________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 15 . . . . March 26, 1999

cover Barbed Wire & Mandolins.

Nicola Zavaglia (Director), Sam Grana (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1997.
46 min., 45 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: 9197 009.

Subject Headings:
Italians-Canada-History-20th century.
World War, 1939-1945-Concentration camps-Ontario-Petawawa.
World War, 1939-1945-Personal narratives, Canadian.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Ian Stewart.

**** /4

The Canadian government's treatment of Japanese-Canadian citizens during the Second World War has been well documented, and, after many years, they have received a token acknowledgment that they suffered unjustly. Unfortunately, however, they were not the only people to fall victim to governmental fear and racism. Barbed Wire & Mandolins tells the little-known story of the internment of hundreds of Italian-Canadians during the war.

      After Italy declared war on the Allied nations on June 10, 1940, shopkeepers, factory workers, and doctors from Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario, were taken from work or home, and put on a train and sent to an Italian internment camp at Petawawa, Ontario, where they were treated as prisoners of war. It was weeks before families were notified that their husbands or sons were imprisoned. Their businesses were padlocked, and their families were harassed. Many spent years in the camp without a hearing and were unable to see their families. After the war, the men returned home to start all over with nothing except the good will and support of the Italian-Canadian community. None of those interned were ever convicted of, or even charged with, a seditious offense.

      Surprisingly, the survivors who were interviewed are not embittered. They all still seem shocked that this could have happened to them and that something so tragically ridiculous could have occurred in this wonderful country. A recognition exists that Canada was at war and that strong passions led to mistakes.

      However, as the film points out, as long as there is no acceptance or acknowledgment of these terrible errors, an inherent risk to democracy and fundamental justice exists. This fine film teaches a fine lesson to all.

Highly recommended.

Ian Stewart is a regular contributor to CM and the book review column of the Winnipeg Free Press.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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