Fascism and the Italians of Montreal: An Oral History, 1922-1945


224 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55071-058-3
DDC 971.4'2800451





Translated by George Tombs
Reviewed by Bruce Grainger

Bruce Grainger is head of the Public Services Department, Macdonald
Library, McGill University.


The 13 interviews in this book are preceded by background information on
the Italian community in Montreal from the 1920s to the wartime years.
All but three interviewees were Italian Canadians of some importance
during the period under consideration. The exceptions are novelist Hugh
MacLennan, Senator Maurice Riel, and John Ciaccia (of Italian background
and a member of Quebec’s National Assembly in the 1980s).

The Italian community in Montreal, as described here, was
overwhelmingly illiterate and working class, and its members were
heavily influenced by their fascist-oriented Catholic priests. The
priests’ fascism was consolidated by Mussolini’s agreement with the
Pope to establish Vatican City in 1929. (The [in]famous mural of
Mussolini astride a white horse still adorns the Madonna della Difesa
church.) Consular officials of the fascist Italian government also had
great influence over the community. Nonetheless, some degree of
political (antifascist) and religious (Protestant) dissent did exist in
the community.

When Mussolini entered the war on Hitler’s side, the Canadian
government responded by imprisoning several hundred Italians on
suspicion of disloyalty. Many of the interviews reveal an at times
fractious community in which old enemies are still vehemently denounced
50 years later. For the most part, members of the Italian community are
portrayed as hardworking, living traditional Italian lives, and trying
to survive in difficult economic circumstances. Unfortunately, the
interviewer has allowed his own preoccupations and opinions to intrude
on the interviewing process. For this and other reasons, the quality of
interviewing suffers.


Salvatore, Filippo., “Fascism and the Italians of Montreal: An Oral History, 1922-1945,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/2204.