Interview with Genero Joseph Brescia

Genero Joseph (Joe) Brescia was born in 1920 in Grimaldi, Cozenza, Italy, but as a toddler, he moved with his parents and sister to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Joe recalls his early life living in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood in Fort William, going to school, playing sports, and having lots of friends. During World War II, Joe and his sister were both declared enemy aliens and had to report to the Mounties at the Fort William Hotel. He mentions the difficulty in travelling with his then pregnant sister during their monthly reporting. Joe also talks about joining the Canadian military and being stationed in Fort Petrie, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, despite his enemy alien status. Joe was quickly relieved of his reporting obligations, once a captain heard he was an “alien” and made a call to Ottawa. Joe says that in general he and his family got along well with non-Italians and did not face discrimination during the war period. He only recalls a couple of incidents and both were while he was in the army: the first was when a superior denied honouring him with a Lance Corporal’s stripe and the second was during his discharge when another superior ridiculed him in front of a group of officers. Joe recalls the latter incident as “one of the worst.”