Italian Canadians

Italian Canadians (Italian: italo-canadesi, French: Italo-Canadiens) comprise Canadians who have full or partial Italian heritage and Italians who migrated from Italy or reside in Canada. According to the 2016 Census of Canada, 1,587,970 Canadians (4.6% of the total population) claimed full or partial Italian ancestry.[1] The census enumerates the entire Canadian population, which consists of Canadian citizens (by birth and by naturalization), landed immigrants and non-permanent residents and their families living with them in Canada.[2] Altogether, Italians are the seventh largest ethnic group in Canada after French, English, Irish, Scottish, German and Chinese. They are also often termed as Italian-Canadians with a hyphen.

Italian Canadians
italo-canadesi  (Italian)
Italo-Canadiens  (French)
Italian Canadians and Italian Americans, % of population by state or province
Total population
1,587,970 (total population)
236,635 (by birth)
1,351,335 (by ancestry)
2016 Census[1]
4.6% of Canada's population.
Regions with significant populations
Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Niagara Region, London, Guelph, Windsor, Ottawa–Gatineau, Barrie, Sault Ste. Marie, Greater Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Greater Montreal, Greater Vancouver
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Italians, Italian Americans, Italian Argentines, Italian Brazilians, Italian Mexicans, Italian South Africans, Italian Australians, British Italian, Sicilian Americans, Corsican Americans


The first explorer to North America and to Canada was the Venetian Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot). His voyage to Canada and other parts of the Americas was followed by his sons Sebastiano Caboto and Janus Verrazanus (Giovanni da Verrazzano). During the New France era, France also occupied parts of Northern 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 than made up a small portion of the population; in 1881, only about 2,000 people of Italian origin lived in Canada.[3] 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 60,000 Italians moved to Canada between 1900 and 1913.[4] These were largely peasants from rural southern Italy and agrarian parts of the north-east (Veneto, Friuli). Approximately 40,000 Italians came to Canada during the interwar period of 1914 to 1918, predominantly from southern Italy where an economic depression and overpopulation had left many families in poverty.[4] They mainly immigrated to Toronto and Montreal, both of which soon had large Italian communities, up to 2% of Toronto's population in 1921.[5] 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. The 1905 Royal Commission appointed to Inquire into the Immigration of Italian Labourers to Montreal and alleged Fraudulent Practices of Employment Agencies exposed the abuses of immigration agents known as padroni.

This migration was largely halted after World War I, new immigration laws in the 1920s, and the Great Depression 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. As part of the War Measures Act, between 1940 and 1943, approximately 600 to 700 Italian-Canadian men were arrested and sent to internment camps, such as Camp Petawawa as potentially dangerous enemy aliens with alleged fascist connections – in what was the period of Italian Canadian internment. While many Italian-Canadians had initially supported fascism and Benito Mussolini's regime for its role in enhancing Italy's presence on the world stage, most Italians in Canada did not harbour any ill will against Canada and few remained committed followers of the fascist ideology.[6][4] In 1990, former prime minister Brian Mulroney apologized for the war internment to a Toronto meeting of the National Congress of Italian Canadians.[7] In May 2009, Massimo Pacetti introduced bill C-302, an "Act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their "enemy alien" designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian Canadian history [worth $2.5 million]", which was passed by the House of Commons on April 28, 2010;[8] Canada Post was also to issue a commemorative postage stamp commemorating the internment of Italian Canadian citizens,[9] however, Bill C-302 did not pass through the necessary stages to become law.[10]

A second wave occurred after the Second World War when Italians, especially from the Lazio, Abruzzo, Friuli, Veneto, Campania, Calabria, and Sicily regions, left the war-impoverished country for opportunities in a young and growing country. Many Italians from Istria and Dalmatia also immigrated to Canada, during this period, as displaced persons (see Istrian exodus). Between the early 1950s and the mid-1960s, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 Italians immigrated to Canada each year.[4] By the 1960s, more than 15,000 Italian men worked in Toronto's construction industry, representing one third of all construction workers in the city at that time.[4] In the late 1960s, the Italian economy experienced a period of growth and recovery, removing one of the primary incentives for emigration.[4]

Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia was an influential port of Italian immigration between 1928 until it ceased operations in 1971, where 471,940 individuals came to Canada from Italy making them the third largest ethnic group to immigrate to Canada during that time period.[11]

In 2010, the Government of Ontario passed Bill 103 with royal assent proclaiming the month of June as Italian Heritage Month.[12] On May 17, 2017, the Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly passed a unanimous motion, Motion 64, in the House of Commons of Canada to recognize the month of June as Italian Heritage Month across Canada — a time to recognize, celebrate and raise awareness of the Italian community in Canada, one of the largest outside of Italy.[13]


As of the 2016 census 1,587,970 Canadian residents stated they had Italian ancestry — 4.6% of Canada's population, and a six percent increase from 1,488,425 population of the 2011 census.[1] From the 1,587,970, 695,420 were single origin responses, while the remaining 892,550 were multiple origin responses. The majority live in Ontario, over 900,000, (seven percent of the population), while over 300,000 live in Quebec (four percent of the population) — constituting for almost 80% of the national population.

As of 2016, of the 1,587,970 population, 236,635 are Italian born immigrants,[14] with 375,645 claiming Italian as their mother tongue.[15]

Canadians of Italian ethnicity by province and territory (2016)[16]
Province/territory Canadians of Italian ethnicity
Percent of
Ontario 931,805 7.0%
Quebec 326,700 4.1%
British Columbia 166,090 3.6%
Alberta 101,260 2.5%
Manitoba 23,205 1.9%
Nova Scotia 15,625 1.7%
Saskatchewan 11,310 1.1%
New Brunswick 7,460 1.0%
Newfoundland and Labrador 1,710 0.33%
Prince Edward Island 1,200 0.86%
Yukon 915 2.6%
Northwest Territories 505 1.2%
Nunavut 175 0.49%
Canadians of Italian ethnicity (greater than 10,000) by metropolitan area and census agglomeration (2016)[17]
Metropolitan area Canadians of Italian ethnicity
Percent of
area population
Toronto CMA[note 1] 484,360[note 2] 8.3%
Montreal CMA 279,795 7.0%
Greater Vancouver 87,875 3.6%
Hamilton 79,725 10.8%
National Capital Region 53,825 4.1%
Niagara Region 49,345 12.4%
Greater Calgary 42,940 3.1%
Greater Edmonton 33,800 2.6%
Windsor 33,175 10.2%
Oshawa CMA[note 3] 22,870 6.1%
London 22,625 4.6%
Greater Winnipeg 19,435 2.6%
Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo 18,650 3.6%
Thunder Bay 16,610 14.0%
Sault Ste. Marie 16,025 20.9%
Barrie 14,460 7.4%
Guelph 14,430 9.6%
Burlington 14,235 7.9%
Greater Sudbury 13,500 8.3%
Victoria 11,665 3.3%
  1. Unlike the Greater Toronto Area, the Toronto CMA does not include the Halton municipality of Burlington, and some Durham municipalities, those being Scugog and Brock, as well as those within the Oshawa CMA (Oshawa, Whitby, and Clarington). It does, however, include some municipalities outside the Greater Toronto Area, those being the Dufferin County municipalities of Mono and Orangeville, and the Simcoe County municipalities of Bradford West Gwillimbury and New Tecumseth. The Greater Toronto Area, comprises the whole of the Regional Municipality of York, Regional Municipality of Durham, Regional Municipality of Halton, Regional Municipality of Peel and the City of Toronto, and therefore has an Italian Canadian population of 511,680, accounting for 8.1% of total population.
  2. There are several locations within the Greater Toronto Area with considerable Italian Canadian populations. City of Toronto (182,495, 6.8% of total population).[18] Largest population of the four regional municipalities: Regional Municipality of York (159,465, 14.5% of total population).[19] Within the Regional Municipality of York, there are several locations with considerable Italian Canadian populations. The municipality of Vaughan, located just north of Toronto (94,730, 31.1% of total population).[20] The municipality of King, located just north of Vaughan (8,405, 34.5% of total population).[21] Within Vaughan, the community of Woodbridge has the largest concentration of Italian Canadians in Canada (55,960, 53.5% of total population).[22] Within King, the population centre of Nobleton (2,170, 46.8% of totoal population).[23] Within Caledon in the Regional Municipality of Peel, the population centre of Bolton, located just west of Nobleton (11,900, 45.5% of total population).[24] See Italian Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area for further information.
  3. Includes Oshawa (8,705, 5.5% of total population), Whitby (9,385, 7.4% of total population), and Clarington (4,775, 5.2% of total 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.[25] 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 introduced to address these criticisms. In late 2011, Serie A and some Serie B also found a home in Toronto, thanks to Stereo Serie A Radio on Radio Regent. The weekly show was made accessible via podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Castroller.

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.

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.

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. Mediaset Italia is also available.

RAI controversy

In 2003, RAI Italia 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.

Newspapers and magazines

The first Italian-language newspaper in Canada was Il Lavoratore, an anti-Fascist publication which was founded in Toronto in 1936 and active for two years. Then came La Voce degli Italo Canadesi, founded in Toronto (1938-1940) and Il Cittadino Canadese, founded in Montreal in 1941, followed by La Vittoria of Toronto, in 1942-1943. After WWII came Il Corriere Italiano, founded by Alfredo Gagliardi 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 Il Marco Polo (Vancouver), founded in 1974, Insieme (Montreal), Lo Specchio (Toronto), L'Ora di Ottawa (Ottawa) and Il Postino (Ottawa). 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.[26] Insieme was 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 the youth. Panoram Italia magazine, a bimonthly publication distributed in the Greater Montreal and Toronto areas, is the most popular among them. Most others 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 age 40 still read 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. In the 1970s the trilingual arts magazine Vice Versa flourished in Montreal. In, 2003 Domenic Cusmano founded Accenti, the magazine with an Italian accent which focused on culture and Italian-Canadian authors.

Italian-Canadian books

Italian-Canadian literature emerged in the 1970s as young Italian immigrants began to complete university degrees across Canada. This creative writing exists in English, French, or Italian. Some writers like Antonio D'Alfonso, Marco Micone, Alexandre Amprimoz and Filippo Salvatore are bilingual and publish in two languages. The older generation of authors like Maria Ardizzi, Romano Perticarini, Giovanni Costa and Tonino Caticchio publish in Italian or in bilingual volumes. In English the most notable names are novelists Frank G. Paci, Nino Ricci, Caterina Edwards, Michael Mirolla and Darlene Madott. Poets who write in English include Mary di Michele, Pier Giorgio DiCicco and Gianna Patriarca. In 1986 these authors established the Association of Italian-Canadian Writers,[27] and by 2001 there were over 100 active writers publishing books of poetry, fiction, drama and anthologies. With the 1985 publication of Contrasts: Comparative Essays on Italian-Canadian Writing by Joseph Pivato, the academic study of this literature started, leading to the exploration of other ethnic minority writing in Canada and inspiring other scholars such as Licia Canton, Pasquale Verdicchio and George Elliott Clarke. The important collections of literary works are: The Anthology of Italian-Canadian Writing (1998) edited by Joseph Pivato and Pillars of Lace: The Anthology of Italian-Canadian Women Writers (1998) edited by Marisa De Franceschi. See also Writing Cultural Difference: Italian-Canadian Creative and Critical Works (2015) editors Giulia De Gasperi, Maria Cristina Seccia, Licia Canton and Michael Mirolla.


On October 25, 2012, the Government of Canada announced its support of a project highlighting Italian-Canadian contribution to Canada. Funding aimed at raising awareness of the contributions of Canadians of Italian heritage in the development and settlement of Canada was announced by Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation and Member of Parliament for Vaughan, on behalf of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.[28]

Citizenship and Immigration Canada is providing $248,397 in funding under the Inter-Action Program to the Toronto district of the National Council of Italian Canadians (NCIC) to develop a curriculum intended for both primary and secondary level classes. The project is entitled "Italian Heritage in Canada Curriculum."[28]

"The Inter-Action program aims to create opportunities for different cultural and faith communities to build bridges and promote intercultural understanding," said Minister Fantino. "This project will help promote a greater awareness of the many contributions of the Italian Canadian community to the building of Canada."[28]

The curriculum will start with the Discovery of North America on June 24, 1497, and then turn to the various waves of immigrants that came to Canada from the 1800s to the present time. It will showcase Italian immigration to urban and rural areas across Canada and their contributions to the settlement of the west, then the building of railways, cities and infrastructure. The curriculum will recount the work of earlier generations of Italians, their plight during World War II when many were interned, and the contributions of more recent generations of Canadians of Italian heritage. It will also explore the wartime internment experiences of other cultural communities as well as their contributions to the building of Canada.[28]

Notable Italian Canadians

Italian districts in Canada


Greater Montreal area



Greater Toronto Area

Windsor, Ontario

British Columbia


See also


  1. Statistics Canada (2017-10-25). "Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity Highlight Tables".
  2. "Census of Population". Statistics Canada. February 2019.
  3. "Italian Canadians". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  4. "History - Pier 21".
  5. Sturino, Franc (1990). Forging the chain: a case study of Italian migration to North America, 2000-1930. Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario. p. 168. ISBN 0-919045-45-6.
  6. "Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II".
  7. "Italians seek new apology from Canada for wartime internments". The Globe and Mail. 30 April 2010.
  8. Third Session, Fortieth Parliament, House of Commons, Bill C–302 Retrieved January 2, 2011. (pdf file)
  9. "Apology to interned Italian-Canadians questioned".
  10. "Redress and Apology".
  11. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-08-16. Retrieved 2017-07-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. "Bill 103, Italian Heritage Month Act, 2010".
  13. "Statement by Minister Joly on Italian Heritage Month". June 1, 2017.
  14. "Data tables, 2016 Census". Statistics Canada.
  15. "Data tables, 2016 Census". Statistics Canada.
  16. "Province or territory". Statistics Canada.
  17. "Census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations". Statistics Canada.
  18. "Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity Highlight Tables". Statistics Canada.
  19. "Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity Highlight Tables". Statistics Canada.
  20. "Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity Highlight Tables". Statistics Canada.
  21. "Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity Highlight Tables". Statistics Canada.
  22. "Census Profile, 2016 Census Woodbridge-Vaughan". Statistics Canada. 2016. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  23. "Census Profile, 2016 Census". Statistics Canada. 2016. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  24. Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Census Profile, 2016 Census Bolton [Population centre], Ontario and Ontario [Province]". Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  25. Fairbridge, Jerry (January 2002). "Lombardi, Johnny (1915-2002)". Biographies. Canadian Communications Foundation. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
  26. "Il Postino".
  27. "aicw".
  28. "The Government of Canada announces support to project highlighting Canadian-Italian contribution to Canada". 25 October 2012.

Further reading

  • Colantonio, Frank (1997). From the Ground up: an Italian Immigrant's Story. Toronto, Ont.: Between the Lines. 174 p., ill. with b&w photos.
  • Fanella, Antonella (1999), With heart and soul: Calgary's Italian community, University of Calgary Press, ISBN 1-55238-020-3
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