TORONTO - Organizations are like the people who run them. They risk accusations of racism or shallow analysis for the sake of what they think is a “good product”.
In the newspaper business that means “story”. Mainstream English language papers in Toronto just can’t seem to come to grips with the fact some immigrants are actually “mainstream”. They are outside the labels of pigmentation politics, sexual orientation, capitalist/socialist divide and so on. They are difficult “to pin down”, so reporting and commentating relies heavily on the “comfortable stereotyping”, even if offends those who are subject of the stereotyping.
For example, the Star reprinted an article written for the New York Times, by a reporter with an Italian name, purporting to relate an “innovative strategy” by Italian authorities to break the culture of criminality afflicting the country.
For 2013, the last year for which both countries supplied statistics, Italy, population 60 million, reported 504 homicides; Canada, Population 35 million, reported 505 intentional homicides. In 2014, the Italian numbers dropped to 475. Not a single Italian city was violent or “criminal” enough to crack the world’s worst 50.
Unlike Canada, Italy has legislation prohibiting association with criminal organizations. The “criminal leadership”, as it were, is either behind bars or on the run. But clearly there is a vacuum filled by others with less profile. And, of course, there is the perception of a traditional, extended “Family” organizational structure that appears to have favoured those with a willingness to cross the line by providing them a network to nurture their activities. They have become veritable economic empires. Rustic folk with a powerful reach.
This “strength” has now become their “weakness”, if some enterprising Social Workers are to be believed. They are proposing “breaking up” families in order to “break up the Family”. Stellar headline writers are having a field day; the rest of us, not so much.
The theory, and plan, goes something like this: treat the offspring of convicted felons as “chattel” of “ill-begotten” gains, seize them and distribute them as foster children elsewhere in the country. Give them a new lease on life, as it were, and deprive the Family of “recruits”.
If it sounds familiar to Canadians, it is because a similar experiment with Residential Schools is part of our Legacy. Canadian governments, wrestling with the goal of integrating/assimilating the Aboriginal community into twentieth century Canadian society, came up with a policy of taking children away from their parents and placing them in residential schools to learn “the White Man’s way”.
That strategy doesn’t seem to have worked so well. There are doubtless numbers of positive outcomes. It is just difficult for us to discern them among the blizzard of negatives associate with that Legacy: disproportionate rate of poverty, incarceration, recidivism, suicide rate, dependency on alcohol and mind altering drugs…the list goes on.
Monies totalling in the billions of dollars allocated for acculturation and problem solving have done little to mitigate the sense of hurt and victimization. Litigation for redress and reconciliation continues to sap resources. One could go on ad infinitum.
Perhaps those advocates of the “break up the family to break up the Family” strategy – in a serious moment – might suggest reflection upon the Canadian experience in respect of systematic destruction of social bonds simply because they exist. With what are they to be replaced?
Our experience with “youth at risk” strategies does not seem to bear the fruit we hoped. If the current criminality (of internecine gang warfare variety) that is imposing a cloud over the GTA is any indication, surrogate substitutes for responsible parents and “family values”, then those Italian Social Workers may be in for a rude awakening.
None of us condone, much less accept, behaviour that is counter-convention, counter-productive or indeed criminal.
It apparently too much to ask that headline writers of responsible papers to think contextually prior to producing headlines designed to elicit condescending snickers and guffaws.
TORONTO - Trudeau-Trump. It is a meeting that had to take place, sooner or later; better now.
There are three main objectives: (1) “clear the air” between the two leaderships, (2) set the tone going forward, and (3) reset the goals – specifically with Europe, and CETA – on the International Trade and Global Affairs side of the equation.
On the first of these, no less a personality than former Prime Minister Bran Mulroney stresses the need for warm personal relationships between the leaders of Canada and the USA. In his view, the ability to “pick up the phone and say ‘look…some things should operate differently…”, for example, can go a long way to building mutually beneficial projects and towards solving emerging problems.
He cites the Free Trade Agreement and the NAFTA as two accomplishments completely dependant on his relationship with the then President of the USA.
Jean Chretien installed hi nephew as Ambassador to Washington as a clear message to the White House and to the State Department that the Prime Minister’s Office was there via his nephew. Or the golf course, where he and President Clinton would spend time together.
Philosophical and political differences can be resolved. If there is a will. On the “substantive” side, Trudeau’s first priority will be to determine if Canada is indeed on Trump’s “hit list”; and, if it is, what we need to do to get off.
Initial signals suggest that “familiarizing” Trump’s team with the special Canada-USA relationship is fundamental. So, we have seen the barrage of statistical data highlighting our cross-border exchanges as evidence of our inter-dependence. This is especially true in the case of 35 States who count Canadian provinces as their most important trading partner.
The temptation to shower the Trump Team (TT) with a blizzard of data to illustrate “what good boys we are” may, however, not necessarily prove so productive.
They already know that the one resource upon which they may rely, and which we have in abundance – crude oil – is currently accessible almost exclusively through the USA. In fact, Canada exports 86.5% of the crude it extracts.
Pipelines for delivery to downstream markets are difficult to get through the regulatory process and to build. And we have just said we’ll cause them to be built. TT for their part have already also said that the Obama obstacles to such pipelines will no longer form part of the Trump plan.
Forget “irritants” like softwood lumber. It forms barely 2% of the two-way trade relationship; besides Us companies already own the majority stake of the business in British Columbia, where 50% of the lumber industry is resident.
On the Trans Pacific Partnership, that deal appears to be dead. In any case, Trudeau’s predecessor, the Harper government, had already ceded to US negotiators the authority to conduct and finalize agreements for Canada.
Is it any surprise that one of the first statements by Trudeau was then that Canada would be prepared to open up discussions on the NAFTA? What else do we have to offer? Access to Europe through the CETA, an Agreement that has yet to be ratified?
From their perspective, TT will probably want to explore, not necessarily openly, the types of messages that Trudeau can deliver to Germany and the European Union later in the week. How Trudeau emerges from this meeting will be scrutinized by diplomats in Europe with the intensity matching only the interest in the outcome of an overtime in a final championship game.
Our Prime Minister can come out of this week as the star player. But, like all “star players”, Canada has its own career – interests – to consider. Canadians of all stripes will want their Prime Minister to be “on his game”.
TORONTO - The Italian Canadian community continues to pay a heavy price for errors of the past. The missed opportunities, the weaknesses and the uncertainties of a short-sighted Self-Declared Leadership have characterized their cultural patrimony, one that is not known for its growth and development but for its stagnation and, oftentimes, regression.
This is the essence of the response by Tony Nardi, a well-known dramatist, director, and writer to the challenge hurled at the community via an FB posting by Corrado Paina, director at the ICCO.
And, if at times the diagnosis of the state of health of the community occasionally coincides with that of the director of the Italian Canadian Chamber of Commerce Ontario, it is in the identification of root causes and the venues for solutions to follow that place the two in diametrically different camps.
“I share - writes Nardi - some of Corrado’s sentiments but mainly with respect to the descriptive, to the criticism of the so-called community, to what is lacking”.
However, he notes that first there has to be an examination of conscience and accepting of responsibility.
“The lack of short- and long-term initiatives over the years by flagship community organizations and their ’leaders’, in particular the National Congress of Italian Canadians, The Columbus Centre, Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association, the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario, etc., and the many smaller organizations who purportedly act and speak on behalf of the community, the collective, has been a tragic reality since I first came to this city in 1982 ”
Even the Media has its share of blame. ”Telelatino, CHIN, Corriere Canadese, and Channel 47 in Toronto, Omni Television”.
Among the many problems identified by Nardi is the debilitating, virtually total, absence of an investment in the past directed toward cultural, artistic endeavours – the creative; youth.
“The community heavyweight organizations have always favoured self-glorifying picnics and baroque shindigs over serious discussion on culture and fostering the innate and latent talents of the many community members, especially the young”.
Its time the community came to grips with its rural and rustic origins, insists Nardi; the community should acknowledge its rather populist background.
“As we know, historically, Italian Canadians hail from a mainly working class, peasant background”.
He offers that this goes a long way to understanding why “words like “vision” and “collective urgency” are not stemming from the mouths and hearts of the majority of Italian Canadians, but a small minority, as the one he is seeking to amass to take on the task of archiving the community’s history and prescribing its future.”
At this juncture, Nardi and Paina part company. “He’s my concern when I read “The Memory group” and “The Legacy group” (aptly Orwellian)… whose memory? Whose legacy? Who dictates which part of history qualifies as history worthy of the archive (and museumization) and which should be forgotten?”
“ I would feel better in a Mussolini regime, where the objective is clear, than in this morass of generic, battle-cry statements and plans, “where the Italian community plays the role of protagonist, founder, but also midwife”, he adds, as if for emphasis.
In other words, why trust in a group of community leaders who have so far distinguished themselves with their abysmal failure to write, promote the history of the community and to guide it towards a future?
Who are these Leaders? Who chose them as our spokespersons? Nardi asks if we are not running the risk of mystifying the past, a type voluntary acceptance of cultural serfdom.
Nardi admonishes in citing Orwell. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
The community needs an alternative project to the one being proposed in order to extricate itself from this muck – one less elitists and more responsive to the realities of the Italian-Canadian experience. What we need is ideas, not buildings.
Here is his proposal. “The way to ensure that control of the Memory and Legacy do not fall into the hands of a few, is to start an Italian Canadian arts and science council, no strings attached, to make sure that all Italian Canadian artists and scholars who fall between the institutional cracks of Canadian public funding, get all the support they need for any creative - or research project - they wish to undertake, and let that naturally speak for the whole community as opposed to dramaturging and forcing a collective narrative for posterity.”
TORONTO - I enjoy reading the Corriere Canadese. In fact, I read it every day.
Unfortunately, I do not [participate in the debates it generates] as often as I would wish to. But sometimes I am compelled on occasions like the one on “electoral reform”, to put other matters aside and weigh in.
I write because, as a constitutional lawyer, I have been inundated with questions and requests to be retained on the issue of the “constitutional right” to “proportional representation”, and like reform.
The CC, along with the mainstream media, has been wasting its time bantering about the “electoral reform” issue promised by the Liberals during the election, and quickly abandoned by them.
The Federal government CANNOT change the first at the post (riding) electoral system because it is entrenched and set out in the Constitution Act, 1867.
To change it, in my professional view, constitutional amendment, with the consent of the Provinces, would be required.
As a citizen, I view the election promise of electoral reform, on the scale promised, as nothing more than an election snow job. If this government had one competent constitutional advisor, they would have been told that the Feds could not go it alone. This should have been publicly put on the table, day one.
So why is the issue not framed as a constitutional amendment issue? Because most citizens attached to a political party, would rather take on a high ratio mortgage, and the government itself triple the national debt, than go down the road of constitutional amendment.
Why? Not primarily because it is too difficult and does not make sense to improve the system, but because none of the parties want true proportional representation, which would guarantee Italian or Israeli- Coalition type governments forever, and because this would require the difficulties of compromise and consensus.
Rocco Galati is a Constitutional lawyer. The text of this
TORONTO - Language and identity; experiences of the past and expectations of the future; a sense of belonging, and a need to ensure a legacy for future generations.
These form the parameters of new debate/controversy developing within the Italian-Canadian community. It was launched by the Executive Director or the ICCO, Corrado Paina on his FB. He embarked on an “edgy” and penetrating critique on the health of the Community: its survival, its growth, or its assimilation and disappearance in the not too distant future.
Paina does not mask his “concern” that the community will continue to lose “its language and its identity”.
In a rather long posting for FB, he expresses worry that we become “only members of Canadian society, but not builders of a nation.” He regrets that the community, which reacts positively in response to calamitous events, may have “built a reactive attitude empty of any strategy and vision.”
He appears to condemn current community organizations for their perpetuation of “a historical and anthropological trait” of squandering opportunities to construct a ’legacy” – an egregious example being the Galleria Italia at the Art Gallery of Ontario, now a glorified coffee bar.
His criticisms are severe. But, Paina offers that alternatives are there. “I think about the creation of national archives, of Italian and Canadian museums, on places where Italy could be the landmark, on the many Casa Italia…” he adds.
To date, he says, the absence of such things, “shows a community that is not mature” … it is [also] important that our community develops its own vision, and its own way to participate.”
After numerous consultations “with [unnamed] leaders of the community, the entrepreneurs and the intellectuals and the professionals”, he concludes that we need “a locus, a building, a landmark, a monument that houses the Italian Canadian experience. We need a place that has a permanent art gallery to showcase the excellence of art in Italy and in Canada. A theatre that stages Italian and Canadian companies. A building where Italian regions can display their products, from food to aerospace. An entity where the Italian organizations are united under the same roof…”
There is no indication of the location of such a site. Nonetheless, he announces the existence of two groups [presumably well on their way to making this happen]: “The Memory group - a group that works on the creation of a site that will feature interviews and oral history of Italian people, and, the Legacy group - a group that is working on the organization of the first forum of Italian Canadians in Toronto on the future of the community”.
He laments the…”young entrepreneurs and professionals who don’t want to be involved in the community because they don’t believe in the history of the community.” But he urges involvement, “because when we talk about our community, we are really talking about the weight of the past and the legacy that we will leave for our sons.”