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The Founding College of the University of Toronto

Students in UC course on Italian Canadian Studies Honoured with Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award

Canadian Studies
UC in the News

Students in the University College course CDN 240H1: Italian Canadian Studies were recently honoured with the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Youth Achievement 2020 for their collaboration on the Archival Research of Italian Canadian Immigration and Culture.

Congratulations to students Christina Ioanna Coutsougeras; Cristian Delfino; Stefania Di Leo; Natasha Fares; Samantha Greco; Sebastian Gri; Fiona McLean; Joseph Rossi; Carmen Russo; Garima Saini; Faye Varanesi; and Mackenzie Velocci; course instructor Teresa Russo; and research volunteer Lucia Di Pietro.

Three undergraduate student collaborators from Brock University, Elizabeth Colantoni, Sam Caravaggio, and Daniella Pace, were also recognized and share in the award.

The citation noted the students’ creativity in incorporating archival research to identify and promote Italian Canadian cultural heritage. For instance:

  • Elizabeth Colantoni, Samantha Greco, Sebastian Gri, and Carmen Russo created new archives as they interviewed members of the Italian community in the Niagara and Toronto regions and documented their immigration stories;
  • Christina Ioanna Coutsougeras looked at the anti-Italian riots that took place in Canada during the summer of 1940, which led to the internment of Italians in Canada and the destruction of documents from Italian cultural centres; 
  • Cristian Delfino shared the origins of opera with recorded sound from Edoardo Ferrari-Fontana in 1915;
  • Stefania Di Leo, Natasha Fares, and Mackenzie Velocci investigated the contributions of Italian fallen workers, highlighting industrial projects in Ontario, such as the Welland Canal, and the Italian Fallen Workers monument;
  • Fiona McLean discovered an Italian fallen worker by examining a 100-year-old coroner's record;
  • Joseph Rossi highlighted the contributions of Donald Ziraldo to the wine industry in Canada;
  • Garima Saini demonstrated how chemical emissions and environmental racism against the Aamjiwnaag First Nations group living in Sarnia today parallels how Italian workers were treated in the area in 1937; and
  • Faye Varanesi examined union activity during the post-war years in Toronto that was led by Italian Canadian workers such as Marino Toppan, who spoke to students at UC with Paola Breda in January 2020.

Dr. Teresa Russo, who taught the course, says, “I am thrilled for the students; it is so wonderful to see them receive this accolade, particularly since they spent months with me in an editing phase after the course ended to create a high-quality visual document for the site.”

The award was presented by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, at a virtual ceremony on February 18, 2021.

The course CDN 240H1: Italian Canadian Studies is made possible thanks to a generous donation from Olga Pugliese-Zorzi (BA 1963 UC), a professor emerita in the Department of Italian Studies at U of T. She was recognized with the UC Alumni of Influence Award in 2017.