Italian Canadians

Italian Canadians

"'Ethnic group
group=Italian Canadians
poptime= 1.45 million, 4.6% of Canada's population
popplace=Toronto: 467,000, Montreal: 260,000
langs=Predominantly English and/or French. Also Italian and/or Italian dialects.
rels=Predominantly Roman Catholic

An Italian Canadian is a Canadian of Italian descent or heritage. As of the 2006 census, 1,445,335 Canadians (4.6% of total population) consider themselves to be of Italian origin, as well as 4,360 (0.01% of the total population) who considered themselves as Sicilian, according to the 2006 Canadian census. The Italian-Canadian population climbed by more than 12% and half (over 700,000) have combined Italian origins along with another ethnic group, mostly other European ethnic groups. [] Altogether, Italians continue to be the 5th largest ethnic group in Canada after British and Irish origins, French origin and German origin.


Italians were among some of the earliest Europeans to migrate to North America. A number of the early explorers such as John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) and Giovanni da Verrazzano were Italians. During the New France era, France also occupied parts of Italy and there was a significant Italian presence in the French military forces in the colony. Notable were Alphonse de Tonty, who helped establish Detroit, and Henri de Tonti, who journeyed with La Salle in his exploration of the Mississippi River. Italians made up a small portion of the population, however, and quickly lost their ethnic identities. In 1881, only 1849 Canadians claimed to be Italian. A number of Italians were imported to work as navvies in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

A substantial influx began in the early twentieth century when over a hundred thousand Italians moved to Canada. These were largely peasants from the poorer southern portion of Italy. They mainly immigrated to Toronto and Montreal, both of which soon had large Italian communities. Smaller communities also arose in Hamilton, Vancouver, Windsor, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Sudbury and the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area. Many also settled in mining communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Cape Breton Island and Northern Ontario. The Northern Ontario cities of Sault Ste. Marie and Fort William were quite heavily populated by Italian immigrants. There was a "Royal Commission appointed to Inquire into the Immigration of Italian Labourers to Montreal and alleged Fraudulent Practices of Employment Agencies" in 1905, which exposed the abuses of immigration agents known as "padroni".

This migration was largely halted by World War I, and new immigration laws in the 1920s limited Italian immigration. During World War II, Italian-Canadians, as well as German-Canadians were regarded with suspicion and faced a great deal of discrimination. Those who had been actively pro-Fascist, and some who were falsely accused, were interned at Camp Petawawa during the war. There was no mass internment as befell Japanese-Canadians, however.

A second wave occurred after the Second World War when Italians left the war-impoverished country for opportunities in a young and growing country. In the 1960s, immigration laws were again changed, and the bias in favour of Europeans was removed. In the same period, Italy was rapidly growing in wealth, and by the early 1970s fewer Italians were interested in emigration.


As of 2006, 1,449,695 Canadians residents stated they had Italian ancestry (includes Sicilian), in which 741,045 had sole Italian origins while the other 704,285 were of partial Italian origin along with other ethnic origins, chiefly with other European ethnic groups e.g Italian-Irish, Italian-English etc. The latter group climbed by almost 25%, while the Italian Canadian population as a whole grew by 12% since the 2001 census.

Canadians of Italian ancestry make up 4.6% of the population of Canada, a rise from 4.3% in 2001. The majority live in Ontario (867,980) where they constitute more than seven per cent of the population, while another 300,000 live in Quebec.

The main concentrations of Canadians of Italian ancestry are in the following metropolitan areas and Census agglomerations:

*Greater Toronto Area (467,015) or 9.2% of total population.
*Greater Montreal Area (261,115) or 7.3% of total population.
*Vancouver/Lower Mainland (76,525) or 3.6% of total population.
*Hamilton, Ontario (72,770) or 10.6% of total population.
*St.Catharines-Niagara (49,045) or 12.7% of total population.
*Ottawa-Hull (45,210) or 4% of total population.
*Windsor, Ontario (33,865) or 10.5% of total population.

The York Region community of Vaughan, Ontario, located just north of Toronto, has almost 100,000 Italian residents accounting for 40% of the total population; this area has the largest concentration of Italians in Canada. Sizeable Italian communities are also located in Calgary Region, Edmonton Capital Region, London, Ontario, Winnipeg Capital Region, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Oshawa, Ontario, Sudbury, Ontario, and Guelph, Ontario.

In 2001, about three-quarters of the 1.3 million Canadians of Italian descent (903,375) were born in Canada according to the 2001 Census and 315,455 Canadian residents were born in Italy. Of those 315,000 immigrants, almost half (46.7%) immigrated to Canada before 1961, 38.3% between 1961 and 1970, another 10.3% between 1971 and 1980. Italian immigration to Canada since 1981 has been very slow with only 6.4% of Italian immigrants coming to Canada since 1981.

More than half of Canadians of Italian origins (670,300) claimed English as their mother tongue, 81,000 French and 469,485 Italian. Their religious profile represents the historical ties with Italy. Out of the 1.3 million Italians in Canada, 1,015,725 or 79.9% are Roman Catholic [] , 113,455 or 8.9% Protestant, 23,805 or 1.8% other Christian. Those who do not profess a faith constitute 109,515 or 8.2%. The largest non-Christian faith that some Italians follow is Judaism.

Canadians of Italian ancestry had above-average incomes ($34,871 average employment income vs. $ 31,757 for all Canadians) and below-average unemployment rates (5.4% compared to 7.4% for the Canadian labour force as a whole). While they work in all walks of life, they represent a disproportionate number of Canada's construction workers: 6 % of Canadians employed in the construction industry are of Italian ancestry. On the other hand, they are under-represented in agriculture. In other industries, the proportion of Canadians of Italian ancestry is not far from their percentage of the general population.

Italian-Canadian media

Radio and television

The first multicultural radio station in Canada (CFMB) began broadcasting at Montreal in 1962. Founded by Casimir Stanczykowkski, a Pole, peak hours programming was nonetheless mostly in Italian. Four years later, in 1966, Johnny Lombardi founded a similar radio station (CHIN) in Toronto. CFMB has become a cultural bulwark for Italians in Montreal, however, the station's programming is often criticized as being geared only toward the older generations. Hardly any new pop songs from Italy, for instance, receive airtime and older songs from the 1970s and 1980s are usually privileged. A short programme on Friday afternoons, Spazio ai giovani, was recently introduced to address these criticisms.

Dan Iannuzzi founded the first multicultural television station in Canada (CFMT-TV), which began operations at Toronto in 1979. Now owned by Rogers Communications, the service has spun off into two multicultural television services in southern Ontario: OMNI-1 and OMNI-2. TeleItalia, an Italian-language television service, was founded in Montreal shortly thereafter. TeleItalia shared airtime with other multicultural programming at the station but had the most and best timeslots. TeleItalia programming included programming purchased from RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, as well as numerous locally-produced programmes, including the nightly newscast at six o'clock. In 1997, a reform of the city's multicultural television station (CJNT) saw a drastic decline in the quality of all programming and major cuts to airtime. At one time, CJNT was on air for less than twelve hours a day. The CanWest Global company later purchased the station and has since improved programming. Nevertheless, there is now little Italian programming shown.

A third station, Telelatino (TLN) of Toronto, is widely available through cable distribution. Though offering programmes in both Spanish and Italian, most of TLN's revenue (70%) is derived from the latter. TLN, along with RAI International, an arm of the Italian state broadcaster RAI, has recently been at the centre of a dispute over Italian-language broadcasting in Canada. Telelatino had carried since 1984 some RAI content in addition to locally produced shows and dubbed Spanish programming from Latin America. By the beginning of this decade, however, there was growing dissatisfaction with TLN programming, especially in Montreal. Critics in Montreal labelled TLN's locally-produced shows too "Torontocentric" and poked fun at dubbed Spanish programming bought from Latin American stations. Most of these latter shows were soap operas filmed in the 1980s.

RAI controversy

In 2003, RAI pulled its content from Telelatino and petitioned the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to set up its own channel. This effort was backed by Rogers Communications. The Italian community in Montreal was almost wholly in favour of admitting RAI. The Committee for Italians Living Abroad in Montreal (COM.IT.ES.), an arm of the Italian foreign ministry, led the campaign to have RAI admitted. The Italian community in Toronto, however, was divided. Some in Toronto saw the move as part of a scheme by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to gain greater influence over the Italian language media in Canada. Italian law provides the Italian diaspora votes in Italian elections and permanent seats in the Italian parliament. Unlike the more independent Telelatino, RAI was widely seen as pro-Berlusconi. Those in favour of the RAI in Montreal pointed out that TLN quickly replaced its RAI programming with shows bought from SKY, a private television network. Berlusconi is said to have much more control over his private TV companies than over the state-run RAI.

In November 2003, community leaders in Montreal led a protest march in Ottawa under the slogan "RAI Now". They then presented a petition with some tens of thousands of signatures in favour of their cause. The CRTC initially turned down the application allowing RAI International to broadcast in Canada, declaring it would be impossible to set up a domestic Italian channel if that came to pass. In Montreal editorials lambasting the federal government and the CRTC were published in the community newspapers and leaders spoke out again a perceived injustice. With a federal election set for the summer of 2004, one in which the Liberal Party did not seem guaranteed a victory, opinion makers in Montreal began asking if Italians were simply not sheep herded along by the Liberals. (The great majority of Italians in Montreal are Liberal and federalist). Many called on voters to vote against the Liberal party which was blamed for the CRTC's decision. Ultimately, nervous Liberal candidates signed a statement days before the vote, guaranteeing that RAI would be broadcasting within a year or that the laws would be changed to permit it. The Liberals won their election and in the spring of 2005, the CRTC reversed its earlier decision. RAI thus began broadcasting in June of that year.


The first Italian-language newspaper in Canada was "Il Cittadino Canadese" founded in Montreal in 1941, followed by "Il Corriere Italiano", founded by Alfredo Gagliardi also in Montreal in the early 1950s. "Corriere Canadese", founded by Dan Iannuzzi in 1954, is Canada's only Italian-language daily today and is published in Toronto; its weekend (English-language) edition is published as "Tandem". Other newspapers include "Insieme" (Montreal),"L'Ora di Ottawa" (Ottawa, Ontario) and "Il Postino" (Ottawa, Ontario). "Il Postino" was established in 2000 by a young group of local Ottawa Italian Canadians to convey the history of the Italian community in Ottawa. ( "Insieme" was originally founded by the Italian Catholic parishes of Montreal but has since been put under private ownership. It nevertheless retains an emphasis on religious articles.

Many of the older Italian newspapers are criticized, like CFMB radio, for only serving the interests of the older generations. Several trendier, more modern magazines or newspapers have thus been founded. Many are run by recent Italian immigrants to Canada and are geared towards youth. However, most have failed or are published sporadically due to financial problems. The movement to support these upstart newspapers, however, is fairly strong in Montreal where many people under 40 years old can still communicate in Italian. "Eyetalian" magazine was launched in 1993 as a challenging, independent magazine of Italian-Canadian culture. It encountered commercial difficulty, and leaned towards a general lifestyle magazine format before concluding publication later in the 1990s. "Italo" of Montreal is published sporadically and is written in Italian, with some articles in French and English. Dealing with current affairs and community news. "La Comunità", while an older publication, was taken over by the youth wing of the National Congress of Italian Canadians (Québec chapter) in the late 1990s. It experimented with different formats but was later cancelled due to lack of funding.

Notable Canadians of Italian descent

Many Italian immigrants found work in the constructions trades, and later built their own construction businesses. Canadians of Italian ancestry can now be found in almost any profession in Canada. For a more complete list of notable individuals, see: List of Italian Canadians.

Italian districts in Canada


* "Via Italia", Erie St., Windsor, ON


* Little Italy, Montreal
** Church of the Madonna della Difesa
* Città Italiana, nickname for Saint Leonard, Quebec, a borough of Montreal
** Centro Leonardo Da Vinci
* Via Italia
* R.D.P., a borough of Montreal
* LaSalle, a borough of Montreal
* St.Leonard, a borough of Montreal


* Little Italy, Ottawa
** St. Anthony of Padua (Ottawa)


* Stoney Creek, Ontario


* Little Italy, Toronto
* Corso Italia, Toronto
* Woodbridge, OntarioMaple, Ontario


* Little Italy, Vancouver

ee also

* Spoken languages of Canada
* Demographics of Canada
* Italian American
* Italians


External links

* [ The Canadian Museum of Civilization - Italian Canadian Heritage]
* [ The Canadian Encyclopedia - Italians]
* [ Bibliography]
* [ A History of Italian-Canadian Writing]

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