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.”
TORONTO - Despite the best efforts of Canada’s major Media outlets, the Trudeau’s abandonment of the Electoral Reform initiative is as stimulating and exciting as a bottle of sleeping pills for insomniacs.
Was he – or anyone else, for that matter - ever sincere about changing the way we govern ourselves? Probably. There is no shortage of examples inefficient, dysfunctional even, crying out for adjustment or outright abandonment if one wanted to point them out in Canada’s governance structure.
Except for the odd tinkering with constituency boundaries to accommodate demographic dislocation and population growth, the structure of Federal Government has remained virtually unchanged since 1867.
Some think the model has served Canada well. They demand “reverence” for Governance institutions that have guided us to where we are today – one of the premier countries in the world, economic ally and social.
Others, think we could always do better. It is unlikely that we would find them among the ranks of the 144 first-time elected MPs in the government ranks. We might find some among the remnants of the Opposition parties who are casting about for a raison d’etre (as they should) or for issues upon which to impale the government.
The ever-ubiquitous Trump is for them a daily reminder that in a perfect electoral system, not one that was “rigged” from the get go, the Donald might well have been relegated to the dustbin reserved for electoral casualties.
He lost the popular vote by a wide margin – 3 million votes – but triumphed in the Electoral College, a body of 538 members whose majority determines who will be President. “Rep by pop” is not necessarily the ultimate model of democratic expression favoured by Americans.
Nor is it the choice sanctioned by the British Supreme Court which last month confirmed an earlier court decision essentially invalidating the results of the Brexit vote. While the popular vote in the Referendum to leave the European Union favoured a withdrawal, The Court determined that only Parliament can make that decision. The referendum is a mere guide, not a binding instruction by the public, for parliamentarians.
In Italy, where Constitutions are a “living document” (subject to change with the times), and electoral structures last as long as a chameleon’s disguise, experiments with Electoral Reform are as frequent as those applied to the Scientific Method.
Italians have tried “first past the post”, “proportional representation”, “a perfect bi-cameral system” that combines elements of both, a run-off system between the top two, and a proportional system that guarantees a majority to whichever party achieves the 40% popular vote threshold.
The latest model to bite the dust, as it were, was a Constitutional re-structuring of its bi-cameral system combined with a direct election of MPs. This proposal was voted, and approved, on six separate occasions in both Houses.
When put to the public for approval in a binding Referendum, as is required for [all] Constitutional changes, the public said “no thanks, try something else!”
What proposal did Justin Trudeau’s Ministers for Democratic Institutions (Reform) put forward? On what model(s) did the MPs on the Parliamentary Committee entrusted with providing the House of Commons with advice stake their political career(s)?
What models did the Kindergarten graduates who designed the on-line model for public input consult?
Back to sincerity. I would like to reform the system. But It would be foolish to do it for the sake of just doing it. Canada collectively has made a decision to opt for a system that comes close to guaranteeing “governability” with some semblance of authority.
When our political leaders, Academics and Media put some skin in the game to address how their proposal for Electoral reform will buttress our sovereignty against the persistent and creeping threats of parochialism and globalization, the discussion can take on a more serious tone.
TORONTO - Two weeks into his Presidency and the Donald is still befuddling his critics. It seems that they are only now beginning to discover who he is and what he represents. Too late. The election took place last November.
Since then, despite protests and the remonstrations of experts and “leaders” everywhere, he has repeatedly reinforced one theme: heck with the rules, we’re doing it my way!
Political insiders and communications professionals are developing a new industry trying to figure him out. Meanwhile, as people and the Media get “comfortable” combatting one flare-up, he starts another fire.
There is nothing he is unwilling to “offend”. He boasts about his proven business acumen (a euphuism for cutthroat, unscrupulous business practices) as he muses about or threatens trade deals. Countries – ours included – scramble to prepare for some revision or accommodation to placate his demands. Experts emerge out of the woodwork with advice on the “whys and hows”.
There is nothing to figure out. His approach is simple: “if you have what I want, I am taking It”. No ethics, no moral code, no guiding principle, no sense of collective responsibility to mitigate his approach other than the goal to “Make America Great Again”.
Everything is justified by in the context of that “ideology”, that “movement”. We’ll give power back to the people who rightly own that power, he and his surrogates repeat.
A renowned mid-twentieth century thinker and historian, Christopher Dawson, whose views were shaped by the European/World experiences pre and post two World wars, in his The Movement of World Revolution (1959), observed that those “who come to the top in revolutionary movements are never the wisest or the most farsighted of men”.
Do not expect too much, in other words. For those who followed his rise to the Presidency, Trump’s wife, Melania, made equally insightful observations: I have two boys at home, one is eleven, the other just happens to be seventy years old.
Observers are at a loss to find a rationale in his Cabinet-making, his intemperate public musings, his seemingly irrational Presidential Orders…and so on. He does not appear to distinguish between policy and process or the inter-relationship between them.
People are “piling on” with their criticism. The “ideology” and “philosophy” that served as the underpinnings for the structures that sustained social order domestically and maintained a semblance of international co-operation in foreign affairs are being challenged by the Trump Doctrine.
There are no rules but his rules. Since he has, to date, proven himself to be the most amoral of private/public figures in recent memory – at least in Democratic societies – we can expect to live under the aegis of “alternative facts”; no matter the circumstances.
His supporters (and he has many) trumpet their victory in this “war of ideas” on America’s future – and ours. In such a “war”, Professor Dawson observed that “it is the crudest and most simplified ideology that wins”. In other words, “we’re good, they are evil”, therefore all should unite behind me to right all wrongs.
If people, like the millions of women who braved great odds to march against “Trumpism” immediately after The Donald’s inauguration, are concerned, professor Dawson would remind them that history is not very comforting.
He says, the world has “seen great and highly civilized countries [become] infected by epidemics of ideological insanity, and whole populations … destroyed for the sake of some irrational slogan”.