TORONTO - Language and identity; experiences of the past and expectations of the future; a sense of belonging, and a need to ensure a legacy for future generations.
These form the parameters of new debate/controversy developing within the Italian-Canadian community. It was launched by the Executive Director or the ICCO, Corrado Paina on his FB. He embarked on an “edgy” and penetrating critique on the health of the Community: its survival, its growth, or its assimilation and disappearance in the not too distant future.
Paina does not mask his “concern” that the community will continue to lose “its language and its identity”.
In a rather long posting for FB, he expresses worry that we become “only members of Canadian society, but not builders of a nation.” He regrets that the community, which reacts positively in response to calamitous events, may have “built a reactive attitude empty of any strategy and vision.”
He appears to condemn current community organizations for their perpetuation of “a historical and anthropological trait” of squandering opportunities to construct a ’legacy” – an egregious example being the Galleria Italia at the Art Gallery of Ontario, now a glorified coffee bar.
His criticisms are severe. But, Paina offers that alternatives are there. “I think about the creation of national archives, of Italian and Canadian museums, on places where Italy could be the landmark, on the many Casa Italia…” he adds.
To date, he says, the absence of such things, “shows a community that is not mature” … it is [also] important that our community develops its own vision, and its own way to participate.”
After numerous consultations “with [unnamed] leaders of the community, the entrepreneurs and the intellectuals and the professionals”, he concludes that we need “a locus, a building, a landmark, a monument that houses the Italian Canadian experience. We need a place that has a permanent art gallery to showcase the excellence of art in Italy and in Canada. A theatre that stages Italian and Canadian companies. A building where Italian regions can display their products, from food to aerospace. An entity where the Italian organizations are united under the same roof…”
There is no indication of the location of such a site. Nonetheless, he announces the existence of two groups [presumably well on their way to making this happen]: “The Memory group - a group that works on the creation of a site that will feature interviews and oral history of Italian people, and, the Legacy group - a group that is working on the organization of the first forum of Italian Canadians in Toronto on the future of the community”.
He laments the…”young entrepreneurs and professionals who don’t want to be involved in the community because they don’t believe in the history of the community.” But he urges involvement, “because when we talk about our community, we are really talking about the weight of the past and the legacy that we will leave for our sons.”