Excerpt: Dieter K. Buse and Graeme S. Mount’s ‘Untold: Northeastern Ontario’s Military Past’

About 700 Italian-Canadians suffered internment during World War II — they had had not committed crimes, were not officially charged, and were given few chances to defend themselves
By TVO Current Affairs - Published on Nov 08, 2019
Galardo family
Emilio Galardo and his family, before he was interned at Petawawa (Columbus Centre Archives/ Galardo Family)

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Stained reputations: Italian-Canadian internment 

To be interned without charges can destroy a person and traumatize a family. Such was the case of Emilio Galardo, a skilled Sudbury photographer of Italian background who was a naturalized citizen of Canada. A member of the local fascio in the 1930s, he was arrested in June 1940 and not released from Petawawa’s internment camp until three years later. His family was not allowed to visit him. By all accounts, the experience left him a broken man, and he died in 1945 at age 62. The family suffered financially and emotionally. One son had to operate his studio, and his wife had to rent out rooms to survive. The grandchildren remember the drastic effect and the attempts to hide the shame. In prison, Galardo wrote an emotional poem: 

In a concentration camp 

I saw rich and poor thrown together in a pit of hell 

All worried and sad that they had to make amends 

I saw people of all sorts – of different languages 

I knew them, all good people, disbelieving their sad lot in life. 

On Sunday, kneeling, we listened to the divine word of Father Maltempi 

With the hope in our hearts to see family and spouses once again 

A small group of friends, learned, comforted each other. 

All teachers and I, a professor, wanted to be called for our honour 

Sad memories of Petawawa.  

E[melio] G[alardo] 1940 

About 700 Italian-Canadians, 850 German-Canadians, and thousands of Japanese-Canadians, whether naturalized or not, suffered internment during World War II. Often forgotten are the left-wing Finns and Ukrainians, in their hundreds, whose halls were confiscated. All were detained under the Defense of Canada Act, usually without charges or explanation. They were treated as “enemy aliens.” Among the Italians, at least four came from Sudbury, others from Cochrane (1), Copper Cliff (2), Kirkland Lake (1), North Bay (2), Sault Ste. Marie (2), South Porcupine (1), and Timmins (4). They were held at Petawawa, a military camp (Camp “P”) located on land taken from German-Canadians (most of whom were not compensated). Thomas Carbone, a miner from Timmins, was arrested on June 10, 1940, but released on November 19. The mine manager vouched for his character, arguing that his colleagues hardly considered him an Italian and had started a petition for his release. When released, Carbone received a train ticket from Petawawa to Timmins and was, ironically enough, instructed to go to the nearest post office and register for military service under the National Registration Act.  

The Mascioli family of Timmins was much affected by the new rules. Antonio Mascioli came to Cobalt as a miner in 1916, but returned to Italy to do his military service. He and his brother Leo later went to Timmins and became successful businessmen, owning theatres, dance halls, garages, and construction companies. Despite the fact that he had become a Canadian, Tony Mascioli was interned on June 10, 1940. He was released in February 1941, rearrested in September, and released again on October 8, 1941. Media mogul Roy Thomson supported efforts to obtain his release. Mascioli was told that he was interned because he had been born in Italy, had been naturalized only in 1937, and had been the treasurer of the Timmins section of the North Bay fascio, a group declared illegal when Italy allied with Germany in June 1940. At his trial, he admitted that he had contributed $100 (about $1,850 in 2018) to the Italian Red Cross during the Ethiopian war and his wife had donated a ring. His brother Leo was also arrested and held until February 1941. 

Leo Mascioli’s granddaughter wrote an appreciation of him as a hard-working, persistent immigrant not really interested in fascism, and added that internment had been very hard on the family. Price Waterhouse charged them $1,820 (about $28,000 in 2018) for administering their holdings for eight months. Another Italian-Canadian stated that Mascioli had pushed for Italian-Canadians to participate in the fascio during the 1930s, and he felt his job possibilities might be limited if he did not do so. 

As in World War I, persons who came from enemy countries — including those who were naturalized citizens — were considered enemy aliens and had to register with police. Hence thousands of Germans, Austrians, Italians, and Finns had to register and could not leave their districts without permission. For example, the Sudbury Star reported on October 26, 1940, that two German-Canadians had not obtained permission to go to the United States to purchase a motor vehicle and thus were arrested. They had been naturalized in 1935 and 1937, respectively. The court found that there was “nothing to show that they were doing anything subversive, but they transgressed the rules regarding the movements of enemy aliens.” 

It must be remembered that internees of Italian, German, and Japanese background had not committed crimes, were not officially charged, and were given few chances to defend themselves. They happened to fit what the law defined as the category of enemy alien and hence by law could be interned. The groups identified as enemy aliens suffered emotional trauma and damage to reputations that took, in some cases, generations to heal. 

Excerpt from Untold: Northeastern Ontario's Military Past, Volume 2 is shared with permission from Latitude 46 Publishing.

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