Published: 111 Elm Street, Toronto
At the end of the 1920s, the ever-growing Toronto did not have a regularly published Italian language newspaper and, in 1929, three periodicals appeared: Il Corriere italiano, Il Progresso Italo-Canadese, and Il Bollettino Italo-Canadese. Before 1929, the only Italian Canadian periodical, the markedly conservative Tribuna Canadiana, was published irregularly and was no longer able to meet the needs of an Italian Canadian society that was more pluralistic, culturally and religiously diverse at the dawn of the Thirties.
Il Bollettino Italo-Canadese was first published on 20 September 1929 and was presented as a true community newspaper, willing to serve Italian Canadians and the Italian community of Toronto in particular. Its aim was to remain free from political patronage and cooperate with local authorities while maintaining its distinctive Italian character.
The first editorial openly rejected absolutism and despotism, seen as a synonym of decadence. However, this seems not to refer to Italian fascism, but to the short-lived and recently discontinued Corriere italiano, a rival publication.
The first issues of Il Bollettino, edited by fascist supporter Attilio Perilli, were modest in terms of pages (4) and focussed on the provincial elections of 30 October 1929 and on voting procedures; ample coverage was also given to lectures delivered by fascist affiliates, while readers were encouraged to participate as much as possible in fascist initiatives such as fundraisers at the Circolo Colombo, a fascist club of Toronto.
In 1930, Il Bollettino italo-canadese became a 6-page newspaper under the editorship of Tommaso Mari, a member of the Italian consular elite (he was the secretary of Consul General Giovanni Battista Ambrosi), who interpreted fascism as a religion to be celebrated tirelessly. Through the pages of Il Bollettino, Mussolini’s words and propaganda were thus accepted and disseminated a-critically because they came from an oracle-like commander-in-chief.
Patriotism and Catholicism were conveniently fused together by Mari in his editorials to embrace post-Concordat rhetoric and fully align with the positions of the Italian consulate general of Toronto. Il Bollettino aimed to pressure and intimidate those who did not support fascism and its ‘civilizing’ mission and operated to bring together local fascists, the consulate, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy through precise campaigns such as that in support of the Separate Schools (which were run in cooperation with the Catholic Church).
Mari openly put forward fascist viewpoints, especially after 1932 when the newspaper circulated widely in the community and was financially subsidized by advertising and fascist grants and donations. The newspaper covered events linked with fascist transnational propaganda, such as the visit of military chaplain Father Antonio Salza, a war-wounded veteran with extraordinary oratorical skills. His arrival in Toronto in 1934 was acclaimed as an exceedingly important event by the fascist press; similarly, the visit of Piero Parini, the plenipotentiary of the Fasci Italiani all’estero (Fasci abroad) that took place in the same year, was celebrated with great pomp.
Fascism was supported by Il Bollettino both in its Canadian and foreign versions. In Canada, the increasingly aggressive rhetoric of the newspaper celebrated the construction of the Case d’Italia of Hamilton and Toronto, built in the mid-1930s with the financial support of the consular elite and of members of the community who contributed to the fascist grandeur with their savings. The community also took part in the transnational campaign Date oro alla patria (Give Gold to the Motherland) engineered by Mussolini in 1935 to raise funds following the sanctions imposed by the Society of Nations on the Italian government after the military invasion of Ethiopia.
Having reached its maximum expansion in terms of both distribution and advertising, Il Bollettino’s rhetoric became increasingly aggressive to the point of overflowing into xenophobia and never stopped supporting the Duce and his regime even during the campaign in the Horn of Africa when most Italian communities in North America (with the exception, among others, of some large Canadian centres such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal) rejected their allegiance to Fascist Italy once the Racial Laws of 1938 were approved.
The staunch support elicited by Il Bollettino
across the Italian community of Toronto is reflected in the impressive list of subscribers and number of advertisements published biweekly by Mari and his associates. Such lists would later be used by the RCMP to target local Italian communities during the infamous 1940 raids that resulted in the internment of hundreds of Italian Canadians.
Fascist enthusiast and director of Il Bollettino, Tommaso Mari was born in 1899 in Cerreto d’Esi (Ancona), a village in the Marche region of Italy. Not much is known about his background apart from the fact that he was a schoolteacher and a fervent supporter of Mussolini in Canada even after the Ethiopian campaign and the promulgation of the Racial Laws in 1938. Mari arrived in Canada in 1928 and was among the founders of Il Bollettino. His first port of call was Thorold, where he arrived thanks to a sponsorship received by a fellow Italian who ran the Caboto Macaroni importing business.
Mari published the booklet Lezioni pratiche d’Italiano (1938), a widely circulating handbook containing twenty-five lessons for the teaching of Italian language that, under the cover of a military-like idea of instruction apparently free of openly nationalistic and pro-fascist traits, gave teachers ample freedom to indoctrinate their pupils.
Brera, Matteo. 2019. ‘Schools of “Italianness”: Language Teaching and Fascist Propaganda in 1930s Toronto.’ Italian Canadiana, 33, pp. 59-82.
Principe, Angelo. 1999. The Darkest Side of the Fascist Years. The Italian-Canadian Press 1920-1942. Toronto: Guernica, Toronto, pp. 85-122.