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.
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”.