Order Sons of Italy

Hamilton - Trieste Lodge

SOI Citizen Of The Year 2010 - Charles Criminisi


Charles was born and raised in the southwest end of Hamilton and currently resides in Burlington. He was called to the Bar in 1985. He has extensive experience in commercial litigation, construction lien, municipal law, real estate, wills and contracts. He has also acted as an Arbitrator under National Energy Board Act. Charles has been an instructor at Mohawk College teaching real estate law to Real Estate Salespersons and Law Clerks. He has also given lectures in the various areas of his expertise.

His service includes acting as the Chair of Villa Italia Retirement Complex Planning & Development / Project Steering Committee, National President of the Order Sons of Italy, Trieste Lodge - Hamilton (1990-1992), member of Board of Directors of Sons of Italy (Hamilton) charitable and Housing Corporations He is currently the 2nd Vice-Chair of the Art Gallery of Hamilton and was recently a coordinator of its Vista Italia program as well as a member of its Law Group. He is past Chair and a founding member of Burlington Community Foundation, past chair of Burlington Community Foundation Professional Advisors Sub- Committee, past Chair of Burlington Community Foundation Planning and Development Committee, and Chair of Burlington Mayor's Gala 2001 Committee. Charles has also been a member of the Hamilton Law Association, the Hamilton Construction Association, the Knights of Columbus and a fundraising committee for McMaster University.

Hamilton Spectator Article

Charles Criminisi doesn’t differentiate between his professional life as a lawyer and his life as a community leader.

“I’ve always wanted to make people’s lives better than they are. I use that credo in my law practice as well …. When a person comes into your office, they’re coming with a burden. It’s your job as a lawyer to alleviate that person from their worry and to make their situation better,” Criminisi, 50, said Sunday. “I carry that concept into my charitable life.”

The Hamilton lawyer, who is a partner at Agro Zaffiro LLP, was awarded the Order Sons of Italy-Hamilton Trieste Lodge’s 2010 Italian Canadian Citizen of the Year Saturday night.

Criminisi, who was born and raised in Hamilton and currently lives in Burlington, was the national president of the Order Sons of Italy from 1995 to 1999, acting chair of the Villa Italia Retirement Complex from 2004 to 2006 and chair of its planning and development committee from 2000-2003.

He was also one of the founding members of the Burlington Community Foundation in 1999 and was on the board for seven years, leaving the foundation with a $5-million endowment.

In 2007, Criminisi co-founded an Italian film appreciation organization called Cinema Insieme, which organizes screenings to introduce and discuss current and old Italian films.

Being connected to a cultural organization like the Sons of Italy is important for getting people involved in community work, Criminisi said. “Without organizations like it, we would be this homogeneous world … a world of Starbucks and McDonald’s where everything’s the same,” he said.

Receiving the honour from his Italian community was “very humbling,” Criminisi said. “I think it means a lot to me because I’ve always been a firm believer of giving back to the community, of doing things outside the normal spheres of one’s life.”

Among other key achievements, he was especially proud of the Giovanni & Grazia Criminisi Literacy Fund he and his siblings established at the Hamilton Community Foundation in 2009 in honour of his parents. Criminisi’s father, who died about four years ago, was illiterate.

The Hamilton lawyer helped bring projects from zero to having significant funds raised. This was the case for the Villa Italia Retirement Complex, for which Criminisi led his team to raise more than $4 million for the project in just three years.

The retirement home has been open for seven years.

But Criminisi emphasized his work has always been a team effort. “I was small cog in a large wheel that happened,” he said. “Just one person working with a lot of people with good will.”