Culinary Ethnography Sheet – Google Fusion Tables

The 1880s saw many migrants venturing to North America to earn money that they would send back home. These sojourners – temporary migrants, many of whom were Italian – were primarily male, and Canada proved to be an attractive opportunity at the time because cheap labor was needed to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia. Canada was officially opposed to bringing in contract workers as many sojourners would simply leave at the end of the season, not having any permanent stake in the country. However, large railway companies, mining ventures, and industrialists ignored the laws, recruiting contract workers on a large scale. The government turned a blind eye because the economic benefits of bringing in people who would work in dangerous conditions for less than a dollar a day were incontestable.

Italian sojourners primarily came from the Abruzzi, Calabria, Basilicata, and Friuli regions of Italy. They were recruited through the padrone system, which would recruit workers from Italy and send them to Canada via Chiasso, Switzerland and England. Upon arrival in Montreal where they were initially promised work, sojourners were told to make their way to British Columbia where their labor was needed. If they refused, they would be abandoned. The money sojourners sent back to Italy would contribute to dowries for their daughters, help their families pay increasing rent to land owners, and allow their relatives to purchase small amounts of land.

Italians, mostly sojourners, continued to migrate to Canada until the 1930s, but Italy’s role in the Second World War meant an immediate stop to this. The decades after the Second World War saw renewed Italian migration, many of whom came in families. Over 440,000 of the 3.5 million immigrants who came to Canada between 1946 and 1972 were Italian, making them the second largest group to migrate behind the British. Italian migrants largely settled in Ontario, primarily in Toronto, as they favored large cities within industrializing provinces. Italian settlement in Toronto was and still is reflected in the city’s ethnic and cultural makeup; in 1977 12% of Torontonians identified as Italian, although this figure was 6.8% by 2011.


Harney, Robert F. “Men Without Women: Italian Migrants in Canada, 1885-1930.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 11, no. 1 (January 1977).

Iacovetta, Franca. “Immigrants and Race Relations in Canadian History.” Lecture, “Lone” Men, “Bachelor” Cultures; Encountering Racism: BC and Elsewhere, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, September 30, 2014.

“NHS Profile, Toronto, C, Ontario, 2011.” Statistics Canada. November 27, 2015. Accessed March 22, 2016. origin&B1=All&Custom=&TABID=1.

“Focus on Geography Series, 2011 Census.” Statistics Canada. January 7, 2016. Accessed March 22, 2016.

Tomasi, Lydio F. “The Italian Community in Toronto: A Demographic Profile.” International Migration Review 11, no. 4 (1977).