[My thoughts -- ICEA Researcher/Writer]

It is difficult to piece together events that occurred more than seventy years ago. Or to attempt to make sense of the lives of the roughly 600 Italian Canadians who were interned during World War II, and the effects on them and on their families. There is no definitive book on this aspect of Italian Canadian history. As a result, our research was informed by a wide variety of sources that included academic articles, theses, newspapers, personal papers, government documents, and oral histories.

The government records that proved most useful to our research included the Custodian of Enemy Property (CEP) files. Almost every Italian Canadian internee had a CEP file and, as the name implies, these documents provide details on each internee’s assets and what happened to them during the course of internment. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) materials related to the period contain the lists of internees, some security file updates that detail the evidence against a particular internee, and orders from the Minister of Justice to the RCMP Commissioner granting the release of internees.

Another important archival resource is the personal papers of James Duncan Hyndman, a former Supreme Court of Alberta judge appointed to review the cases of internees. Hyndman was one of a handful of judges involved in this work and, therefore, he did not come into contact with all Italian Canadians sent to an internment camp.

These collections are very important in tracking down the names of internees and getting some sense of who they were as people: where they worked, the size of their families, their involvement in their communities, and what evidence was used to justify their arrest and internment. The CEP files in particular contain glimpses of the struggles faced by families where a spouse or parent was interned. As we reviewed this collection, we found letters written by wives to the Custodian asking for help in providing for families because the main breadwinner had been sent to camp. Some internees generated a great deal of paperwork depending on their status but, for many others, all that remains of their existence is a few pieces of paper in a folder. Dealing with such incomplete sources has proven to be a challenge.

One drawback of these records is that they focus only on the Italian Canadians who were interned and not on those who were required to report monthly to RCMP, who lost their jobs because of their ethnicity or had their homes vandalized and their businesses boycotted, or who were verbally and physically attacked. Oral histories were an important component of this project, and they provided information about the wider Italian Canadian experience during this period by highlighting the emotional and financial costs of internment on families.

Travis Tomchuk
Lead Researcher/Senior Writer


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My father Thomas Joseph Carbone, POW 311

"remember your parents fondly...he was Mary Carbones brother...my dad's (George) mother...never knew this happened...thanks for sharing..." - Doug Spadafore

My grandfather

My thoughts -- ICEA Researcher/Writer

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