July 1st, 2005

[BRIEF NOTE] Canada Day

I'm enjoying Canada Day. I trod through Dundas' Portuguese district on foot, ended up taking an easytbound streetcar that was halted short of Spadina by a parade, looked at bootleg DVDs for sale in the lobby of Dragon City Shopping Mall, picked up a copy of The Epoch Times from a woman manning a protest booth advertising the Nine Commentaries, got some bubble tea, wandered for a bit on Bloor, and plan to end up on some patio with cheap beer. Life is good.

My thoughts on Canada Day? I'm proud to be Canadian, on this the 138th anniversary of the pasage of the British North America Act into law by the British Parliament and the creation of the Dominion of Canada. Canada has its issues, certainly, but on the whole they're minor issues, problems which can be resolved by living up to our existing ideals rather than by junking our past for something better. May we continue to prosper, in properly self-critical fashion.
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[ISL] The Maltese-Canadians

Shawn Micallef, writing in the 30 June 2005 issue of eye, describes in his article "At home on Dundas" the stretch of Dundas Street that was once the nucleus of the Maltese-Canadian Community.

The Maltese flag flies above a small patch of land between Dundas Street West and St. Johns Road on the western edge of the Junction. This is Malta Park in Toronto's Malta Village, occupying just a few blocks along Dundas. This area was the vibrant heart of the Maltese diaspora in Canada. Though not many businesses or residents here these days are Maltese, the Dundas strip remains an important part of this small and dispersed community.

As the Malta Migration site notes, by the end of the 20th century the Royal Navy's concerns for the security of its Maltese naval base, the rapid growth of the Maltese population, and competition from other Mediterranean seaports threatened the viability of the Maltese economy. Emigration, once seasonal and directed to North Africa, quickly became permanent and concentrated in the British dominions, most notably Australia but also Canada. Richard S. Cumbo and John P. Portelli describe the genesis of the Maltese-Canadian community in their "A Brief History of Early Maltese in Toronto" .

At the turn of the century, European emigration to Canada increased quite rapidly. In 1912-13 we encounter the first Maltese official attempt to organize the emigration of Maltese men to Canada under the direction of Dr. Charles Mattei. It is estimated that between 1911 and 1920 over 2,000 Maltese emigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg (where about 300 Maltese were settled by 1913). However, it was Toronto and its vicinity which attracted the largest number of Maltese immigrants. In this part of Canada the connection between the development of the Maltese community and the support from the Catholic Church seems to have been present from the early days. Several Maltese Catholic priests, who were living in Canada or in the United States, had shown a genuine interest, concern and care for the Maltese immigrants in Toronto and towns close to it. These priests include: Fr. A. Tabone S.J., Fr. Aurelius Catania, Fr. Fortunatus Mizzi O.F.M. Cap., Fr. Giacomo Baldachino O.F.M. Cap., Fr. Fulgentio Grech O.F.M. Cap., Fr. Eugenio Fiteni O.S.A., Fr. Alphonse Cauchi O.S.A., and Fr. P. Gauci. The visits of these priests had helped to sustain and foster both their Roman Catholic faith and their sense of community.

The early Maltese in Toronto, who numbered about 200 in 1916 and 400 by August of 1917, were settled primarily in two areas. One community could be found living in the vicinity of St. Patrick's Shrine Church and the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at McCaul and Dundas Street West. In 1908 the latter church had become an Italian National Parish. The hall of St. Patrick's Church was used by immigrants for several social events. The facilities of these religious edifices were used by the Maltese for their social and religious functions. The other community was (and still is) in West Toronto "The Junction" at Dundas Street West and Runnymede Road.

Micallef reports that now, almost a century after the mass immigration began and a generation after it ended, Little Malta remains a vital community.

The name "Dundas Street" resonates with all Maltese Canadians; it certainly meant something to me, growing up in Windsor, where the only visible Maltese culture was in my relatives' suburban houses. Perhaps that explains why Maltese homes are full of wall maps showing the Maltese archipelago, souvenir "picture plates," Malta ashtrays, Malta clocks, Malta placemats and Malta fridge magnets: the smaller the country, the louder the artifact.

The mythic Toronto of my childhood imagination consisted of three things: the CN Tower, Mr. Dressup's house and Little Malta. We would take yearly trips to see Maltese friends in Milton, and make Sunday pilgrimages down to Dundas to eat at the Malta Bake Shop.

If you count people like me (half-bred and second-generation), the Maltese population in the GTA is about 20,000-25,000. Today, most of Toronto's Maltese live out in places like Milton. University of Toronto Professor John Portelli, who is researching Maltese-Canadians, has found there are concentrations of Maltese in west Etobicoke, Mississauga and further out in Brampton -- but nothing like the visible concentration on Dundas Street.

[. . .]

Though most of the residents are gone, the strip still survives. "If you come here after church on Sunday, there will be a lot of people," says George Mallia, editor and publisher of the local Maltese language newspaper, L-Ahbar ("The News"). "Some come once a month to hear a Maltese mass. Certainly they come on feast days." With such a decentralized community, Mallia's paper, like Dundas itself, is one of the things that give it a sense of unity, not just in Toronto, but across Canada.
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[BRIEF NOTE] Replacement Migration and Canadian Jews

The Canadian Jewish News reports that replacement migration plays a vistal role in ensuring the continued growth of Canada's Jewish community, which like Jewish communities elsewhere in the Jewish diaspora is on the verge of shrinkage because of below-replacement fertility rates.

The study on immigration, published by UIA Federations Canada, found that the same decade saw the highest total of Jewish newcomers to this country since World War II: 32,340, or nearly nine per cent of all Canadian Jews.

Half that number – 16,295 – came from the Former Soviet Union (FSU). The study notes that the influx of Jews from the FSU represents the largest wave of Jewish immigration from a single country or region since the first quarter of the 20th century.

The next most productive source of immigrants was Israel, with 4,480 newcomers, followed by the United States with 3,000, western Europe with 1,550 and South America with 985.

The report suggests that a major reason for the "slow" growth of the overall Canadian Jewish population has been the "significant" attrition of elderly. Between 1996 and 2001, there were approximately 15,000 deaths in the Canadian Jewish population. Add to that an unknown number of Jews who left the country.

During the same period, there were 21,000 births in the community.

It is "clear," the study warns, that births alone cannot counter the effect of population losses related to emigration and deaths.

The report stresses the importance of reaching out to newcomers and helping them integrate.

"As the situation for Jews throughout the world becomes increasingly precarious," it says, "the role of individual [Jewish] federations and their affiliated agencies remains vital to successful transitioning. To truly welcome and integrate newcomers, we must practice and encourage the promotion of cultural sensitivity among ourselves, or children and our community, and embrace the richness of each new group as it arrives."

The article also provides a breakdown of Canada's foreign-born Jewish population by city and nationality.

Overall, the report shows that 27,790 Jews in Canada were born in the FSU. Of the USSR’s 15 former republics, Russia has led the way as a source of immigrants, with 12,365, followed by Ukraine with 7,115, Belarus (1,375), Kazakhstan (180) and Georgia (65).

Long considered a sore point, at least among Israeli officials, is the fact that there are 13,545 Jews in this country who were born in Israel. Toronto is home to the largest number of Israeli-born Jews, at just over 8,000. There are also significant numbers of Israelis in Montreal (3,150), Greater Vancouver (840) and Ottawa (305).

By far the largest number of Jews from the FSU are found in Ontario (20,625 – two-thirds of these in Toronto), while the largest number of Jews from Morocco live in Quebec (7,295).

Toronto is also home to 6,425 Jews born in the United States.

The Toronto area has the largest number of foreign-born Jews in Canada, with 62,570, followed by Montreal (31,500), Vancouver (7,950), Ottawa (3,265), Calgary (2,530), Winnipeg (2,430), Edmonton (1,900) and Hamilton (1,050).
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[BRIEF NOTE] The Problem with Patriotism

I picked up, very cheaply thanks to a gift card, V for Vendetta this afternoon. At long last I own my own copy. If you're curious as to why I keep referring to this Alan Moore graphic novel every couple of months, visit the V for Vendetta Shrine, the annotated guide, the Wikipedia entry, and Valerie's letter.

Every last inch of me shall perish. Except one.

An inch. It's small and it's fragile and it's the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

I don't know who you are. Or whether you're a man or a woman. I may never see you or cry with you or get drunk with you. But I love you. I hope that you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better, and that one day people have roses again. I wish I could kiss you.

This November, the movie version of V for Vendetta will be released, starring, among others, Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. Alan Moore has disavowed this version, claiming that it has no grip on the mundanities of British life. Speaking as a non-Briton who'd go to see that film, I can live with that lack of authenticity.

The one report that I've heard that does worry me very much has been the suggestion that the background of V for Vendetta will be changed, that the movie version will not be set in the late 1990s in a Britain that so battered by Ted Kennedy's 1988 nuclear war over Poland that it fell to fascism, but that it will take place in a Britain conquered by the Nazis and forced to become fascist. My objections do not rest primarily on the implausibilities of Operation Sealion. Rather, it rests on the fact that the whole point of V for Vendetta is that Britons did everything--the paramilitary thugs, the cleansing of socially suspect groups, the panopticon state, the petty cruelties of the regime and ordinary life--to themselves and by themselves, and that the only way that they can free themselves is to confront their mistaken perceptions and to fight back, again by themselves.

Making the evil foreigners the people responsible for your country's decline is never a good thing to do, I'd say. One should always look at the people actually living inside the country before you go casting out for others to blame. To love one's country is good; refusing to deal with its issues is not. The best kinds of patriots are those who pay attention to everything that goes on about them.
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    critically patriotic