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02gemellaggiotomaMatera in the news and in the minds of Toronto Council

by The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher

TORONTO - He left the meeting quite impressed, enthusiastic and optimistic, so said Deputy Mayor, Vincent Crisanti to the Corriere Canadese after he met with a delegation from the Basilicata Cultural Society on the proposed Twinning with Matera.

The delegation, composed of members of the Executive (Pat Tremamunno, Sam Primucci, Dan Montesano, Antonio Locantore, Paul Petrozza, Phil Gravina) and lead by Frank Miele, met with Councillor Crisanti to work on “next steps” to make the goal happen.

“I will bring the proposal to the appropriate officials for analysis and report for the Economic Development Committee”, indicated Mr. Crisanti. “I really was impressed with the professionalism of the presentation and the opportunity presented to Toronto”, he added.

He was confident that the Economic Development Committee would be equally impressed by the potential connection particularly as it relates to the interchange on cultural and artistic development. Tourism and infrastructure projects also played a significant part in the discussions.

“It is an opportunity that we need to nurture and develop, added the Deputy Mayor. ”While I am supportive and confident that others on Council will respond similarly, we are at early stages still”, he cautioned.

Matera, a historic and ancient city in Basilicata (Southern Italy) Is a World Heritage Site named by the European Union as the Cultural Capital of Europe for 2019. It is an Artist’s and Filmaker’s paradise.

Frank Miele remarked that the meeting was “uplifting” and encouraging. “The City seemed genuinely interested and impressed with what Matera has to offer from an artistic and cinematic perspective. Culture is the new economic driver of Toronto. A partnership (whose shape is yet to be determined) between Matera and Toronto has all of the earmarks of a successful Union”, he said, barely suppressing his delight.

“The next steps are really in the hands of the officials who have to dig deep in the data and present workable models that will work for both sides”, he added.

It is important to note that the support of Councillor Michael Thompson, who Chairs the Economic Development Committee, is important and at this stage seemingly there.

Sam Primucci, who lead the delegation to Matera in August found the meeting to be positive, “more than the perfunctory courtesy meeting; one that promised serious next steps grounded in administrative workloads, assigned tasks and realistic objectives and timelines.”

It was an impression shared by Dan Montesano, another member of that August delegation received in Matera by all the senior political figures of the Provincial and National authorities.

“I’m am excited by the fact that Toronto City Council will have a closed look at what could be ’a jewel in the crown’ of formal relation that Toronto has with municipalities around the globe.”

(Thursday 22 September 2016)

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02renziclintonRenzi: “Italy’s challenges are a test for Europe and North America”

by The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher

TORONTO - The photo-ops are done. They might even have served their purpose for all sides concerned.

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, on the world stage as a co-chair of a significant forum, showing his “stuff” on the serious topic of Immigration and Refugees, emphasized that the need to focus on the “humanitarian side” of proactive problem solving and international engagement. Canada used to do that. Some would argue that the timing is appropriate to get serious about it again.

Matteo Renzi, Italy’s counterpart, providing perspective and solutions on the demographic tsunami disrupting European and International relations – topical in the USA electoral debate environment. More significant for Italy whose resources are being depleted by a veritable invasion of over 20,000 desperate men and women from African ports per month – every month – by sea.

Hillary Clinton, by proxy (via her husband’s foundation), associated herself to Renzi thanks to the award her husband bestowed on Italy’ Premier as Global Citizen Award for Immigration.

Barack Obama, hosted Matteo Renzi for dinner at the White House as a sign of his approval for the work that Renzi is providing on the international front in a very hot political environment still crucial to American interests – the Mediterranean basin, and by extension the greater Middle East.

Ahmed Rahami, the disrupter/terrorist in New York, as a proxy for the enemies of Western Societies, who, by his failed (happily) efforts reminded everyone that great words need to be followed by deeds if some type of normalcy is to be restored on the world stage.

Canada is fortunate to find itself in a position where it can still spend time discussing without the urgency of bombast thrust upon the citizenry by intemperate public office-seekers or by armies/hordes of displaced peoples massed up against their borders.

Clinton and Obama needed to attach themselves to someone (Renzi), and someplace (Italy) that is still willing to offer alternatives to “walls and mass deportation” as a public policy to address the economic implications of involuntary demographic displacements.

Rahami and his ilk are the fuel added to the fire being spewed by political elements a’ la Trump in the USA and, increasingly, Europe.

Intolerance is fast becoming the order of the day as extremist populate the public space and infiltrate otherwise civilized Western political parties. This is disturbingly so in countries like Germany and France. Worse in smaller States like Austria, Hungary and Greece.

“Keep them out” and “send them back” is the rallying cry of right-wing groups whose growing political power threatens to dismember the political cohesion of the European Union. It should not be too difficult to recall the eventual consequences of something similar to the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

For now, Italy stands virtually alone as a European nation prepared to apply long-term strategies to what everyone calls the “Refugee and Immigration” problem, but is in reality not much less than an “invasion”.

Its resolve may be tested if Renzi loses the Constitutional Referendum later this Fall. Jingoists and “Anti- Anybodies” seem to surface like weeds in a garden. After the French and Germans enter their election cycles next year, the only stable place in Europe may actually be Italy.

Renzi was in New York and Washington to press the point. He needs to win that Referendum to maintain his “legitimacy”. Clinton and Obama did what they could to provide “moral support”.

But it isn’t all one direction. It didn’t hurt Clinton with her large Italian-American constituency to be associated with Italy’s First Citizen.

It is unfortunate that a proposed Official visit by Renzi to Canada had to be deferred.

(Wednesday 21 September 2016)

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Roaring towards the referendum

by The Hon. Joe Volpe, Publisher

TORONTO - In A few days we will know the exact date of Italy’s Referendum on the Constitution. Then, the real fireworks on both sides of the issue will erupt. They should. Tinkering with, or changing, the principles and mechanisms by which a people govern themselves is, to coin a phrase, “A Big Bloody Deal”.

Canada went through something similar in 1980 and again - more dangerously - in 1995. Canadians of Italian background took their responsibilities seriously. But more on that in a moment.

In the shadow boxing that is preceding the announcement, some are getting their “knickers in a knot”, to coin another English phrase, because the American Ambassador to Italy has said publicly that a No vote will be tantamount to disaster for Italy, for Europe and presumably for anything that follows.

Maybe. The Americans always have an interest in what happens in Italy. They are not shy about expressing their views there, or anywhere for that matter. In this case, Jim Messina, an American consultant whose company has been commissioned to guide the Referendum campaign, would have asked his former boss, US President Barack Obama to “lend a helping hand”.

President Obama obliged: Premier Renzi has been invited to a State Dinner at the White House (not the same as a State Visit, but significant from a PR, “Face”, point of view); and Ambassador Phillips has made his comments. Since officially there is not yet a Referendum in process, there is “no breech in diplomatic protocol”.

Maybe this American “non-intervention” will work in Italy, a land where anything American is praised a priori to the heights of Olympus and accorded the obsequious veneration usually reserved for divinities.

To be kind, we tend to forget that there are seven (7) American military bases (1 Air Force, 2 Army, 4 Navy) operational in Italy. Time will soon tell whether the US musings on the outcome will have an impact. It is Italians who will decide, as Quebeckers did in 1995.

02referendumquebec

Then, a younger, dashing President Clinton and his wife Hillary took Ottawa by storm in the winter lead-up to the Referendum. The President addressed the Canadian Parliament and in suave but firm terms expressed America’s preference for a “stay in Canada” vote, adding “elegantly” that of course only Canadians (Quebec residents) would decide.

He was right. A remarkable and historic 93.52% of the 5,087,009 registered voters actually turned out to vote – no smartphones, Twitter or Facebook accounts got in the way. The result was razor thin: the “Stay in Canada” side won by a margin of 50,58% to 49.42%, a mere 55,000 votes.

The result was made possible by the Anglophone and Allophone (non English, Non French - Ethnic) voters - 95% of them turned out in support of Canada.

A similar turnout by Italian passport holders (some 76,000 in the GTHA alone) currently resident in Canada could have a similar impact on the outcome of the Referendum in Italy.

The end result will depend on which side is more successful in getting out its supporters. So far, in Canada, two of the three MPs and Senators elected to the Italian Parliament, MP Fucsia Fitzgerald and Sen. Turano, have preferred to stay silent, abandoning the field to MP La Marca.

They may engage later, when their American ambassador passes from memory and the heavy lifting begins.

If the Canadian experience, tracked by the polling table on this page, is any guide, no one in Italy should take the outcome of the Referendum as a forgone conclusion. To coin yet another phrase, American this time, “in Opera it ain’t over until the fat lady sings”.

(Monday 19 September 2016)

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02yorkcatholicYork Catholic: try transparency and proactive communications

by The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher

TORONTO - There is, by all appearances, a vibrant parent community around St Theresa Lisieux Catholic High School in Richmond Hill. It supports the school’s programs. When they can, the parents sponsor, financially, or raise funds for some of the extra-curricular activities.

The senior boys’ soccer team for example, has for at least the last three years participated in “international” soccer tournaments hosted in various cities in Italy. “It is a program that gives our kids an opportunity to experience a larger world”, says Italo Magnifico, whose son, Lucas, captains the soccer team. “They play against some very competitive teams invited from other schools and Soccer Academies in Europe. It is a great learning experience.”

“These tournaments also provide for an opportunity to expand the cultural horizons of kids. Last year’s tournament, for example saw our players go to Naples. The Amalfi coast and its cities and Siderno in Calabria. These are places with a history and culture that go back thousands of years. When would we be able to replicate that program?” he added.

Mr. Magnifico’s company. Anix Developments, has sponsored the program for the last three years. But he is quick to explain that the program is the outcome of input from the principal, Joseph Servidio, the coach and the parent council.

“It’s the parents who decide where the team goes, what they do and the itineray that they are to follow. They set the agenda,” says Mr. Magnifico. He thinks the program is a credit to the school and to the community’s desire to engage in its activities.

Once the parents approve, they submit a proposal to the Board, through the school, and accompany the proposal with a down payment to secure the services associated with making arrangements and bookings for the Tournament. That proposal was to be finalized at a meeting scheduled for September 20.

He was surprised to learn yesterday that a decision had been made “higher up” that the program was cancelled. Seven parents began a telephone chain to get at the root of the apparent decision. They called their Trustee, Domenic Mazzotta for an explanation. One parent called the Corriere Canadese.

In turn, we attempted to connect with the two Trustees for Richmond Hill, Domenic Mazzotta and Elizabeth Stong. The latter has yet to respond. Mr. Mazzotta confirmed that he had been told the same thing but had not received notice from Staff.

At the Board meeting (later the evening of the 13th) Mr Mazzotta presented a “time sensitive motion” prior to the approval of the Agenda, stressing that decisions affecting any school community be brought to the attention of the Trustee before they are communicated to the public. That did not happen in this case. He demanded an apology from the Director. She gave it, and promised to get back to him after item 14 on the agenda. At that point, Mr. Mazzotta was assured that the program had not been cancelled. But a “tiff” ensued between him and Trustee Molgado who rebuked him for chiding the Director at an open meeting.

Perhaps tempers were flaring because earlier in the day an autistic child had gone missing when the transportation company failed to deliver him to his destination at Holy Cross. The Trustee Dino Giuliani, received notice, via email at 5:52 pm. He expressed frustration at not being told in advance so that he could at least address the concern of the parents.

The intransigence of the Board was documented in a 2.5 minute sequence on CityPulse. No one from head office according to the newsclip offered any information. The parents were distraught. It is not a closed file.

On the issue of the trip, Mr. Magnifico was happy to hear that “the trip is back on”. We attempted to get a clearer picture from the Principal, Mr. Servidio. He referred us to the Board.

The Director of Communications, Ms Gallo, indicated that an official Board position will be presented following the September 20 parents’ meeting. We attempted to connect with Ms Molgado and Ms Stong. As of going to press, without success.

Maybe they have more important fish to fry.

(Thursday 15 September 2016)

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03letteraLetter to the Editor:

“Stop with all bureaucratic torture”

Editor,

Your article on Michele Torre hit me hard. It made me realize that I, and many friends in the community, should not suffer visa pain because our families are not perfect.

The point here is simple: Mr. Torre, my niece and my cousin should not be treated as strangers without firm family roots. What interest does Canada have in putting established families through the immigration sausage machine?

Why should my established family suffer immigration hell because our lovely niece fell in love with a wonderful boy from Bologna who was stopped in a roadside breathalyther test 7 years ago? Why should my cousin be forced to shut down her Mississauga hair styling shop because a young relative from Rende cannot get a visa to continue working in the shop?

If Torre is a criminal, then put him in jail. If he’s done his time, then leave him to his family. If my niece’s husband or my cousin’s relative are bad people, then tell us why they are bad. But stop with all the bureaucratic torture. As things stand, there is nothing that the immigration department is doing to make things better or safer for Mr. Torre’s family, my family or Canadians.

Nothing is accomplished by delaying or deporting established families.

Trudeau the Elder said that there is no room for the state in our bedrooms... perhaps Trudeau the Younger should get immigration officers to stop hanging around and making a mess of the rest of our home.

I look forward to the Corriere taking the lead in reflecting the community’s interest in assuring that the visa process stops ripping apart our families.

Romano Sapone

(Wednesday 14 September 2016)

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