When Italy declared war in 1940, Canada interned over 600 people of Italian heritage and labelled 31,000 ‘enemy aliens’. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, formally apologised in parliament.
Justin Trudeau made a formal apology for the internment of Italian Canadians during the second world war. He acknowledged hundreds of people were denied due legal process.
In 1940, Italy declared war against Canada. As a result, Canada interned more than 600 people of Italian heritage and declared around 31,000 as ‘enemy aliens’.
In parliament on Thursday, the prime minister said those labelled ‘enemy aliens’ were fingerprinted, scrutinized and forced to report to local registrars once a month.
“To the men and women who were taken to prisoner of war camps or jail without charge; people who are no longer with us to hear this apology; to the tens of thousands of innocent Italian-Canadians who were labelled enemy aliens; to the children and grandchildren who have carried a past generation’s shame and hurt; and to their community – a community that has given so much to our country: we are sorry,” Trudeau said.
To scapegoat law-abiding Italian Canadians – that was wrong
“When, on 10 June 1940, this House of Commons declared war on Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy, Canada did not also have to declare war on Italian-Canadians,” Trudeau said. “To stand up to the Italian regime that had sided with Nazi Germany – that was right. But to scapegoat law-abiding Italian Canadians – that was wrong.”
He also said internees were not afforded due legal process. “When the authorities came to their door, when they were detained; there were no formal charges, no ability to defend themselves in an open and fair trial, no chance to present or rebut evidence,” Trudeau said. “Yet still, they were taken away to Petawawa or to Fredericton, to Kananaskis or to Kingston.”
In 1988, the government of Canada apologised for interning more 22,000 Japanese Canadians.
Put on ‘watch lists’
David Lametti, justice minister, said those who had made donations to the Italian Red Cross or were members of certain labour groups were put on Royal Canadian Mounted Police lists.
Trudeau also noted the parents of Frank Iacobucci, a former justice of Canada’s supreme court, were among those labelled enemy aliens. He said the policy went against the values that Canada had gone to war to defend.
There are approximately 1.6million Italian-Canadians, one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world.