A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History


According to the 1996 census, there are 729,455 Italians living in Canada.9 Nearly 500,000 live in or around Toronto. These are the decedents of the two massive waves of emigration that has occurred in Canada.

They settled together, and as each new immigrant arrived, whole neighbourhoods would take on a distinctive Italian flavour. These neighbourhoods became known as "Little Italy." At first, this term was used as a slight against the community by other Canadians, but is now used with a sense of pride, even appearing on street signs. The majority of the new immigrants from Italy worked in low-paying, manual labour jobs, as cleaners or construction workers. They were open to exploitation, and poor, unsafe working conditions.

An accident in the early 1960's, during the building of the Yonge Subway in Toronto, killed a crew of Italian workers. Unsafe conditions were first brought to the attention of the public. Following this accident, the Italian construction workers formed a union and forced improved safety measures.

Italian Canadians have relied on family and friends to help them get established in Canada. Though this network has been maintained, it was never their intention to remain an ethnic enclave. By 1941, 45% Italians were marrying outside their ethnic group.10 85% of Italian Canadians are fluent in French, which is well above the national average. While the first Italian immigrants arrived with little or no education, they stressed the importance of education with their children.

Italian Canadians are at or above the national average for university education. Greater numbers than the national average have entered the field of medicine, dentistry, and law. Italian Canadians have been elected to all levels of government. Family, religion and place of origin have remained important to Italian Canadians and as a community they have added richly to the fabric of Canada.

Some examples of famous Italian Canadians would be Mario Bernardi, first conductor of Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra in 1968 and guided it to international stature; Guido Molinari, avant-garde painter; the late Bruno Gerussi, who was both a Shakespearean actor and television personality; J.R. Colombo, a best-selling author, and literary figure, Nino Ricci.11

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