[Member spoke in Italian]
It is with tremendous pride, great excitement, and hard-to-contain enthusiasm that I express to this venerable House my full support for my colleague from King—Vaughan's Motion No. 64.
Italians have been in Canada since it was discovered. Giovanni Caboto and Giovanni da Verrazzano were among this country's first explorers. Later, Jesuit Francesco Giuseppe Bressani and the Carignan-Salières regiment came to New France. The Italian presence grew steadily as the decades and centuries passed, and Italians have always left their mark on Canada.
Italians who came to Canada brought with them the priceless treasure of 5,000 years of civilization. Although they were poor because of turmoil in their mother country, Italians carried a priceless treasure in their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls, a treasure they shared with this whole country and with every community in which they flourished.
There is no question that Canada would not be what it is today without the extraordinary contributions of the Italians who settled here. Of all the generations that have come to the country, I especially appreciate the post-war generation, which began to arrive in 1949. My father, Giovanni Di Iorio, from Casacalenda, in the province of Campobasso, was among those people, and so was my mother, Giuseppina Ranellucci, who is from Larino and arrived in 1955.
The post-war generation breathed new life into the institutions created by people who arrived in the early 20th century and during the inter-war years, and created new institutions. The post-war generation completely changed the face of Montreal, which is celebrating its 375th anniversary this week.
Italians of that generation made great personal sacrifices through their hard work and willingness to do without, thereby ensuring a brighter future for their families.
In Quebec, once-strong religious ties no longer seemed to matter when it was time to send their kids to school, because the stigma of internment created barriers. During the Second World War, the government of this country arrested and detained men, some who were Canadian citizens and others who were in the process of becoming citizens, without ever charging them or telling them why, and without allowing them to seek justice before the courts. Questioning government decisions was impossible at the time, which gave an aura of legitimacy to the actions and created a stigma against Italians in Canada. This can still be felt today, sometimes openly because of unwarranted, inappropriate generalizations, but too often in a more insidious and subtle manner.
Despite this welcome marked by prejudice, these newcomers got to work immediately to earn a living, thereby making a huge contribution to building the Quebec we know today. They revitalized the Italian churches founded in the early 20th century, including the Madonna del Carmine and the Madonna della Difesa, not to mention all the others founded later on.
Italians created businesses, schools, and hospitals as well as community, cultural, and charitable organizations, and even built towns and cities.
The riding of Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, which I am so proud to represent, is made up of the two former towns of the same names. In just 15 years, from 1955 to 1970, their population multiplied fifty-fold thanks to the hard work of these Italians after the war.
Casa d'Italia is the oldest cultural centre in Canada. Centro Leonardo da Vinci, which I founded with Giuseppe Borsellino and Silvio De Rose, is home to Quebec's Italian community.
The Fondation communautaire canadienne-italienne du Québec supports over 100 charitable organizations in our community, in addition to the countless associations representing hometowns and home villages, as well as all the federations. The varied entities created by Italians are too many to name in such little time.
We must never fail to remember and share the history of the rich and exceptional contribution of Italians to building Canada, a contribution that deserves to be recognized and cherished.
[Member spoke in Italian]