About Us

Opened in 1980, Columbus Centre, an affiliate of the not-for-profit organization Villa Charities, is the largest Italian Canadian cultural centre in Canada.

Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II, a project of Columbus Centre, acknowledges and commemorates the experience of Italian Canadians during World War II. During this time, 31,000 were designated as enemy aliens. They were fingerprinted, photographed and ordered to report monthly to the police; about 600 were interned in remote camps.

The project collected the personal memories of surviving internees, enemy aliens and family members. This work forms a national inventory and archive, along with related print, photographic and other resources. This material is available to the general public and the Italian Canadian community through a permanent exhibit housed at Columbus Centre, a travelling exhibit, a website, and a publication.


Contact Us

To provide comments, to share your story or to donate an object, Join the Discussion online, or contact us:

Columbus Centre
901 Lawrence Ave. W.
Toronto, ON
M6A 1C3

Tel: 416-789-7011



Columbus Centre gratefully acknowledges the financial investment of the Community Historical Recognition Program, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, without which this project would not have been possible.

We would like to especially highlight the work and assistance of Therese Rochefort and Joan Morrison.

Appreciation is expressed to the following members of our Project Committee, Advisory Committee and Focus Groups, who graciously volunteered their time and shared their knowledge and expertise:


Project Committee

Ken Cancellara, Chair

John Bozzo

Filomena Frisina

Tony Genco

Roberto Martella


Focus Groups

Viola Arends

Omaira Arsala

Linda Bacci Brankston

Nancy Bertolotti

Paolina Camuti-Cull

Emilia Capo

Elissa D’Souza

Anthony R. Iocco

Josephine Kenemy

Alessandro Kosarew

Riccardo Lo Monaco

Toni McDermott

Fabiano Micoli

Sonia Pathare

Ninetta Ricci

Antonella Rulli

Cinna Sauro Faveri

Lisa Tonelli

Andrew Trotta

Gina Valle

Advisory Committee

Dr. Vittorina (Vikki) Cecchetto

Dr. Adriana A. Davies, CM
Heritage Consultant

Nicholas DeMaria Harney, PhD
Cassamarca Foundation Professor
The University of Western Australia

Steven High, PhD
Canada Research Chair in Public History
Department of History
Concordia University

Dr. Francesca L’Orfano
Visual Artist and Researcher

Dr. Sam Migliore
Kwantlen Polytechnic University

James H. Morrison, CM, PhD
Saint Mary's University

Christine Sansalone, PhD
Assistant Professor of Italian, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
Laurentian University

John Potestio, MA, History

Carl Thorpe
Executive Director, Multicultural History Society of Ontario

Prof. Ernesto Virgulti
Director of Italian Studies, Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures
Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Brock University










Interviews were undertaken within an ethics review process granted by Institutional Review Board Services (IRB Services).  

The publication Beyond Barbed Wire: Essays on the Internment of Italian Canadians is produced by the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW), in partnership with Guernica Editions and Accenti Magazine and co-publisher Columbus Centre of Toronto.



Website -- Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II


Project Director
Lucy Di Pietro, Hons BA, MMSt

Research & Writing
Travis Tomchuk, Hons BA, MA, PhD

Web Development, Digitization, Cataloguing
Stefanie Petrilli, Hons BFA, MA

Marketing & Communications, Cataloguing, Project Administration
Louanne Aspillaga, Hons BA, MA

Website Design & Programming
Kevin Robb, Miromo
Rachelle Au, Savoury
Scott Cameron, Savoury
Diane Lee, Savoury

Video Consultant
Zak Rogers

Licia Canton

Elettra Bedon
Vittorina Cecchetto
Giulia De Gasperi
Juliana Hernandez
Emanuele Oriano

Evaluation & User Testing
Christine Lockett


Travelling Exhibit -- Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times: Italian Canadian Experiences During World War II


Project Director
Lucy Di Pietro, Hons BA, MMSt

Exhibit Curator/Producer
Alison Kenzie, Hons BA, MA, PhD

Project Administration, Venue Logistics, Marketing & Communications
Louanne Aspillaga, Hons BA, MA

Stefanie Petrilli, Hons BFA, MA

Image Research & Licensing, Audience Research Consultant
Scott Pollock, BA, MMSt

Exhibit Graphic Designer
Eric Pellerin

3D Designer
Lisa Syverson

Hamilton Scenic Specialty, Inc.

Graphics Printers
CV Studio
ScreenArt Products
RAM Digital Imaging Inc.
Skylar Media Group

Video Consultant
Zak Rogers

Kiosk Programmer
Bad Math, Toronto, ON

Elettra Bedon
Juliana Hernandez
Murielle McCabe
Emanuele Oriano


Permanent Exhibit -- Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II


Project Director
Lucy Di Pietro, Hons BA, MMSt

Exhibit Development & Production, Image Research
Stefanie Petrilli, Hons BFA, MA

Research & Writing
Travis Tomchuk, Hons BA, MA, PhD

Marketing & Communications, Project Administration
Louanne Aspillaga, Hons BA, MA

Image Research
Krystle Copeland, Hons BA, MA

Graphics Printers
ScreenArt Products

Printers - Pamphlets & Promotional Materials
Skylar Media Group

Silhouette Fabrication
Pro-Fab Plastics Ltd.

Exhibit Design
Sheila Dalton

Licia Canton

Graphic Design & Illustration
Jemma Kim, Savoury
Tara Winterhalt

Exhibit Mini-Documentaries
Zak Rogers

Christine Lockett


Community Archive


Project Director
Lucy Di Pietro, BA, MMSt

Collections Management
Stefanie Petrilli, Hons BFA, MA

Oral History Methodology, Research Plan, Archival & Community Research, Interviews
Travis Tomchuk, Hons BA, MA, PhD

Research Plan, Community Research, Interviews
Melina De Guglielmo, Hons BA, B.Ed

Research Assistants
Grant Karcich, BA, MA
Scott Pollock, BA, MMSt

Project Assistants
Louanne Aspillaga, Hons BA, MA
Krystle Copeland, Hons BA, MA

Local Research/Interviews
Vittorina Cecchetto
Sarah Cozzi
Ray Culos
Adriana Davies
Francesca L’Orfano
Nadia Mior
Cristina Pietropaolo
Joyce Pillarella
John Potestio
Christine Sansalone
Nick Sehl

Local Videographers
David Bates
Vittorina Cecchetto
Julian Colilli
Spencer Johnston
Maverick Films
Adriana Rinaldi
Anna Wilkinson

Krystle Copeland
Elissa D’Souza
Francesca L’Orfano
Nadia Mior
Lisa Kadey
Melinda Richter
Emily Rondel

Video Consultant
Zak Rogers


For Columbus Centre:

Board of Governors


Karen Manarin, Chair (current)
Nick Sgro, Chair (2010-2011; 2009-2010)

Nick Ametrano
Tony Barbosa
John Bozzo
Filomena Frisina
Ester Bucci
Marianne Corigliano
Armando Cristinziano
Liana Flabiano
Tony Genco
Anna Iafrate
Lenny Lombardi
Mario Longo
Stephen Pasquale
Susanna Ranalli-De Santis
Teresa Santoro
Jason Sordi



Ugo Di Federico, Administrator
Pal Di Iulio, CEO/Executive Director

Project Development
Virginia Ariemma

Accounting & Financial Reporting
Olimbi Idrizllari, Accounting Clerk
Mario Reyes, Accounting Manager
Yongmei Xu, Accounting Supervisor/Payroll

Human Resources
Paul Pass, Accounting Manager

Marketing & Promotions
Stefanie Polsinelli, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
Giancarlo Piccin, Villa Charities Inc – Graphics
Brian Boyd, Villa Charities Inc – Graphics

Tony Astri, Housekeeping/Special Events
Joe Gianna, Property Manager
Mourad Mikhael, Assistant Property Manager 

Carrier Gallery
Rosa Graci

Food Services
Rose Memme & staff