Canadians of Italian descent don’t need Trudeau’s apology




Patrick Luciani is a writer in Toronto.

Today, political apologies are another way of always having to say you’re sorry. In 1990, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney gave a full apology to Canadians of Italian descent for the internment of Italians during the Second World War. That apology was repeated in 2005 when then-prime minister Paul Martin planned to pass a bill and $2.5-million to educate Canadians about the federal government’s wartime measures against Italians. That bill was never passed with the election of Stephen Harper in 2006. Now Justin Trudeau wants to make it a hat trick with another apology similar to the one given to Japanese and Ukrainian Canadians.

Mr. Trudeau’s motives are so apparent to be almost risible. His Liberal Party of Canada has always counted on the loyalty of Italian Canadians; now the Prime Minister needs to lock down their support in October’s coming election.

But apologizing to our community – I count myself a member, being a first-generation Italian-Canadian – is wrong for two reasons.

The first is that Canada was not wrong or malicious in its intention to protect the country in a time of war. To have done otherwise would have shown an extraordinary dereliction of duty to Canada and its people.

Internments started in 1940 when almost 40,000 landed immigrants (now called permanent residents) from Italy came under surveillance in Canada. Of those, 586 Italian-Canadians were sent to internment camps in Canada. Although no Italian was subsequently charged with espionage, there was no doubt that the Italian consulates in Toronto and Montreal were spreading propaganda with elite Italian-Canadians in support of Mussolini’s fascist government. In the mid-1930s, in fact, money was raised to help Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia.

Some argue it’s not about the numbers but the principle. But what principle? What government wouldn’t take precautions against potential enemy subversives? Italians didn’t become patriotic Canadians as soon as they reached our shores, barely speaking any English and with most of their families still back home. The Italians who arrived before the war were mainly uneducated peasants who came to Canada for the chance to work and support their families. Canadian authorities had no way of knowing how strong their loyalties were; the government took the same precautions as other Allied countries at war. No one denies they faced extraordinary hardships and discrimination as many immigrants do, but they endured because the conditions they left behind were even worse.

Second, politically-motivated apologies only infantilize a people with the status of victimization. Our modern political culture is perpetually searching for victims and programs to compensate them with pandering sympathy and false reconciliation. Too often we look to the state to correct the ills of the past by acknowledging that the sins of our ancestors have to be made right so that we can “move on” or find some undefined “closure” for the suffering of past generations.

That kind of apology isn’t worth having; it distorts history and weakens the bonds between past immigrants and their country. Our generation is not responsible for what our Canadian ancestors did or didn’t do. Judging the past with the eyes of the present will never let us truly understand our history. Asking Canadians today to apologize for the judgments of their grandparents, and yes, we are talking predominately about Anglo-Saxons, is an insult to their children and those immigrants who willingly came to this country for a better life.

Do Italian-Canadians really want to join the line of those demanding an apology after everything this country has given them? Do we Italian-Canadians just want a psychic handout to salve our wounded pride? And how can we as Italian-Canadians ask for an apology when 5,000 Canadian men and boys are buried in cemeteries throughout Italy who died to rid “our” ancestral home of fascism and Nazism. If we want anything, it’s to avoid having this episode in our history forgotten, but that’s in our hands, not the government’s.

Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau understood that apologizing for the mistakes of the past was a meaningless, never-ending task. The best we can do is try learning from our mistakes. Each generation will be judged and, most likely, judged badly by future generations. We can live with that, but without the apologies. That’s a lesson fils Trudeau never learned from his father.

Academia needs a free speech renaissance

Anthony Daoud

 by Anthony Daoud

Academia is in need of serious reform, and it must happen quickly. Gone are the days of debate among intellectuals and the revered political discourse. Universities being the epicenter of freedom of speech and thought now summons incredible nostalgia.

The unpleasant truth remains that today’s students who identify as conservative or associate with the right-wing are terrified of exposing their ideas. The sheer admittance of disagreement with leftist policies land one in an uncomfortable position. Fearing harassment and being labelled in an abhorrent fashion, right-wing students are left to contemplate about academia’s former self.

Disagreeing with big government, heightened taxes, or immigration reform does not make someone racist, sexist, or a bigot. Nobody is fascist for wanting border security.  These terms hold such negative connotations that any person would tremble at the thought of being assigned such a label.

But the left has weaponized these words to use it as their argument of choice.

Bias in universities

According to Cass Sunstein’s article, , Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017.

Democrats compose the majority of professors. In religion, Langbert’s survey found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1. In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1. In political science, it is 8 to 1.

The gap is narrower in science and engineering. In physics, economics and mathematics, the ratio is about 6 to 1. In chemistry, it is 5 to 1, and in engineering, it is just 1.6 to 1.

There are no field in which Republicans are more numerous than Democrats, and with the increasing intrusion of politics in personal life, these professors are relishing the opportunity to gloat and push their beliefs.

It may seem harmless, but for all students who don’t conform it is frightening.  A surveyeven suggested that roughly 20 percent of social psychologists are in fact willing to discriminate against papers with conservative views. No student should be graded on the basis of political belief. If this continues, grads will lose legitimacy and will be subject to discrimination. If this does not end, academia will be completely lost.  

As noted, in elite schools the problem is just as bad, if not worse. 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

Teachers are targets too

As it turns out, professors are not privy to the opinions of their colleagues either.

Jordan Peterson has become a pro-free speech celebrity, but his popularity would not have exploded if he wasn’t the subject of controversy during his teaching days at the University of Toronto. Due to his realization that academia was quickly falling into a tyrannical left-wing abyss, there were calls for his dismissal, along with a great wave of demonization. Peterson’s diagnosis perfectly exposed the left, and propelled him to the forefront of protecting individualism.

Brett Weinstein, a former evolutionary biology teacher at Evergreen State University was berated several years prior because of his refusal to leave campus for Absence Day, a tradition at the university. The occasion was never obstructed, but when students began to demand all whites leave campus, Weinstein flagged his objection. He was subsequently punished by all-too-familiar left wing slander and defamation. Coupled with his dissent over Absence Day, his belief that teachers should be hired on quality rather than inalienable characteristics to match diversity standards also led to a cesspool of reactionary anger.

Free speech is essential

With such conservative under representation, there exists no resistance to the liberal takeover of academia. As a society, we ought to remain skeptical about the complete lack of neutrality.

Of course, It is impossible to attain immaculate impartiality among educators. Pragmatism must be calculated when contemplating a viable solution, therefore political leniency among all cohorts of academia must be accepted.

More emphasis should be placed on stabilizing curricula rather than blindly chasing the forever altering frontiers of liberalism. In addition, safe spaces should be abolished because the truth remains that we are already granted rights enshrined by the constitution and judicial codes. The West is already a bastion of freedom, and as Flemming Rose of the Huffington Post concludes, safe spaces foster deep intolerance.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford administered a praiseworthy policy that enforces post-secondary schools to adopt strict free speech requirements. Failure to adequately abide can result in financial  consequences in the form of decreased funding.

However, vigorous advocates for free-expression have a moral obligation to continue observing the discrepancy between free and hate speech. The two shouldn’t be conflated under the umbrella of individual liberty.

Another prescription could be an online forum available at post-secondary institutions which allows for students to provide constructive feedback and/or express preoccupation with overt political bias in teachers. It would empower students with a greater voice and place a check on explicit imbalance.