On June 10, 1940 days after Canada joined Britain in declaring war against Mussolini’s Facist government, thousands of Italian immigrants of every age across the country were rounded up by authorities, questioned, fingerprinted and detained. Labeled as ‘enemy aliens’ for suspected sympathy with Fascist ideals, more than 600 of those detained were sent to remote internment camps across the country – stripped of their possessions and their dignity, their families were left to pick up the pieces not knowing when their loved ones would return.

This same scene would play itself out in the U.S., in Britain, and Australia.  Find out what happened and why.

LITTLE ITALY BEFORE WWII Before the start of WWII, Little Italy’s in Canada, U.S., U.K. and Australia were well established; 20,000 plus in the U.K., 10,000 in Australia, and the largest group in the U.S. where they numbered more than 4 million. In Canada, many Italian immigrants passed through the now famous Pier 21 - registering more than 30,000 Italians by 1920*.
*numbers provided by thecanadianencyclopedia.com
THE RISE OF FACISM Former journalist turned politician Benito Mussolini secretly enlists the help of Italian consulates overseas and organizations like the Dopolavoro (a recreational and social club run by the Fascist party) to recruit members to the ‘Fascio’ by involving Italian immigrants overseas in a variety of social events and activities. Italian Canadian WWI Vets are encouraged to sign membership cards to show their support for their homeland and inadvertently become targets of RCMP surveillance campaigns ordered by the Canadian Government under the War Measures Act, informally known as “The Enemy Aliens Act”.
JUNE 10, 1940 On June 10, 1940, Mussolini’s Fascist government declares war against Britain and France. In Canada, the RCMP begins the largest round up of suspected ‘enemy aliens’. Hundreds of men, and women of every age (some as young as 16 and some as elderly as 90) are arrested and detained – in Toronto, they are held in a stadium on the CNE grounds. In Montreal, they are loaded onto paddy wagons and paraded down the streets of Little Italy. > Read the RCMP Surveillance Reports

LIFE AS AN INTERNEE / POW The now infamous Camp Petawawa officially opened on September 23, 1939 and held 800 internees - the majority were German and Italian until the Japanese prisoners of war (POWs) arrived during the winter of 1941. > RCMP Reports
Author Roger Kershaw from the U.K. National Archives describes the trials and internment of Italian and Germans.
These are images of various artifacts and mementos made by Internees at Camp Ripples in New Brunswick and Camp Kananaskis in Alberta. They appear courtesy of NB Internment Museum Director Ed Caissie. > IMAGE GALLERY
LIFE AS AN 'ENEMY ALIEN' Even though only approximately 600 Italian Canadians were interned during the period between 1940 and 1945 thousands of other Italian Canadians were imposed the ‘enemy alien’ status. Life on the outside was in some ways harder on those left behind. Find out why… > RCMP Reports
THE REDRESS CAMPAIGN There were several redress campaigns that emerged in the late 1980’s. One campaign began in 1988 by the (CIBPA) or Canadian Italian Business and Professional Men’s Association whose president was internee Antonio Capobianco of Montreal and another campaign was started by the (NCIC) or National Congress of Italian Canadians - National Executive in Toronto by lawyer Annamarie Castrilli and then President of the NCIC. > RCMP Reports
> Read Bill C-302

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