October 31, 2007

Conference examines the Italian-Canadian experience

Hamilton, ON -  Italians have been a vital part of Canada's history for centuries-after all, Giovanni Caboto (a.k.a. John Cabot) was one of its earliest explorers when he stumbled upon the coast of Newfoundland in 1497. Today, more than 1.3-million Canadians are of Italian origin, and the majority resides in Ontario.


Italian-Canadian Culture in the New Millennium will examine the immigrant experience through the eyes of writers and scholars, themselves Italian immigrants. The one-day conference will be held Saturday, Nov. 3 from 8:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers, Gilmour Hall, Room 111, at McMaster University, Hamilton.


Conference organizer Paolo Chirumbolo, assistant professor of Linguistics & Languages at McMaster University, hopes it will jump-start a new and vibrant dialogue with the next generation of Italian-Canadians and particularly the Italian community in Hamilton. 


The conference's keynote speaker will be Damiano Pietropaolo, the colourful former head of arts and entertainment at CBC Radio who began his working life in Canada during the 1960s making suits at Tip Top Tailors.


"This is a bridging of past and present," says Chirumbolo. "Memory and history are the fundamental elements of every culture, and we hope that this symposium will honour that tradition while building a future Italian-Canadian identity. Everyone is welcome to attend the conference: it promises to be quite an engaging and intense event."


Hamilton was one of a handful of Canadian cities that welcomed more than 100,000 Italian émigrés at the beginning of the 20th century. A second wave of immigration occurred between 1950 and 1970, during which almost 70 percent of Canada's postwar immigrants were Italian. In some cases Italian villages were virtually emptied of men who were lured by the promise of jobs in the booming Canadian manufacturing and steel sectors. The Sicilian town of Racalmuto was one such example: At one time there were more people from Racalmuto living in Hamilton than there were in Racalmuto itself.


The conference schedule plus a list of conference presenters can be found at www.humanities.mcmaster.ca


McMaster University, a world-renowned, research-intensive university, fosters a culture of innovation, and a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University, one of only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in the world, has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 125,000 in 125 countries.