It's hard to imagine what Vancouver would be like if there had never been any Italian immigration to Canada.
One thing is certain: it would be a decidedly duller and far less economically vibrant city without the contributions of the Italian pioneers and their descendants.
We could never describe Michael Bublé as a hometown sensation.
There would be no Danny Antonucci cartoons created in Vancouver.
We never would have had a Vancouver park commissioner named Al De Genova, whose vision led to the revival of Victory Square and the creation of skateparks for youths. He also founded Honour House, which provides a refuge for wounded members of the Canadian Armed Forces, their families, and first responders.
With no Italian immigration, there would be no memories of Todd Bertuzzi lighting up the scoreboard at Rogers Arena. Or Roberto Luongo backstopping Canada's gold-medal-winning hockey team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
The city never would have had Bob Lenarduzzi keeping Vancouverites' passion for soccer alive when all seemed lost.
Or Lui Passaglia kicking field goals for 25 years. Or Wally Buono's inspirational leadership of the B.C. Lions.
There would have been no court decisions written by the legendary jurist Angelo Branca. As a lawyer, he was a champion in the fight against discrimination against Italian Canadians in the 1930s and 1940s.
Branca was even ranked as the most outstanding criminal defence lawyer in Canadian history before going on to a distinguished career on the bench. His daughter, Delores Holmes, also became a judge.
Then there's all that housing. With no Italian immigration, there would be no multifamily projects created by so many talented Italian Canadian builders, including the Bosas, Aquilinis, Buccis, and members of the De Cotiis family.
There would be no Citygate, which was a catalyst for the transformation of Southeast False Creek. There would be no award-winning Loden Hotel, which shows that those of Italian ancestry still create the most appealing boutique hotels in the world.
Vancouver's internationally celebrated culinary scene really got its start when another Italian, Umberto Menghi, arrived in Vancouver and opened Il Giardino on Hornby Street. He hired a young man named John Bishop and the rest is history.
Federico's Supper Club, CinCin Ristorante + Bar, and Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill are among many other great Italian restaurants that have carried on the tradition.
When Alberto and Maria Leone opened their upscale fashion boutique in Sinclair Centre in 1987, they brought Italian style into the heart of the city. Their son Marcello is now CEO of RYU, carrying on the family business on an even grander scale.
The Juliani family and Bruno Gerussi brought Italian passion and creativity to the city's arts scene. Herb Capozzi and the Gaglardis did the same in business.
On the environmental front, real estate agent Randy Rinaldo has been a leader in promoting electric-vehicle use, convincing former premier Christy Clark to allow these nonpolluting machines in HOV lanes even when they had only one occupant. Rinaldo also spearheaded the designation of part of Commercial Drive as Little Italy to honour the street's history.
Another descendant of Italian immigrants, retired Vancouver Sun journalist Bob Sarti, used to regularly report on hungry kids in the Vancouver school system. That led to the creation of a school-lunch program, ensuring poor kids had a fair shot at success.
And some say Vancouver's public school system was at its best when another Italian Canadian, Dante Lupini, was the long-serving school superintendent. His daughter Linda now oversees B.C. Emergency Health Services, which has done an amazing job responding to the fentanyl crisis.
Another Canadian of Italian ancestry, Mike Lombardi, fought off provincial attempts to shut down Vancouver schools and sell off the Kingsgate Mall when he chaired the board of education.
Yet another politician of Italian ancestry, City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto, helped make his municipality one of of the most livable and environmentally sensitive in the region.
So why am I listing the contributions of Italian Canadians?
It should be a no-brainer for any politician who reflects on the hardship faced by Italian immigrants in the past. Nearly four dozen were interned during the Second World War, and countless others faced intense and ongoing discrimination for decades.
Coun. Melissa De Genova's motion notes that Italian Day on the Drive attracts as many people as the Vancouver Pride parade.
Other events with civic status include Lunar New Year, Black History Month, National Indigenous Peoples Day, and Vancouver Pride Week.
According to De Genova's motion, overall expenses for Italian Day on the Drive are projected to exceed $300,000. And the city donated a measly $4,000 in each of the last two years.
That stands in sharp contrast to other events that draw much smaller crowds but receive far more funding.
As an example, De Genova voted with the rest of council for a $200,000 grant for Our City Ride and Bike the Night, which aimed to attract 10,000 cyclists.
"This is an event that was only created two years ago," De Genova told the Straight. "Great event, but it has a lot less people."
Around 20 times that number will be on Commercial Drive on June 10 to commemorate Italian heritage.
Because police want to ensure people can move freely through the area, there will be slightly fewer booths this year at Italian Day on the Drive.
As a result, organizers expect less revenue even as they're paying greater policing costs. This means they'll have to come up with about $40,000 in additional funding.
Granting civic status to Italian Day on the Drive would reduce policing costs.
Last month, the Straight posted a commentary noting rising costs have led to the demise of several community festivals. The more popular they become, the more challenging it is to keep them going.
City council can't allow this to bring down one of Vancouver's most beloved and most popular public gatherings.
Italian Day on the Drive acknowledges and honours a community that played an enormous role in forging the city's identity and, to be frank, in making our town a whole lot less boring.
The same can be said for the LGBT and Indigenous communities, as well as those of African ancestry and those who celebrate Lunar New Year.
They all deserve civic status. City council should end the inequality once and for all.
It wouldn't sit well with Angelo Branca and it shouldn't sit well with Mayor Gregor Robertson, either.More