Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2017-05-15 11:05 [p.11169]
Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak to Motion No. 64, Italian heritage month. As deputy critic for Canadian heritage for our party, I certainly support the motion.
The first Italian to land in Canada was the explorer Giovanni Caboto. That was back in 1497. He is better known to us as John Cabot. The first settlement of Italians in Canada did not occur, though, until 1865, when soldiers from areas of what is present-day Italy were recruited by the French army.
Italians also served with the British military in lower Canada during the war of 1812. When their regiments were disbanded in 1816, some of the soldiers stayed in Canada, settling in Ontario and in the Eastern Townships.
The first significant wave of Italian immigration began in the early 1870s, until 1914. With the construction of the railroad in Canada, demand for workers was sensational. The second wave occurred between 1920 and 1930, and the greatest number of Italians came to this country between 1950 and the 1970s.
Leaving Italy, of course, was not easy for many of them. One Italian immigrant commented:
I know that my father loved his family, his home and his country and the experience of leaving it all behind must have been heartbreaking, nonetheless he pressed on towards the Canadian shores to give his family a new…life.
Those who came to Canada after World War II came from a war-torn country to build a better life for their families. There were very few jobs in Italy, so a number of families decided to make the move to Canada. Many came to Canada with just a suitcase in their hand, and that was all they had.
Today, there are approximately 1.4 million Canadians of Italian descent. Of the 10,000 who live in Saskatchewan, the majority live in Saskatoon and Regina. About 3,000 make Saskatoon their home, and almost a third live in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood.
The Italian culture is rich in tradition. We all know that. When one of my Italian constituents was asked to describe what Italians are like, she replied, “We are very resilient, hard-working, and hospitable. We love to socialize. We believe in unconditional love, and family means everything to us. We are very proud of our culture.”
What was it like for a family to leave Italy and come to Canada? One member of the Saskatoon Italian community, Rosemarie Palidwor, shares her family’s story: “My parents, along with other Italian families, immigrated to Canada, to Saskatoon, in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. They were young. They were motivated, and they wanted a better life. They were told that Canada was a ‘land of opportunity’, a place to put down roots and raise a family. With some Italians already in Saskatoon, they were sponsored, so, on borrowed money, they chose to leave Italy and take the journey to what they hoped would be the beginning of a wonderful new life.
“It was a cold day on November 22, 1959 when my parents arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax, after spending two long weeks on the ocean. To this day, my mother is still afraid of water and becomes seasick at the thought of being in a boat. My mother was four months pregnant with my sister at the time.”
“Upon arrival, it did not take long for excitement to turn into anxiety and much uncertainty: not being able to speak English, no means of transportation, and no jobs. The first few years were especially hard. A tight network of family and friends certainly helped my parents through the tough times. They were able to lean on this support group and begin to build the life they were hoping for.
“The prairie winters were long and very cold. Italian immigrants who were new to Saskatoon were taught how to make preserves for the winter months. Italians were resourceful, and they looked for ways to save money for their first house. Many families rented a garden plot of a dollar from the City of Saskatoon at the corner of 33rd Street and Avenue P. They planted lots of tomatoes. It was not uncommon for Italian gardens to have 200 tomato plants. They made a lot of delicious tomato sauce and canned the sauce for the winter months. Many families purchased freezers, which came in very handy throughout the year.
“As time went on, there was an opportunity to learn English. Many Italians would go once a week to the Gathercole building in downtown Saskatoon to learn the English language.
“The majority of Italian immigrants worked in low-paying, manual jobs, as cleaners or construction workers. My father, like many of the men, had very little or no education, but they were skilled tradesmen. Many were bricklayers, carpenters, stonemasons, and tile setters. In fact, my current home was built by Angie and Joe Iula of Valentino Homes in Saskatoon. It is the finest craftsmanship. We had it built by the Italian couple in 1989.
“Everyone worked hard during the week, and everyone looked forward to the weekend, much as we do today. It was a time of getting together for playing cards, eating good food, and drinking homemade Italian wine. The old saying held true: ‘work hard, play hard’. I am very proud to say that many of my family members went on to become successful entrepreneurs in Saskatoon, my father included.
“I also grew up with many family traditions. Sundays were always family days that began with mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and then a pasta dinner shared with aunties, uncles, and cousins. Italians are a strong faith-based community. Christmas and Easter are two very important religious celebrations. Attending mass at Christmas and Easter is at the heart of these celebrations.
“Many Italians love to make wine. Every September, the Italian men in my family would order copious amounts of grapes in crates from California. Families would get together and set up shop in a relative’s garage to make wine that would last a year. This was a family tradition, and everyone would help take the grapes off the vines and place them into a vat, where they would be crushed. As much as this was labour-intensive for an entire day, it was also a celebration, with Italian music, food, and last year’s wine, a true celebration of all that life has to offer, family and good health. This tradition is still carried on today in my garage with my children, nieces, and nephews.”
Italian culture is rich in tradition. Italians, through their hard work and generosity, have helped to make our community strong, vibrant, and beautiful.
There are many famous Canadians of Italian descent. For example, Guy Lombardo was born in London, Ontario and became a world-famous band leader. Michael Bublé is a singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer. He was born in Burnaby, B.C. He has won several awards, including four Grammys and multiple Junos. His Christmas albums have become a staple in many homes at that time of year. Meghan Agosta played for the Canadian women’s ice hockey team. She represented Canada in the 2006, 2010, and 2014 winter Olympics. She won gold medals at all three and was named the most valuable player in the 2010 games. She has also played at the women’s world championships three times, capturing one gold and two silver medals.
There is no doubt that Italians have contributed significantly to the prosperity and the fabric of this country, and that is why I support Motion No. 64 here today for a designated Italian heritage month.
I want to thank Rosemarie Palidwor, as well as many others in Saskatoon for their contribution to this presentation, including Dominic Iula, Francesca and Paola Fortugno, Rocchina Frassetto, and Anna Lorenz.
I support Italian heritage month and Motion No. 64.
Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon—Grasswood)
2017-05-15 17:08 [p.11216]
Madam Speaker, being that my colleague was a former mayor of Surrey for almost a decade, I want to ask her about consultations. Every community in this country knows the dangers with opiates and fentanyl, but they do not know how long the consultations are, or how to go about the consultations. Being that she is a former mayor of Surrey, I want to know her experience on the consultation process, how long it should take, and what some of the topics are that need to be discussed in every community in this country.