A Historical Overview
Italian immigrants have contributed a great deal to enhance life here in Canada. From working in the mines of Northern Ontario, the smelters of British Columbia and construction sites in the cities, they have shared their skills as trades people, business people, farmers, artists and professionals.
Italian immigration reached its peak in Canada during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Today Canadians of Italian ancestry represent the fourth largest ethnic group in the country and can be found in all provinces and territories. Most Canadian cities have established Italian communities with various associations and organizations representing the different regions of Italy. For many Italian-Canadians, the Italy they left behind is different from the one they remember and new immigrants are surprised to see how immigrants who left Italy long ago, have preserved the old traditions and dialects in Canada.
The history of MICBA (Mississauga Italian Canadian Benevolent Association) began in February 1986 when a small group of community minded individuals met for the first time in a Streetsville office with the goal of planning and building a Canadian Italian Center in Mississauga. The primary purpose of MICBA was to return to the community a number of resources in recognition of what Canada has meant to Canadians of Italian origin who chose Ontario as their home. Members of the organization felt truly blessed to live in a land where opportunity abounds and where citizens can choose a variety of ways to contribute to the building of a more caring and tolerant society.
Late in 1986, MICBA selected a site near Eglinton and Hurontario, in the heart of the dynamic City of Mississauga, as home to the “Forum Italia” project. MICBA diligently undertook this enormous challenge and the following two years were spent with the lengthy process of planning, obtaining site rezoning approvals, a comprehensive feasibility study, submissions for the residential component of the project and the tendering for general contractors. With all approvals in place, the ground breaking on April 8, 1989 marked the beginning of construction and the realization of an ambitious dream.
On April 8, 1991, Forum Italia officially opened and comprised of two buildings providing market rental and rent-geared-to-income housing for seniors, singles and families in our community. A self contained sixty unit two storey senior’s residence was built at 155 Forum Drive and a seven storey apartment building was located at 195 Forum Drive. Supportive housing, recreational and social programs are provided for the seniors so that their lives are enriched on a daily basis. In September of 1991, a fully licensed not-for-profit child care centre was opened providing quality daycare programming for 55 full time and part time children. Since then we have expanded our program to 85 full-time children and a before and after school program.
Construction began in January 2001 on the next component to complete a fully integrated community care network for all ages on one site. Villa Forum, a modern 160 bed Long Term Care Home took shape at 175 Forum Drive. Officially opened on September 13, 2002, Villa Forum provides specialized psychogeriatric services, palliative care and inter-generational programs that enable seniors to age gracefully, in place. The dream initiated in 1986 had now become a reality.
MICBA itself is a historic achievement in Canada. Since the inception of MICBA and the completion of the Forum Italia and Villa Forum projects, the Association remains one of the single largest pilots projects ever undertaken by an ethnic group in Canada. MICBA is impressive for more than its size and scope; it is renowned for the compassionate and loving care, which permeates every aspect of the MICBA Family.
The spirit of working together as a community – as did settlers in Upper Canada in Simcoe’s time – is a treasure and a triumph of human spirit. Through endeavors of this kind we, MICBA, can continue to build upon the rich heritage passed down to our generation and provide for future generations a shining example of what can be accomplished through means of mutual co-operation, caring and consideration.
Our mission is to put back into the community a number of resources in recognition of what Canada has meant to Canadians of Italian origin who choose Mississauga as their home.