​January 2011

DESPATCHES

 

Health and Immigration

by Giulia De Gasperi

When immigrants arrive in Canada, they are typically in better health than their Canadian-born counterparts, according to a study released by Statistics Canada. However, this “healthy immigrant effect” may gradually diminish over time. The transition to poorer health among immigrants has been found in general self-reported health, mental health status, the prevalence of chronic diseases, and birth and death outcomes.

A wide variety of pre- and post-immigration demographic, socio-economic and behavioural factors have been proposed as contributors to this health decline, among which is how well individuals are able to function in the language of the new country.

The study looked at the health of 7,716 respondents surveyed 6, 24 and 48 months after arrival from Asia, South America and Africa from 2001 to 2006. The results showed that the prevalence of poor self-reported health had risen substantially, especially among women, after four years in Canada. Prolonged limited official language proficiency was strongly associated with a transition to poor health among male and female immigrants who had earlier reported good health. Refugee status, self-reported discrimination, and living in Vancouver were significant for men. Age, health-care access problems, and limited friendliness of neighbours were significant for women.

 Those who gained language proficiency were found to have a health outcome similar to those with persistently good language proficiency. This suggests that the benefits of acquiring official language skills may not only be social and economic, but may also be associated with the maintenance of health (Source: Statistics Canada)

 

Rare Italian Constitution Document in Montreal

Rare Italian Constitution Document in Montrealby Cristina Grassi

A rare copy of the Italian Constitution is now housed at the Casa d’Italia Community Centre in Montreal. There are only 999 certified copies of the Italian constitution, and only two are outside Italy: one is in Chicago, and now one is in Montreal.

The copy at the Casa d’Italia is contained in a box with a medallion of pure gold representing the document’s 60th anniversary. It was gifted to the Casa, on the occasion of the Casa’s 75th anniversary, by Giovanni Chieffalo, who is at once “consultore” for the Calabria region and president of the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association (CIBPA). The document was offered by the regional government of Calabria. “The Casa is where such a document belongs,” declared Chieffalo, “a place that celebrates who we are and where we come from.”

The Italian Constitution was ratified on December 22, 1947 by the constituent assembly: 453 votes in favour, 62 votes against, and 3 abstentions. It marked the birth of the Italian Republic and the abolition the Savoia monarchy, which had governed Italy since its unification in 1860. The supreme law of the land, the Italian constitution is considered one of the best such documents in the world.

 

Immigrants and their Mother Tongue

by Giulia De Gasperi

 

A report by Statistics Canada confirms that knowledge and use of immigrant languages tend to disappear by the third generation. Several factors influence whether immigrant languages are passed on from one generation to another, the most important being the extent to which children are exposed to those languages within the family.


The report is based on a study that analysed the evolution and intergenerational dimension of the transmission of immigrant languages by comparing data from the censuses of 1981 and 2006. It looked at the situation of immigrant mothers with Canadian-born children under 18 in 1981 and that of their daughters 25 years later, who were between 25 and 42 and who were mothers themselves.

Results show that between 1981 and 2006 the composition of immigration to Canada changed considerably, and that the changes may have had a major impact on the immigrant-language transmission. In the 1981 census, the immigrant mother tongues were mostly European languages, and were passed on to 41% of Canadian-born children. Italian was passed on to 52% of children.

In the 2006 census, immigrants came mostly from Asia and Latin America and their languages were passed on to 55% of Canadian-born children. The intensity of immigrant-language transmission increased in the majority of the language groups, except for European languages, including Italian, which in 2006 was passed on to only 22% of Canadian-born children.

Whereas 41% of mothers passed on their language in 1981, the corresponding proportion for their daughters 25 years later was only 23%. Different factors can influence this decline, among them interethnic marriage and level of education.

Looking at language over three generations and across language groups, only 10% of the grandchildren of the 1981 first-generation immigrant mothers have the same mother tongue as their mother and grandmother. This was equally true for Italian.

The steady influx of new immigrants had a positive influence on the transmission of immigrant mother tongues, both in 1981 and 2006. These new immigrants generally did not have as a good knowledge of Canada’s official languages, and they tended to concentrate in cities and form “ethnic” neighbourhoods where the use of English and French was less widespread and less essential in everyday life. However, as first-generation immigrants aged and were not replaced by new migratory flows and their descendants decreased their use of the immigrant-language, the language was less able to sustain itself (Source: Statistics Canada).

 

Antonio DiVerdis’ Many Roles

by Maria Ierfino
Accenti Despatches Issue 24Following the critical success of his first feature film, South of the Moon (a sentimental tale of love, acceptance and redemption involving a pensive twelve year-old swimmer) which won the 2009 Tiburon Film Festival award of excellence, Montreal musician and songwriter Antonio DiVerdis is giving filmmaking another go with a Hitchcock-style romantic thriller. Says DiVerdis of his latest project, “I have finished writing the script and am currently recruiting prominent Quebecois actors for the movie. I fully accept the challenges of being an independent filmmaker.” DiVerdis is partnering with his better half, Rosina Bucci (a casting director for Elite Casting), and co-founder of Stargaze Pictures.

DiVerdis first came into prominence in the disco era of the eighties, writing a string of pop and disco songs under the pseudonym Tony Green, including the singles, Everybody Get Up and Boogie, recorded by Freddie James and Come to Me, recorded by France Joli. Last January, Come to Me was released by Danyka with an electro-pop dance arrangement and enjoyed a three-month run at the Guzzo Cinemas.

Before working in the music business, DiVerdis, whose birth name is Antonio Mazzone, obtained a Bachelor of Education degree to please his parents, and taught at Laurier MacDonald High School in Montreal. But his passion was for song writing and singing. He would bring his guitar to work and play for his students in the classroom. Soon, he left teaching to pursue his dream.

Still, he thanks his parents for inspiring him with their love of music and the arts in general. They passed away over twenty years ago, but they lived long enough to enjoy their son’s success.

As a writer, musician and filmmaker, DiVerdis must be at ease in several roles – something he relishes and for which he will not compromise, despite the financial challenge.

 

CIBPA Awards Bursaries

by Domenic Cusmano


CIBPA Awards and BursariesLast November 25 saw the awarding of 50 scholarships and bursaries to 50 meritorious students of Italian descent by the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association (CIBPA) in Montreal. The gala event, held at the Plaza Volare Crowne Plaza, saw over 400 attendees, among recipients, family, friends, donors and guests.

The 50 awards corresponded to the number of years the CIBPA Bursary Program has been in existence. In all 150,000 dollars were awarded, with the top amount of 4000 dollars awarded to doctoral students. Over the last 50 years more than 3.1 million dollars has been awarded by the business group to 1750 students. Among the guest speakers was notary Raffaele Esposito, the last survivor of the founders of the CIBPA bursary program, who expressed both pride and satisfaction that 50 years after its humble beginnings – in 1961 the CIBPA awarded four bursaries totalling $1000 – the CIBPA bursary program had helped so many young people. “I was privileged to go to university and I always thought it was unfair that many talented and equally ambitious young people might not have the same opportunity.”

“Achievement in school is the basis for being successful in life, something we all aspire to,” said CIBPA president Giovanni Chieffalo. “Helping the up-and-coming generations to succeed in school and contribute to cultivate their passion, curiosity, creativity and social responsibility should be a common goal for all of us who came before.”

The 50th anniversary gala over, preparations – and fundraising efforts – are underway for next year’s CIBPA bursaries, so mark your calendars and think about making a donation!

A Question of Loyalty

When the Second World War broke out, 4500 Italian-Canadians were living relatively normal lives in Vancouver. On June 10, 1940, when Fascist Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini joined forces with Nazi Germany, Italy was suddenly at war with Canada. Any sense of normalcy in this community vanished. Their lives were forever changed.

Canada’s federal government of the day invoked the War Measures Act, which led to the detainment and internment of 44 Italian Canadian men residing in Vancouver. These heads of households were taken to camps away from their families. Around 2,000 more were designated as “Enemy Aliens.” While not interned, they had to report to the RCMP every month. The developments had profound psychological and financial effects on these individuals and their families.

Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre (ICC) has been awarded federal funding for three major projects, collectively called A Question of Loyalty, including a book, a play and a museum exhibition, to explore and examine this little-known but significant part of Vancouver’s Italian-Canadian history.

Local author Ray Culos is writing a book, Injustice Served, the story of BC’s World War Two Italian Enemy Aliens. Vancouver theatre company Bella Luna Productions and playwright Lucia Frangione are creating a new play, Fresco, about the lasting impact of the internment on one woman’s family.

Il Museo, the museum at the Italian Cultural Centre, will feature a special exhibition called Beyond the Barbed Wire: experiences of Italian Canadians in World War Two, to examine the effects of the War Measures Act on the local community.

The project will be launched March 6, 2012, at the ICC. The play will be performed March 21-31 at theatres in Vancouver and Burnaby. Attendees on March 6 can view the thought-provoking exhibit, obtain a copy of Ray Culos’s book and reflect on complex events that, while legal at the time, are not consistent with the values of present-day Canada.

Italian-Canadian of the Year

by Ray Culos

Italian Canadian of the YearMichael Bublé was presented with this year’s Italian Canadian of the Year award by the Confratellanza Italo-Canadese Society of Vancouver in October. The appearance by the 36-year old international singing sensation at the Italian Cultural Centre wowed his hometown fans, but what really rocked the sold out crowd were the tasteful quips which he cleverly segued into his acceptance speech. Among those offering a rousing standing ovation were sport personalities Ron Toigo, Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford and Francesco Aquilini, owner of the Vancouver Canucks. Other notables included Wayne Wright, Bruce Allen and CBC comedy team Brent Butt and Nancy Robertson.

A proclamation read by Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson reminded everyone just how accomplished this Canadian Italian really is. “Michael Bublé is an international superstar who has sold 35 million albums world-wide, has won three Grammy Awards and ten Juno Awards, has performed to sold-out crowds, and was a torch bearer at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics where he also performed. He gives back to the community as a major fund raiser for the BC Children’s Hospital and Variety Children’s Charity.”

Next to congratulate Bublé was celebrity radio host and Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee Red Robinson. Robinson recounted how, after doing conventions, Bublé was invited to sing at Brian Mulroney’s daughter Caroline’s wedding, where he met David Foster. Foster would take Bublé to Hollywood, where Paul Anka helped him produce a first-class album. Recently, Forbes Magazine listed Bublé as the number five top earner in the last 12 months in the field of popular music, behind Elton John. In Robinson’s words, “Michael is carrying on a tradition started in the 1950s by Italian greats Dean Martin, Bobby Darin (Cassotto) and Frank Sinatra.”

Extending his arms forward like a cleric, Bublé began his acceptance speech by telling his audience, “You may be seated. I’m proud to be the Canadian-Italian… and I thank you for this honour tonight. Have a wonderful evening and enjoy the dancing. Oh, shit. I got the wrong page. I’ve read the back page first!”

Bublé expressed his humility in being honoured, but continued on a humorous note: “It’s the most humbling evening for me – being made Italian-Canadian of the Year. When I look at the list of past recipients of this award, they’re all giants in the Italian community. And that’s saying a lot because there are a lot of short, fat Italians out there.”

In the audience were many of Michael’s life-long friends, his nonno and nonna Santaga and, of course, his mother and father, Lewis and Amber Bublé. “One of the advantages in my career is that I have had an opportunity to travel all around the world,” Bublé went on, reminiscing about his trip to Italy in 2004.

“My grandfather Santaga was born in a place called Saunders Creek, Alberta. And, of course, it was my great-grandparents who came from Italy. So, you might say, how Italian could I be when I’m third generation Canadian. But I promise you something… what I feel is when you come from another country you hold on so tightly to your culture, and it means so much to you [that] sometimes I feel our family is more Italian than the families that live in Italy.”

“It’s a huge honour tonight, really, to be here with you and to share this with you, but I have to say that whenever you see me, whether it’s someplace like this or whether on stage or an arena or television and whenever you applaud me, you’re also applauding for my grandfather Santaga,* because without him I would not be here tonight. Thank you everybody. Enjoy the night.”

* In August, Michael’s 84-year old grandfather Demetrio (Midge) Santaga was flown to Los Angeles, where a team of heart surgeons awaited his arrival. Instructed to convalesce six to seven weeks, nonno Santaga was discharged from hospital in time to return home so that he could see Michael receive his Italian-Canadian of the Year award.

 

 

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