An Italian Canadian
is a Canadian of Italian descent or heritage. According to the 2006
census of Canada, 1,445,335 Canadians (4.6% of total population)
consider themselves to be of Italian origin. The Italian-Canadian
population climbed by more than 12% and half (over 700,000) have
combined Italian origins along with another ethnic group, mostly
other European ethnic groups. Altogether, Italians continue to be
the 5th largest ethnic group in Canada after British and Irish
origins, French origin and German origin.
Since the turn of the century,
Italians have immigrated to the Americas in search of opportunities
to better their quality of life. Since the days of Giovanni Caboto's
voyage in 1497, millions of Italians have settled here.
Between 1876 and
1915 for example, more than seven million Italians immigrated. While
the United States proved to be the destination of choice by the
majority of these people, Argentina, Brazil and Canada were not far
behind. By 1910, the Italian population in Toronto grew and became
more permanent in the neighborhood's known as "Little Italy".
Italian immigrants used their agricultural skills, knowledge of
fruits and vegetables to established themselves in the food
wholesale and retail sector. As the people became more settled, many
sent for their wives and family from Italy. By 1921 the female
Italian population in Toronto was only slightly less than that of
the male population.
During the 1920s
and 30's the flow of immigration was significantly reduced due to
government policies stemming from social, economic and political
realities of the day. Between 1946 and 1983 it is estimated that
433,159 to 507,057 Italians came to Canada. Of these, 70 per cent
came from southern Italy, 12 per cent from central and 18 per cent
from the north. By the late 1980s several generations of Italian
Canadians, numbering approximately 500,000 people, made the greater
Toronto area, their permanent home of choice.
The world these
immigrants found was indeed different but in contrast, full of
opportunity. Today we all live and share in the society they helped
to shape and create. Brick by brick, these people helped to build
the physical structure, develop the social fabric and create the
economic environment we all enjoy. With the use of local social
clubs and associations, Italian radio, Italian newspaper, and
community centers, they protected and promoted their heritage and
As for today's
generation, they too continue to contribute and influence all
sectors of society. Whether it is the building or development
industry, the legal, political, social, education, health, the
trades, or other professions, their determination to succeed despite
the prevailing challenges, is very much alive and well. A much
improved quality of life and opportunities in reaching one's full
potential, is indeed the legacy our early Italian pioneers leave the
present and future generations. For this we are eternally grateful.
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