Long before the formation of the first Italian communities in Canada, notable Italian navigators played a key role in the so called “discovery of the Americas”. The history of colonization in Canada is therefore inextricably linked with names like Cristoforo Colombo, Giovanni Caboto and Amerigo Vespucci, just to name a few, who sailed to North America as part of European exploration journeys to the ‘New World’. Such a history is still visible in the names of streets, squares, lakes, rivers, mountains etc. as well as in public holidays. In Newfoundland, for instance, the closest Monday to June 24 used to be celebrated as “Discovery Day”, coinciding with the date Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto arrived in Canada in 1497. However, his arrival played a dramatic role in generating conflicts between European colonizers and the Indigenous peoples living there. So much so that in 2020, the provincial government of Newfoundland decided to dismiss the traditional holiday name, replacing it with “June Day”, after numerous protests by the local First Nations communities.
During my talk, I will address the role that national days and place-names, some of which are linked to the Italian presence in Canada, play as a manifestation of colonialism and nationalism. Naming places, people or holidays is not just a matter of choosing one name over another, but it reveals ideological stances and narratives. Possible alternatives may change attitudes towards Indigenous peoples, thus promoting a new solidarity with the Italian-Canadian community.
Anna Mongibello (PhD) is Senior Tenure-track Researcher in English Language and Translation at the University of Naples “L’Orientale” (Italy). Her research interests include the intersections of language, ideology and identity in the Canadian context, with a focus on the practices of representation/self-representation of Indigenous peoples in Canada. She has published articles in national and international journals. She is the author of two books: Indigenous Peoples in Canadian TV News: a Corpus-based Analysis of Mainstream and Indigenous News Discourses (2018) and Geografie alternative: scrittrici indigene contemporanee del Canada anglofono (2013).