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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

In deciding to intern many hundreds of so-called enemies and Canadian citizens, the government acted more to placate public opinion, aroused by recurring rumours of a ‘fifth column’, than on the basis of objectively established facts (Luigi Bruti Liberati, The Internment of Italian Canadians, pg. 76. Enemies Within, 2000).

What is the ‘fifth column’? Emilio Mola Vidal, a Nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), originally used the term. As four of his army columns moved on Madrid, the general referred to his militant supporters within the capital as his "fifth column," intent on undermining the loyalist government from within.
So the fifth column is a group of secret sympathizers or supporters of an enemy that engage in espionage or sabotage within defence lines or national borders.

Every internee was brought in front of a judge for an interview, conducted several months after the arrival in Petawawa. They had to fill out a questionnaire prepared by the Department of Justice. The first 28 questions collected information on the occupation, family conditions, religion, languages spoken, social relations, penal records, military service and the naturalization status. The other part of this questionnaire gathered information on the internee’s political beliefs.

29a. Do you think that the Canadian system of the parliamentary government is superior to the type of government that rules in Italy?

29b. Do you have or have not objections to the administration of the criminal justice and the imprisonment of the private citizens in Italy?

29c. Do you think free speech is important?

29d. Do you have or have not objections about the abolition of the free speech in Italy?

29e. Do you think that Canada gives to your children better economic and educative advantages, that Italy could not? If yes, in what way?

29f. Do you find the Canadian laws more or less oppressive than the Italian laws? In what way?

29g. Did you leave Italy because of:
(i) Oppressive rates?
(ii) Fear of war?
(iii) Fear of the military service?

30a. Do you hope that you and your family can return to Italy or stay here?

30b. Do you intend to remain in Canada permanently, and build a home for your children?

30c. Do you wish that your children remain in Canada and become Canadians?

31a. Which are your obligations as an Italian citizen?

31b. Are you still under these obligations?

31c. What fidelity do you owe Mussolini and the Italian state?

31d. Were there any pressures of any kind placed upon you to force you to be part of any Italian organization? If yes, give details.

32a. Were you a member of the Fascist Party?

32b. If yes, why did you become a member?

32c. Read the oath taken from the members of the fascist party. Have you taken this oath?

32d. What obligations are implicated by being a member of the Fascist Party?

32e. Have you disowned these obligations publicly or privately?

32f. If yes, why, when, and under what circumstances?

32g. If no, why not?

32h. (For the naturalized Canadians). How do you conciliate the membership in the Fascist Party with your obligations as Canadian citizens?

32i. Give a detailed description of the position you had in Fascist Party, the frequency of participation, whom you participated with at the meetings, the tasks given to you and the type of the literature that you have received in connection with that.

32j. What is the branch of the Fascist Party that you belonged to and who were the leaders?

32k. How long have you belonged to the Fascist Party?

32l. What is the contribution you gave to the Fascist Party or other Italian organizations after you became a Canadian citizen?

33. Do you have obligations to follow instructions that come from outside Canada? If yes, give details.

34. Did you take any part in the municipal, provincial or federal politics, in Canada? If yes, what is the role that you had?

35a. Are you willing to fight defending Canada?

35b. Are you willing to fight for Canada against the Italian state?

35c. Are you willing to fight in defence of the ideals that the democratic state fights for?

36. Do you wave or disown every fidelity to Mussolini, the Fascist Party and the Italian state?

37. Do you want your Canadian citizenship to be cancelled?

The questionnaire is followed by the ritual formulas, the signatures of the detained and the examination judge. (Luigi Bruti Liberati, Il Canada, l”Italia e il fascismo, pg.193-195, 1984)

The internees were released, stayed or transferred to another camp, based on their answers during these interviews. The progress of releases from the camps shows that, after a period of relatively severe action against Fascists, the authorities proceeded to review doubtful cases with considerable speed. Thus, there were 56 releases during 1940(within seven months of the original internments), followed by another 80 the following year. Finally, in the summer of 1942 a total of 162 internees were transferred to the Fredericton camp, from which we can legitimately conclude that, with few exceptions, the other 338 had already been released. (Luigi Bruti Liberati, Il Canada, l”Italia e il fascismo, pg.193-195, 1984)

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The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.


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