A politically committed member of the Italian community of Montreal, Nicola Doganieri had a typically extended Italian-style family and resided with his wife Francesca (Françoise) Granato, his mother-in-law and seven children at 9550 Basile Routhier St. in Montreal. He owned a small business on Esplanade Ave specializing in the manufacture of javel water, a disinfectant and bleaching agent.
The Doganieris regularly attended events at the Casa d’Italia and cautiously sided with local prominent members of the Italian community including consul general Giuseppe Brigidi. However, flipping through the pages of L’Operaio Italo Canadese, a 4-page-per-issue newspaper published between 1939 and 1940, Nicola’s allegiance to members of fascist echelons and other influential Italians of Montreal seems to have been conflictual.
The title of the periodical is misleading as readers would expect at least a militant and socially engaged editorial policy in defence of workers’ rights. Indeed, L’Operaio was a one-man newspaper that functioned as many of its early-twentieth century predecessors: animated by a polemic and flamboyant editor, it was mostly a means to advertise the community’s businesses and preserve cultural connections with the motherland through the defence of community-driven initiatives and associations.
The few surviving issues, solely preserved in this collection and at Libraries and Archives Canada (Ottawa), are revealing of Doganieri’s encumbering role as owner, publisher, editor and contributor of the newspaper. His articles only cursorily touched upon major political events of WWII and their implications for Canada. Instead, he used the columns of his bulletin to mock Italian clubs and other members of the community of Montreal he disliked while endorsing his associates’ businesses. Although generally careful in expressing his political views, Doganieri’s pro-fascist stance transpired in the articles he devoted to the importance of supporting Italian export goods and events held at the Casa d’Italia or promoted by the local lodge of the Order of Sons of Italy, still firmly in fascist hands.
A limited yet interesting editorial attempt to publish an official organ of the fascist corporations of Montreal (i.e., government bodies that would ideally bring together federations of unionized workers and employers to regulate production in a holistic manner), L’Operaio Italo-Canadese ended up mirroring Doganieri’s personal political stances and resulted in his internment at Petawawa (ON) and Fredericton (NB) in 1940.
Doganieri’s experience is similar to that of many other Italian Canadian internees: his home was raided on June 19, 1940 and, after Nicola was sent to Petawawa, Francesca found work as a cleaning lady. She also had to look after their children, three of whom were physically disabled. In 1941, Doganieri’s youngest daughter – three-year-old Anna – passed away. Because of his captivity, Doganieri was not able to attend the funeral. Doganieri claimed that, during his internment, some of his property was seized and resold illegally, which resulted in significant financial hardship for his family.
In the same year, Doganieri’s wife Francesca and daughter Giulietta went to visit Nicola in Petawawa. They travelled by car with Georgianna Falardeau, Camillien Houde’s wife. Doganieri and Houde, the mayor of Montreal, became friends at Petawawa.
Doganieri was released from Fredericton in 1943, under the obligation to obey all laws and ‘do everything reasonably possible to assist in Canada’s war effort’.
Library and Archives Canada, Custodian of Enemy Property: RG 117, Vol. 654, Internee File 3740, ‘Nicola Doganieri.’
Library and Archives Canada, RCMP: RG 18, Vol. 3563, File C-11-19-2-3, Part 6, Letter from Louis St. Laurent, Minister of Justice, to S.T. Wood, RCMP Commissioner, Feb. 1, 1943.