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Why are Italians so poorly represented in Trudeau’s government?

hough Trudeau pledged to be forward thinking in his cabinet selections, going so far as to ensure that the cabinet was gender-balanced, one notable group of people were missing, from an immigrant group that has been in Canada for over 150 years; Italians.

J.E. Oakley Montreal QC

When 11 Italian-Canadian MPs were elected in 2015, surely more than one of them would have thought that they would see time in newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet during his four-year stint as leader of Canada.

During that entire four year span, only one Italian-Canadian MP made it to Trudeau’s cabinet. Though Trudeau pledged to be forward thinking in his cabinet selections, going so far as to ensure that the cabinet was gender-balanced–a gesture that signified a milestone to some and useless pandering to others–one notable group of people were missing. People from an immigrant group that has been in Canada for over 150 years; Italians.

The role of Italian communities in Canada cannot be understated. According to the 2016 Census of Canada, 1,587,970 Canadians (4.6% of the total population) claimed full or partial Italian ancestry. Somehow, in Trudeau’s initial cabinet, he could not find one Italian-Canadian out of 1.5 million that he saw fit to be in his cabinet.

According to Data from that same census, only the Anglo-Celtic and Francophone communities are more populous than the Italian community in Canada. It would easy for Italians to vote in one of their own, as they do. But in the Senate, there’s a different story. It’s the Prime Minister’s decision alone to decide who becomes a Senator, and thus, no Italians were given key rolls.

The initial reaction to Prime Minister Trudeau’s cabinet was fairly positive. Trudeau had promised that his cabinet would “look like Canada” by ensuring that gender equality was a cornerstone of it. But, it didn’t take long for many to notice the lacking in members of the notable Italian-Canadian population.

Steve Paikin, the host of The Agenda with Steve Paikin, quoted an anonymous Italian Liberal who was displeased with Trudeau’s cold-shouldering of Italians. “We’re not going to make a stink about this because the reaction to the new cabinet has been so positive,” one well-connected member of the Italian community told me. “But four ?Sikhs and no Italians? I don’t know about that.”

A fair point. Sikhs represented 1.4 percent of the Canadian population in 2016, and were given four cabinet posts. The Sikh community had recently elected 16 Sikh MPs across Canada, so they were ripe for the cabinet picking. Italians, on the other hand, make up 4.5 percent of Canada’s population, elected 11 MPs, and still received zero cabinet seats, including Judy Sgro, Joe Peschisolido, Marco Mendocini, Anthony Rota, Mike Bossio, Angela Iacono, David Lametti, Nicolo Di Lorio — and Francesco Sorbara.

Sure, David Lametti was given a position much later one, but was it too little too late? If Italian-Canadians within the Liberal Party is already upset, perhaps his move has already been perceived as an empty gesture.

Yes, David Lametti, the son of Italian immigrants, fits all the definitions of an Italian-Canadian; namely that he was born in Canada to Italian parents, but when it takes close to four complete years before appointing an Italian to your cabinet, it feels as though Lametti could now be perceived by some to be a token Italian.

All of this begs the question, when will we have an Italian senator?

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