Letter from Fernande Biffi, to A.H. Mathieu, October 27, 1942
This five-page letter is handwritten in French by Fernande Biffi, and addressed to A.H. Mathieu, Assistant Deputy Custodian, on October 27, 1942.
The Custodian of Enemy Property (CEP), a branch of the Canadian government, oversaw the administration of assets belonging to internees and other enemy aliens. This government office served a dual function. Acting as a trustee for the internee/enemy alien, the office and its agents also protected the interests of the creditors. The CEP would pay off an internee’s debts by selling his or her property or businesses. It also collected money owed to internees by others. Families of internees often did not have access to the husband's assets and bank accounts. As a result, families often had to negotiate with the CEP for stipends for daily subsistence or use of assets like an automobile. In some cases, where assets were lacking, the CEP divested itself of any interest and left the families to fend for themselves.
Fernande was the wife of Italian-Canadian internee A.S. Biffi. At the date of writing, her husband had been interned for over two years. Deprived of the primary breadwinner, she notes her financial struggles to provide for herself and her son. She mentions she has no regular monthly income and seems to have survived on savings due to frugality and deprivation. She is currently struggling to provide for her son's needs -- noting he is in a "growing phase", and to maintain the family's insurance policies. She also notes her inability to plan and make some decisions, suggesting that if she knew her husband were soon to be released, she might be able to try to maintain the insurance coverage. She also expresses frustration with another internee Carmelo Gaetano Grimaldi, who had been released over a year earlier and still had not repaid a $350 debt. She believes he misrepresented his financial situation, claiming to have no assets and income, which instead were all in his wife's name. She also notes he has several employed children. She asks that the Custodian of Enemy Property compel him to repay a set amount of the debt on a monthly basis.