The reason why you should vote “Sì”
The Hon. Joe Volpe, Publisher
TORONTO - Forty years after his death, I finally learned to appreciate how Italian Canadians of my uncle’s generation, no, make that Canadians, must have felt at being called “enemy aliens”.
Donatangelo (Danny) Liscio, was my grandfather’s first son. He was born in Toronto in 1904, on the site now occupied by the Victoria Sick Children’s Hospital, where my grandfather bought his first house. He stood next to my father as they welcome my mother, me and my siblings, upon alighting from the train from Halifax in 1955.
He was a good man. He visited with us every day on his way home from work, just to make sure everything was ok. I looked up to him. He was the spitting image of my grandfather. For a little boy like me, he was big and strong. He spoke this new language…English.
He just didn’t seem too interested in things Italian. One of his cousins, also called Danny, had served in the Canadian Navy during the war. I couldn’t understand how some of my cousins could “take up arms” against their own relatives.
I was young. I thought in terms of Civil War. He didn’t like that, and told me as much. I was fortunate enough to have family that let me “press the issue”, so to speak, and protested that it didn’t seem fair for his cousin to go fight against his uncle - my grandfather.
I tried to paint a picture of the country I was born in seen through the eyes of a little boy. What did I know of political conflict, imperial expansions, authoritarian systems, national distrust, freedom, liberty and so on?
My uncle and his uncles were subjected to police surveillance virtually daily by RCMP and associated police services because Canada, as a British dependency, was at war with Italy. The value of Canada’s participation was never an issue. What became a problem was that the War Measures Act treated Canadian born British Subjects, like my uncle and other relatives and Italians, like disloyal enemies of the State – enemy aliens.
He had, in effect, been “criminalized” for being born in his own house. His world was turned upside down. It didn’t help that the RCMP were conducting their surveillance from the location that he and other had contributed to build – Casa Italia.
Local authorities in fact used its very presence as further evidence of “disloyalty” to their cause. He always felt “let down” and “abandoned” by Italy.
Fast forward to last week, when one of the “luminaires” of contemporary Italy, Alessandro Pace, a jurist who favours the NO side in the referendum campaign he chairs, went on a rant against Italian citizens residing abroad, if they vote YES… going so far as to threaten Court action should their involvement result in a YES victory.
Maybe he thought that since the “criminalization” of “opponents” worked for the Canadian government in the War years, it might work for him.
Anyway, for him and other “worthy politicos”, to wit, Massimo D’Alema, Beppe Grillo, Salvini, and the NO group, my own offspring, as my uncle before them, have been relegated to the ranks of “enemy aliens”.
Once again because of our cultural inheritance, we have become “Enemy Aliens” – not of Canada, but of Italy, according to Italians this time.