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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

Part 7: Dinner dance

Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2003

The two-storey house is an architectural blend of Mediterranean airiness and stoic Ontario brick, something only Italian-Canadian builders can achieve. From Nicoletta Muraca's kitchen come smells of ricotta cannelloni, oven-roasted chicken and lamb cooked with red peppers. It is nearly 8 o'clock on an early summer's evening. The house rings with laughter and conversation, a dozen people talking at once. Pastry hors d'oeuvre are being passed around. Franco Muraca is filling wineglasses. Bowls of salad and platters for meat and vegetables are ready on the serving counter. The table is set.

"Since Eve ate apples," Byron wrote, "much depends on dinner," and for many families, the evening meal is about more than just food. It's a parliament, the common terrain of younger and older generations, of men and women, where narratives from the outside world are judged against the family's values and traditions, and the rules set for its own security and nurture.

A family successful by any yardstick has assembled at the home Franco Muraca built 13 years ago in Toronto's suburban North York. The sound of Muracas together describes them: love, intimacy and pleasure in each other's company so concrete they can almost be touched. Theirs is a family that values and maintains many of its Italian traditions — and fits the Canadian immigrant template to a T. The Canadian-born children and their partners, all in their 20s, have moved almost en masse into the professional world.

Tonight, they are sitting down to dinner, and to share their thoughts on the one group that most strikingly defines the newest generation of Canadian adults: young women. There are four members of this group at the table.

Maria Muraca is 28, four days away from marriage and has just begun a residency in family medicine.

Her cousin, Giulia Muraca, is 21 and co-ordinator of a medical research project at Toronto's University Health Network.

Trish Muraca, 28 and married since last August to Giulia's older brother, Carmine, is a chartered accountant and senior financial analyst with a telecommunications company. She, like Maria and Giulia, is the daughter of Italian immigrants.

Genny Pires, 27, has been dating Maria's brother, Giuseppe, for four years and teaches at a Montessori school. Her parents came to Canada from Portugal.

Nothing has put a more distinct imprint on the generation of Canadians in their 20s than the attainments, values and attitudes of its women. Successful, pragmatic, confident and secure in the sense of their equality, they are stepping into a culture that in so many ways seems made for them.

They are surpassing young men in educational accomplishment. They make up 57 per cent of university students. They are responsible for more than 78 per cent of the increase in university enrolment from 1997 to 2001. They are the majority in all fields of study, except engineering, mathematics and applied and physical sciences, but even in these disciplines, they are gaining on men.

In a Canadian generation marked by values of tolerance of diversity, social justice and adaptability to a complex world, young women are in the vanguard.

More than any other demographic group, they identify the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a symbol of their pride in Canada, and theirs is the only group in which a majority opposes capital punishment. They're striking as well in their approval of same-sex marriages.

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