PM Trudeau delivers remarks at reception in honour of Italian Heritage Month
What a wonderful chance to celebrate the people who have made this country a place we are all so proud to call home. Because Canada is built on the hard work and dedication of everyday women and men, just look around this room… and those of you who want to sit down, you can sit down, please
We succeed thanks to Italian Canadians who’ve made their marks as artists, innovators, business leaders and yes, just a few politicians. Of course, you already know that. After all, just like your parents and grandparents rolled up their sleeves to create a better future for you, every day you step up to the plate for your own kids and for your friends and neighbors.
My riding in Montreal is next to Little Italy. In passing by the cafés and local businesses, it is easy to see all that Italian-Canadians do each day to better our cities and country. It’s proof that diversity is our strength.
Diversity has always been our greatest strength as a country.
But as we celebrate Italian Heritage Month, I know there’s some folks here also thinking about the times when this community wasn’t treated fairly. The times when Italian Canadians found their patriotism questioned and their lives thrown into chaos. During the Second World War, hundreds of Italian Canadians were interned. People like Fred Pantalone, a firefighter who helped put out the blaze at Parliament Hill 20 years earlier, all of a sudden, this upstanding citizen was viewed with suspicion and mistrust. Men were pulled from their homes, leaving kids without their dad and families without a paycheck to put food on the table. Lives and careers, businesses and reputations were ruined. And yes, no one was held responsible. You know better than anyone why we have to face this dark chapter of our country’s history. Italian Canadians have lived with these memories for many years and deserve closure. And so, after decades of families calling for a meaningful recognition of what happened, I am committing here today, in front of all of you, that my government will issue a formal apology to the Italian Canadian community.
By commemorating the courage of these men, women and children, we will honour their strength in the face of injustice and ensure that their stories are never forgotten.
Just as we look to the past, we must also think about the future. The contributions of Italian Canadians go beyond our borders. You create bridges that cross the oceans. When I was in Taormina, Italy, for the G7 Summit a few years ago, I was able to note the close ties that unite our countries and constituents.
It won’t come as news to anyone here that we depend on our relationship with Italy, from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the technology that makes our days easier. And this partnership is only getting stronger. To support our businesses and to create more middle-class jobs, we are going to open a permanent trade office in Milan.
And because we know that the future between our two countries is bright and young people are the embodiment of that future, we are currently working on new opportunities for them, by modernizing our Youth Mobility Agreement.
The friendships between Canadians and Italians run deep, and it’s up to us to support that. When I had the honour of a private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis, I was reminded that these ties go to the very heart of people’s lives. His message, not just of faith, but of hope and inclusion, is one that we can all live by.
My friends, the values that this community embodies, hard work, family and generosity, these are the things that we all hold dear. And whenever you reach out your hand to a stranger in need, or use your time to help a neighbor, you bring those values to life. Truly, that is something to celebrate.
So thank you for having me here tonight. Have a great evening everyone and happy Italian Heritage Month.
Grazie mille, cara amiche.
Thank you, Grazie.