Exploring Halifax

Pier 21: Canada's Front Door

At the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax, you can find yourself exploring the permanent Pier 21 exhibit. Throughout the years, Pier 21 was Canada's open door to the world, where people came in to embark on a new journey towards a better life. Many people left behind family and friends to start a new life abroad, but as people's lives change so do the things in our environment. As our technology advanced along with society, so did our modes of transportation. With boats slowly making their way out of our everyday mode of ocean wide transportation, airplanes became a better and quicker method of transport, thus causing Pier 21 to close its doors on March 28, 1971. The last ship to bring immigrants to Pier 21 in 1971 was the SS Nieuw Amsterdam (II), which bore the same name as the first ship to bring immigrants to the Pier in 1928.

Many people have made their way back to the museum to contribute to this historical site, by either donating items or by simply sharing their personal stories. You can find items such as luggage, clothing items, and toys that children had with them during their long journey towards the unknown. In my case, visiting Pier 21 was about dipping my toes in the story of my family's journey towards Canada. My experience began while taking a guided tour with a man named Daniel, a man who had such graceful storytelling skills. As the tour began, Daniel made note of his Maltese origins as he elaborated on some facts about Malta. For those who are not familiar with the nation, it is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African Coast. This nation is known for its historic sites related to a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British. With stories of foreign influences that have left their marks on this nation's ancient culture, we can almost say that Canada shares some similarities to Malta in relation to cultural influences. With its diverse melting pot of cultures, languages and religions Canada has so much to offer.

As Daniel brought us through the exhibit, we had the opportunity to have a look inside the ships that took many across the ocean. You can find yourself looking at what a room consisted of within these large vessels. Tiny spaces set up with bunk beds on either side with small sinks in between. Dining rooms filled with cutlery and beautiful china from all over the world. After exploring the ships in all their glory, Daniel brings you to a set made to look like one of the many trains that brought you from Halifax to Canada. Like my grandmother, not everyone who landed in Halifax actually stayed in that location. Many extended their trip to other places like Montreal and Toronto.

At Pier 21 you can have a small taste of immigration to Canada as we know it today. The stories of other people's journeys are endless, as you go through the exhibit you can't help yourself from envisioning how these families felt as they were entering a new foreign land. A small part of part of their journeys revolved around the first sight of food as they encountered the first shop as they walked off the boat. From canned foods to sliced bread, some feared the quality of these items. Today we find ourselves in a melting pot of cultures, religions, languages and much more. The experience of going through this exhibition can cause me to talk about this for a few more pages to come, so let me leave you with a few photos.

Snippets of the Tour...

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