Italian Canadians (Italian: italo-canadesi, French: Italo-Canadiens) comprise Canadians who have full or partial Italian heritage and Italians who migrated from Italy or reside in Canada. According to the 2016 Census of Canada, 1,587,970 Canadians (4.6% of the total population) claimed full or partial Italian ancestry. The census enumerates the entire Canadian population, which consists of Canadian citizens (by birth and by naturalization), landed immigrants and non-permanent residents and their families living with them in Canada. Residing mainly in central urban industrial metropolitan areas, Italian Canadians are the seventh largest self-identified ethnic group in Canada behind French, English, Irish, Scottish, German and Chinese Canadians.
Italian Canadians and Italian Americans, % of population by state or province
|1,587,970 (total population)|
236,635 (by birth)
1,351,335 (by ancestry)
4.6% of Canada's population.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Niagara Region, London, Guelph, Windsor, Ottawa–Gatineau, Barrie, Sault Ste. Marie, Greater Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Greater Montreal, Greater Vancouver|
|Predominately Roman Catholicism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Italians, Italian Americans, Italian Argentines, Italian Brazilians, Italian Uruguayans, Italian Chileans, Italian Mexicans, Italian South Africans, Italian Australians, British Italian, Sicilian Americans, Corsican Americans|
Italian immigration to Canada started as early as the mid 19th century. A substantial influx of Italian immigration to Canada began in the early 20th century, primarily from rural southern Italy. The interwar period of World War I also instigated further migration, with immigrants primarily settling in Toronto and Montreal. After the war, new immigration laws in the 1920s limited Italian immigration. During World War II, approximately 600 to 700 Italian Canadian men were interned between 1940 and 1943 as potentially dangerous enemy aliens with alleged fascist connections. A second wave of immigration occurred after the World War II, and between the early 1950s and the mid-1960s, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 Italians immigrated to Canada each year, many of the men working in the construction industry upon settling. Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia was an influential port of Italian immigration between 1928 until it ceased operations in 1971, where 471,940 individuals came to Canada from Italy, making them the third largest ethnic group to immigrate to Canada during that time period. In the late 1960s, the Italian economy experienced a period of growth and recovery, removing one of the primary incentives for emigration. In 2010, the Government of Ontario proclaimed the month of June as Italian Heritage Month, and in 2017, the Government of Canada also declared the month of June as Italian Heritage Month across Canada.
The first explorer to coastal North America was the Venetian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), making landfall in Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador, in 1497. His voyage to Canada and other parts of the Americas was followed by his son Sebastian Cabot (Sebastiano Caboto) and Giovanni da Verrazzano. During the New France era, France also occupied parts of Northern Italy and there was a significant Italian presence in the French military forces in the colony. Notable were Alphonse de Tonty, who helped establish Detroit, and Henri de Tonti, who journeyed with La Salle in his exploration of the Mississippi River. Italians then made up a small portion of the population; at the first Canadian census in 1871, there were only 1,035 people of Italian origin that lived in Canada. A number of Italians were imported to work as navvies in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
A substantial influx of Italian immigration to Canada began in the early 20th century when over 60,000 Italians moved to Canada between 1900 and 1913. These were largely peasants from rural southern Italy and agrarian parts of the north-east (Veneto, Friuli). The 1905, Royal Commission appointed to Inquire into the Immigration of Italian Labourers to Montreal and alleged Fraudulent Practices of Employment Agencies exposed the abuses of immigration agents known as padroni. Approximately 40,000 Italians came to Canada during the interwar period of 1914 to 1918, predominantly from southern Italy where an economic depression and overpopulation had left many families in poverty. They primarily immigrated to Toronto and Montreal. In Toronto, the Italian population increased from 4,900 in 1911, to 9,000 in 1921, constituting almost two percent of Toronto's population. Italians in Toronto and in Montreal soon established ethnic enclaves, especially Little Italies in Toronto and in Montreal. Smaller communities also arose in Vancouver, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Guelph, Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, Sherbrooke, Quebec City and the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area. Many also settled in mining communities in British Columbia (Trail), Alberta (Crowsnest Pass), Cape Breton Island (Inverness), and Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie and Fort William).
This migration was largely halted after World War I, new immigration laws in the 1920s, and the Great Depression limited Italian immigration. During World War II, Italian Canadians were regarded with suspicion and faced a great deal of discrimination. As part of the War Measures Act, between 1940 and 1943, approximately 600 to 700 Italian Canadian men were arrested and sent to internment camps, such as Camp Petawawa as potentially dangerous enemy aliens with alleged fascist connections—in what was the period of Italian Canadian internment. 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. In 1990, former prime minister Brian Mulroney apologized for the war internment to a Toronto meeting of the National Congress of Italian Canadians. 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; Canada Post was also to issue a commemorative postage stamp commemorating the internment of Italian Canadian citizens, however, Bill C-302 did not pass through the necessary stages to become law.
A second wave occurred after the World War II when Italians, especially from the Lazio, Abruzzo, Friuli, Veneto, Campania, Calabria, and Sicily regions, left the war-impoverished country for opportunities in a young and growing country. Many Italians from Istria and Dalmatia also immigrated to Canada, during this period, as displaced persons (see Istrian exodus). Between the early 1950s and the mid-1960s, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 Italians immigrated to Canada each year. By the 1960s, more than 15,000 Italian men worked in Toronto's construction industry, representing one third of all construction workers in the city at that time. 90 percent of the Italians who immigrated to Canada after World War II remained in Canada, and decades after that period, the community still had fluency in the Italian language. In the late 1960s, the Italian economy experienced a period of growth and recovery, removing one of the primary incentives for emigration.
Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia was an influential port of Italian immigration between 1928 until it ceased operations in 1971, where 471,940 individuals came to Canada from Italy, making them the third largest ethnic group to immigrate to Canada during that time period.
In 2010, the Government of Ontario passed Bill 103 with royal assent proclaiming the month of June as Italian Heritage Month. On May 17, 2017, the Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly passed a unanimous motion, Motion 64, in the House of Commons of Canada to recognize the month of June as Italian Heritage Month across Canada — a time to recognize, celebrate and raise awareness of the Italian community in Canada, one of the largest outside of Italy.
As of the 2016 census 1,587,970 Canadian residents stated they had Italian ancestry — 4.6 percent of Canada's population, and a six percent increase from 1,488,425 population of the 2011 census. From the 1,587,970, 695,420 were single ethnic origin responses, while the remaining 892,550 were multiple ethnic origin responses. The majority live in Ontario, over 900,000, (seven percent of the population), while over 300,000 live in Quebec (four percent of the population) — constituting for almost 80 percent of the national population.
|Year||Population (single and multiple
ethnic origin responses)
|% of total ethnic
|Population (single ethnic
|Population (multiple ethnic|
|Province/territory||Population (1991)||% of total ethnic population (1991)||Population (1996)||% of total ethnic population (1996)||Population (2001)||% of total ethnic population (2001)||Population (2006)||% of total ethnic population (2006)|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||1,740||0.31%||1,505||0.28%||1,180||0.23%||1,375||0.27%|
|Prince Edward Island||665||0.51%||515||0.39%||605||0.45%||1,005||0.75%|
|Province/territory||Population (2011)||% of total ethnic population (2011)||Population (2016)||% of total ethnic population (2016)|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||1,825||0.36%||1,710||0.33%|
|Prince Edward Island||955||0.70%||1,200||0.86%|
|Metropolitan area||Population (1991)||% of total ethnic population (1991)||Population (1996)||% of total ethnic population (1996)||Population (2001)||% of total ethnic population (2001)||Population (2006)||% of total ethnic population (2006)|
|Toronto CMA[note 2]||N/A||N/A||414,310||9.8%||429,380||9.2%||466,155||9.2%|
|Hamilton CMA||58,785[note 3]||9.8%||62,035[note 4]||10.0%||67,685[note 5]||10.3%||72,440[note 6]||10.6%|
|National Capital Region||N/A||N/A||34,350||3.4%||37,435||3.6%||45,005||4.0%|
|Oshawa CMA[note 7]||N/A||N/A||11,675||4.4%||13,990||4.8%||18,225||5.6%|
|Sault Ste. Marie||N/A||N/A||16,480||20.0%||16,315||21.0%||17,720||22.4%|
|Metropolitan area||Population (2011)||% of total ethnic population (2011)||Population (2016)||% of total ethnic population (2016)|
|Toronto CMA[note 2]||475,090||8.6%||484,360||8.3%|
|Hamilton CMA||75,900[note 8]||10.7%||79,725[note 9]||10.8%|
|National Capital Region||47,975||4.0%||53,825||4.1%|
|Oshawa CMA[note 7]||20,265||5.8%||22,870||6.1%|
|Sault Ste. Marie||16,005||20.4%||16,025||20.9%|
Language and immigrationEdit
|Year||Population||% of non-official language mother
tongue speakers in Canada
|% of all language mother tongue|
speakers in Canada
|Year||Population||% of immigrants
|% of Canadian|
Italian Canadian cultureEdit
Radio and televisionEdit
Dan Iannuzzi founded the first multicultural television station in Canada (CFMT-TV), which began operations in Toronto in 1979. Now owned by Rogers Communications, the service has spun off into two multicultural television services in southern Ontario: OMNI-1 and OMNI-2.
In 1997, a reform of the city's multicultural television station (CJNT) saw a drastic decline in the quality of all programming and major cuts to airtime. At one time, CJNT was on air for less than twelve hours a day. The CanWest Global company later purchased the station and has since improved programming. Nevertheless, there is now little Italian programming shown.
Telelatino (TLN) is widely available through cable distribution. Though offering programmes in both Spanish and Italian, most of TLN's revenue is derived from the latter.
In Canada, Rai Italia's programming was originally seen on Telelatino, a Canadian licensed channel launched in 1984 and currently majority owned by Corus together with three prominent Italian-Canadians. TLN was launched over a decade before a RAI international TV channel ever existed. TLN had provided a level of availability and variety of Italian domestic and foreign programming to Canadians that was unsurpassed anywhere outside Italy. However, in 2003, RAI pulled the Rai International programming from Telelatino and, with the help of Rogers Communications (which itself owns several multicultural stations in Toronto under the Omni Television system), petitioned the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to allow Rai Italia to be broadcast in Canada. Although the Italian community in Montreal was in favour of admitting Rai International into the Canadian media marketplace, the Italian community in Toronto was divided, since some believed that it was a ploy by the then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to gain influence over Canadian Italian-language media. This theory may have been advanced by Telelatino's primary carriage of programming from Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset after RAI's Canadian launch.
Originally, the CRTC denied RAI's application, on the grounds that RAI had improperly denied supply of programming to TLN's Canadian viewers and that RAI's attempt to enter Canada on an unrestricted basis without any Canadian programming and financial obligations would be unfair competition. However, some Italian-Canadians could watch Rai Italia through grey-market satellite TV viewing cards that allowed them to watch US satellite television. Eventually, in 2005, the CRTC allowed Rai Italia to broadcast in Canada after a review of its policy on third-language foreign language TV services.
Newspapers and magazinesEdit
The first Italian-language newspaper in Canada was Il Lavoratore, an anti-Fascist publication which was founded in Toronto in 1936 and active for two years. Then came La Voce degli Italo Canadesi, founded in Toronto (1938-1940) and Il Cittadino Canadese, founded in Montreal in 1941, followed by La Vittoria of Toronto, in 1942-1943. After WWII came Il Corriere Italiano, founded by Alfredo Gagliardi in Montreal in the early 1950s. Corriere Canadese, founded by Dan Iannuzzi in 1954, is Canada's only Italian-language daily today and is published in Toronto; its weekend (English-language) edition is published as Tandem.
Other newspapers include Il Marco Polo (Vancouver), founded in 1974, Insieme (Montreal), Lo Specchio (Toronto), L'Ora di Ottawa (Ottawa) and Il Postino (Ottawa). Il Postino was established in 2000, by a young group of local Ottawa Italian Canadians to convey the history of the Italian community in Ottawa. Insieme was founded by the Italian Catholic parishes of Montreal but has since been put under private ownership. It nevertheless retains an emphasis on religious articles.
Eyetalian magazine was launched in 1993 as a challenging, independent magazine of Italian-Canadian culture. It encountered commercial difficulty, and leaned towards a general lifestyle magazine format before concluding publication later in the 1990s. Italo of Montreal is published sporadically and is written in Italian, with some articles in French and English, dealing with current affairs and community news. La Comunità, while an older publication, was taken over by the youth wing of the National Congress of Italian Canadians (Québec chapter) in the late 1990s. It experimented with different formats but was later cancelled due to lack of funding. In the 1970s the trilingual arts magazine Vice Versa flourished in Montreal. In, 2003 Domenic Cusmano founded Accenti, the magazine which focused on culture and Italian-Canadian authors.
Italian Canadian literature emerged in the 1970s as young Italian immigrants began to complete university degrees across Canada. This creative writing exists in English, French, or Italian. Some writers like Antonio D'Alfonso, Marco Micone, Alexandre Amprimoz and Filippo Salvatore are bilingual and publish in two languages. The older generation of authors like Maria Ardizzi, Romano Perticarini, Giovanni Costa and Tonino Caticchio publish in Italian or in bilingual volumes. In English the most notable names are novelists Frank G. Paci, Nino Ricci, Caterina Edwards, Michael Mirolla and Darlene Madott. Poets who write in English include Mary di Michele, Pier Giorgio DiCicco and Gianna Patriarca. In 1986 these authors established the Association of Italian-Canadian Writers, and by 2001 there were over 100 active writers publishing books of poetry, fiction, drama and anthologies. With the 1985 publication of Contrasts: Comparative Essays on Italian-Canadian Writing by Joseph Pivato, the academic study of this literature started, leading to the exploration of other ethnic minority writing in Canada and inspiring other scholars such as Licia Canton, Pasquale Verdicchio and George Elliott Clarke. The important collections of literary works are: The Anthology of Italian-Canadian Writing (1998) edited by Joseph Pivato and Pillars of Lace: The Anthology of Italian-Canadian Women Writers (1998) edited by Marisa De Franceschi. See also Writing Cultural Difference: Italian-Canadian Creative and Critical Works (2015) editors Giulia De Gasperi, Maria Cristina Seccia, Licia Canton and Michael Mirolla.
On October 25, 2012, the Government of Canada announced its support of a project highlighting Italian-Canadian contribution to Canada. Funding aimed at raising awareness of the contributions of Canadians of Italian heritage in the development and settlement of Canada was announced by Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation and Member of Parliament for Vaughan, on behalf of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada is providing $248,397 in funding under the Inter-Action Program to the Toronto district of the National Council of Italian Canadians (NCIC) to develop a curriculum intended for both primary and secondary level classes. The project is entitled "Italian Heritage in Canada Curriculum."
"The Inter-Action program aims to create opportunities for different cultural and faith communities to build bridges and promote intercultural understanding," said Minister Fantino. "This project will help promote a greater awareness of the many contributions of the Italian Canadian community to the building of Canada."
The curriculum will start with the Discovery of North America on June 24, 1497, and then turn to the various waves of immigrants that came to Canada from the 1800s to the present time. It will showcase Italian immigration to urban and rural areas across Canada and their contributions to the settlement of the west, then the building of railways, cities and infrastructure. The curriculum will recount the work of earlier generations of Italians, their plight during World War II when many were interned, and the contributions of more recent generations of Canadians of Italian heritage. It will also explore the wartime internment experiences of other cultural communities as well as their contributions to the building of Canada.
Notable Italian CanadiansEdit
Italian districts in CanadaEdit
Greater Montreal areaEdit
- LaSalle, Quebec
- Laval, Quebec
- Little Italy, Montreal
- Rivière-des-Prairies, Montreal
- Saint-Leonard, Quebec
- Via Italia
- Saint-Michel, Montreal
Greater Toronto AreaEdit
- Little Italy, Toronto
- Palmerston–Little Italy, Toronto
- Corso Italia – St. Clair Avenue West
- Corso Italia-Davenport, Toronto
- Maple Leaf, Toronto
- Downsview, Toronto
- Woodbridge, Vaughan
- Nobleton, King
- Bolton, Caledon
- Before it separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act.
- See Italian Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area for more detailed information. Unlike the Greater Toronto Area, the Toronto CMA does not include the Halton municipality of Burlington, and some Durham municipalities, those being Scugog and Brock, as well as those within the Oshawa CMA (Oshawa, Whitby, and Clarington). It does, however, include some municipalities outside the Greater Toronto Area, those being the Dufferin County municipalities of Mono and Orangeville, and the Simcoe County municipalities of Bradford West Gwillimbury and New Tecumseth. The Greater Toronto Area, comprises the whole of the Regional Municipality of York, Regional Municipality of Durham, Regional Municipality of Halton, Regional Municipality of Peel and the City of Toronto.
- Includes pre-amalgamated Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Municipality (Hamilton (36,145, 11.4% of total population), Stoney Creek (10,150, 20.3% of total population), Glanbrook (630, 6.5% of total population), Ancaster (2,175, 9.9% of total population), Dundas (900, 4.1% of total population), Flamborough (1,320, 4.5% of total population)), Burlington (6,325, 4.9% of total population) and Grimsby (1,140, 6.2% of total population)
- Includes pre-amalgamated Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Municipality (Hamilton (35,635, 11.1% of total population), Stoney Creek (10,705, 19.7% of total population), Glanbrook (1,040, 9.9% of total population), Ancaster (2,475, 10.6% of total population), Dundas (1,155, 5.0% of total population), Flamborough (1,815, 5.3% of total population)), Burlington (7,715, 5.6% of total population) and Grimsby (1,495, 7.6% of total population)
- Includes post-amalgamated Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Municipality into Hamilton (56,265, 11.6% of total population), Burlington (9,520, 6.4% of total population) and Grimsby (1,905, 9.1% of total population)
- Includes Hamilton (58,800, 11.8% of total population), Burlington (11,430, 7.0% of total population) and Grimsby (2,215, 9.4% of total population)
- Includes the municipalities of Oshawa, Whitby, and Clarington. See Italian Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area for more detailed information.
- Includes Hamilton (60,535, 11.9% of total population), Burlington (12,755, 7.4% of total population) and Grimsby (2,610, 10.4% of total population)
- Includes Hamilton (62,335, 11.8% of total population), Burlington (14,235, 7.9% of total population) and Grimsby (3,155 11.8% of total population)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Canadians of Italian descent.|
- Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II
- The Canadian Museum of Civilization - Italian Canadian Heritage
- Canadian Italians at The Canadian Encyclopedia
- A History of Italian-Canadian Writing
- History of Ours: History of Italo-Canadian People in Brantford
- Italian Canadians in Italy[permanent dead link]
- Multicultural Canada website includes digitized books, newspapers and documents, as well as Italian Canadian women oral history and photographic education.