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Caboto Club membership no longer restricted to only men following historic vote

For the first time in its 98-year history, the Giovanni Caboto Club will no longer limit its membership only to men.

Members voted in majority Sunday to expand the club's membership criteria following a special meeting.

The motion to allow "all persons born in Italy or of Italian descent regardless of gender" passed with an 83 per cent approval rating.

The meeting saw 323 people submit votes, meaning 45 members voted against the policy change.

"The decision, voted by the membership, strengthens the club’s ability to maintain a leadership role in the promotion of Italian heritage and culture within the Windsor-Essex County community," said Giovanni Caboto Club President Robert Brait.

Joe Politi has been a Caboto Club member for the past seven years.

"I was really happy. To be honest, I think it was a long time coming," said Politi. "When I joined as a member, it was one of the things that puzzled me and I always thought that this was something that needed to be taken care of and looked at."

The policy has caused controversy over the past decade.

According to Natalie Delia, head of the interdisciplinary and critical studies department at the University of Windsor, advocates have been calling for the policy to be overturned since 2014.

Natalie Delia, head of the interdisciplinary and critical studies department at the University of Windsor, seen on Sept. 25, 2023. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)

In 2018, then-Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne cancelled a town hall at the Caboto Club because of its membership policy.

The Caboto does have an auxiliary club for women, but advocates at the time said several local organizations had already followed suit and cancelled other events which were scheduled to take place there.

"We, as faculty members, are super relieved to see the Caboto Club is moving against excluding relatively disempowered members of their community from agencies of change within that community," said Delia.

Delia added, however, it's far too late for the Caboto Club to be praised for changing its rules, considering how long it has taken despite repeated calls from advocates to do so.

"I don't want this story to be about how people are making choices to be better. Rather, this is the story of activism. This is the story of being forced to update policies that reflect our community's values," said Delia.

As for Politi, he's happy that his daughters will have an opportunity to "shape the future" of the club.

"It's been around for 98 years and I hope to see another 100 years with everybody allowed to be full-standing members," said Politi.

The Caboto Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2025. Top Stories

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