The Italian Community exists, whether some like it or not
by The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher
TORONTO - The Italian Canadian community is alive and well, thank you. Even if there are some who find it convenient to deny its existance.
I can say that because there are an infinite number of opinions offered and expressed daily to the Corriere Canadese – sometimes without the required courtesy that is a precondition of going to print – about who we are and what we think of those with whom we come into contact, Italian and otherwise.
Last week, there was a veritable explosion of viewpoints regarding Trudeau’s deliberate decision to exclude our community from his Senate appointments in either Ontario or Quebec. The two provinces are home to roughly 1.2 million Canadians of Italian origin.
It is a significant number in any democratic society. Trudeau’s researchers would (or should) have provided him with the data. He must have had his reasons for putting that statistic to one side, while he speaks of diversity and inclusion.
Maybe he will share them with us at some electoral encounter down the road, or when he next needs to access our resources, was the typical retort.
I say this, without rancour, in my function as the Publisher of Canada’s only Italian language Daily newspaper trying to reflect the Community’s response to his process. Disappointment, collectively, is the kindest description attributed to Trudeau’s decision.
The Corriere published the printable portions of an interview granted freely by a Community builder, Alberto Di Giovanni, wherein he expressed regret and displeasure at the decision. He was neither a candidate nor did he support anyone who might have been.
He also offered, upon reflection and with regret, that some of the blame should in part also be shouldered by the shortcomings of a Community “leadership” unwilling or unable to “speak truth to power”.
The interview touched some sensitive nerves. To say that there was a firestorm of reaction is to understate the result. But it was nothing compared to the vituperation cast upon the views expressed by the director of ICCO, Corrado Paina, in a piece titled “Ora basta con la retorica della comunità”, in the November 16 edition of the Corriere Canadese.
He is a friend. Our readers can review his statements without a filter. The Corriere cannot publish the reactions without abandoning all standards of courtesy and respect. Instead, I will try to summarize them, because they serve a purpose in retelling where we are as a community of concerned Canadians.
The Italian Canadian Community has ALWAYS promoted the inclusion of ALL peoples into the Canadian “mainstream”. That mainstream is not a Ferris Wheel where people climb on and others climb off. In other words, we do not “take turns” at being Canadian.
The value of any group’s contribution and role in creating that mainstream is often measured by the extent to which they populate the many institutional apparatus – “the governing bodies” - that define the country and define the character of the nation.
Like the Senate, for example, and the hundreds of other public and quasi-governmental Boards and Agencies that carry out the will of the Country as expressed through Parliament.
This should never be a zero-sum game. It is an on-going process.
Most, if not all, of our readers, wonder how the heads of organizations whose title contains the word “Italian” can be the most vociferous opponents and denigrators of things and people Italian. Why don’t they stand on their individual merit stripped of any cultural or linguistic attachment to the Italian identity, they argue.
They wonder who the “usual suspects” might be; you know, who are consistently and continually singled out for prizes and recognitions. Surely they are not the ones who are singled out for “rewards” by organizations like his own, they ask, rhetorically/sarcastically?
Sarcasm aside, the arguments go, do Italian Canadians stop being “qualified” because they are “integrated”. Maybe they were “never qualified”, just simply “patronized” because of some misguided quota system. Is there a “test” one must overcome to prove one is integrated?
Speaking on behalf of the Corriere, I would find those positions objectionable and unacceptable.
Canada is a difficult country to govern and to define. Five geographic regions demand their “voices” at the table. The “Founding Nations” and the Provinces, defend their interests and entrenched positions jealously against all comers, including the Aboriginal First Nations, and the “Rest”.
Trudeau the Elder introduced The Charter of Rights (1981) and Multiculturalism (1971). As concepts and as policy, they are all that remain for law-makers to guide them in fashioning inclusive directions for social growth and integration in the face of a changing Canada.
Why Leaders like Trudeau the Younger would choose one model over another, in that context, is a legitimate question to ask.
No matter the interpretation ascribed to Mr. Paina’s views, he does caution us that the Prime Minister’s decisions in his selections are deliberate. They are not mere oversights.
Judging from the “vibrancy of the reactions”, to Mr Paina’s article, the Community exists – whether some like it or not.
(Monday 21 November 2016)