Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin is trying to make amends to the country's Italian community for interning hundreds of Italian Canadians during World War II by funding education projects to commemorate the incident.
Martin signed a US$2.1 million (Ђ1.8 million) deal to fund projects to commemorate the arbitrary interning of about 700 Italian Canadians during the war.
Martin called it a dark chapter in Canadian history. Italian Canadians were "treated in a manner we know to be offensive," Martin told members of Montreal's Italian community. He said those actions "were motivated by fear and suspicion."
But Martin didn't offer an outright apology or financial compensation for survivors as some in the Italian community had wanted.
The prime minister spoke privately with several members of the Italian community, including 93-year-old Antonio Capobianco, the oldest living Italian-Canadian to have been interned.
"To hear that a Canadian, someone who was born here, could be incarcerated by the government, defies understanding," Martin said.
Despite being honored by Martin, Capobianco said the deal was too late.
"I don't feel too good about it," Capobianco said after Martin left the room. "Two-and-a-half million dollars doesn't pay nothing."
However, several Italian-Canadian organizations welcomed the agreement and called it a historic day for their community.
Canadian Heritage Minister Liza Frulla, whose grandfather was among those interned, broke down in tears during the ceremony.
The announcement is part of a US $21 million (Ђ17 million) package included in the last federal budget to make amends for wrongs done by the government to a variety of groups over the years.
Those groups include Italian Canadians, Ukrainians interned during the World War I and Chinese Canadians forced to pay a discriminatory head tax in the early 1900s, reported AP.
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