Italian-Canadian Community Projects

When World War II broke out in Europe in September 1939, Canada was governed by wartime emergency measures. During that period, 31,000 Italian-Canadians were designated as “enemy aliens,” and about 600 were arrested and interned at various camps across Canada.

Some Italian-Canadians at the Fredericton Internment Camp in 1943.
Courtesy of the Giacomelli family. Columbus Centre of Toronto Collection.

An Examination of the Second World War Internment of Italian-Canadians

Recipient: Association of Italian Canadian Writers, Stouffville, Ontario

The association produced two anthologies and two sets of magazine articles on the internment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War. One book (co-published with Columbus Centre) and one set of magazine articles have an academic orientation: these new, scholarly writings focus on critical analysis of this event from various disciplinary perspectives. The second book and set of magazine articles have a creative focus, and include short fiction, memoirs, poetry, drama and visual arts projects such as photography, painting, sculpture and multimedia. The publications are available in print and electronic formats (as e-books, as well as web, Facebook, and YouTube content).


Piazza Petawawa: Capturing Traces of the Italian-Canadian Internment during the Second World War

Recipient: Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association of Toronto

The association created a travelling exhibit about the internment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War. The exhibit comprised 20 photographs, mixing landscape shots of the internment camps with portraits of the internees — as they were then and are today.

Biographies and testimonies telling their compelling stories accompany the portraits. Text, in English, French and Italian, describes the history of the internment.


Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II

Courtesy of the Columbus Centre of Toronto

Recipient: Columbus Centre, Toronto

This project compiled testimonials from people across Canada who were affected by the Italian-Canadian internment; conducted a comprehensive online inventory; created a permanent exhibit on the internment at Columbus Centre; built a commemorative wall featuring a complete list of the names of internees; and published an academic co-publication with Association of Italian Canadian Writers.


Community, Internment and War — Monument and exhibit

Recipient: Italian Canadian Community Centre of the National Capital Region Inc., Ottawa

The centre installed a commemorative wall, exhibit and time capsule commemorating the internment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War in Ottawa’s Dante Park, and published a booklet that was distributed at the official unveiling of the wall. Information collected for the project, including the booklet and links to more detailed information on related sites such as Library and Archives Canada, is posted on the centre’s website.

The time capsule contains text, photographs, personal documents and other memorabilia. The booklet offers historical facts and interpretation for the plaque and time capsule, with a particular focus on the National Capital Region.

A play, book and exhibit Commemorating the Italian Internment

Recipient: Italian Cultural Centre Society, Vancouver

This project comprises a play dramatizing the Italian-Canadian experience of internment during the Second World War; a book, Vancouver Italians Interned during World War II, written by the renowned Italian-Canadian author Raymond Culos; and an exhibition in the centre’s museum exploring the Italian-Canadian wartime experience.


Italian Canadian Internment Project — Documentary film, digital archive

Recipient: Media Monkey Productions, Inc., Cobourg, Ontario

This project comprises a documentary film (in Italian, English and French) and an online archive. The archive explores and contextualizes the issues around the internment of Italian Canadians during the Second World War and their struggles to regain their place as valuable members of Canadian society. The documentary is available in a 90-minute film version and a 46-minute television version. The online archive will includes a centralized resource base, links to articles and other materials, and testimonials of survivors and their families.

Establishment of Italian Canadian Historical Centre

Recipient: National Congress of Italian Canadians (National Capital District), Ottawa

The Italian Canadian Historical Centre, an archives and exhibit room, was established for this community project in Villa Marconi, a long-term care facility in Ottawa. The centre houses materials about interment experiences and Italian migration to Canada such as photos, books, film, microfilm, print documents and artefacts.

Paradise by the River — Play

Recipient: Shadowpath Theatre Productions, Richmond Hill, Ontario

Paradise By The River, written and composed by Italian‑Canadian playwright Vittorio Rossi, tells the story of an Italian immigrant who is arrested without charge in his home in Montréal and held at a prisoner‑of‑war camp in Petawawa, Ontario, leaving his frightened, pregnant wife behind. The personalized story of the internment will help audiences of all ages, backgrounds and cultures understand the internment and how it affected an entire community.


Faces and Memories of Interment: An Italian-Canadian Tragedy — Education package, website, docudrama

Recipient: York University, Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian-Canadian Studies, Toronto

This package focuses on the use of the War Measures Act and its impact on the civil rights of minority groups, specifically Italians in Canada during the Second World War. The content was produced in Italian, English and French. Research for the project covered archival materials, artifacts held in personal and other collections, interviews with internees or their descendants, and interviews with others, such as government agents, who had experience with these events.

The project is also intended to encourage those immediately involved in the internment and their descendants, as well as government officials and Canadians in general, to reflect on issues such as immigrant and ethnic accommodation and the duty of government to defend democracy in times of perceived threats.


Italian Canadians During World War II: From Memory to Legacy

Courtesy of the Columbus
Centre of Toronto

Recipient: Columbus Centre of Toronto 

This legacy project comprises a new travelling exhibit exploring the experiences of Italian Canadians following Italy’s entry into World War II on the side of Germany. Through video, audio, and text, the travelling exhibit puts a human face to this little-known period in Canadian history. It draws upon a rich collection of interviews conducted by Columbus Centre between 2010 and 2012. It also features other CHRP projects.

The project also includes expansion of the centre’s existing digital archive/website which includes materials from other CHRP-funded projects.


Canadian-Italian Internment Commemoration in Montréal

Recipient: The Canadian Italian Business Professional Association of Montreal

The association has erected a monument celebrating Canadian-Italians on its Casa D'Italia premises. It also commissioned 20 scale reproductions of the monument, which will be awarded annually as the Personality of the Year Award, a recognition program for outstanding leadership and community involvement. A 40-page guide was published that focuses on the remembrance of Italian-Canadian internment; 10,000 copies were printed and the content was published on the association’s website.


Public Education Program for Historical Recognition and Commemoration

Recipient: Italian Canadian League of Manitoba

The Italian Canadian League of Manitoba created a monument, an interpretive pathway and a teaching unit. The monument was erected at the Centro Caboto in Winnipeg; the linked interpretive pathway commemorates the internment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War. The teaching unit is for use in the Winnipeg School Division, the Italian school and the University of Manitoba, is available in English, French and Italian.


Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund

The Government of Canada established the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund to support projects that commemorate the experience of all affected communities during that period. The fund is managed by the Shevchenko Foundation.

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