The Italian has overhauled the Black Cats squad this summer but has revealed the former Manchester United defender is among the old guard he wants to keep at the club
Brown has struggled badly with injury since moving to the Stadium of Light in 2011 and has not played in a competitive fixture since January 2012.
However, the former Manchester United man continued his return to full fitness on Wednesday, scoring in his side's 3-1 pre-season win over Tottenham.
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While Di Canio had initial reservations on Brown's fitness, the 33-year-old is now a key part of his squad.
"I have to be honest and say that with a team I wanted to rebuild, I thought at the beginning that he was not on my list for the future," the Italian told The Sunderland Echo.
"After one year and two months out, at his age, I couldn’t start thinking about a player who I didn’t know if I could rely on.
"I spoke to him and was clear that he wasn’t on the list.
"But I’m very happy to tell him now that he’s completely on my list.
"He has got experience, quality, desire and he can help the others."
Brown was named man of the match in Wednesday's friendly and Di Canio has been impressed with his work rate over the close-season.
"I have to thank him and also the kind of staff I’ve got because for one year he couldn’t train, let alone play a full match," he continued.
"Under me, for 48 days, he didn’t have one training session under me because he’d always have a problem after 20 minutes – ‘I can’t run, I can’t run’.
"Now, he’s trained for nearly 30 days, including friendly matches, without any problems."