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We have written often of the troubling precedent set by the Prime Minister in creating the Gomery Commission by Order-in-Council and mandating it to operate without regard to the guarantees of due process and protections of rule of law in section 7 of the Charter of Rights. We have seen what this has done to the reputations of the innocent through the spreading viruses of innuendo and invective; testimonies built on half-truths; and insinuations of guilt by association.
But perhaps the most troubling aspect of this type of Inquiry, and this type of evidence, is the character assassination it leads to, not only of individuals but of whole groups. This is the truly McCarthyite result of this process.
Perhaps no other community has suffered as much negative caricature and borderline racism as the Italian. A community without which this city, this province and indeed this country could not have attained the growth and grandeur they have. What has gone on in the media, and sad to say particularly in the francophone sector, is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the Groulx-Arcand-Duplessis era. It shames us all.
Canada is not in John Porter’s phrase “a vertical mosaic”. It is a good and gentle land where each new immigrant wave brings with it a diversity and daring that propel every generation to new levels of greatness. But each wave also faces the stubborn cynicism and peculiar prejudices of our founding cultures. It is every generation’s duty to guard against the renewal of that cynicism and those prejudices that poison the wells of this northern dominion.
We are proud that Institute Council member Nino Colavecchio, President of the National Congress of Italian-Canadians, decided to speak out this past week on this vital issue. Reproduced below is an open letter to his fellow Canadians that ran in the National Post and, following that, is an interview he gave to the Montreal Gazette.
Please take a few moments to read them. They are the message and metaphor of the civil and human rights we claim to hold so dear. It’s time we restated those claims with a candour and clarity that our political elites have forsaken. If we fail, we will surely fall victim to the prophecy in song that “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!”
UNCALLED FOR AND INSENSITIVE
April 30, 2005
On behalf of 1.2 million Italian Canadians whom the National Congress of Italian Canadians (NCIC) represents, we herein express our shock and objection to the unjustified, unwarranted allegations and aspersions cast upon our community by the editorial which appeared in your newspaper on April 8, 2005 entitled "Mamma Mia! Che Scandalo!
We are astonished as to how the National Post, a respected media giant could allow the dissemination of such an article to the detriment of not only our community but to the multicultural Canadian society as well.
Although we take no objection to the reporting of the event in this case, Jean Brault's testimony before Mr. Justice John Gomery, its relationship and generalization to the entire Italian-Canadian community is uncalled for and insensitive.
The so-called "mob flicks" scenario depicted; the reference to "spaghetti fundraiser"; and the statements "What next"? An invitation to play bocce ball with Jimmy the Clam? Being overfed pasta by an Italian mamma bleating "mangia, mangia?" are distasteful, deplorable and serve no purpose but to negatively stereotype our community.
The editorial then states that “Not only did Adscam cost Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars, it set back public perceptions of Italian-Canadians by a generation", which statement is defamatory.
Canadians can be trusted to understand the difference between the actions of a few individuals and the positive contributions of an entire community. The Italian-Canadian community has contributed in every facet of Canadian life and concomitantly has proudly and positively enriched this great country we call Canada.
It is herein kindly requested that you take immediate and necessary steps to correct these ill founded allegations and misconceptions.
National Congress of Italian Canadians
(from l. to r.) BPW, Dominic Spiridigliozzi, Chairman of the English Monstreal School Board and Institute Council member Nino Colavecchio, President of the National Congress of Italian-Canadians
Papers panned for Mafia allusions
Caricatures unfair, says president of Italian-Canadian group
April 28, 2005
For Nino Colavecchio, the severed horse's head in Paul Martin's bed was the last straw.
The caricature in yesterday's Journal de Montreal was just the latest in a series of insults hurled at the Italian-Canadian community by the media since the Gomery inquiry began, said Colavecchio, president of the National Congress of Italian Canadians.
"It's in bad taste and it's going too far," he said. Colavecchio is not alone in feeling Italian Canadians associated with the sponsorship scandal are encountering more than their fair share of mobster metaphors.
The Journal de Montreal was not the only newspaper cited for constantly rehashing the Mafia theme. Colavecchio mentioned a Calgary newspaper that used a "Mafia undertone" throughout a story about a soccer team visiting from St. Leonard. Le Journal's Franco Nuovo quotes Gagliano phonetically, taking advantage of the fact Gagliano speaks with a heavy accent and looks like a movie mobster, he added.
But Colavecchio took particular offence to mentions of "spaghetti fundraisers" and "mob flicks" in an editorial by the National Post about advertising agency owner Jean Brault's testimony at the Gomery inquiry, which detailed cash payoffs at Italian restaurants in Montreal.
"What's next," it read, "an invitation to play bocce ball with Jimmy the Clam? Being overfed pasta by an Italian mamma bleating, 'Mangia, mangia’?” "Hundreds of others have been cited during the Gomery Commission, but some guy in the east end of Montreal happens to have an Italian name and he gets all the attention," Colavecchio said. "It's non-stop."
Jonathan Kay, the National Post's managing editor, comment, defended the editorial as satire, though some readers "did not get the joke."
"But the editorial itself is a complaint about how (the scandal) has unfortunately reinforced incorrect stereotypes," Kay said. "So many of the players weren't Italian. It's just that journalists and cartoonists do not have a readily available satirical device for lampooning French Canadians in the same way." He agreed, however, that Italians named at the inquiry are being picked on somewhat.
"We still live in a society that unfairly associates ethnicity with organized crime - not just with Italians but with Vietnamese and Chinese in British Columbia or Jamaicans in Toronto. It's part of the larger issue of racism."