Changes: A Profile of Pietro Scopelliti
people know Pietro Scopelliti because of his prominent role in Ottawa’s
Italian community throughout the 1970’s and 1980's. Although he
is now retired, ever since immigrating to Canada from Italy in 1953
he has been an active member of the local community.
Scopelliti in his navy days. He served four years in the Italian
is well known for his work as the chairman of Italian
Week for five consecutive years in the early 1970’s. He’s
also recognizable as a member of the Canadian Italian Business Professional
Association (CIBPA) for 17 years. Still, more friends have gotten
to know him during his 10 years of activity at both the National
Congress of Italian Canadians and the Italian Naval Association.
perhaps Scopelliti is best known for his support of Bob Chiarelli
and the Ontario Liberal party.
Chiarelli was the first one to kick out the Conservative party in
Ottawa-West, [in 1987],” Scopelliti says. “The Conservative
party was here in Ottawa for 75 years and nobody kicked them out.
Bob, he kicked them out.”
volunteering for two years with the politician, Chiarelli invited
Scopelliti to the Mona Lisa restaurant on Preston Street one night.
He wanted Scopelliti to work in the provincial government and help
injured workers receive compensation.
said;‘I don’t have a university degree to stay in the
office with you,’" Scopelliti remembers telling Chiarelli.
“‘No, no, no,’ he says, ‘you’ve got
more than a university degree. You were the president of the union
of injured workers [for seven years]’.” Scopelliti agreed
and defended injured workers’ rights for another eleven years.
he got to this point is an interesting story.
was born in Calabria Reggio. He joined the Italian Navy when he was
20 and served for four years. After running out of food, water and
gas while at sea, he watched onboard an adjacent ship near La Spezia,
Italy, as the German forces bombed the infamous Roma Battleship on
September 9th, 1943, the day after Italy declared a truce with the
he returned home, Scopelliti found his family with no money, but a
lot of hope. They started a business delivering essential goods such
as gas and saved up enough money to move to North America. Scopelliti
went to the American Embassy in Italy to try to find a way to join
his brother, who had already moved to the United States. But his application
was refused because he had fought against the Allied Forces and was
not welcome in the States.
Scopelliti receiving the Commemorative Medal from Mayor Bob
Chiarelli. The medal reads: “In recognition of significant
contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada.”
eventually made his way to Ottawa and became a baker at Morison Lamonthe
Bakery. He even prepared buns for the Queen during one of her visits
to Canada. Security was so tight that two police officers were on
hand to observe what was being put into the dough.
Scopelliti became a painter and joined the Canadian Italian Business
Professional Association. He helped them design parade floats with
Italian themes, such as the Duke of Venice and the Trevi Fountain.
One year they designed a float with the theme of winemaking. It
was all ready to go on the day of the parade. The winemakers were
prepared to smash grapes with their feet and the driver was starting
the engine. Only one thing was missing – the live donkey that
would give it that finishing “Old World” touch wouldn’t
climb onto the platform. The only thing Scopelliti could do was
call the owner of the donkey to come and help them. As soon as she
left though, the donkey tried to leave.
Scopelliti says. “We dressed her up and put a little bit of
make-up on her and she wasn’t bad.”
Scopelliti and his wife Grazia celebrate their 50th wedding
floats that Scopelliti worked on won five years in a row until,
finally, the judges told him it wouldn’t be fair if his group
continued his work as a professional painter until he broke his
ankle on the job. He received compensation from the government,
but he also got to know so many people in similar situations that
didn’t receive compensation. This motivated him to become
more involved in injured worker compensation and it also got him
involved in politics.
though, we find Scopelliti retired and turning 84 this December.
He says he’s taking it easy, exercising every morning and
enjoying life with his wife of 53 years.
article was originally published in the July 2002 issue of Il
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