Felix Pingue
Niagara Falls

I love this country and am so happy that my lovely wife Lucia and I live here together. I think we in Canada take for granted quite often how lucky we are. Canada allows every nationality the chance to live the life of a human being. You don’t get persecuted for being different here. Instead you are invited to be Canadian while at the same time enjoying your own heritage and values. I had the pleasure of meeting Pierre Elliot Trudeau sometime and he was incredible to immigrants here in Canada. Sometimes immigrants criticize Canada and I always say “be good to Canada, be proud of our nation. Where else would you have these opportunities.”

I have been involved with Club Italia (I was one of the founders there) and the provincial and federal governments were both a tremendous help to us in setting up and recognizing our roots. The Government of Canada was a truly tremendous partner to us. How many countries in the world would help people honour their roots and at the same time embrace them as their own?

I was born in Italy but moved to Canada on April 25, 1959. I moved right here, to Niagara Falls (Montrose Road). When I arrived here I went to school for a few years before working with my brother in construction. I started a family business here in 1964 with my father. We would do plaster work, but grew it to buying buildings, then bigger purchases and even restaurants.

I do what I can for Niagara Falls because of how incredible this land has been to me. One story is with regard to an old building the city was considering tearing down. I love old buildings, and I wish to help preserve them if I can. The city wanted to take this building down, but when I wanted to preserve it they were willing to listen. Consider how rare that is in the world. The people of Niagara Falls were actually given a voice! In many countries I would have been silenced, or at least ignored. But not here, in Canada. The building was falling apart but I said let’s preserve this building. I will put my funds into the building and hopefully we can preserve it. There is no final decision yet, of course the city may still tear it down, but they have at least taken the time to listen to my proposal and that is absolutely incredible. They didn’t have to listen to me, but they have.

One time, we were at the club doing an event for veterans, and there was discussion about whether to invite Canadian soldiers or just Italian soldiers. There was some discussion about how the Canadian soldiers had fought against Italy during WWII. I said, I went to Italy, how can you say that. They fought in Italy…in one cemetery in Italy there were 1993 Canadian Vets, one guy even from right here in Niagara Falls. How can you say that they do not deserve our recognition when they went to our country to protect democracy and freedom for Italians? They did not have to do that, but Canada still did it anyway. Be good to Canada, be proud of Canada, be proud of your Canadian Nationality. Yes we are Italian, but we are Italian-Canadians, and I love my country.

When I came here immigrants could spend 25 dollars a year to go 2 nights a week to night school, but if you attended 85% of your classes you got your money back. You didn’t pay anything!! 2 days after I come here I got a job setting up bowling alley pins. 2 days!! Where else do these opportunities get given to newcomers to the country? How can we speak bad about this country when it gives us such incredible opportunities? Another impressive aspect of Canada: From 1959-1966 the whole family worked, but the bread, eggs, and milk would come during the day. So we would leave the money in the milk basket and each respective delivery-person would take their money and leave change. The money never once got stolen. Where else would money be that safe? We have an incredible country and took often that is taken for granted. This country may not be perfect, but Canada tries it’s best and that is as much as we can ask for. Thank you Canada, I truly love my country.

Where would you like to go that you have never been?
I’ve been to Lake Louise out west, but I have not had the chance to go further. Next stop, I want to go to Vancouver!!

Favourite memory from Canada’s first 150 years?
When PM PE Trudeau announced the multiculturalist policy, which opened up our multicultural spirit. This was a historic moment for all the immigrants in Canada. Ever since then I have always had the Canadian flag flying all year round. I have three flags: Canada, Italy, Canada. I am incredibly proud of my flags, and I make sure that I always keep my flags flying because they are so important to me, and PM Trudeau’s policy is a big part of that honour.