Italian Church of the Redeemer Mothers’ Club Banquet, Montreal, QC

Black and white photograph of the congregation of the Italian Church of the Redeemer, Montreal, QC, during a Mothers' Club Banquet on October 27, 1937. The photograph shows a large room filled with the congregation seated around long tables. Streamers hang from the ceiling. A large Union Jack (the flag of the United Kingdom) and the flag of the Kingdom of Italy are visible at the left. Smaller versions of the flag have been hung on a pillar in the left background. Leaders of the church are seated in the foreground. Reverend Domenico Scalera is seated in the front row, third from the right. He wears a three-piece suit and glasses and sports a white beard. It is likely that Reverend Augusto Bersani is also seated in the front row although his identity has not been confirmed.

Augusto Bersani arrived in Montreal in the late 1920s from the United States. He was born in Italy and while it is believed he was studying there to become a priest for reasons unknown he did not complete his studies and instead migrated to the US. Once in Montreal, Bersani began to teach at the Point aux Trembles Protestant School and in 1930 he was appointed minister of the Italian Church of the Redeemer. According to our notes, Domenico Scalera arrived in Montreal in 1938 at the request of Bersani, who asked Scalera to act as assistant pastor at the church, however this photograph places Scalera in Montreal in 1937. Prior to moving to Montreal, Scalera worked as a school teacher in Tunisia and as a Baptist minister in Massachusetts. That same year, Bersani was implicated in financial irregularities at the church and forced to resign, however he stated that he was leaving for health concerns. According to Michael Monaco, son of internee Vincenzo Monaco, Bersani's dismissal from the church was was the result of a vote held at the church to decide who would continue on as minister.

In 1937, while still minister at the Italian Church of the Redeemer, Bersani became involved with the RCMP as a community informant. Known as S.A. 203 (Special Agent 203), Bersani was required to provide a report on Italian Canadians involved in fascist activity. A number of church members and church elders, including Rev. Domenico Scalera, were included in these reports. Based on this information provided by Bersani, Scalera and a number of parishioners from the churh were arrested and interned on June 10, 1940. Documents pertaining to Bersani reveal that he likely abused his role as informant to wage a personal war against those who he believed has slighted him.

To learn more about Augusto Bersani and his role as informant read, "Special Agent 203: The Motivations of Augusto Bersani" by Travis Tomchuk in Beyond the Barbed Wire: Essays on the Internment of Italian Canadians.