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,