It was once in charge of relief for the besieged Maltese during World War II and its float for Toronto’s centennial parade won first prize. But nearly a century since its foundation, the Maltese-Canadian Society of Toronto has had to close down as the Maltese community in the ‘junction’ neighbourhood continues to shrink.
Richard Cumbo, a life member of the society and curator of a Maltese-Canadian museum, told Times of Malta that its building in the junction had been sold.
The 97-year-old society was founded in 1922 to promote the establishment of a Maltese Roman Catholic church.
Its goal was achieved during the economic depression with the building of the first St Paul the Apostle church in 1930.
According to Mr Cumbo, the society played an integral role in the lives of Maltese migrants settling in Canada and it was the main voice of the Maltese in Toronto for decades until more clubs were founded in the 1960s.
During World War II, the society’s president, Angelo Cutajar, and its committee looked after the Malta Relief Fund.
When a new and larger church was required by the community, the founders and members chipped in. A new church was built in 1956 and the society kept financially supporting it until the late 1960s.
It was during this time that other Maltese associations took root in the neighbourhood. But while these clubs could purchase their own buildings it took many years for the Maltese-Canadian Society of Toronto to do so since it had been investing its money in St Paul’s.
As the years rolled by it became increasingly difficult to find volunteers to serve the club as the Maltese community aged and shrunk and no new migrants moved there from Malta.
Mr Cumbo, who served on the executive committee for over 35 years, noted that another club that suffered the same fate was the Maltese Canadian Club of London, Ontario. It closed down in December last year.
Despite all this, the Maltese still get together for various events, organised by other clubs such as the Gozo Club of Toronto, the Maltese Canadian Federation, the Malta Band Club in Mississauga and the Melita Soccer Club.
According to Mr Cumbo, the heart of the community in the ‘junction’ remains St Paul the Apostle’s Maltese parish, which is administered by the Missionary Society of St Paul since 1999. Previously, the parish had been run by the Franciscan Fathers of the Malta Province.
The church’s complex also hosts a Maltese-Canadian museum, curated by Mr Cumbo himself, where information about the Maltese-Canadian community has been preserved for posterity and will, hopefully, outlive the clubs.
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