George Bonavia

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George Bonavia was a Maltese emigrant in Canada who worked extensively with Maltese emigrants in North America.

George Bonavia was born on 2 May 1920 in Ħaż-Żabbar. He was educated at the Lyceum and the Royal University of Malta, where he attended a 1939-40 course in health and hygiene. He was subsequently employed as Health Inspector with the Department of Health and served in the King's Own Regiment in Malta during World War II. In 1945 he was appointed editor with the Allied Malta Newspapers, a post he held until June 1948 when he emigrated to Canada, where he settled in Windsor, Ontario.

He worked with Ford Motor Company until 1953 when he became a Canadian citizen and joined the Canadian Civil Service. He became Immigration Officer in Windsor but in 1965 he moved to Ottawa to work as Information Officer with the Canada Immigration Department. Between 1966 and 1968 he was the PRO for the Immigration Office of the Canadian Embassy in Rome. He later did similar work for the Department of Employment and Immigration, Ottawa dealing with the ethnic media and ethnocultural groups until his retirement form civil service in 1982. Bonavia was also a key figure in the creation of the Windsor Citizenship Council. In June 1983 he was elected president of the Canadian Citizenship Federation.

Parallel to his career as a Canadian civil servant, Bonavia was most active amongst the Maltese community in Canada. He wrote weekly letters (known as L-Ittra mill-Kanada) published in the Maltese daily newspaper Il-Berqa between 1948 and 1957. Between 1954 and 1965 he edited and published The Malta News, a monthly newspaper for Maltese in Canada and the United States. In 1954 he organized the first Maltese radio programme in Canada and in 1961, with the cooperation of the C.B.C. International Service, he initiated a monthly radio programme called With George Bonavia in Canada, which was broadcast for about 30 years on both Rediffusion and radio in Malta.

Bonavia wrote several books, including Canada, Land of Hope and Prosperity (1951), Workers in Canada (1961), Focus on Canadian Immigration (Ottawa, 1977), Maltese in Canada (Ottawa, 1980), Immigrants We Read About (Ottawa, 1986), and Ethnic Publications in Canada (Ottawa, 1987). For several years he produced the International Rendezvous, a half-hour weekly programme carried on the English network of CBC. In 1961 he edited and published The Citizen's News, a monthly magazine in English for and about the ethnic communities. He also contributed regularly to Canadian Scene, a news service to the ethnic media. Bonavia was also the editor of Kaleidoscope Canada, a monthly magazine dealing with immigration and ethnocultural affairs. He continued to write for Kaleidoscope and similar publications even after his retirement.

He worked hard to promote the Maltese language and literature. As a member of the Akkademja tal-Malti, he secured a financial grant from the Canadian Government to a Maltese section in public libraries in Canada wherever there's was a Maltese community. His regular column Books from Malta in L-Aħbar, a monthly newspaper for Maltese in North America (published in Toronto since 1987) was an excellent source for Canadans to learn about the most recent acquisitions through this programme.

In recognition for his long service to the Maltese community, Bonavia was given several honours and awards. He was made Knight of Malta (1958) and awarded the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), the Canadian Ethnic Journalists Award (1979), and the Citizenship Merit Award (1987). He was awarded the Medalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika by the Maltese Government in 1998.

George Bonavia married Mary Grech in 1946. Their five children are Connie, Joe, Paul, George and Lawrence. He died 10 June 2007 at the age of 87