The RCMP has recently apologized for naming it’s latest Quebec mafia crack-down ‘Project Clemenza’ after members of the Italian-Canadian community accused it of perpetrating negative Italian stereotypes. The project refers to Godfather character Peter Clemenza, and kind of implies that all Italians are mobsters.
Using evidence from intercepted Blackberry messages (really guys, it’s time to get an iPhone) police in Montreal arrested 31 people on charges of weapons possession, drug trafficking, and gangsterism on June 12th as part of ‘Project Clemenza.’ Last week, the National Congress of Italian Canadians Quebec chapter wrote a letter to the RCMP expressing their concern that the police were unfairly stereotyping Italians saying, “the association of ‘Italian’ to ‘Mafia’ is in our opinion offensive and degrading to all Italian Canadians, who certainly do not deserve to be treated with bigotry, bias and defamation.”
François Deschênes, assistant commissioner and commanding officer for Quebec issued an apology that couldn’t be refused, saying, “I can assure you that neither in the choice of the name of the investigation nor in the preparation of our press lines did we intend to convey any negative message whatsoever regarding the community you represent.” Never has a stock apology meant so much.
While the letter has not been released to the public (don’t ask the Mounties about their business), Antonio Sciascia, a former president of the National Congress of Italian Canadians, said that he was satisfied with the apology but noted that the code name was “insulting and degrading.”
What was perhaps even more insulting and degrading was that the RCMP decided to name the project after such a lame fictional mafioso. If you’re going to use ethnic stereotypes to name your project, at least have the decency to name it after a bad-ass ethnic stereotype.
Peter Clemenza was essentially Vito Corleone’s sidekick. Sure he killed some people, but he was always acting under orders. His real claim to fame was making a mean tomato sauce and remembering to leave the gun, but take the cannoli, the now critical piece of advice to mobsters everywhere.
The Quebec RCMP isn’t taking down the mafia by capturing a bunch of Clemenzas. If they really wanted to intimidate criminals with cartoonish Italian stereotypes they needed to go for a much cooler mobster. Project Vito Corleone or Project Anthony Soprano would easily jail twice the criminals that Project Clemenza did. At least the RCMP had the sense not to go for Project Mario the Plumber because unless the mob was led by Don Bowser and his goomba henchmen, that would’ve been an embarrassing failure.