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Interview With Peter Butti


May 19, 2011


Columbus Centre



Interview With Peter Butti

Peter Henry Lawrence Butti was born on July 30, 1935 in Edmonton, Alberta to Enrico (Henry) Butti and Myra Cantera. Peter Henry Lawrence was named after his grandfather, Peter ― the first in his family to come to Canada from Italy in 1912 under a mining work contract as an electrical engineer. After Peter had established a life in Canada, his wife, Ida, and children (Henry and Rosina) were able to join him in 1917. Henry also worked in the mines, counting cars when he was just 15 or 16 years old before the family moved to Edmonton in 1925.  Henry married Myra Cantera in 1929 and had three children: Peter, Rosemarie, and Josephine. Peter’s parents were very involved in community life as his father helped build the Italian church and his mother established the Edmonton Dante Alighieri and taught Italian to children there. Peter recounts his fond memories of his childhood in Edmonton, including stories of US officers staying at the Butti family home; encounters with scarlet fever; and helping his dad with his work in the refrigeration business. Peter also explains that he played on a hockey team associated with the Detroit Red Wings, against teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs. When Peter was only about six years old his parents were both designated as enemy aliens, and he recounts going to the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) headquarters with parents for their monthly reporting and being asked questions about his parents’ behavior. Peter explains that his father was a proud Canadian, hated Benito Mussolini, and that they were classified as enemy aliens because of a misunderstanding about their citizenship. Following the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Peter was also trained as an electrician at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology), Alberta. He and his wife Olivia were married in 1955 and together they have two children (Barry and Corrine), and nine grandchildren.

In this opening clip Peter Butti talks about his family’s migration to Alberta from Italy and the hardships faced by migrants working in the mining communities of Alberta.

Peter Butti speaks about the marriage of his parents, his siblings and his early childhood.

Peter Butti speaks about the Hillcrest Mine disaster in Alberta.

In this clip Peter Butti describes how his father assisted other Italian immigrants upon their arrival to Alberta.

Peter Butti describes how Italian Canadian community members came together and helped to build and establish an Italian language church, Santa Maria Gorretti, in Edmonton.

Peter Butti mentions that his mother, along with other Italian Canadian women, was involved in teaching Italian language classes to children of immigrants at the Dante Alighieri club.

In this clip Peter Butti speaks about his schooling and playing hockey with the Edmonton Athletic Club.

Peter Butti talks about how his father was instrumental in setting up a soccer club in Edmonton after the war.

In this clip Peter Butti describes the Edmonton neighbourhood he grew up in. He also speaks about community life and his father’s refrigeration business.

Peter Butti briefly speaks about his father’s social involvement.

In this clip Peter Butti speaks about how his parents came to be identified as enemy aliens after Italy’s war declaration. He also shares his father’s views on fascism and Mussolini and describes going to the RCMP barracks with his parents for their monthly reporting.

Peter Butti mentions that during the war there was a shortage of housing for US officers stationed at a nearby airbase and his family allowed a US Air Force officer to stay in their home for a small amount of rent.

Peter Butti does not recall his father ever speaking about the internment of Italian Canadians even when he was reporting monthly to the RCMP. He says that his father was a staunch Canadian who was also proud of his Italian heritage.

In this closing clip Peter Butti says that beside the enemy alien designation his family never faced any discrimination during the war years and his father did not hold onto any resentment over the enemy alien designation