Federal officials rethink wording of markers at gravesites of past prime ministers

Don’t envy those responsible for reviewing the wording and developing new wording that provides a more balanced view of “the good, the bad and the ugly” of previous PMs (or other historical figures), as well as the historical context that shaped their actions:

It was in late January that vandals so badly scratched out the face of Mackenzie King on an awareness panel by the former prime minister’s final resting place in Toronto that a federal agency decided the panel had to be replaced.

For more than two decades, the commemorative panel didn’t receive a revamp, just like others at prime ministerial gravesites overseen by federal officials.

Those officials, however, are rethinking what the panels should say and reflect how the country views its past, specifically in light of historical mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples.

Inevitably, experts say, that will cause tension about how to mark these sites.

The plaques are among a suite of issues that Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada have to deal with in the coming years at the 16 gravesites, the details of which are outlined in inspection reports released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The program first launched in 1999, hoping to prevent the final resting spots of prime ministers from becoming irreparably damaged.

All but one of the graves are in Canada — R.B. Bennett is buried at a church in Mickelham, U.K., a town of 600 people about a one-hour train ride southwest of London. His sarcophagus needs repairs to cracks and breaks, not to mention a good cleaning of moss.

Over its more than 20 years of existence, the program has spent about $1 million on inspections, repairs, commemorative plaques and flagpoles at gravesites. Annual spending is based on yearly needs, and Parks Canada said it anticipates average annual expenses to increase slightly over the next five years.

Some of that has to do with the addition last year of John Turner’s gravesite in Toronto. The documents say an awareness panel was supposed to be installed this fall; Parks Canada would only say that “planning continues” for a commemoration ceremony.

New panels are set to be installed at each remaining gravesite that would identify the former prime minister’s time in office, and the reasons that they, and the graves, carry national historic significance.

Cecilia Morgan, a social and cultural historian from the University of Toronto, said the usual tension that surrounds commemorations can be exacerbated when the focus is on a historical figure who has taken on a larger symbolism in the public’s mind, and whose actions or achievements are thrown under a more critical light.

“Commemoration is so often contested,” said Morgan, who studies the history of commemoration in Canada.

“What I see often is the kind of deep emotional attachment that people have, to their sense of the past and to the symbols that we create of that past that is often solidified in those particular individuals or organizations.”

Parks Canada in an email said wording on the revamped plaques would “recognize the enormous shifts in historical understanding” and “reflect on the past in the context of the present.”

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, chair of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg, said a diverse panel should debate wording on the plaques to mark a prime minister’s contributions to the country’s history, both positive and negative.

She pointed to Sir John A. Macdonald as an example: He made a contribution as the country’s first prime minister, but was also an author of the government-funded, church-run residential school system where Indigenous children were torn from their families and subjected to widespread sexual, emotional and physical abuse.

Any wording, she said, should make everyone a guardian and witness to these realities and work to ensure the negatives never happen again.

“It will not be easy. It will be very uncomfortable,” said Wesley-Esquimaux, who is also Chair for Truth and Reconciliation at Lakehead University.

“But I think you cannot get to reconciliation, or better relations, without having that conversation and without acknowledging the kinds of things that have happened because people … made decisions that had a very tragic impact.”

Aside from the plaques, the gravesite inspection reports also flag issues with rust from metal ties seeping through stones at multiple graves, and writing on markers disappearing at others because of the elements and years of problematic maintenance.

The biggest work order appears at the final resting place of Pierre Trudeau.

The grey stone, concrete and brick mausoleum has taken a beating from increasing freeze-thaw cycles during winter months, as well as stronger and heavier rainfalls becoming more frequent, which federal inspectors chalked up to climate change.

The sheet metal roof and flashing are well past their lifespan and can’t stop water from seeping in, requiring a complete replacement. Parts of the outer wall need to be carefully dismantled to repair water damage, including one load-bearing wall at the crypt of the former prime minister.

The 2020 inspection report calls for work to start no later than this fall. Parks Canada said it is developing a work plan that includes “detailed investigations (that) are ongoing with planning and design work to follow.”

Parks Canada said more severe weather related to climate change has had an impact on gravestones, sarcophagi and mausoleums it oversees. The agency added that it has increased the frequency of inspections hoping to better “recognize and mitigate damage or deterioration caused by climate change and a variety of other factors.”

Source: Federal officials rethink wording of markers at gravesites of past prime ministers

Victims of communism memorial received donations honouring fascists, Nazi collaborators, according to website

Not good:

A controversial monument being built in Ottawa to honour victims of communist regimes has received donations in honour of known fascists and Nazi collaborators, according to a list posted online by the organization spearheading the project.

The Memorial to the Victims of Communism is being financed partly through a “buy-a-brick” campaign called Pathways to Liberty, which is run by the registered charity Tribute to Liberty.

The campaign sells “virtual bricks” that appear on the organization’s website and in their newsletter. The bricks are dedicated to alleged victims of communism and include biographical notes about the individuals being commemorated.

But some donors seem to be attempting to sanitize the records of known fascists and war criminals.

An organization calling itself the General Committee of United Croats of Canada purchased virtual bricks dedicated to Ante Pavelić, describing him only as a “doctor of laws.”

Pavelić was the wartime leader of the Ustaša, the fascist organization that ran the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet regime. In this role, Pavelić was the chief perpetrator of the Holocaust in the Balkans. Approximately 32,000 Jews, 25,000 Roma and 330,000 Serbs were murdered by the regime.

If Canada commemorates Ante Pavelić or Roman Shukhevych, it can throw its human rights record right in the trash.– Efraim Zuroff, Simon Wiesenthal Centre

The same organization purchased a brick dedicated to Mile Budak, whom they identified simply as a “poet”. Budak was also a high-ranking Ustaša official.

References to Budak and Pavelić have been removed from the Tribute to Liberty website.

It’s not clear whether the donations were returned; when asked, Ludwik Klimkowski, Tribute to Liberty’s chair, said it would be “premature” to comment. Another Ustaša official, Ivan Oršanić, remains listed on the site.

An organization calling itself the Knightly Order of Vitéz purchased five bricks. “Several members of the order actively participated in the persecution, despoliation and, in 1944, the deportation of the Hungarian Jews,” said László Karsai, a professor of history at the University of Szeged.

Vitéz members included high-ranking members of the Nazi-puppet government established late in the war, which organized the deportation of some 437,000 Hungarian Jews. “It was the biggest, fastest deportation action of the Holocaust,” said Karsai. “Several tens of thousands of Vitéz members got large lands (from) Jewish properties.”

The League of Ukrainian Canadians’ Edmonton Branch, meanwhile, purchased five virtual bricks in honour of Roman Shukhevych — who led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during the Second World War and was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Belarusians, Jews, Poles and Ukrainians.

Orest Steciw, executive director of the League of Ukrainian Canadians, told CBC News that while his organization did sponsor bricks for the monument, he cannot name the individuals to whom they were dedicated because he was not the executive director at the time.

“If Canada commemorates Ante Pavelić or Roman Shukhevych,” said Efraim Zuroff, a noted Nazi-hunter and the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, “it can throw its human rights record right in the trash.”

‘They remember what they want to remember’

The UPA was the armed wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera faction (OUN-b). Per Anders Rudling, a historian at Lund University in Sweden who has written critically about Shukhevych, said devotees of this “Nazi collaborator” have been working to rehabilitate his image.

“While Shukhevych (and the OUN-b) were antisemitic and totalitarian, most of his admirers today are not,” Rudling told CBC News. “They remember what they want to remember — a sanitized, whitewashed image of a heroic officer.

“Shukhevych was a Nazi collaborator and ethnic cleanser. The units under his command massacred Jews and Poles.

“A monument to the victims of communism is fair and legitimate. Millions of people were murdered by Stalin and Mao, and there is a case to be made for their commemoration. It is peculiar, however, that people who committed genocide are being glorified along with those legitimate victims.”

Klimkowski wouldn’t comment on the specific names listed on the charity’s website.

He said that questions about the individuals being commemorated “are premature” since Tribute to Liberty and the Department of Canadian Heritage are still reviewing the final list of names to be included on the memorial itself. Klimkowski said that process should be finished by December of this year.

Canadian Heritage, meanwhile, said that it’s reviewing the list of names proposed for the monument itself — not the names listed on the charity’s website.

A troubled project

The Victims of Communism memorial project has been beset by problems. The project originally was supposed to cost $1.5 million, to be drawn exclusively from private donations, but the amount of money raised in the early years of the project was so low it barely covered Tribute to Liberty’s operating expenses.

In 2013, the Harper government pledged $1.5 million to the project, a figure that increased to $3 million by 2014. By the end of 2014, the project’s budget had ballooned to $5.5 million, with a taxpayer contribution of $4.3 million.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada initiated a court challenge of the project, arguing that the National Capital Commission (NCC) violated its own procedures on public consultation and the rules set out in the National Capital Act. A poll from the spring of 2015 found that a majority of Canadians — including nearly two-thirds of self-identified conservatives — opposed the initial project.

A NCC spokesperson said the estimated total cost of the monument is now $7.5 million, with $6 million coming from the federal government after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland included an additional $4 million in this spring’s budget to complete the monument.

High-level political support

The monument has received letters of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Green party leader Elizabeth May, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair and former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper purchased several commemorative bricks, as did Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who was the project’s champion while in Harper’s cabinet. Sen. Linda Frum is listed on the monument’s donors page as a legacy donor, having committed over $100,000.

Initially, the Wall of Remembrance was supposed to feature the names of 1,000 victims of communism, but by the end of 2015 a list of only 300 or so names had been compiled. The department said it is now looking at a list of 600 names for possible inclusion in the memorial.

Canadian Heritage hired Carleton University historian Michael Petrou to review those 600 names, but not the names listed on Tribute to Liberty’s website or in its newsletters. Petrou told CBC News there is overlap between the list of names for the monument and the list on the website.

Identifying the collaborators

Petrou filed his report to the department back in the spring. He said he red-flagged the names of individuals in that list of 600 who collaborated with the Nazis or were associated with fascist organizations that were active in Eastern Europe and the Balkans during the Second World War.

Petrou said he also flagged names of individuals who could not reasonably be described as “victims of communism.”

The Pathways to Liberty list seems to embrace a very broad definition of “victims of communism” that extends to other apparent victims of political violence and veterans of Cold War era conflicts.

The list on the website also includes people who don’t seem to be victims of persecution by communist regimes — such as Tara Singh Hayer, a Sikh journalist and activist assassinated in Vancouver in 1998, and Jagat S. Uppal, a successful B.C. businessman who was one of the first Sikhs to attend public school in Vancouver.

Tribute to Liberty’s website and newsletter say that the Pathways to Liberty project features stories about victims of communism, while the Wall of Remembrance will display the names of victims and survivors of communist regimes.

“… Visitors will see names ranging from donors’ own names or those of their ancestors to the names of historical figures and events that are important to these donors,” says a statement from Canadian Heritage, which declined a request for an interview. “These names will be linked to a planned website to be developed and hosted by Tribute to Liberty that will share the stories of these individuals, groups and events.”

Donations to monument closed now, says treasurer

The Tribute to Liberty website indicates that it is still seeking $1,000 donations in exchange for official commemoration on the wall itself and on the website. A link on the charity’s website labelled ‘donate today’ leads to PayPal and an auto-loaded $1,000 donation.

But Tribute to Liberty’s treasurer Alide Forstmanis said donations to the wall are no longer being accepted and the organization is only accepting $200 donations for virtual bricks now.

Klimkowski said in an email that Tribute to Liberty’s fundraising was finished by the end of 2017 and that all the necessary funding was forwarded to the NCC, which is overseeing construction of the monument. A spokesperson for the NCC indicated that Tribute to Liberty sent $1 million in 2017 and another $500,000 in 2018, and has not transferred any additional funds.

‘A broader effort to distort the history of the Holocaust’

Zuroff said he’s alarmed by efforts to present wartime Nazi collaborators as anti-Communist patriots.

“From the beginning of their renewed independence, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, almost all the governments of Eastern Europe — and nationalist elements in diaspora communities — have promoted the canard of equivalency between the crimes of the Third Reich and those of Communism as part of a broader effort to distort the history of the Holocaust and the Second World War,” he said.

Some war memorials in Canada have inspired controversy over their ties to wartime collaborators. A cenotaph dedicated to the veterans of the Waffen-SS ‘Galicia Division’ in an Oakville cemetery made headlines last year when Halton Region police opened a hate crimes investigation after the monument was defaced.

A bust of Roman Shukhevych outside the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in Edmonton was tagged with the words ”Nazi scum” in late 2019. Because it was suggested that the act may have been motivated by hatred toward an identifiable group, the Hate Crime and Violent Extremism Unit of the Edmonton Police was tasked with investigating, although it ultimately concluded the vandalism didn’t meet the standard of a hate crime.

Source: Victims of communism memorial received donations honouring fascists, Nazi collaborators, according to website

Canadians of Italian origin find justice in apology for internment during WW2

Somewhat one-sided account in favour of the apology as the more authoritative and critical analysis by Roberto Perrin, Enemies Within: Italian and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad, not cited (other recent critical view by Michael Petrou, The harm done by Justin Trudeau’s apology to Italian -Canadians might require an apology of its own):

After decades of digging through archival material and talking with the relatives of people of Italian origin detained in Canada during the Second World War, Montreal historian Joyce Pillarella says Canada’s long-awaited apology gives her family and others the moral justice they have been waiting for.

Pillarella started learning more than 20 years ago about the struggles of the more than 600 people who were interned when she found a postcard sent from her grandfather who was confined at a camp near Fredericton, N.B.

She then started combing through Canada’s national archive before she started talking to the families of those affected.

“When I was starting to do cold calls to try to find families, a lot of people didn’t want to talk to me,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“What I realize now is that they didn’t want to talk because they felt insignificant, their story was insignificant. They were afraid of being judged wrongly. There was the shame of the story.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to deliver a formal apology in the House of Commons Thursday for the internment of Canadians of Italian background during the Second World War for several years at three camps in Petawawa, Ont., Minto, N.B., and Kananaskis, Alta. The apology is not expected to come with individual compensation.

Justice Minister David Lametti, the first Canadian justice minister of Italian heritage, said the internment happened following an order-in-council that was promulgated by the then-justice minister Ernest Lapointe, and it resulted in taking hundreds of people of Italian origin from their families and declaring about 31,000 as “enemy aliens.”

“Not a single person was ever convicted, and in addition, people weren’t afforded due process,” he said in an interview.

“There wasn’t anything other than the fact that their name may have appeared on a list somewhere.”

Pillarella said the Canadian government asked the RCMP to prepare lists of Canadians of Italian heritage after Italy invaded Ethiopia in the mid-1930s.

She said Italian-Canadians had to do a lot of their business through the Italian consulates at the time.

“People had to be sympathetic with the consulate or at least appear to be, because otherwise they’re not going to get anything done,” she said.

Lametti said people were put on RCMP lists for having made donations to the Italian Red Cross or for being members of certain labour groups.

“It is true that the Fascist Party did have organizations in Canada but, in the 1930s, they were popular,” he said. “It didn’t mean that people were disloyal to Canada. In fact, Italian-Canadians generally were very much disappointed when Italy joined Germany in that war effort.”

Joan Vistarchi, whose father Salvatore Vistarchi was interned between June 1940 and March 1943, said the RCMP arrested her father in his Montreal apartment without giving him any reason.

“He was put on a train, and he didn’t know where he was going. Nobody would say where they were going, but he ended up in the Fredericton internment camp in New Brunswick,” she said.

Vistarchi noticed as a child her father would remain very silent on June 10 every year. She asked her mother what was wrong with her dad but her mother would wave it off by saying, “I just don’t think he’s feeling well today.”

When Vistarchi became a teenager, she learned that her father’s sadness on June 10 was because he was detained on that day.

“It was kept pretty silent for a long, long time, and then, only little pieces came out,” she said. “To his dying day, (my father) wondered why was he imprisoned or put in an internment camp.”

Pillarella contacted some 150 families across Canada to collect the stories of the people who were interned during the war.

She said the suffering of the women and the children left behind could be even greater than that of the men who were detained in internment camps.

“For the women in the 1940s, there were big families usually, I mean it was common (to have) six, seven, eight children. The breadwinner was gone,” she said. “Taking care of a household in the 1940s was a big, big job. … It’s not like today where we have appliances.”

She said families of Italian origin were stigmatized as “state enemies” and had to battle to survive as kids had to get pulled out of school, and women ended up finding domestic work on top of taking care of their big families.

“People didn’t want to hire Italians. They didn’t want to rent to Italians,” she said. “There were people that were afraid to help (Italian-Canadians) because they thought ‘Oh my god, the RCMP is watching. My husband’s gonna get interned also.”

Cinna Faveri said her father, Rev. Libero Sauro, was interned in September 1940 and was released in December of the same year. Four of his seven sons were serving in the Canadian military at the time.

Two of her brothers were airmen serving in England, and another one was a signalman fighting in Italy and Holland, she said.

She said her family, unlike most in the Italian community in Canada, was comfortable talking about what happened.

“Whenever I mentioned it to anybody, my close friends, my new friends, anybody, they’re shocked,” she said.

“They don’t know it. Nobody knows about it.”

Lametti said it’s critical to share the stories of these families through commemoration and education.

“We’re sorry,” he said, adding his message to families was “as your parents made sure that this stood as something that would make you better Canadians, we’re hoping to tell your story, so that all Canadians can be better.”

Faveri said the apology is necessary even if it’s too late.

“It’s far too late in coming. But, because for historical reasons, it has to come, even if it’s late.”

Vistarchi said the apology is important because the names of people who were interned are going to be cleared, and the descendants will be given some kind of closure.

“However, I really feel in my heart of hearts, as much as I really am grateful for this apology, that it would have been nice if one, at least one, of these internees had been alive to hear this. They’re all dead,” she said.

“Those are the ears that should have heard this apology.”

Source: Canadians of Italian origin find justice in apology for internment during WW2

Former Minister Marchi: Apologizing to Italian Canadians — maybe there’s a better way to make amends

Couldn’t resist posting this cartoon regarding the Harper government’s apologies:

Harper appology cartoon

That being said, there is considerable merit to Marchi’s arguments against apologies, even if the train left the station many governments before. But agree with his proposals to have broader discussions with all groups would be more integrative and inclusive than targeted apologies (and the one to Italian-Canadians is controversial as Michael Petrou’s article indicates The harm done by Justin Trudeau’s apology to Italian-Canadians might require an apology of its own:

Later this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to issue a formal apology to the Italian-Canadian community over how some of our fellow citizens were interned during the Second World War. This would his fifth apology for past injustices since being elected prime minister in 2015.

To be fully transparent, while I was an Opposition MP, I, too, argued for apologies towards Japanese and Italian Canadians, based on how they were treated during that war. But I feel differently today.

I have since moved towards former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s position. He argued that the obligation of a government is not to right the past. In the House of Commons, he stated, “It is our purpose to be just in our times.” He refused to play Monday morning quarterback. He instead encouraged us to learn from history, rather than apologize for it.

Source: Marchi: Apologizing to Italian Canadians — maybe there’s a better way to make amends

B.C. gives $2M to Japanese Canadian seniors as step toward righting internment wrongs

Of note:

British Columbia is offering tangible recognition of the historical wrongs caused by the province when it helped to intern thousands of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

The province has announced a $2-million fund for the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society to enhance programming for seniors and local communities.

A statement from the Ministry of Attorney General says the fund will be used to develop and deliver health and wellness programs to Japanese Canadian internment survivors.

The society and the National Association of Japanese Canadians will also spread the funding to other organizations supporting survivors.

The ministry statement says the grant is a first step toward fulfilling a provincial promise to honour Japanese Canadians by recognizing the traumatic internment of almost 22,000 people beginning in 1942.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the funding will allow internment survivors to connect with others in their community, helping them stay healthy and remain independent.

“The terrible loss suffered by thousands of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s is still impacting the community today, with many experiencing lasting health issues and trauma,” Dix says in the statement.

The Canadian government detained thousands of Japanese Canadians in early 1942 under the War Measures Act. They were held in crowded internment camps in B.C.’s Interior or were offered the option to work on sugar beet farms in Alberta and Manitoba for the remainder of the Second World War.

Their homes, farms, businesses and other property were sold off by the government and the proceeds were used to pay the cost of their detention.

Ruth Coles, president of the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society, says many Japanese Canadian seniors were forced to rebuild their lives outside B.C. and now have “unique needs stemming from internment, forced uprooting, dispossession and displacement.”

Many still feel “shame and a lack of resolution” caused by the internment that have led to a lifetime of challenges, she says.

Then-prime minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized in 1988 for Canada’s role in the internment of Japanese Canadians and British Columbia recognized the discrimination and tremendous losses they suffered when it issued its own apology in the legislature in 2012.

Source: B.C. gives $2M to Japanese Canadian seniors as step toward righting internment wrongs

The harm done by Justin Trudeau’s apology to Italian-Canadians might require an apology of its own

Pandering. Good and needed reminder of the historical record (recall this from my time managing the historical recognition program):

Canada interned hundreds of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War “for the simple reason that they were of Italian heritage,” Liberal MP Angelo Iacono told the House of Commons on April 14, paving the way for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce that Canada would formally apologize for doing so in May.

Mr. Iacono’s claim is remarkable. It suggests that Canada perpetrated a massive violation of human rights among members of that ethnic community. But if they really were interned simply because of their heritage, surely tens of thousands must have been thrown into camps – far more than the 12,000 Japanese-Canadians pulled from their homes on the West Coast and interned during the war (in addition to the thousands more forced to work on farms). There were, after all, more than 100,000 Italian-Canadians in 1940.

And yet, if we don’t count the 100 or so Italian sailors in Canada who were caught off guard by Italy’s declaration of war in 1940, the number of internees totals about 500, less than 0.5 per cent of the Italian-Canadian population. There must have been something special about them. What, one wonders, could it have been?

Fortunately, historians have studied this topic in some detail, so we have answers. Enemies Within: Italian and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad, edited by Franca Iacovetta, Roberto Perin and Angelo Principe is a comprehensive takedown of the claim that Canada waged a “war against ethnicity” when interning Italian-Canadians.

Instead, the book finds that Benito Mussolini’s diplomats in Canada aggressively promoted fascism among Italian-Canadians and met with some success – although only a small minority of Italian-Canadians were involved in fascist organizations. Such people caught the attention of the RCMP, which compiled what historian Luigi Bruti Liberati describes in the book as “a detailed picture of fascist activity in Canada, from the largest urban centres to the most distant mining camps.”

Mr. Liberati notes there are valid reasons to question the accuracy of the RCMP’s conclusions. But they were based on evidence, however imperfect, rather than on blanket assumptions about the entire community.

Mr. Liberati compiled his own biographical database of the internees. He found police had detailed dossiers indicating involvement in fascist organizations for at least 100 of them. Even 500, however, represented a small fraction of the 3,500 Italian-Canadians known to have been members of local fascist groups.

“[M]any who later professed their loyalty to Canada had in fact been fervent Fascists and had maintained their positions even during their internment,” Mr. Liberati writes.

Were some wrongly accused? Certainly, and the harm from that injustice persisted. But Ottawa’s actions were not comparable to those of a police state, he concludes. “This judgment seems to ignore the fact that fascism was well founded in Canada and that a certain number of Italian Canadians had supported it actively, not hesitating on occasion to resort to acts of violence against co-nationals and anti-fascists.”

That last detail underscores the greatest damage done by Mr. Trudeau’s planned apology. To claim that Italian-Canadians were interned because of their ethnicity suggests that they were representative of the entire Italian-Canadian community. They were not. Suggesting otherwise erases the history of Italian-Canadians who fought fascism, at home and abroad, instead of cheering its murderous advance.

Take, for example, Charles Bartolotta. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939, when Mussolini sent soldiers to fight and die alongside the Nazis’ Condor Legion, Bartolotta left his home in Hamilton, Ont., to fight the fascists in that prelude to the Second World War. A member of the International Brigades, he was killed in action in September, 1938.

Or consider Frank Misericordia, a father of four who was working at Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier hotel during the Second World War when he was recruited by the Special Operations Executive to infiltrate German-occupied Italy and liaise with anti-fascist partisans there. Five attempts to secretly land him on the Italian coast were unsuccessful, but they took their toll, as one of his superiors noted in a 1944 memo: “In this case a pension from S.O.E. would hardly be any recompense, and I recommend that his services and the aggravation of his illness through the many courageous attempts he made to land in enemy territory be recognized by a one-time bonus when he leaves the country.”

Consider, finally, all those Italian-Canadians who joined the Canadian Armed Forces during the war. They recognized fascism for what it was and stood against it. It’s their story, and Bartolotta’s and Misericordia’s, that should be celebrated. Mr. Trudeau has instead chosen to subsume their heroism in a false, overly broad narrative of ethnic victimhood.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-harm-done-by-justin-trudeaus-apology-to-italian-canadians-might/

Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Remember well the challenges Canadian Heritage’s historical recognition program uhad in working with the Italian Canadian representatives during my time there, as well as some of the academics who challenged the community narrative (Enemies Within: Italian and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad):

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will issue a formal apology next month for the treatment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War.

The government said in a news release that 600 Italian-Canadian men were interned in camps in Canada after Italy allied with Germany and joined the war in 1940.

Some 31,000 other Italian-Canadians were declared enemy aliens.

Trudeau told the House of Commons Wednesday that his government “will right these wrongs” by issuing a formal apology in May.

In 1988, Canada formally apologized and offered $300 million in compensation to Japanese-Canadians, 22,000 of whom were interned in camps during the Second World War.

Trudeau did not say whether there will be compensation for Italian-Canadians.

He announced plans for the apology in response to a question Wednesday from Liberal MP Angelo Iacono.

“During the Second World War, hundreds of Italian-Canadians were interned for the simple reason that they were of Italian heritage,” Iacono told the Commons.

“Parents were taken away from their homes, leaving children without their fathers in many cases and families without a paycheque to put food on their tables. Lives and careers, businesses and reputations were interrupted and ruined, and yet no one was held responsible.

“Italian Canadians have lived with these memories for many years and they deserve closure.”

Trudeau replied that Canadians of Italian heritage “deal with ongoing discrimination related to mistakes made by our governments of the past that continue to affect them to this day.”

“I’m proud to stand up and say that our government will right these wrongs with a formal apology in the month of May.”

The government’s news release said that in 1939, the Defence of Canada Regulations gave the justice minister the right to intern, seize property and limit activities of Canadian residents born in countries that were at war with Canada.

The regulations clearly targeted Canadians’ fear of “the foreign element,” and not a single person was ever charged with any crime, the release said.

In 2018, the RCMP issued a statement of regret for their involvement in the internment.

The government’s formal apology will pay tribute to and honour the families of each of the 600 interned as an act of respect and an acknowledgment that an injustice happened, the release said.

Canada is home to over 1.6 million Canadians of Italian origin, one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world, and they have made immeasurable contributions to the social, cultural and economic fabric of the country, the release added.

A joint statement from 10 Italian-Canadian members of Parliament, including Justice Minister David Lametti and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said many residents suffered irrevocable harm.

“They may have been Italian by heritage, but they were Canadians first. We as Italian Members of Parliament thank those members before us who brought attention to this injustice and helped bring this apology to fruition for these families in our Italian-Canadian communities.”

Source: Italian-Canadians to get formal apology for treatment during Second World War

Trudeau Sr. cabinet opposed payments to interned Japanese-Canadians

Not much new here in terms of the substance of former PM Trudeau and his Cabinet’s position but nevertheless of interest:

The cabinet of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau opposed compensation for interned Japanese-Canadians because they didn’t seem unhappy, say secret documents.

The declassified documents, obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, said the cabinet was concerned about the precedent it would set to give cash to people whose property was seized.

“Any assistance should not be addressed only to the Japanese since other groups were treated badly on racial grounds,” cabinet agreed at a confidential April 18, 1984 meeting.

The National Association of Japanese Canadians had sought for years settlement of claims over the seizure and forced sale of property in 1942.

About 22,000 Japanese, including Canadian citizens, were removed from the BC coast after the Pearl Harbour attack and taken to the interior, Alberta, Manitoba and northern Ontario.

The wartime cabinet invoked the War Measures Act and seizing more than $152.4 million worth of fishing boats, real estate and automobiles owned by Japanese-Canadians.

Then-Multiculturalism Minister David Collenette in a censored 1984 report to cabinet proposed a settlement of claims.

“Many Japanese people who were relocated stayed in the new communities and were not unhappy,” said Cabinet Minutes.

“A nation cannot go back and wipe out the past, it should look forward. A more general approach should be taken, if anything is to be done.”

“All minorities will feel they should have a right to redress. Any resolution in the House of Commons should not be related to a single group.”

Cabinet said instead of compensating Japanese-Canadians, “other ways should be looked at, for example endowing chairs at universities,” said Minutes.

“In concluding, Ministers expressed the wish that the Minister (of Multiculturalism) look at the issue again and have it discussed in the cabinet committee on social development.”

Trudeau, Sr. at the time also publicly opposed any apology or compensation for the wartime internment.

“I’m not inclined to envisage questions of compensation about acts which have maybe discoloured our history in the past,” Trudeau told the Commons.

“I’m not sure where we would stop in compensating.”

The Liberal cabinet lost re-election five months later without settling the issue.

When Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was elected, in 1he 988 formally apologized for the wartime internment and approved $21,000 in compensation to some 6,000 surviving internees.

“All Canadians know apologies are inadequate,” Mulroney said at the time.

Japanese were interned under a 1942 order that demanded “all property situated in any protected area of British Columbia belonging to any person of the Japanese race be delivered up” for sale by federal agents.

Japanese-Canadians did not regain the right to vote until 1949.

Source: Trudeau Sr. cabinet opposed payments to interned Japanese-Canadians

New documentary tells the story of Ukrainians’ role in Canada’s war effort

As one of my multiculturalism files was historical recognition of communities that were either subject to immigration restrictions or wartime internment, found this documentary of interest:

The late Ukrainian Canadian poet Michael Gowda, who in 1907 enlisted in the Canadian Home Guard and sought to create a Ukrainian regiment to serve the British army, once wrote a series of verses addressed directly to his new homeland.

Written from the perspective of an immigrant allowed to live in Canada primarily to colonize the prairie, as 170,000 Ukrainians did between 1891 and 1914, “To Canada” describes these new Canadians as in some sense merely “holders of thy soil.” To be recognized as fully Canadians, their people would have to fight and even die for Canada. It would take a blood sacrifice for their children to one day be “free to call thee theirs,” as the poem reads.

It is an outmoded vision of Canadian citizenship but no less powerful for the cultural change that has occurred since then, as Ukrainian-Canadians established themselves in Canada over many generations, with veterans of every war Canada has fought.

Award-winning Winnipeg filmmaker John Paskievich said this poem “proved prophetic.” The sacrifice was real, and the sense of belonging was finally ensured.

His new documentary, A Canadian War Story, describes Ukrainian Canadians’ contribution to Canada’s war efforts. Working for the Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre, he and other researchers tracked down details of veterans in Legion Halls and various archives, and gave voice to old correspondences.

As a story of racist exclusion giving way to acceptance, the film also offers a chance to reflect on the ethnic diversity of military service, especially from an ethnicity of Canadians who, like Japanese Canadians, were once persecuted as enemy aliens, even interned in work camps.

For Ukrainian Canadians in the late 19th and early 20th century, many of whom immigrated with the promise of title to a quarter section if they could farm it, resentment and suspicion were the norm. The film quotes then Prime Minister Mackenzie Bowell referring to the consternation felt by established Canadians as trainloads passed through Ontario on their way west, filled with “disgusting creatures… being bearing human form” but having “sunk to such a bestial level.”

That was the climate in which Gowda tried to create a Ukrainian Canadian regiment as the threat of war grew in Europe. Canada was not interested. On the contrary, Ukrainians were suspected of sympathy for the enemy Austro-Hungarian empire, whence they came. Those who were not naturalized were forced to register as enemy aliens. Others were disenfranchised, and some were interned in forced labour camps.

There were exceptions, and the film describes how Filip Konowal, a Ukrainian Canadian from the allied Russian empire, became the only Eastern European born person to win the Victoria Cross, for “most conspicuous bravery and leadership when in charge of a section in attack.”

The second wave of Ukrainian immigration in the 1920s was similarly met with broad racism and exclusion. By the end of the 1930s, the reasons for enlisting were similar to other Canadians — patriotism, duty, excitement, lack of other work — but with that added cultural sense that Gowda’s blood sacrifice had not yet been paid.

The film quotes veterans such as Joseph Romanow of Saskatoon, who described an awareness that Ukrainian Canadians mustn’t be seen as second-rate citizens, and one way to do that was to fight for their country.

John Yuzyk of Rhein, Sask., said the economic climate was also so bad that “guys joined up because it paid and you could get three square meals a day.”

Ann Crapleve of Ladywood, Man., who would later participate in reconstruction efforts after the war, said: “I was a Canadian and wanted to do my bit for the country.”

The film ends with a description of Ukrainian Canadians assisting in this effort to rebuild Europe, and sometimes finding Ukrainians in camps for displaced persons, and facilitating their immigration to Canada rather than repatriation to the Soviet Union.

Source: New documentary tells the story of Ukrainians’ role in Canada’s war effort

German Court May Reject Appeal to Remove Anti-Semitic Relic

Similar to discussions in Canada about statues of former historical figures and leaders. Believe there is a greater risk in removing the ugly parts and aspect of our history and historical figures than not, and having interpretative plaques or adjacent exhibits is a better approach:

A court in eastern Germany indicated Tuesday that it will likely reject a Jewish man’s bid to force the removal of an ugly remnant of centuries of anti-Semitism from a church where Martin Luther once preached.

The Naumburg court’s senate said, at a hearing, that “it will maybe reject the appeal,” court spokesman Henning Haberland told reporters.

“The senate could not follow the plaintiff’s opinion that the defamatory sculpture can be seen as an expression of disregard in its current presentation,” Haberland said.

The verdict will be announced on February 4.

The so-called “Judensau,” or “Jew pig,” sculpture on the Town Church in Wittenberg dates back to around 1300. It is perhaps the best-known of more than 20 such anti-Semitic relics from the Middle Ages that still adorn churches across Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Located 4 meters (13 feet) above the ground on a corner of the church, it depicts Jews suckling on the teats of a sow, while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther was added.

Judaism considers pigs impure and no one disputes that the sculpture is deliberately offensive. But there is strong disagreement about what to do with the relief.

Tuesday’s hearing was the second round in the legal dispute, which comes at a time of mounting concern about anti-Semitism in Germany. In May, a court ruled against plaintiff Michael Duellmann, who wants the relief to be taken off the church and put in the nearby Luther House museum.

Judges in Dessau rejected arguments that he has a right to have the sculpture removed because it formally constitutes slander and the parish is legally responsible.

The relief “is a terrible falsification of Judaism … a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people,” Duellmann says, arguing that it has “a terrible effect up to this day.”

When the church was renovated in the early 1980s, the parish decided to leave the sandstone sculpture in place, and it was also restored. In 1988, a memorial was built on the ground underneath it, referring to the persecution of Jews and the killing of 6 million in the Nazi Holocaust.

Pastor Johannes Block from the Town Church says the church also considers the sculpture unacceptably insulting. However, he argues it “no longer speaks for itself as a solitary piece, but is embedded in a culture of remembrance” thanks to the memorial.

“We don’t want to hide or abolish history, but take the path of reconciliation with and through history,” he says.

In Berlin, the federal commissioner for Jewish life in Germany told reporters he favored putting the relief down into a museum.

“This would be a good contribution by the church to overcome anti-Semitism,” Felix Klein told reporters ahead of the court hearing.