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Interview With Gina Benetti


May 26, 2011


Columbus Centre



Interview With Gina Benetti

Gina Benetti was born in Anyox, BC on March 21, 1928. She was the first of eight children born to Angela and Emilio Sanvido. Her father arrived in Canada first in 1923 to find work, and then brought his fiancé over in 1927. Before his arrival, Emilio served under the British army in World War II. As a child, Gina attended Seamore Elementary School and then Templeton Junior High School. She explains that she did not face any discrimination from fellow students, but was once embarrassed and anxious when a teacher taught a social studies class on “enemy alien” countries such as Italy. Gina believes that her community so understood during the war because it was very multicultural: with Yugoslavian, Russian, and Italian neighbours. She recounts how a Japanese Canadian friend of hers named Kasako Suzuki left for Japan with her mother in grade 7 and Gina thought she had been killed during World War II until they were reunited over 60 years later. During the war both her mother and father were designated as enemy aliens, however only her mother was forced to report monthly to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Vancouver as her father was sent out of the city to work. She remembers going with her mother and four siblings down to 33rd and Cambie, where they took two street cars before returning back home. As an adult, Gina married John Benetti and they had a son together, John Junior. Gina went to university to study education and worked as a teacher before she was married. In later years she was instrumental in developing an ESL program in the Vancouver area, and taught through the TEAL program and the church.

Gina Benetti speaks about her parents, their migration to Canada and their marriage in 1927.

Gina Benetti speaks about her early life in Anyox, BC and her family’s move to Vancouver, BC.

In this clip Gina Benetti speaks about life in Italy for her parents prior to their move to Canada. She also discusses her father’s military service during WWI.

Gina Benetti speaks about her mother, her siblings and life in Vancouver.

Gina Benetti describes her feelings upon hearing about the outbreak of war and the enemy alien designation.

Gina Benetti describes what happened to her family in 1940. She speaks about her father being designated an enemy alien and being sent to work in Alberta. She also describes the economic hardships this placed on her family.

Gina Benetti speaks about her father’s life living away from his family in Alberta.

Gina Benetti speaks about ethnic make-up of her neighbourhood. She also speaks about her father’s work away from the family home and his visits home.

In this clip Gina Benetti explains how her family never faced discrimination because of the enemy alien designation during the war years.

Gina Benetti explains how she would help write letters for Alice Pasqualini, wife of internee Santo Pasqualini, during her husband’s internment.

Gina Benetti describes the shock of learning that her father had been sent away after the events of June 10, 1940.

Gina Benetti describes her life after her father returned home from Alberta.

Gina Benetti speaks about her continued involvement in Italian community organizations.

Gina Benetti expresses that she has no animosity against the Canadian government for declaring her father an enemy alien.

Gina Benetti explains how as an enemy alien her mother would have to report monthly to the RCMP.