Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak in favour of Motion No. 64, a motion recognizing June as Italian heritage month in Canada. First, I have to admit some limitations in my ability to speak about Italian heritage.
I grew up in a decidedly un-Italian household. My parents were quiet Anglo-Saxon Protestants. There was no wine in the house, no grappa, no garlic. Like many people, I have sent off DNA samples to learn more about my family history. I do not have the results back yet, and I know the ads all say that people will be surprised with the results, but I can say that I would be truly surprised if the results suggested I have any amount of Italian blood in me.
I had my first real contact with Italian culture at the end of 1977 and early 1978, when I spent a week over New Year's in Naples, staying with a Napolitano friend and his family. The exuberant meals, always accompanied by generous amounts of wine, loud talking, and wild hand gestures, were truly exciting events, even though I understood almost nothing of what was going on. I can still taste the spaghetti vongole.
About a year later, I met my future wife in Vancouver. Margaret's parents were born in the Grand Forks area of British Columbia, but her father's parents had come from Sweden and her mother's parents, the Mazzocchis, from Italy. The Mazzocchis had come to British Columbia from a tiny village in northern Italy called Segromigno, known for the exceptional quality of its olives. The family reunions I went to with Margaret, usually held in the Mazzocchi homestead in Fife, just above Christina Lake, immediately reminded me of those meals in Naples. I really liked this family I had the good fortune to join.
I learned about special Italian foods. My favourite is the flat, waffle-like cookies called pizzelle, although the Mazzocchis call them cialde. I volunteer to make a double batch of those every year at Christmas. My wife makes antipasto most years, but that is so labour-intensive I am happy to leave that task to her and other members of the extended family.
I learned to drink a glass of wine at every meal, but I must admit I have failed at making drinkable wine myself. I admit I have not tried Buddy DeVito's recipe for making grappa with grape skins and raisins. I learned how to grow good tomatoes, and I learned to play bocce, although recently I discovered that the Mazzocchis play by different rules than the rest of the world.
The centre of Italian culture in my riding is the city of Trail. Trail had its start as a hub for the early mining industry in the Kootenays. As mines were developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Trail smelter was built. Now owned by Teck Resources, it is one of the biggest lead-zinc smelters in the world and has been the biggest employer in the region for decades. These were well-paying jobs. By the 1940s, Trail workers had some of the highest annual incomes in Canada.
Railways were mapped out through the mountains to serve industry, agriculture, and the growing population, and labourers were needed to build them. Italian stonemasons built spectacular sections of rock walls where the rails ran along precipitous mountainsides.
Immigrants came from all over the world to seek a better life in the Kootenays, but in Trail, Italians answered that call in record numbers, moving into The Gulch on the west side of town. First to arrive were people from Tuscany, followed by folks from Abruzzo, Treviso, Friuli, and Calabria. Today, practically every dialect is represented in this city of Italians, and there are families with names like Fornelli, Rella, DeVito, De Rosa, Pocciola, Matteucci, D'Andrea, DeBiasio, Nutini, Stefani, Gattafoni, Morelli, Cecchini, Santori, and so many others.
Coincidentally, last weekend was the big Silver City Days celebration in Trail, and I had the honour and pleasure of attending many of the events. I watched the spaghetti-eating contest and the grape stomp, but unfortunately I missed the bocce tournament.
After the big spaghetti dinner at Colombo Lodge, John D'Arcangelo and Joe Parrilla gave me a tour of the archives of that Italian cultural organization. I was deeply impressed by the rich history portrayed in the photos and artefacts on the shelves. The photos celebrated many famous Trail citizens of Italian heritage, including Thomas d'Aquino, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and one of the private sector architects of NAFTA. Perhaps from a slightly different part of the political spectrum, but contemporary with Mr. d'Aquino and also influential in the economic history of our country, we have Ken Georgetti, former president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
The arts are well represented, perhaps best illustrated by Bruno Freschi, the architect of Expo 86 in Vancouver.
As for hockey players, Trail has always been a centre of excellence for hockey in Canada. The Smoke Eaters won world championships in 1939 and 1961, and the Italian community has supplied numerous NHL players, including Cesare Maniago, Ray Ferraro, and Steve Tambellini.
The wine industry in British Columbia, now worth billions to the Canadian economy, has to thank Italian immigrants for its early successes. Pasquale Capozzi, better known as Cap Capozzi, arrived in Canada in 1906 and worked as a railway labourer before managing the co-op store in Trail. He opened his own store in the mining town of Phoenix, high above Greenwood, in 1917, then moved to Kelowna, where he became a successful merchant. In 1932, Cap Capozzi teamed up with the Casorso family, which had been growing grapes for years in the Okanagan, to form Calona Wines, and by the 1960s, it was the biggest winery in British Columbia. When I was growing up in Penticton, one of our neighbours, Tony Biollo, helped found Casabello Wines, another successful early Okanagan winery.
I am happy and proud to stand here today to support Italian heritage month. However, we must remember that Canada has not always been welcoming to other cultures.
I lived in the idyllic town of Naramata for 15 years, located just north of Penticton on Okanagan Lake. When Naramata was first settled, in 1906, the developer published advertising pamphlets that were distributed in eastern Canada and Britain. Besides the beautiful setting of the town and the opportunity to grow peaches, apricots, and cherries, the leaflets also declaimed, “You would not wish to find yourself surrounded by garlic-eating foreign neighbours, with whom you had nothing in common socially. The class of people coming to Naramata is not of that type. They are of the very best Canadian stuff.”
Italians were not welcome in Naramata a century ago. However, 10 years later, Italian stonemasons were working on the Kettle Valley Railway in Naramata, and their handiwork is now a point of local pride.
Last weekend I talked to a lot of people of Italian heritage in Trail. One of them told me that when he joined the RCMP in 1957, he was one of the first members of Italian heritage accepted into the force. That means that there were 80 years of the RCMP before it started accepting Italians.
My daughter Julia works in an immigrant services centre in Penticton teaching English to Syrian refugees and other immigrants. She is named after her grandmother, Julia Mazzocchi. True to her Italian heritage, Julia works half-time in the burgeoning Okanagan wine industry, but she needs that half-time job because federal funding for immigrant services has been cut significantly. We should not cut funding for immigrant services as we, properly, encourage more people to move to our country.
If we choose to celebrate the cultures that make up Canada, and I think of course we should and must, which is why I am supporting this motion, we have to ensure that we provide new arrivals with the help they need, such as language classes, employment counselling, and driver training, so they can quickly become productive and proud citizens of our country.
On that note, I would like to finish with a quote from an article in Weekend Magazine, back in 1957, about the Italian heritage of Trail.
The man of Trail would be a prince in any country in Europe. He lives on the gold, silver, and zinc resources of the Kootenays, and they will never be exhausted. As a statistical unit, he is unique. As a man working in his garden, or driving in his new car on a Sunday afternoon, he is strictly a product of the new world—with overtones of spaghetti and home-made wine. Even when automation comes, there will still be, it is hoped, a Setty D'Arcangelo. There will still, pray God, be a Signora Pasquale Angerelli making meatballs and spaghetti at her great black stove, and a Frank D'Arcangelo at his casks.