Corriere Canadese

The government should protect Columbus Centre and Casa Italia
 
TORONTO - I write as an “Italo-Canadian” Citizen, and constitutional lawyer who has dedicated his professional life to protecting the Canadian Constitution and rights under it, outraged at what my government of Ontario is allowing to happen, in dereliction of its duty, to Columbus Centre and “Casa Italia” (the Italian Consulate at Dundas and Beverly streets), in Toronto. While I am an extremely busy lawyer, trying to do my other work, my phone will not stop ringing over these two issues.
Mark Twain once said to the effect that: “History never exactly repeats itself, it echoes”.
Under the guise of “development”, plans are well in the works to take possession of lands, and these two buildings, in Toronto, and demolish these cultural institutions of crucial importance to the Italo-Canadian community, in purported pursuit of condominium and other commercial development. A community that has made longstanding and significant contributions to our Canadian society at large of whose fabric we are a proud member.
Cultural deracination and colonization is not new to Canada. Unfortunately, the country was built on it, and too often degraded by it.  Despite calls, commissioned Inquiry, and recommendation for Reconciliation, even the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, continue to struggle to resist the continued persistence and impact today.
While it does not “surprise” me that this is again happening to our community, in line with the such historic racism as the WWII interment and property theft of Italo-Canadians on June 10th, 1940, and resistance to using John Cabot’s and Christopher Columbus’ real, Italian, names in Canadian history books, it is still appalling and unacceptable. My community, unfortunately, is not unique to this racially criminal tragedy.
“Deracination” and “colonization”, the erasure of the culture of a people, and the physical destruction of cultural heritage is currently being advanced, and prosecuted, as a crime against humanity, in international law, under the Rome Statute (international treaty with respect to Crimes Against Humanity) which is imported and reproduced in our Criminal Code. This is understandable given the avalanche of history, and the destructive effects of these acts and policies. 
This is again what is echoing to us in this city by the proposal, full steam ahead, to demolish Columbus Centre and Casa Italia, notwithstanding that they historically belonged to, and were essentially paid for, by members of my community, and then (mis) appropriated by private and government hands without clarity, clarity of title and/or right, nor any transparency of legal process.
Notwithstanding all and any of the above, both buildings and sites need, and should be protected by Heritage status by your Ministry and our Government of the day, with a prohibition against demolition. I am requesting, and respectfully demanding, on my behalf and the Italo-Canadian community, that you exercise your authority and statutory and constitutional duty, pursuant to s.34.5, et. seq. of the Ontario Heritage Act and designate these two buildings and sites as “properties of cultural heritage value and interest of provincial significance”, as they are vital and crucial to the cultural heritage of not only Italo-Canadians, but also Canadian heritage, history, and significance, which meet the guidelines and Regulations under the Ontario Heritage Act. 
To demolish these two sites is to easily pave the way to pretend that our contributions to this City, Province, and Canadian Society, never took place. History is that easy to erase.
Our Provincial government is thus complicit in this erasure, and act of deracination and continued colonization, as well as the destruction of cultural heritage, in its refusal to act.
I, and the rest of my community, want you and our Government to know that we know that our Government’s failure and refusal to act, despite requests, is with knowledge and intent to do just that: erase our history and contribution from this society and replace it with a useless “Italian Heritage Month”, which our Government has done. 
There are twelve months in my, your, our, Roman calendar. Not a condescending and racially diminutive one, as we are equal Canadians twelve months of the year. 
I posit the idea of taking the site at the North-West corner of Queen and University, and demolishing that two-story little building (“Campbell House”) on that prime real-estate. Campbell House, a building that was physically transported from another physical site to preserve its importance. Or George Brown’s on Beverly up the street from Casa Italia? This would be unthinkable. Why? Because these are different tribes with a racially Superior priority? Yet Columbus Centre and Casa Italia are to be demolished without a thought?
We do not, despite the depravingly pathological and criminal history of this Country, when it comes to race and culture, see ourselves, our place, our dignity, as “inferior” to the main-stream tribes who hold political power. We do not see, nor accept, the notion of being “lesser” Canadians or Ontarians.
We will not accept this without holding our Government, and the private actors, politically and legally accountable.
You, your ministry, and our Government need to act on this issue. If you do not, you and our Government do not deserve a single Italo-Canadian vote in any future election.
This, particularly so with the elected Italo-Canadian MPPs of our Government, who acquiesce  to this, and “omit” to act, as collaborators in cultural erasure, deracination, colonization, and in effect, a form of continued cultural cleansing.
Our Government will be taken to political and legal task at the polls and in the Courts, along with the private interests involved.
In the end, “win or lose”, the reality of what is actually happening, and why, is clear to the vast majority of our Italo-Canadian community, as well as other communities who have suffered and continue to suffer similarly deplorable, unacceptable, and legal and constitutional violations, indignities, and treatment. 
 

About the Author

Rocco Galati