Guards at the Kananaskis prisoner of war camp in Alberta. (Kelowna Canadian-Italian Club photo)

Kelowna Italian club to respond to Trudeau’s formal apology for WWII internment

Online presentation will discuss impact on Kelowna’s Italian community and long-term effects

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday morning (May 27) to formally apologize to Italian-Canadians for their treatment during the Second World War.

“To the men and women who were taken to prisoner-of-war camps or jail without charge — people who are no longer with us to hear this apology — to the tens of thousands of innocent Italian Canadians who were labelled ‘enemy alien,’ to the children and grandchildren who have carried a past generation’s shame and hurt and to their community … We are sorry,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau’s apology comes 76 years after the end of the war, during which the Canadian government sent more than 600 Italian-Canadians to internment camps while another 31,000 were registered as “enemy aliens.”

You can watch the full apology, along with stories of Italian-Canadians who were interned during that time, here.

Kelowna Capital News recently shared a story about a Summerland man who was sent to an internment camp during this time, leaving his farm to be cared for by his young children and wife.

READ MORE: Italian moved to Okanagan with hope; he ended up being sent to a WWII internment camp

On June 2 at 7 p.m., the Kelowna Canadian-Italian Club (KCIC) will be hosting a Zoom presentation to provide context and background for Trudeau’s formal apology to the Italian-Canadian community.

The virtual presentation will cover what happened leading up to June 10, 1940, when the government began interning Italian-Canadians. It also focuses on the impact of the apology on Kelowna’s Italian community, including how they responded and the long-term effects.

In a statement to the Capital News, President Rosann Nanci of the KCIC thanked Trudeau for his apology. “Past wrongs are difficult to correct especially after so much time has passed. The original men who were detained have all passed away, leaving their families to cope with the remaining ramifications of these actions,” Nanci said.

“This apology also brings to light the shame felt by the entire Italo-Canadese population which were felt not only by the people of the time, but for subsequent generations who had difficulty holding their heads high. So many instances of verbal abuse, acts of violence, stereotypes, caricatures, and downright ethnic racism were experienced by the general Italian Canadian population, that it is difficult for many to put into mere words the shame and anger they felt,” she added.

Nanci went on to say that Italian-Canadians are proud people and the apology begins the journey back to a place where they can be proud of their accomplishments and continue to offer contributions to Canada.

To RSVP to the presentation, click here.

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