Located on the Halifax Harbourfront, Pier 21 has long been called the Gateway to Canada – and with good reason. Between 1928 and 1971, the ocean liner terminal and immigration shed welcomed over 1 million immigrants to Canada, mostly from Europe. The pier was also the primary departure point for almost half a million Canadian military personnel during World War II.
Upon the immigrants’ arrival, officials oversaw the screening and completion of the paperwork needed for their access into Canada. Among those who anxiously waited to be granted entry into the country were:
- those looking for employment in the New World
- British Home Children
- Jewish war orphans
- refugees from across war-torn Europe
Once processed, some looked to immediately settle in their new homeland but many more boarded trains at the nearby Canadian National Railway (CNR) Union Station, bound for other parts of Canada.
Pier 21 becomes a National Historic Site of Canada
In 1996, the Canadian government recognized Pier 21’s important role in the lives of so many immigrants and their descendants by naming it a National Historic Site of Canada. It is also the last immigration shed still standing in the country, making its preservation even more important.
Canadian Museum of Immigration
The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 opened as a National Museum of Immigration in 1999, offering visitors the opportunity to delve into the immigrants’ experiences and to possibly discover a family connection to a place that offered hope for a better life.
Visitors can now take an emotional journey through the stories of the immigrants, seeing and listening to their experiences as they arrived in Canada after days at sea.
- take part in a guided tour and view the moving multimedia presentation, Oceans of Hope;
- discover a collection of arrival and departure sources dating back to 1865; and
- view immigration records from 1925-1935 on microfilm in the Scotiabank Family History Centre.
For anyone with an ancestor that entered Canada through Halifax, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is a must-visit destination that offers the opportunity to connect with your family’s past and to gain insight into what it was like as an immigrant arriving in Canada for the very first time.
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