Fascism and the Italians of Montreal: An Oral History: 1922-1945 (1998)

I’ve added several Comments to a previous post about a 1993 documentary about English Montreal. By way of bringing attention to the Comments, I’ve created a new blog post featuring one of the Comments:

Fascism and the Italians of Montreal: An Oral History: 1922-1945 (1998)

I’ve also been reading Fascism and the Italians of Montreal: An Oral History: 1922-1945 (1998). Among the people interviewed is Hugh MacLennan who observed fascism and antifascism while travelling in Italy in the 1930s during his student days at Oxford, where he had arrived from Nova Scotia as a Rhodes Scholar.

The oral histories include a comment by MacLennan who observes (p. 55) that “Canada was built by losers.” He lists among the losers “the French, who explored most of the continent,” the United Empire Loyalists, “who didn’t go along with the American Revolution,” the Highland Scots, “who were kicked out by their own clan chiefs,” and the Irish, “victims of the potato famine.”

The comment prompts me to think of key points in history when Canada was a winner. By way of example, the War of 1812 is, as I understand, seen by the United States as a victory because the U.S. was able to hold its own in a war with the major power of the time, namely Great Britain. On the other hand, from the Canadian perspective, the war was a victory for Canada given that the U.S. did not succeed in its plan to annex Canada:

John Boyd committed his infantry before his artillery could properly support them: Battle of Crysler’s Farm, Nov. 11, 1813

Battle of Chateauguay (1813) was one of two great battles that saved Canada

The author of Fascism and the Italians of Montreal: An Oral History: 1922-1945 (1998) notes that archival resources, regarding the relation between fascism and Italian Canadians during the period under study, are scarce. Oral history serves as a great way, I would say, for readers to learn what individuals recollect about times gone by, and the mindset they bring to perceptions about the past.

My sense is that reference to archival sources – such as are available, or that become available with the passage of time – is also essential, nonetheless, if a person wants to get a sense of what was actually going on, with regard to fascism in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada during the 1930s and 1940s.

Archival resources that come to mind, with regard to the period under review, include among others:

Young Trudeau, 1919-1944: Son of Quebec, Father of Canada (2006)

Young Trudeau, 1919-1944: Son of Quebec, Father of Canada (2006) is the first book in a two-volume series; the second volume is entitled: Trudeau Transformed, 1944-1965: The Shaping of a Statesman (2011).

The blurb for the first volume reads:

This book shines a light of devastating clarity on French-Canadian society in the 1930s and 1940s, when young elites were raised to be pro-fascist, and democratic and liberal were terms of criticism. The model leaders to be admired were good Catholic dictators like Mussolini, Salazar in Portugal, Franco in Spain, and especially Pétain, collaborator with the Nazis in Vichy France. There were even demonstrations against Jews who were demonstrating against what the Nazis were doing in Germany.

Trudeau, far from being the rebel that other biographers have claimed, embraced this ideology. At his elite school, Brébeuf, he was a model student, the editor of the school magazine, and admired by the staff and his fellow students. But the fascist ideas and the people he admired – even when the war was going on, as late as 1944 – included extremists so terrible that at the war’s end they were shot. And then there’s his manifesto and his plan to stage a revolution against les Anglais.

This is astonishing material – and it’s all demonstrably true – based on personal papers of Trudeau that the authors were allowed to access after his death. What they have found has astounded and distressed them, but they both agree that the truth must be published.

Translated from the forthcoming French edition by William Johnson, this explosive book is sure to hit the headlines.

None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948 (1982)

None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948 (1982)

A blurb for the book is not available at the Toronto Public Library; however a blurb for the following book (below) refers to the 1982 study.

Nazi Germany, Canadian Responses: Confronting Antisemitism in the Shadow of War (2012)

Nazi Germany, Canadian Responses: Confronting Antisemitism in the Shadow of War (2012)

A blurb reads:

It has been thirty years since the publication of Irving Abella and Harold Troper’s seminal work None is Too Many, which documented the official barriers that kept Jewish immigrants and refugees out of Canada in the shadow of the Second World War. The book won critical acclaim, but a haunting question remained: Why did Canada act as it did in the 1930s and 1940s? Answering this question requires a deeper understanding of the attitudes, ideas, and information that circulated in Canadian society during this period. How much did Canadians know at the time about the horrors unfolding against the Jews of Europe? Where did their information come from? And how did they respond, on both public and institutional levels, to the events that marked Hitler’s march to power: the 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws, the 1936 Olympics, Kristallnacht, and the crisis of the MS St Louis?

The contributors to this collection – scholars of international repute – turn to the wider public sphere for answers: to the media, the world of literature, the university campus, the realm of international sport, and networks of community activism. Their findings reveal that the persecutions and atrocities taking place in Nazi Germany inspired a range of responses from ordinary Canadians, from indifference to outrage to quiet acquiescence. It is challenging to recreate the mindset of more than seventy years ago. Yet this collection takes up that challenge, digging deeper into archives, records, and testimonies that can offer fresh interpretations of this dark period. The answer to the question “why?” begins here.

Contributors include: Doris Bergen, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Chair in Holocaust Studies, University of Toronto, Richard Menkis, Department of History, University of British Columbia; Harold Troper, Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education, OISE/University of Toronto; Amanda Grzyb, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario; Rebecca Margolis, Centre for Canadian Jewish Studies, University of Ottawa; Michael Brown, Department of Languages, Literatures and Lingustics, York University; Norman Ravvin, Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies, Concordia University; and James Walker, Department of History, University of Waterloo.



A Sept. 6, 2018 CBC article is entitled: “Trudeau says Canada will formally apologize for turning away German Jews in 1939.”


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