Tribute to Italians in Canada: Her Royal Highness

TORONTO – By Legislation – Royal Assent, October 25, 2010 – June was Proclaimed as Italian Heritage Month in Ontario. The preamble to the Italian Heritage Month Act 2010, SO 2010, c 17, represents, historically, a validation for such an initiative.

It reads, in part, “Ontario is home to more than 1,350,000 Italian Canadians. Since the 1880s, the Italian Canadian community has made and continues to make significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of the Province of Ontario.”

Further, it adds that the purpose of the legislation is to “recognize[s] the important contributions immigrants have made in building Ontario’s communities and the economic, political, social and cultural achievements of Italian Canadians throughout the province”.

Those contributions are too easily and frequently forgotten. The Act reminds us that, “Italian Heritage Month is an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate future generations about Ontario’s rich history.” And the role that our community has played in it.

The examples – dating more than 100 years, in art and architecture – impacting Canada abound, in Toronto and other places in Ontario, which should swell the community with pride and inspire its creativity. The Consul General for Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut, Luca Zelioli, has made that part of the Consulate’s – and that of the Italian Institute for Culture, guided by Veronica Manson) – part of strategy of his mandate.

His leadership in this regard recognizes what the Consulate can/does do to stimulate the underutilized potential of the community. Witness the recent seminar on and display of the mosaics built into the ceiling of the Royal Ontario Museum by Italian artisans from Northern Italy, as well as the gusto with which Dott. Zelioli has promoted and sponsored art exhibits and displays of ‘Made in Italy’ manifestations like the Frecce Tricolori.

Suffice it to say that he takes the second paragraph above to heart. The most recent examples of his “sponsorship” prompted a noted Toronto-based, Italian Canadian architect, Rocco Maragna, B. ARCH, M. ARCH, OAA, MRAIC, to propose a series on “Italianate” architecture and Italian artisanship in the development of Toronto [over the last 150 years]. The Corriere has immediately accepted the challenge to receive, review and publish the work that may emerge.

In the meantime, as an illustration of what he and the rest of our readership can do, The Corriere is publishing (see our websites for full copies of the correspondence) the exchange of letters between him and Buckinham Palace, in 1997, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Matthew (in the pic below, from, captained by explorer Giovanni Caboto, then under the service of the English monarch.


 The Queen was scheduled to come to Canada to celebrate the re-enactment of the landing at Bonavista, “new founde land”, 1497. On April 23, 1997, Mr. Maragna wrote to the Chief of protocol, Robert Fellows, politely asking only if “Her Majesty in her speeches would […] restore to the explorer his name of origin, Giovanni Caboto.”  Five days later, on April 28, 1997, Robert Fellows responded, saying, “Your suggestion has been carefully noted”.

Subsequently, on June 24, before the Premier and other dignitaries present for the celebratory Anniversary of Giovanni Caboto’s [discovery] of Canada, she said “ I am delighted to be here to mark the anniversary of an historic event, the completion of the voyage of Giovanni Caboto, as he was in his native Italy, to Canada. […] Let us salute that brave sailor, and pray that we may, God willing, inherit some of his marvellous vision and courage.”

Two days later, Mr Maragna once again wrote to Robert Fellows, this time to express gratitude and pride in being able to raise his glass to toast Her Highness at a dinner, on the 26th. Imagine then receiving a letter on the 28Th of June from the same Mr Fellows acknowledging with thanks his intervention. All this via traditional written post mail.