Italian Canadian internment

Italian Canadians Enemy alien War Measures Act

Italian Canadian internment was the removal and internment of Italian Canadians during World War II following Italy's June 10, 1940, declaration of war against the United Kingdom.[1] Through the War Measures Act, the government of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King gave itself the power to suspend habeas corpus, revoke rights, seize property and arrest those who were deemed a threat to the safety of Canada—labeling 31,000 Italian Canadians as "enemy aliens".[2]

Between 1940 and 1943, between 600 and 700 Italian Canadian men were arrested and sent to internment camps as potentially dangerous enemy aliens with alleged fascist connections. 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.[3][4] No Italian Canadians were ever charged with criminal activity as a result of the internment.[2]

Enemy aliens

On June 10, 1940, all fascist organizations in Canada were deemed illegal. They included the Casa D'Italia consulate on Beverley Street, the fascist newspaper Il Bolletino and the Dopolavoro (after work) social club. Casa D'Italia was seized by the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property and sold to the RCMP.[5]

Newspaper accounts of the day, such as the Ottawa Citizen, tell that the status of "enemy alien" was immediately placed on non-resident Italians older than 16 years of age, and on Italian Canadians who became British subjects after September 1929.[6] The category later expanded to include nationals of belligerent states naturalized after 1922. Those affected by the War Measures Act and Defense of Canada Regulations (DOCR) were forced to register with the RCMP and report to them on a monthly basis.[7][2]

Most of the Italian Canadian men were interned at Camp Petawawa (Camp 33), as well as camps in Minto, New Brunswick and Kananaskis, Alberta, for several years.[8]

A notable internee was Hamilton, Ontario's notorious bootlegger Rocco Perri.[9]


In 1990, former prime minister Brian Mulroney apologized for the war internment to a Toronto meeting of the National Congress of Italian Canadians: "On behalf of the government and the people of Canada, I offer a full and unqualified apology for the wrongs done to our fellow Canadians of Italian origin during World War II."[10]

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.[11] Canada Post was also to issue a commemorative postage stamp commemorating the internment of Italian Canadian citizens,[12] however, Bill C-302 did not pass through the necessary stages to become law.[13]

In 2013, as a part of the permanent exhibition Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II at the Columbus Centre in Toronto, funded by Villa Charities Inc and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, artist Harley Valentine created a monument recognizing the internments called "Riflessi: Italian Canadian Internment Memorial". The main statue is composed of several profiles—a (grand)father, internee, pregnant mother, and child—that combine to form a single figure in mirror polished stainless steel.

In September 2018, the RCMP planted a tree on the grounds of the Canadian Police College in Ottawa as a show of regret for their involvement with the internment of Italian Canadians.[14]

See also


  1. ^ "Canada declares war on Italy". June 10, 1940. Archived from the original on 2011-06-22.
  2. ^ a b c DiStefano, Daniela (August 13, 2012). "Tracing the Forgotten History of Italian-Canadian Internment Camps".
  3. ^ "Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II".
  4. ^ "History - Pier 21".
  5. ^ "Arrest at Casa d'Italia, Toronto, ON".
  6. ^ "R.C.M.P. Warning. On Registration Of Enemy Aliens". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  7. ^ "Under the Law".
  8. ^ "Shining light on a dark secret: The internment of Italian-Canadians" – via The Globe and Mail.
  9. ^ Nicaso, Antonio (2004). Rocco Perri: The Story of Canada's Most Notorious Bootlegger. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. ISBN 978-0470835265.
  10. ^ "Italians seek new apology from Canada for wartime internments". The Globe and Mail. 30 April 2010.
  11. ^ Third Session, Fortieth Parliament, House of Commons, Bill C–302 Retrieved January 2, 2011. (pdf file)
  12. ^ "Apology to interned Italian-Canadians questioned".
  13. ^ "Redress and Apology".
  14. ^ "RCMP plant tree to remember internment of Italian-Canadians". September 19, 2018.