Francesco Giuseppe Bressani Literary Prize

The Italian Cultural Centre Society of Vancouver established the biennial F. G. Bressani Literary Prize in 1986 during the celebrations for Vancouver's Centennial and the launch of the First National Conference of Italian Canadian Writers. The Centre's board of directors accepted a proposal put forth by a local committee led by C. Dino Minni and Anna Foschi Ciampolini for the creation of a literary prize aimed at honouring and promoting the literary work of established or mid-career Canadian writers of ITALIAN descent, and encouraging emerging writers. The Italian Cultural Institute in Vancouver co-sponsored the first edition of the Prize by funding a special award for works written in Italian.

The Bressani Prize, awarded every two years and originally dedicated to ITALIAN CANADIAN literature and to the literary expression of the Italian immigrant experience in Canada, was later opened to writers from other cultures whose works contained some references to Italian Canadian culture or Italian heritage. The Prize was discontinued for a few years in the 1990s. In 2000, the Italian Cultural Centre's new F. G. Bressani Committee was formed and restored the original intent and meaning of the Prize.

The Prize is named after the JESUIT Father Francesco Giuseppe Bressani, an Italian MISSIONARY born in Rome on 6 May 1612. Father Bressani spent several years in QUÉBEC providing spiritual care first to the French and then to the ALGONQUIN and HURON. Captured and tortured by the IROQUOIS, he was finally ransomed by the Dutch at Fort Orange and sent to France, where he arrived in November 1644. The following year he was again in NEW FRANCE, where he spent most of his time at the missionary outpost in Huron country, STE. MARIE AMONG THE HURONS (near today's MIDLAND, Ontario), on which he laboured zealously until its destruction by the Iroquois four years later. He continued afterward to minister to the scattered and fugitive Huron. He was also stationed for a time in Québec, where he occasionally officiated Mass. In November 1650, Bressani's failing health and the meagre resources of the mission obliged him to return to Italy, where he spent many years as a preacher and missionary, dying in Florence on 9 September 1672. Bressani's Breve Relatione d'alcune Missioni... nella Nuova Francia (JESUIT RELATIONS, Macerata 1653) can be considered the precursor of Italian Canadian writing.

The Bressani Prize has three goals: it aims to stimulate and enhance the literary production of works by Canadian authors of Italian origin or ancestry; to add to the richness of the Italian immigrant experience in Canada by celebrating its literary expression; and to honour and reflect aspects of Italian heritage and culture within an ethno-culturally diverse society.

The Bressani Prize awards only a First Prize to the winners of the following categories: poetry (collections of at least 20 poems), fiction (narratives of at least 50 pages) and short fiction (narratives of at least 8000 characters). Eligible works are those published during a two-year period between January 1 of a given year and March 31 of the following year. Submissions are accepted from publishers and individuals who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents, 16 years of age and older, with at least one parent or grandparent who was born in Italy. Authors can submit works written in Italian, English or French (translations are not eligible). An independent judging panel comprised of literary experts selects the winners from a shortlist submitted by carefully chosen readers. The awards ceremony is held at the Italian Cultural Centre and includes readings from the winning works.

Past winners include Robert F. Harney, Nino RICCI, Ven Begamudré, Carmine Starnino, M.G. VASSANJI, Michael ONDAATJE, Pasquale Verdicchio, and Victoria Miles.