TORONTO - By virtually any barometer, Italy is a major player for Canada. It is the 9th largest economy in the world; a significant trading partner for us (one in need of our valuable natural resources); the 4th most popular destination place for tourism; a centre for culture, innovation, design and cutting edge manufacturing, and, now most significantly, given our interests in having the CETA ratified, the 3rd largest economy in Europe (about 50% bigger than Canada by GDP).
Italy’s Diaspora comprises 5% of Canada’s population, one that continues to distinguish itself for its fierce attachment to Canada, its progressive forward-looking sense of nation-building, its self-reliance and its global perspectives.
Building on those assets, over the last several years, Canada’s relatively youthful leadership had begun to foster closer ties to their Italian counterpart. This was until recently, most notable in the relationship that was developing between the two Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and his younger colleague, Matteo Renzi.
Alas, things have not been going well for that alliance and convergence of interests lately. Renzi, once (and still) a dynamic agent for change, is being challenged by the public and his Party, the ruling Democratic Party.
Italy, despite its culture and refinement, may well be home to the most unruly of populations. It is a characteristic cultivated over the millennia as the Peninsula became subjected to one invader after another. Over the latter part of 2016, dissatisfaction with Renzi gave birth to a slogan his political enemies used to “malign” the youthful Renzi: authority yes, but not authoritarianism.
It seemed that Nature and International events joined in a conspiracy to undermine his “decisiveness”.
The surprise Brexit outcome, and later the improbable victory of Trump, gave new life to the objections of an ever-intemperate Opposition. It claimed that Europe was of little use to Italy’s growing problems: a stagnant economy; unheard of levels of unemployment among women and millennials – approaching 55% in some regions of the South; 300,000 refugees literally “fished out of the waters” of the Mediterranean in the last two years (Canada has accommodated 30,000 in the last 16 months).
In August (and September), earthquakes levelled several towns and caused hundreds of casualties. That would test any leadership. Last week the price tag for rescue, reconstruction and restoration came in at a staggering 32 billion Canadian dollars.
Then, in December, he lost his bid to transform the political architecture of the Italian government, when the YES side suffered defeat in a national referendum. Some of the Leaders in his own Party urged on the NO vote. Italians, initially pleased to see Renzi as potentially the lead player in the remaking of Europe, turned the Referendum vote into a proxy battle against globalism and immigration.
Renzi resigned the Premiership, installed one of his loyalists as Prime Minister, shuffled his Cabinet and initiated the process for restructuring his Party. But, “it never rains unless it pours”. One of his close associates lost the vote to become President of the European Commission, to another Italian with Centre-Right background, in January.
During a PD convention to determine the party’s future last weekend, Renzi became the punching bag for every one who had a bone or a nit to pick with him. Renzi gave better than he got.
Practitioners of political science in Italy are artists in oratory and professionals in ideology and philosophy. It is a potent mixture that masks an otherwise naked thirst for power. There are “public intellectuals” by the dozens, none of them political waifs or ingénues.
Italians prefer their political strife to be resolved in the open. It makes for great theatre. But the PD is weakened and in tatters. Italy’s value to Canada as an ally in Europe and the World stage will suffer a temporary setback, at least until there is a political reset.
TORONTO - I attended a Vaughan Afro-Canadian Association event in Concord Wednesday night. To be more precise, I accepted an invitation, extended to the Corriere Canadese, to be a “keynote speaker” at the gathering.
I was prepared to speak, but I was frankly unprepared for the intensity of what I heard.
That a significant component of the Vaughan community and indeed of Canadian Society would invite the publisher of an Italian language daily to their event is flattering.
The evening was organized by mothers of children whose experience in the York Region District School Board has been a subject of concern for all thinking Canadians.
The Corriere Canadese has been covering the unfolding series of educational missteps, Administrative “lapses of judgement”, insensitivity (blatant intolerance and prejudice by Board officials) and the persistence of the parent groups to get a receptive ear.
It has not been alone in this, although the Corriere’s reporter – Mariella Policheni -, its political cartoonist – Ynot - and editorial board have been very direct in calling for a complete overhaul of the Board by the Ministry of Education.
We should have been tougher. And we should have done it even earlier.
It is hard to imagine the depth of humiliation, hurt and helplessness of the women who recounted a sampling of the experiences forced upon them and their children by an insensitive, indifferent organization whose funding source is public and whose raison d’etre is to nurture those values which distinguish Canada as a premier society in the world.
They had a difficult time holding back their tears. I thought of my own mother, and others like her who entrusted their children’s education and wellbeing to “reliable authorities” while they went to work in sweat shops or low paying service sector to augment the family income.
The mothers at the meeting were educated women. The vulnerability and long-term damage to their children even less comprehensible.
The Human Rights abuses perpetrated upon them, never justifiable, even more startling. All because of the colour of their skin.
I am glad that through the Corriere Canadese Ontario’s Italian-Canadian community was able to stand with those mothers in defence of decency and dignity. The actions of the offenders, apparently too numerous and “overwhelming” in number, could fill several books.
And this is 2017. And Vaughan’s Mayor trumpets his city’s leading edge “openness and diversity”.
In fairness, the Board’s Chair and Vice-Chair, along with two student Trustees, attended. So did one of the Ministry’s two “reviewers”.
Corriere will continue to follow these stories, but barring any compelling and persuasive developments to mitigate what has happened so far, the Minister of Education can only have one course of action open to her.
Take control of the YRDSB, start over and administer it directly.
TORONTO - I have been following the “debate(s)” swirling around initiatives like the “Legacy Group”, the representation of the Italianità in Canada and the influence of the Italian community in Ontario and Canada.
On the face of it, the former seems to be unfocused and the latter non-existant. How else does one explain the insistent efforts by at least two School Boards to eradicate the international Languages (Italian) from the extended day program. Or the absence of Italian representation in the federal Cabinet, or the silence of provincial and municipal politicians of Italian extraction on major issues of the day?
Is it because you, the Corriere Canadese refuse to give them space? I think as a community we put forward people of substance, with credentials that are at least equal to those of others. We have accomplished much in the building of this country. Its story should be our story.
It is not a story of banquets sponsored by one community group or another to “recognize” the “usual suspects” with yet another plaque. I do not want to deprecate the value of the initiatives of others – quite the contrary. This exercise has its value; but it is time that we all demonstrated our maturity as individuals as well as a community. It is time to reap the fruits of the labour exerted by others on our behalf.
To do this I think we need to have the strength to reach out beyond the “petty politics’ of party affiliations, beyond the echo of our own bell tower and beyond the sanctuaries of Academia or even the influence of Italian Authorities (directly or through their agents).
For all of their value, the Embassy and the Consulates are Italian institutions in the service of the needs of a foreign State. It is unrealistic for us to expect them to put themselves in our shoes. Nor should they. Besides our interests are long-term, the Diplomatic corps is here for a very limited time.
We need to build on the experiences and talents of those who have toiled before us in the cause of integration and validation. We cannot ignore what they have accomplished, allowing others to dismiss what has been done as little more than quickly extinguished “brush fires”.
By the same token, we cannot expect our ”youth” to be as committed to our sense of being and self worth if we do not engage them. We cannot sit by as they become “assimilated into something else”. I noted that Mr. Paina, for whom I have respect, lamented that young professionals, regrettably, have no interest in things “Italian”. He does not say why not.
For me, that is not a good enough reason to exclude them from deliberations regarding who we are. For how much longer do we keep going to the same people, “hammering on the same nail”? If we continually play the same chord, can we expect a different sound?
Today, there is much talk about how to use an asset that was generated by the sacrifices of pre-World War II Italians in the downtown area. It seems that a “process” is in place to determine its best use. An Advisory Board is already constituted to ascertain this objective.
I know this because I read it in the Corriere Canadese, which cites one of the Advisory Board members as a source. It goes on to say that once the “process” is done, the community will be consulted. May I be skeptical without being negative?
The people being consulted now are those whose handling of another great community asset – the lands on which reside the Columbus Centre and Villa Colombo etc. – has led to public acrimony and internecine law suits whose substance is generated by something other than the community wellbeing.
The Corriere Canadese has also pointed out that the Italian Authorities, the presumed (but so far unproved) owners of the Casa Italia, have embarked on a consultation of the Italian Community AND the Canadian Italian Community.
Was the Corriere Canadese able to determine how the members were selected? With respect, it seems to me that the composition of the Advisory Group has already pre-determined how that asset will be utilized.
I fear those of us who live beyond the downtown 416 area code, in the nether reaches of Mississauga, Hamilton- Niagara, Brampton Caledon, Vaughan, Aurora, Markham, Durham (I can go on and on) will be once again cast by the wayside.
We need to be inclusive now, if we want to avoid the pitfalls of the past when the good intentions and initiatives of dedicated people ended up in “tarallucci e vino”, as they say in Naples.
TORONTO - Wake up. Your Immigration policies and programs are hurting the local economy. With whom do you consult before you decide who will come to Canada and whom you will exclude? You don’t seem to have a plan, and you are bringing in people without thinking how you will integrate them into the structure of Canadian society, as we have come to know it. You are putting at risk the one industry that is 100% Canadian.
That is how the conversation over lunch with a prominent Developer/Builder/Entrepreneur began. He has been in business in this country - creating tens of thousands of jobs for Canadians and donating millions to philanthropic activities – for longer than the current (or the previous) prime Minister has been alive.
“Your policies are choking the engine of the economy in Southern Ontario – the construction sector,” he said, with the emphasis of one who lives the myriad of complex interdependent economic activities spawned by a healthy Building Industry.
My efforts to clarify my standing as a former, not current, member of government were unsuccessful. “Don’t be defensive; you have an obligation to shed light on the consequences of your party’s policies,” he said, “don’t shirk your responsibility, too many families depend on it.”
He was both frustrated and angry. We agreed to continue on condition that I keep names out of the conversation. He was a veritable torrent of facts, figures, circumstances, federal/provincial policy impacts. He also promised to provide me a memo, in confidence, summarizing “the tirade”. I received it the next day.
The [housing construction] industry is directly responsible for 26% of the goods-producing sector in Ontario. That’s not counting the multiplier effect on dependent industrial subsectors like furniture, appliances, utilities, attendant services, roads and transportation et cetera.
Yet “your short-sighted Immigration policies will wreck the market”, he said with a firmness that called for remedial action. “Don’t get me wrong, Canada needs people, talented and ambitious. My industry needs these people, otherwise we would not be in business. But of the 240, 000 permanent residents you landed last year, how many were bricklayers? Carpenters?”
Since I started in this business more than a half century ago, I have “never witnessed such a… shortage of skilled tradesmen”, he said. Drive anywhere in the GTHA and you will see “thousands of houses that require bricking, carpentry, etc.”
The business runs on presales, but if the tradesmen are unavailable, “closings” are put off. Penalties or premiums are applied. An already chaotic market is held ransom to labour shortage in a well paid marketplace.
“We’ve been forced to stop selling”, says our Builder, “because we lack the skilled tradesmen to build the houses we’ve sold”. What selling prices will be a year from now, he cannot anticipate, and can’t budget.
But if he and others like him don’t have the workers, they can’t build anyway. That becomes our problem.