Canadian News Apr 15, 2021 10:22 PM EST

Trudeau to formally apologize to Italian-Canadians over treatment during World War II

Some 600 Italian-Canadians were held in internment camps during the Second World War, while another 31,000 were declared "enemy aliens."

Trudeau to formally apologize to Italian-Canadians over treatment during World War II
Noah David Alter Toronto
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to issue a formal apology to Italian-Canadians next month, CTV News reports.

According to a news release from the government, some 600 Italian-Canadians were held in internment camps during the Second World War, while another 31,000 were declared "enemy aliens" under the leadership of Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. The government was also given the ability to seize the property of Italian-Canadians and limit their activities.

Such measures targeted immigrants from countries which Canada was at war with at the time. Italy, under the leadership of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was an ally of Nazi Germany during the war until the country capitulated to Allied forces in 1943.

While such measures were implemented in order to prevent espionage, not a single foreigner or immigrant targeted by such measures was ever charged with a crime in Canada during World War II.

Trudeau declared that Canada "will right these wrongs" by issuing a formal apology next month.

The government had previously offered an official apology to Japanese-Canadians in 1988, offering the community $300 million in compensation for their treatment during the war. Roughly 22,000 Japanese-Canadians were detained in camps during World War II, mirroring the American government's internment policy.

Japan, like Italy, was an ally of Germany during World War II, and continued to wage war against the Allied powers even after Germany's surrender in May of 1945. The Japanese ultimately surrendered in August of that year after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The announcement of the apology came when Liberal MP Angelo Iacono inquired into the issue during question period on Wednesday.

"During the Second World War, hundreds of Italian-Canadians were interned for the simple reason that they were of Italian heritage," Iacono said. "Parents were taken away from their homes, leaving children without their fathers in many cases and families without a paycheque to put food on their tables. Lives and careers, businesses and reputations were interrupted and ruined, and yet no one was held responsible."

Iacono further said that "Italian-Canadians have lived with these memories for many years and they deserve closure."

Responding to the inquiry, Trudeau said that Italian-Canadians "deal with ongoing discrimination related to mistakes made by our governments of the past that continue to affect them to this day," and that an official apology will be issued in May.

Trudeau did not explain what discrimination Italian-Canadians face in modern times, and how an apology would stop such discrimination.

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