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Trudeau apologizes for internment of Italian Canadians in WWII

Trudeau apologizes for internment of Italian Canadians in WWII
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauGoFundMe for boy orphaned in attack on Muslim family in Canada surpasses 0K Overnight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Mount Rushmore-style trash sculpture of G-7 leaders erected ahead of summit MORE on Thursday issued a formal apology for the internment of more than 600 Italian Canadians during World War II amid fears of ties to fascist groups. 

In remarks before the House of Commons, Trudeau admitted that the government caused “pain and hardship,” for “those who were interned, their families, and the Italian Canadian community,” according to a press release from his office. 

“Canadians of Italian heritage have helped shape Canada, and they continue to be an invaluable part of the diversity that makes us strong,” he said. “Today, as we acknowledge and address historical wrongs against the Italian Canadian community, we also show our respect for their great contributions to our country.”

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“To the men and women who were taken to prisoner of war camps or jail without charge, people who are no longer with us to hear this apology, to the tens of thousands of innocent Italian Canadians who were labeled enemy alien, to the children and grandchildren who have carried a past generation’s shame and hurt and to their community. … We are sorry,” he added, according to The Washington Post

In a statement earlier this month announcing his intent to deliver a formal apology in the House of Commons, Trudeau argued that “for far too long, the Italian Canadian community has carried the weight of the unjust policy of internment during the Second World War.” 

“We cannot undo our past failures, but through this apology we hope to help bring closure to those who were harmed, and ensure the lessons we learned are never forgotten,” he added. 

In 1940, then-Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King ordered hundreds of Italians to be placed in internment camps under the War Measures Act and the Defence of Canada Regulations, a set of emergency war-era measures, once Italy joined World War II as an ally to Nazi Germany. 

According to Thursday’s press release, roughly 31,000 Italian Canadians were declared “enemy aliens,” and were forced to report to local officials each month. 

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The Post noted that Canada, like the United States, also interned people of Japanese and German descent during the war, with the Canadian government forcing some 22,000 Japanese Canadians to internment camps and prairie sugar beet farms. 

The government also confiscated Japanese Canadians’ property and sold or auctioned it off at low prices, according to the Post. 

Then-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized for the internment of Japanese Canadians in 1988, offering $250 million to survivors in compensation. 

While Canadian officials have previously offered apologies for the internment of Italian Canadians, including Mulroney’s 1990 statement at a meeting of the National Congress of Italian Canadians, some descendants of those interned had for years demanded that a more formal apology be delivered in Parliament.