Sleight of Hand: Obstacles
Maltese started to emigrating to Canada in the 1830's. British Culture was not foreign to them as the British had been a dominant foreign culture on the island since the days when Admiral Nelson defeated Napoleon in 1800. The Maltese make the distinction that they were never a colony of Britain, as they were not defeated by the British, but had invited the British to govern their island nation. Regardless of these close links to Britain, the Maltese tended to emigrate to North Africa, Italy and France.
Despite the fact that Maltese started to arrive in Canada in the mid 1800's, it was not until 1911 that there was a concerted effort by the Maltese and Canadian Governments to attract more Maltese to Canada. When the first substantial wave of immigrants started to arrive between 1911-22, they tended to be poorly educated, and economically poor. They were coming from a Mediterranean country and were unprepared for the rigours of a Canadian winter.8 The Maltese settled across Canada from Nova Scotia to Victoria, but the vast majority settled in Toronto.9 The Catholic Church has always played an important role in Malta where the distinction between Church and State has never been made. In Toronto, the lack of a Maltese priest was distressing for these new arrivals, who depended on their priest not only for spiritual guidance but for advice in matters ranging from money troubles to economic and family problems. The Maltese shared their place of worship with the Italian community when they first arrived, especially the Southern Italians with whom the Maltese shared a number of the same cultural and spiritual beliefs.
The Maltese came together and formed the Maltese Society in 1922. The first priority of this group was to campaign the bishop for a Maltese priest to be assigned to Toronto. A letter campaign was launched with success. A Maltese priest visited from the United States in 1926, and a permanent priest sent in 1929. With the new priest, the community needed a church. Property was purchased and St. Paul the Apostle was started. In 1931, the church was completed and has been the focal point of the community ever since.10
The Swift Packing Company, became a source of employment for many of the Maltese men including John Giordmaine when he arrived in 1919. Maltese had gained a reputation for being hardworking, loyal employees. They were hired by Swift without question.
Maltese in Canada did not abandon the country of their birth during the siege of Malta in 1939 by Nazi Germany. The Maltese Society of Toronto set up and ran the ‘Malta Relief Fund', in which money and supplies were sent to their homeland. In recognition of sacrifices made, Britain awarded Malta ‘The George Cross' for valour under fire.11 After the war, thousands of Maltese came to Canada. They found that the transition to the new country was made easier by the Maltese community already established here. Maltese Canadians offered to share their homes with these new immigrants until they were established, rarely charging them for the food or board.Previous Page - - Next Page