History of Ottawa's "Little Italy"
The impact of Italian immigration on Canada has been tremendous, and continues today. Described as a cultural mosaic, opposed to the melting pot view of our American border state, Canadians have a reputation for sustaining ethnic diversity.
The cities of Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa provide exemplary examples of ethnic enclaves that have resulted from a transplanted view of early immigration not so much a view of segregation between different ethnic groups, but rather a celebration of distinctiveness through the recreation of aspects of their culture. Examples are in Italian language, food, drink, sports, architecture and so on.
Italy witnessed the emigration of countless men even prior to unification in 1861. In fact, large numbers of men, followed by women and children, left at the turn of the twentieth century in two distinct phases: the first at the turn of the 20th century until World War I, and the second occurred Post World War II until 1970.
The immigrants who flooded to Ottawa was a pioneer stream that sought permanent residency in unsettled parts of Canada; and an urban flow that gave rise to fairly complete communities, such as, Ottawa.
The history of the founding of St. Anthony's church is important because new communities are formed around religious institutions. As in the case of for many new immigrant groups, the church often served as the heart of the community.
The 75th Anniversary Souvenir Booklet of St. Anthony's Church in Ottawa describes the story of its earliest beginnings. A document left by Reverend Fortunato entitled, "How the Italian Mission was founded," reveals that Italian immigrants requesting confession and knowledge of their Catechism led Reverend Father Fortunato to found a mission and the building of a small chapel for Italian parishioners on Murray Street on April 19th, 1908. An unfortunate fire that destroyed the Murray Street church prompted the erection of St. Anthony's on Booth Street (formerly Division Street) at the corner of Pine Street (now Gladstone Avenue) in 1913. Today, this area is considered the heart of Ottawa's "Little Italy."