful then, and those values continue to guide my life today.
I cannot talk about this topic without talking about work ethic. Italians have had a very large hand in building Hamilton. Whether it was working hard in the steel mills, in construction, hospitality, or now in high-tech businesses, manufacturing, and professions, Hamilton's Italian community is a model of integration, contribution, and leadership. One need only look at McMaster University and Mohawk College where Italian Canadians have made their mark as professors, researchers, and senior administrators.
In my own life, my parents worked very hard. My father was a proud steel worker, my mother the secretary in an elementary school as well as an assistant to a former cabinet minister. They demonstrated that we have to take pride in our work and put our best foot forward.
I recall the story of my father who was driving my nonno to work, and he was coughing. My father turned the car around, and my nonno said, “Filippo, what are you doing?” My father said, “Dad if I take you to work, you're going to die.” He told my father to turn the car around, because if he was going to die, he was going to die on the job. I know this raises eyebrows today, but it is a demonstration of that amazing work ethic on which we stand and we take great pride.
Hamilton has had a mayor of Italian origin, many councillors, and MPs. We have Festitalia, which has created Opera Hamilton. We have Sons of Italy who are doing amazing work. We have this fabric of the Italian experience woven into our city. We look forward to many great ongoing events that the Italians celebrate in Hamilton, which makes it richer.
Finally, I wish to express the gratitude of the people of Italian descent to this country of Canada. We have heard our Prime Minister say repeatedly that we are stronger because of our diversity. There have been injustices towards our community, but that has not taken away from the gratitude and appreciation of our country. My grandmother said it best when she said that the bread on our table has been put here by Canadians.
In turn, Canada has benefited tremendously from our Italian culture. I am proud and happy to support this motion, which establishes June as Italian heritage month.