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Montreal's Little Italy

The product of two major Italian immigration cohorts to Canada (one from 1880 until the First World War, and the other from 1950 to 1970), Montreal’s Italian Canadian community has been gathering in the Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense parish since 1910. This neighbourhood, nestled within the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie borough, is located along Saint-Laurent Boulevard, with Saint-Zotique and Jean-Talon streets marking its limits.

Always at the heart of Italian-Canadian community and cultural life in Montreal, Little Italy (Piccola Italia) is known for its buildings’ remarkable architecture and decor. It is also home to a true institution of Montreal’s cityscape: the Jean‑Talon Market.


Italian Canadians

Italian Canadians are among the earliest Europeans to have visited and settled the country. The steadiest waves of immigration, however, occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. Italian Canadians have featured prominently in union organization and business associations. In the 2016 census, just under 1.6 million Canadians reported having Italian origins.


Lino Saputo

Emanuele “Lino” Saputo, CM, OQ, businessman, dairy and cheese industrialist, philanthropist (born 10 June 1937 in Montelepre, Italy). Lino Saputo emerged from modest beginnings to develop one of the most prominent dairy companies in Canada — Saputo — now with operations in the United States, Argentina and Australia. His influence and family name is found throughout Montreal, Quebec, including on the Saputo Stadium, home of CF Montréal a professional soccer team that plays in  Major League Soccer (MLS).His family is routinely listed among the wealthiest Canadians, reaching number three in 2017.


Angelina Napolitano

Angelina Napolitano, homemaker, murderer (born 1883 near Naples, Italy; died 4 September 1932 in Kingston, ON). Angelina was an Italian immigrant who killed her emotionally and physically abusive husband, Pietro Napolitano. The murder occurred on the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 16 April 1911, in a flat of a house in the immigrant quarter of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. A mother of four children and pregnant with her fifth, Angelina, 28, struck her sleeping husband several times on the neck and head with an axe. Her story is notable for the widespread, international support she received from feminists of the time. Many saw her as a victim, someone who, in today’s terminology, would be described as “battered woman” forced to defend herself.


Joey Saputo

Giuseppe (a.k.a Joey) Saputo, businessman, sports executive, philanthropist (born 25 September 1964 in Montreal, QC). Joey Saputo is the son of Canadian billionaire Lino Saputo, the founder of Montreal-based Saputo Inc., one of the most prominent dairy companies in the world (see also Diary Industry; Cheese and Cheese Making). Joey Saputo is the founding president and chairman of CF Montréal (formerly Montreal Impact), a professional soccer club that plays in Major League Soccer (MLS). Saputo was at the head for the development and construction of Stade Saputo, a soccer-specific stadium, home of CF Montréal. Joey Saputo is also the chairman for the soccer club Bologna F.C. 1909 that plays in the top Italian soccer league Serie A.


Alessia Cara

Alessia Caracciolo, singer, songwriter (born 11 July 1996 in Brampton, Ontario). Alessia Cara is a pop music singer-songwriter. She has sold more than 11 million records in the United States and more than 285,000 in Canada since debuting in 2015. She is perhaps best known for her songs “Here” and “Scars to Your Beautiful.” She was named the Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2016 Juno Awards and the Best New Artist at the 2018 Grammy Awards. Her debut album Know-It-All (2015) won the 2017 Juno Award for Pop Album of the Year. Her album The Pains of Growing (2018) earned her 2020 Juno Awards for Album of the Year, Pop Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. Cara has also won a SOCAN Award, two MTV Video Music Awards and three Canadian Radio Music Awards.


Lui Passaglia

Lui Passaglia, football player (born 7 June 1954 in Vancouver, BC). Lui Passaglia is regarded as one of the best kickers in Canadian Football League (CFL) history. He played 25 straight seasons with the BC Lions (1976–2000) and won three Grey Cups (1985, 1994, 2000). He holds both the CFL and professional football record for most points scored (3,991). He is also the CFL’s all-time leader in seasons, games played (408), field goals made (875) and converts made (1,045). He has been inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum, the BC Football Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. His No. 5 has been retired by the Lions, with whom he works as a community relations ambassador.


Alfonso Gagliano

Alfonso Gagliano, politician (born 1942 in Italy; died 12 December 2020). Alfonso Gagliano was the Member of Parliament for the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Leonard from 1984 until 2002. Following the 1997 election, he served as Minister of Public Works and Government Services in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He was also chair of the electoral commission of the Liberal Party in Quebec. Gagliano resigned from cabinet and the House of Commons to accept a position as ambassador to Denmark. He was fired by Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2004 for his role in the sponsorship scandal.

timeline event

Justin Trudeau Apologizes for Internment of Italian Canadians

In a speech in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for the federal government’s internment of Italian Canadians during the Second World War. Around 600 Italian Canadians suspected of sympathizing with fascism were placed in internment camps during the war, while 31,000 Italian Canadians were registered as enemy aliens and were forced to report to officials once a month.


Internment in Canada

Internment is the forcible confinement or detention of a person during wartime. Large-scale internment operations were carried out by the Canadian government during the First World War and the Second World War. In both cases, the War Measures Act was invoked. This gave the government the authority to deny people’s civil liberties, notably habeas corpus (the right to a fair trial before detention). People were held in camps across the country. More than 8,500 people were interned during the First World War and as many as 24,000 during the Second World War — including some 12,000 Japanese Canadians.