On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Great Britain and her allies; in reaction, the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King declared as “enemy aliens” an estimated 31,000 Italian Canadians considered a threat to the safety of Canada.
These individuals were fingerprinted, photographed, and ordered to report monthly to the RCMP and local authorities. Those considered most dangerous, around 600, were sent to three internment camps in Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick for a period of up to five years. Though lives were disrupted and reputations damaged, not one internee would be officially charged with a crime in a court of law.
Drawing from a series of oral histories collected between 2010 and 2012, Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times: Italian Canadian Experiences During World War II conveys the personal stories of a cross-section of Italian Canadians, including internees and their families, neighbours, and fellow community members, and helps demonstrate the varied and far-reaching effects of that period of time.
The exhibit will be open to the public on November 23 until March 12, 2017.