Presenting: Pier 21: Canada’s “Front Door” to Millions of Immigrants

– Travel Across Canada For most people passing through Pier 21, the next stage was train travel. Less than 5% of arrivals at Pier 21 stayed in Nova Scotia. Visitors step aboard a recreated CN railcar and watch the Canadian countryside flash by the train windows. Inside the railcar, interviews of actual Pier 21 alumni sharing their memories are shown.

– Andrea and Charles Bronfman – In-Transit Theatre “Oceans of Hope” A 24-minute virtual projection presentation portrays the emotional stories of those who passed through Pier 21.

3. Please tell us about the Library and Resource Centre.

Our Resource Centre houses a wealth of information valuable to individuals who arrived at Pier 21, their descendents, researchers, historians, school groups and other interested parties. The Resource Centre possesses unique images compiled from sources such as the National Archives, Sisters of Service, Canadian National Railway, Halifax Port Corporation and the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, many of which are on display in the Exhibit Hall. The collection also includes newspaper photographs, the “Day in the Life of Pier 21” series donated by Ken Elliot, the Allan S. Tanner Collection of images depicting Canadian troops returning to Pier 21 in 1945, and the Francis E. Murphy Collection which documents the building of the piers. It has a small but growing collection of books on topics such as Canadian immigration, the Canadian military in World War II, multiculturalism and other areas of study related to Pier 21.

Four computer terminals are available where our website, stories database, ship database and other electronic resources may be accessed. Visitors may search electronically for the basic arrival information of anyone who immigrated through a Canadian port between 1925 and 1935. Immigration records of individuals who entered Canada through Quebec City, Montreal, Halifax and Saint John between 1925 and 1935 may be accessed on microfilm.


Photo of a war bride

The microfilm records are very popular because they contain the responses to the twenty-eight questions that a prospective immigrant had to answer before being allowed to enter Canada.

The Resource Centre houses photographs of 90% of the ships that brought immigrants to Halifax between 1928 and 1971, and we are constantly adding to our collection. The Resource Centre has all of the videotaped immigrant interviews conducted by the CBC in the year before we opened, news coverage of the Pier 21 project, documentaries and several films on topics related to Canadian immigration. One of Pier 21’s most important projects has been collecting the personal recollections of immigrants, war brides, service men and women, British guest children and home children. Many visitors enjoy this collection in the Centre and choose to write their own arrival stories after seeing it. The Pier 21 experience is greatly enhanced by a visit to the Resource Centre.

4. Pier 21 had a significant impact on Canada’s history. Please shed some more light on that.

Halifax’s Pier 21 opened in 1928 and closed in 1971.
Throughout these years passed:
– 1 million immigrants
– 100,000 displaced persons and refugees
– 50,000 war brides and their 22,000 children
– 3,000 British evacuee children, escaping the ravages of war at home
– 494,000 Canadian troops bound for Europe during World War II

5. What type of people came through Pier 21, what countries did they come from?

People from all walks of life from Europe and the Mediterranean.


Evacuee children

6. Please tell us more about some of the special groups that came through Pier 21, e.g. displaced persons, evacuee children and war brides. What were some of the special circumstances of these unique immigrant groups?

They came for various reasons such as war, seeking better opportunities or joining loved ones who were already in Canada. You can read some of their stories on our website.

7. You have an immigrant stories section on your website. How did that come about and what type of stories can I read there? Can I submit my own stories?

Stories are an integral part of Pier 21. We are collecting stories from people that have been part of Pier 21. If you immigrated to Canada and first step foot in this country at Pier 21 then we would love to hear from you. Also, if you were in the services during the Second World War and left for Europe from Pier 21 or returned from European battlefields to Pier 21, we would love to hear your stories. We are likewise very interested in hearing any stories from past employees or volunteers that once helped so many Canadians at Pier 21. All of your stories are valuable to us and we would love to have them for our collection.

You can submit them online in our Resource Centre section or send it by email or by mail.

8. Pier 21 is also a location for conferences and children’s camps. Please comment on some of these events and activities that go on at Pier 21.

Pier 21 is a bustling meeting place for conferences and meetings and continues to grow each year as it gains a great reputation for professional service, a world-class view of Halifax Harbour and a unique setting.
School-aged children can come during March Break for hands-on fun day camps. Special programming and special events are ongoing and family-friendly.


Immigrant transportation

9. Please tell us a bit the Manulife Education Program that is offered by Pier 21.

Pier 21 offers curriculum related workshops throughout the year, teaching students about nation building, citizenship, Canadian heritage and multiculturalism.

These unique workshops are designed by qualified professionals and led by trained museum interpreters. Students participate in fun and interactive workshops, complimenting their guided tour of the museum (Rudolph P. Bratty Exhibition Hall).

Pre-visit and follow-up activities are also available. Teachers will find these and other useful teaching resources in the Teacher Section of our website.

Students will want to explore the Student Section for great project ideas and resources.
Our capacity to offer programs en français is also rapidly growing!

10. Pier 21 has also won some awards as a special events venue. Please tell us more about that.

Only recently re-opened in July 1999, Meetings and Incentive Travel Magazine has twice since voted Pier 21 as one of the top seven unique venues for Service Excellence in Atlantic Canada! After conducting surveys of their readership of 10,500 M&IT asked the question “Which Canadian Facility Best Met your Expectations in 2000-2001, then again, in 2002 – 2003. Pier 21 is one of seven properties in Atlantic Canada to receive this prestigious award, twice in just four years!

Thank you for your time, Maria, in talking to us about this wonderful institution.

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